Chap. XX.

Of Snayls.[1]

WHETHER Snayls have eyes some Learned men have doubted.[2] For Scaliger terms them but imitations of eyes; and Aristotle upon consequence denyeth them, when he affirms that Testaceous Animals have no eyes.[3] But this now seems sufficiently asserted by the help of exquisite Glasses, which discover those black and atramentous spots or globales to be their eyes.[4]

That they have two eyes is the common opinion, but if they have two eyes, we may grant them to have no less then four, that is, two in the larger extensions above, and two in the shorter and lesser horns below,[5] and this number may be allowed in these inferiour and exanguious animals; since we may observe the articulate and latticed eyes in Flies, and nine in some Spiders: and in the great Phalangium Spider of America, we plainly number eight.

But in sanguineous animals, quadrupeds, bipeds, or man, no such number can be regularly verified, or multiplicity of eyes confirmed. And therefore what hath been under this kind delivered, concerning the plurality, paucity or anomalous situation of eyes, is either monstrous, fabulous, or under things never seen includes good sense or meaning. And so may we receive the figment of Argus, who was an Hieroglyphick of heaven, in those centuries of eyes expressing the stars; and their alternate wakings, the vicissitude of day and night. Which strictly taken cannot be admitted; for the subject of sleep is not the eye, but the common sense, which once asleep, all eyes must be at rest. And therefore what is delivered as an Embleme of vigilancy, that the Hare and Lion do sleep with one eye open, doth not evince they are any more awake then if they were both closed. For the open eye beholds in sleep no more then that which is closed; and no more one eye in them then two in other Animals that sleep with both open; as some by disease, and others naturally which have no eye-lids at all.

As for Polyphemus, although the story be fabulous,[6] the monstrosity is not impossible. For the act of Vision may be performed with one eye; and in the deception and fallacy of sight, hath this advantage of two, that it beholds not objects double, or sees two things for one. For this doth happen when the axis of the visive cones, diffused from the object, fall not upon the same plane; but that which is conveyed into one eye, is more depressed or elevated then that which enters the other. So if beholding a Candle, we protrude either upward or downward the pupill of one eye, the object will appear double; but if we shut the other eye, and behold it with one, it will then[7] appear but single; and if we abduce the eye unto either corner, the object will not duplicate: for in that position the axis of the cones remain in the same plane, as is demonstrated in the opticks, and delivered by Galen, in his tenth De usu partium.

Relations also there are of men that could make themselves invisible,[8] which belongs not to this discourse; but may serve as notable expressions of wise and prudent men, who so contrive their affairs, that although their actions be manifest, their designs are not discoverable. In this acception there is nothing left of doubt, and Giges Ring[9] remaineth still amongst us: for vulgar eyes behold no more of wise men then doth the Sun: they may discover their exteriour and outward ways, but their interiour and inward pieces he only sees, that sees into their beings.


* [My or others' notes are in square brackets]; Browne's marginalia is unmarked; {passages or notes from unpublished material by Browne is in curly braces}. Ross defends the ancient opinion on this question, Arcana Microcosmi, Book II, Chap. 10: "When they say that Snails have eyes at the ends of their horns, their meaning is, that these are like eyes."

1[Browne rewrote this chapter extensively for the sixth edition of 1672, largely to incorporate the results of microscopic examination of snails. Snails have two "eye spots", which are sensitive to light, although probably forming no images.]

2 ["The snayle hath but 3 senses, that is, the touch, the smell, and the tast; he sees not, he hears not. The touch is principally in his hornes; the smel and taste in his mouth, in which I found he hath a little black toung, not bigger then a hair, with which he frets herbes, bread, and all things that he fastens upon for food, as I once made a visible and certaine experiment." — Wren]

3 [Aristotle, Hist. animal. I.ix:; in Wentworth's translation, "All animals, as a general rule, are provided with eyes, excepting the ostracoderms and other imperfect creatures".]

4 {As an example of the kinds of revision this chapter underwent, this last sentence was substituted for the 1646 passage: "And for my part after much inquiry, I am not satisfied that these are eyes, or that those black and atramentous spots which seeme to represent them are any ocular realities; for if any object be presented unto them, they will sometime seeme to decline it, and sometime run against it; if also these black extremities, or presumed eyes be clipped off, they will notwithstanding make use of their protrusions or hornes, and poke out their way as before: Againe, if they were eyes or instruments of vision, they would have their originals in the head, and from thence derive their motive and optick organs, but their roots and first extremities are seated low upon the sides of the back, as may be perceived in the whiter sort of Snayles when they retract them."]

5 [Snails with four cephalic tentacles have two eyes, one at the tip of each of the longer set; snails with two tentacles have eyes at the base of the tentacle.]

6 [For the single eye of the Cyclopes (= "round-eyed"), see Hesiod, Theogony 139-146. For the most unedifying story of Polyphemos, see Homer, Odyssey IX, 184 ff. Homer does not describe the Cyclopes' eyes, apparently assuming that we know they have only one eye.]

7 [1672 their]

8 [Recipes or instructions for invisibility are to be found in many books of secrets of the 15th to 17th centuries; The Secrets of Albertus Magnus, for instance, here in the 1637 edition: "If thou wilt be made invisible. Take the stone which is called Ophthalmius, and wrap it in the leafe of the Laurell or Baye tree, and it is called, Lapis Ophthalmicus, whose colour is not named, for it is of many colours, and it is of such vertue, that it blindeth the sights of them that stand aboute. Constantinus carrying this in his hand, was made invisible by it."]

9 [Plato, Republic II; Gyges' ring made him invisible. Cf. the story of Gyges and Candaules as given by Herodotus, 1.8-12.See also Book VII, chap. XVIII.]

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