Henry Peacham (1638) The Valley of Varietie, Chapter XIV, pp. 129-132.
Of incombustible Flaxe, or which will not consume by Fire.
THERE was anciently a kinde of Flaxe, which the Græcians called Asbestinum, the Latines, Linum vivum: Hereof were made whole pieces of Linnen cloth, and garments, which were not only not consumed by any fire, but cast into the same, the soyle and dirtinesse being consumed and burn'd away; taken out againe, it became more white then any water could wash it. The bodies of Emperours and Kings were burned in sheets of this linnen, lest the ashes of their Bodies burned, should mingle with the ashes of the wood. This Flaxe is esteemed above all other Flaxe in the world, (saith Plinie;1) it is hard to bee found, and as difficult to bee woven, by reason of the shortnesse therof, and being found, in price it equalled the most excellent Pearles. Nero is reported to have had a linnen garment of the same: but at this day it is not any where to be found; Yet I remember I had given me by an Arabian, when I lived in Saint Martins in the Fields, twentie yeares since, a pretty quantity of a Stuffe like Flaxe, which he bad mee put into the fire, but it consumed not; whether it were of this Flaxe or no; or that Flaxe of Cyprus, which Podacatarrus a Knight of Cyprus (who wrote an History of Cyprus, Anno MDLXVII) brought to Venice, and the fire could not consume it, I know not. Now this Flax of Cyprus proceedeth from no plant, as our Flaxe, but from the stone Amiantous, which being found in Cyprus, and broken with an hammer, the earthy drosse purged from it, there remaines fine hairie threds, like unto Flax, which are woven into cloth. This Flaxe was seene in the house of the said Podocatarrus by many men of worth and credit, as Porcachio witnesseth, Tabula 2. Funeralium. Wherefore Line[n] being made of this stone, and incombustible, Constantine the Emperor ordained that it should ever burne in lampes in his chappel at Rome: this reports Damasus in the life of Pope Sylvester. Moreover, Ludovicus Vives, in his Commentaries upon St Aug. de Civit. Dei. lib. 21. c. 6. saith, that hee saw lampes at Paris, whose lights never consumed. Also at Lovaine a Napkin taken from the table at a feast, and being throwne into the fire, and being quite red as a coale, was taken out againe, cooled, and restored to the owner more white then if it had been washed with all the water and sope in the towne. But enough of this subject.
1. Plin. lib. 19 cap. 1. [In fact, chapter 4: HN xix(20)]
This page is by James Eason.