Palaquium Gutta

The whole book can be read here






Among the numerous products of the animal and vegetable kingdoms sent to us from the tropical regions since opening of the searoute to India, and discovery of America, the substance known as caoutchouc, gum elastic, or India-rubber, occupies a prominent position as an indispensable auxiliary to many manufactures, and for its own development into an extensive industry.

The substance designated in commerce as gutta percha has been practically known to us only since 1843. Its introduction incited manufacturers with great hopes of its useful application to industrial pursuits. Although these anticipations have been but partially realized, nevertheless must gutta percha, for certain purposes, be ranked as an agent of great value to industry, and as one difficult to be replaced. Caoutchouc [rubber] and gutta percha (belonging to the vegetable kingdom) are secreted from the milky juices furnished in remarkably great abundance by many plants. Although many milky juices contain caoutchouc, it would be erroneous to suppose they all do. In the milky juices from which caoutchouc is obtained are found small particles of caoutchouc, resin, fat, coloring matter, etc., which give the juices their peculiar milky appearance...........

A substance called mazer-wood was imported into England from the tropical regions of Asia for a considerable time without coming into practical use. There is scarcely any doubt at the present time that this mazer-wood and gutta-percha are identical substances.

Dr. William Montgomery, who had resided for many years in Singapore, imported, in 1843, the first gutta percha into England, and endeavored to introduce it into general use.

Chemical science had made such progress at that period that not much time was required for studying more accurately the physical and chemical qualities of gutta percha, and as soon as it became known that the properties of gutta percha resembled in a considerable degree those of caoutchouc [rubber], and in some particulars even surpassed the latter substance, the importation of gutta percha was entered into on a large scale, and it is again in England where the gutta percha industry was first established, and where it has since then been widely extended.

During one of his travels in the East Indies, Dr. Montgomery entered into conversation with a Malay laborer. While talking, he observed the handle of a hoe, and he heard with surprise that its substance, however hard it appeared to be, could be softened by immersion into hot water, and could thereupon assume and preserve any desired shape. The experiment being immediately made, the assertion of the Malay was fully confirmed. On further inquiry, that excellent quality of the substance in question was found to have been long known among the natives of Java, where it was used for manufacturing canes and handles of whips, as well as of various other implements, and especially of knives and daggers. Montgomery sent various specimens to London, and called attention to the manifold uses of which the substance was capable. His words were more duly noticed than those of ....., who about ten years ago had sent a similar freight to the Asiatic Society in London. Gutta percha was at the same time also discovered by Thomas Lobb, who, in 1842 to 1843, made a botanical journey through the East India islands.......