LAC, s. Hind. lakh, from Skt. laksha, for raksha. The resinous incrustation produced on certain trees (of which the dhak (see DHAWK) is one, but chiefly Peepul, and khossum [kusum, kusumb], i.e. Schleichera bijuga, trijuga) by the puncture of the Lac insect (Coccus Lacca, L.). See Roxburgh, in Vol. III. As. Res., 384 seqq; [and a full list of the trees on which the insect feeds, in Watt, Econ. Dict. ii. 410 seq.]. The incrustation contains 60 to 70 per cent. of resinous lac, and 10 per cent. of dark red colouring matter from which is manufactured lac-dye. The material in its original crude form is called stick-lac; when boiled in water it loses its red colour, and is then termed seed-lac; the melted clarified substance, after the extraction of the dye, is turned out in thin irregular laminae called shell- lac. This is used to make sealing-wax, in the fabrication of varnishes, and very largely as a stiffening for men’s hats.

Though lak bears the same sense in Persian, and lak or luk are used in modern Arabic for sealing-wax, it would appear from Dozy (Glos., pp. 295–6, and Oosterlingen, 57), that identical or approximate forms are used in various Arabic-speaking regions for a variety of substances giving a red dye, including the coccus ilicis or Kermes. Still, we have seen no evidence that in India the word was applied otherwise than to the lac of our heading. (Garcia says that the Arabs called it loc-sumutri, ‘lac of Sumatra’; probably because the Pegu lac was brought to the ports of Sumatra, and purchased there.) And this the term in the Periplus seems unquestionably to indicate; whilst it is probable that the passage quoted from Aelian is a much misconceived account of the product. It is not nearly so absurd as De Monfart’s account below. The English word lake for a certain red colour is from this. So also are lacquer and lackered ware, because lac is used in some of the varnishes with which such ware is prepared.

c. A.D. 80–90.—These articles are imported (to the ports of Barbarice, on the W. of the Red Sea) from the interior parts of Ariake:—

[Greek Text] “SidhroV IndikoV kai stomwma (Indian iron and steel)
[Greek Text] LakkoV crwmatinoV (Lac-dye).”

Periplus, § 6.

c. 250.—“There are produced in India animals of the size of a beetle, of a red colour, and if you saw them for the first time you would compare them to cinnabar. They have very long legs, and are soft to the touch; they are produced on the trees that bear electrum, and they feed on the fruit of these. The Indians catch them and crush them, and with these dye their red cloaks, and the tunics under these, and everything else that they wish to turn to this colour, and to dye. And this kind of clothing is carried also to the King of Persia.”—Aelian, de Nat. Animal. iv. 46.

c. 1343.—The notice of lacca in Pegolotti is in parts very difficult to translate, and we do not feel absolutely certain that it refers to the Indian product, though we believe it to be so. Thus, after explaining that there are two classes of lacca, the matura and acerba, or ripe and unripe, he goes on: “It is produced attached to stalks, i.e. to the branches of shrubs, but it ought to be clear from stalks, and earthy dust, and sand, and from costiere (?). The stalks are the twigs of the wood on which it is produced, the costiere or figs, as the Catalans call them, are composed of the dust of the thing, which when it is fresh heaps together and hardens like pitch; only that pitch is black, and those costiere or figs are red and of the colour of unripe lacca. And more of these costiere is found in the unripe than the ripe lacca,” and so on.—Della Decima, iii. 365.

1510.—“There also grows a very large quantity of lacca (or lacra) for making red colour, and the tree of this is formed like our trees which produce walnuts.”—Varthema, 238.

1516.—“Here (in Pegu) they load much fine laquar, which grows in the country.”—Barbosa, Lisbon Acad., 366.

1519.—“And because he had it much in charge to get all the lac (alacre) that he could, the governor knowing through information of the merchants that much came to the Coast of Choromandel by the ships of Pegu and Martaban that frequented that coast. …”—Correa, ii. 567.

1563.—“Now it is time to speak of the lacre, of which so much is consumed in this country in closing letters, and for other seals, in the place of wax.”—Garcia, f. 112v.

1582.—“Laker is a kinde of gum that procedeth of the ant.”—Castañeda, tr. by N.L., f. 33.

c. 1590.—(Recipe for Lac varnish). “Lac is used for chighs (see CHICK, a). If red, 4 ser of lac, and 1 s. of vermilion; if yellow, 4 s. of lac, and 1 s. zarnikh.”—Ain, ed. Blochmann, i. 226.

1615.—“In this Iland (Goa) is the hard Waxe made (which we call Spanish Waxe), and is made in the manner following. They

  By PanEris using Melati.

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