Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
Unicorns’ Horns
By Edward Browne (1644–1708)
From A Brief Account of Some Travels in Divers Parts of Europe

THERE is an old library belonging to this church, which contains divers old books and manuscripts. A large bible in six volumes, painted and gilded after a very ancient manner; two idols, taken (in time of war) long since in Germany, and given to this place by the Emperor Henry the Fourth, are worth the seeing, not so much for their neatness, as their antiquity and odd shape: as also a horn made out of a tooth, said to be given at the same time. There are also three unicorns’ horns, little differing in length; the longest being five foot and an half: I drank out of one of them, the end being tipped with silver, and made hollow to serve for a cup. These were of the sea-unicorn, or the horn or long wreathed tooth of some sea-animal much like it, taken in the Northern Sea: of which I have seen many, both in public repositories, and in private hands. Two such as these, the one ten foot long, were presented not many years since to the King of Denmark, being taken near to Nova Zembla; and I have seen some full fifteen foot long; some wreathed very thick, some not so much, and others almost plain: some largest and thickest at the end near the head; others are largest at some distance from the head: some very sharp at the end or point, and others blunt. My honoured father, Sir Thomas Browne, had a very fair piece of one which was formerly among the Duke of Curland’s rarities, but after that he was taken prisoner by Douglas in the wars between Sweden and Poland, it came into the hands of my uncle Colonel Hatcher, of whom my father had it; he had also a piece of this sort of unicorn’s horn burnt black, out of the Emperor of Russia’s repository, given him by Dr. Arthur Dee, who was son to Dr. John Dee, and also physician to the Emperor of Russia, when his chambers were burned in which he preserved his curiosities. I have seen a walking-staff, a sceptre, a scabbard for a sword, boxes, and other curiosities made out of this horn, but was never so fortunate as from experience to confirm its medical efficacy against poisons, contagious diseases, or any other evident effect of it, although I have known it given several times, and in great quantity. Mr. Charlton hath a good unicorn’s horn. Sir Joseph Williamson gave one of them to the Royal Society. The Duke of Florence hath a fair one. The Duke of Saxony a strange one, and besides many others, I saw eight of them together upon one table in the Emperor’s treasure, and I have one at present that for the neat wreathing and elegant shape gives place to none. But of these unicorns’ horns no man sure hath so great a collection as the King of Denmark; and his father had so many, that ho was able to spare a great number of them, to build a magnificent throne out of unicorns’ horns.

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