The Bezoar, Bezuar, or Beza, was a stone procured from the kidneys of the Cervicabra, a wild animal of Arabia, partaking of the nature of the deer and the goat, somewhat larger than the latter. This stone was supposed to have been formed of the poison of serpents, which had bitten her produce, combined with the counteracting matter with which nature had furnished it. It was a strong belief in the Middle Ages that the bezoar was a potent charm against the plague and poison, hence the origin of the name from the Persian Pad-zahr, expelling poison, or Bad-zahr, the same meaning. Concretions of various kinds are found in the stomachs of herbivorous quadrupeds, very generally having for their nucleus some small indigestible substance which has been taken into the stomach. The value of the bezoar being supposed to increase with its size, the larger ones have been sold for superstitious purposes, particularly in India, for very great prices.
In the inventory of the jewels of the Emperor Charles V., made at Yuste after his death, is the entry of "a box of black leather lined with crimson velvet, containing four bezoar stones, variously set in gold, one of which the Emperor directed to be given to William Van Male, his gentleman of the chamber, being sick (as it was suspected) of the plague." In the same inventory is mentioned "a blue stone with two clasps of gold, good for the gout."
In the warrant of indemnity for the delivery of jewels to King James I., sent into Spain to the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Buckingham (1623), mention is made of "one great Bezar stone, sett in gould which was Queene Elizabethes," and "one other large Bezar stone, broken in peeces, delivered to our owne handes, by the Lord Brooke."
In the possession of Miss Levett is a silver box (of early sixteenth century work) in the form of an egg, of exquisitely pierced work, representing birds and scrolls, lined throughout with silver, and opening in the middle. This was intended to hold the "bezoar" stone.
A similar silver box for the same purpose, and about the same date, formerly belonged to Horace Walpole, and is now in the possession of J. Rainey, Esq.
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