Imatges de pàgina

operations before-mentioned, is carried on in a suite of large rooms adjoining the former. Large crucibles of graphite, covered with clay, are employed for the latter purpose. These are broken after the smelting; during which operations, it is found that the metal has gained twenty poods in 1600. In order to lose none of the silver, the fragments of the crucibles, with what has been scraped off them, are reduced to impalpable powder, and made into an amalgam with mercury by being rapidly turned round in cylindrical, horizontal, or vertical boxes. The slags are smelted, according to an old practice, in combination with lead, and the liquid metal let out in streams, from time to time, through an opening at the lower part, and on one side of the furnace, whence it runs into moulds; and lastly, the separation of the lead from the silver takes places by combustion, in large draught-smelting-furnaces. The mercury for the amalgam is brought into the market at fifty roubles the pood (thirteen-pence-halfpenny a pound), and is therefore a very expensive article.

Nothing can be more injurious to health, or more suffocating, than the process of mercurializing the silver, and burning the slags, or the combustion of lead. The men employed in these rooms are frequently changed; but a practice exists of sending for a few days refractory and disobedient servants, or those whose conduct requires correction, to serve gratuitously in these rooms, under the strict surveil lance of the people regularly employed in the Mint; and the impression made on the culprits by this punishment is such, that they seldom give cause afterwards for being sent thither a second time.

The alloy for the silver coinage employed in Russia is 123 Zolotnik of copper to one Russian pound of silver; and that for the gold coinage is 8 Zolotnik of copper to a Russian pound of standard gold, or one to twelve. The copper used for the purpose, which is derived from the

Siberian mines, contains always a small proportion of silver. In England, the alloy for gold coinage consists of eleven parts of standard gold, of the specific gravity of 19, and one of copper; fifteen pounds troy of which alloy are coined into 700 sovereigns.

The place in which the alloyed silver is laminated, is a very extensive apartment on a higher floor, with a gallery around it, where there are several tables at which a number of boys are employed in sorting, filing, and weighing the pieces before they are either polished or coined. In the body of the room, and in one adjoining, the operations of drawing out between two cylinders the lamina of silver of the proper breadth, and of cutting out from them the pieces, or disks, for the different coins, are performed by appropriate machinery, moved by a steam-engine of sixty horse power kept in the very highest order. In this stage of the operation, the milling of the edges of the pieces is performed.

The young boys engaged in all the minor operations, are the children of the men employed in every branch of the Mint. Invalid soldiers were originally appointed to this department; but their offspring having been brought up to succeed them, a generation of men, exclusively attached to this public establishment, has been formed from father to son, who are called, "Les hommes de la Monnoie."

The process of scouring the pieces with sand, for which purpose they are arranged close to each other, in holes on a large board; and of washing them with weak sulphuric acid, after which, they are placed in rollers of cloth, and dried in an oven, takes place in a separate room on the basement story. The pieces are afterwards re-weighed, in order to ascertain if they have a weight of 4 zol.; in doing which, the weight of four pieces is taken as a criterion, and not that of any individual piece, although it may be deficient in or exceed the standard weight.



It is not true that the whole establishment is under the VOL. II.


direction of a Scotchman, as stated by a recent traveller. Mr. Duncan simply superintends the machinery and its use, and has the charge of the three steam-engines. The principal chemical operations for preparing the precious metals, are carried on by Russians.

The final operation, that of coining, or stamping the pieces, is performed by means of six beautiful machines, set in motion by a steam-engine procured from England. The pieces are not put in by hand, or pushed in with the finger, as was the case till within the last few years in London, but are thrown forward under the die by a very neat contrivance added to the machine. They have had this improveand I recollect, when visit

ment for the last twenty years; ing the Mint at the Tower in 1815, with Canova, that we remarked the danger attending the operation of pushing with the finger the piece under the die while it kept working rapidly up and down, as was the case at that time.

We understood that very little work was then going on. They were coining some thousands of silver pieces of the value of twenty-five kopeeks, a new coin, and the fourth of a silver rouble, equal to one paper rouble, which is very neat. The silver rouble coined under the two late Emperors as well as his present Majesty, instead of the head of the Sovereign, has a large Russian eagle, finely executed, and the value of the coin marked on the obverse. Paul, I believe, was the first who ordered that substitution. However, the Mint is not at all times so idle. From the account given me, it appears that in the space of a year and ten months, ending May 1827, they had coined 252,277,869 roubles (£10,968,603) in gold; and 23,013,777 roubles, (1,000,59) in silver.

The copper money, the first introduction of which in Russia took place under Peter the Great, in 1704, is not coined at the St. Petersburgh Mint, but at Ekatherineburg, Ijorsk, and Souzoun. The entire quantity of

money, of every description, coined and put in circulation from 1718 to 1818, amounts, according to Weydemeyer, to 300,000,000 of roubles. A recent ukase of the Emperor states, that in consequence of rich mines of platina having been discovered in the mountains of Oural, a new coin made of that metal will be put in circulation throughout the empire. A number of three-rouble pieces have been struck, and will be tried as an experiment. Their currency is not, at first, to be rigorously enforced, nor will their exportation be prohibited as in the case of gold or silver coin; but falsification will be punished with the same penalties which are attached to the falsification of the other coins of the State.

I shall conclude my account of the edifices and institutions connected with the Imperial, political, and military administration of the Government, by stating the total number to be found in St. Petersburgh, in addition to those of which I have either given a description, or to which I have alluded, and which, in one way or other, are considered as Government buildings; almost all of them being more or less of modern and striking architecture, especially the barracks; and constructed either of stone, or of bricks stuccoed all over. The following list, as will be seen, does not include the hospitals, colleges, schools, or charitable establishments of any description, or any of the edifices for the residence or education of the clergy. Buildings for purposes especially belonging to or connected with the Crown, not enumerated before Buildings of magnitude, and for particular departments of public service not enumerated before. Military Barracks

[ocr errors]

Exercise or riding-houses, and other military buildings





[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]



Imperial Buildings and Institutions connected with Science and the Fine Arts. The Imperial Academy of Sciences. - Its Constitution. Contributions to Science. - Great and Illustrious Members of that Academy. - Monsieur Ouvaroff, the President. - The Observatory. The Gottorp Globe. - The Zoological Museum. — The Cabinet of Mineralogy. The Mammoth. - Native Iron of Pallas. Anatomical Collections. - Cabinet of Peter the Great. - Cabinet of Curiosities. - The Insects and dry Plants. — The Museum of Medals and Asiatic Museum. The Egyptian Mu- Grand General Meeting to commemorate the Conclusion of the first Century since the Foundation of the Academy. - Visit of the Empress-mother to the Academy, at the beginning and end of the second half of that Century. - The Secular Medal.-Printing-press of the Academy. - The Author's Public Lecture at the Academy. Presented with the Secular Medal, and made a Member of that Society.


AFTER all, it is neither by the number and splendour of Imperial palaces, nor by all the military pomp of the finest army in the world, that we can judge of the present measure of civilization in Russia. Peter the Great, who had from experience gained in the course of his "voyages and travels of discovery," acquired the conviction that science, literature, and the fine arts can alone advance a nation to that rank which marks the superiority of refined over uncultivated nature, while in the act of founding his

« AnteriorContinua »