This substance is an unctuous secretion of a glanular pouch or sac, situated in the skin of the abdomen of the musk-deer, an inhabitant of the great mountain range which belts the north ot India and branches out into Siberia, Thibet and China. It is also found in the Altaic range near Lake Baikal, and in some other mountain ranges, but always on the borders of the line of perpetual snow. It is from the male only the musk is produced, and the secretion when dry is of a dark brown or black color, and somewhat granular. Its taste is bitter, and its peculiar and penetrating odor is well known. It was formerly held in high repute as a medicine, and it is still so among eastern nations. The musk-deer is eagerly hunted for the sake of its costly perfume, which, however, is always adulterated. Tavernier says that the odor of musk, when recent, is so powerful as to cause the blood to gush from the nose, and in this way he would account for the supposed adulteration of the article with dried blood.— Chardin also says, " It is commonly supposed thatwhenthemusksaeis cut from the animal, so powerful is the odor it exhales, that the hunter is obliged to have his mouth and nose stopped with folds of linen, and that often in spite oi this precaution the pungency of the odor is such as to end in death. I have heard the same thing talked of by some Armenians who had been to Boutan, and I think it is true. The odor is so strong in the East Indies that I could never support it; and when I trafficked for musk, I always kept in the open air, with a handkerchief over my face, and at a distance from those who handled the sacs, referring them to my broker: and hence I knew by experience that this musk was very apt to give headaches, and is altogether insupportable when quite recent. I may add that no'drug is so easily adulterated or more apt to be so." Tavernier states that at Patana he once bought 1,673 musk bags weighing 2,557 ounces, containing 452 ounces ot pure musk. The musk from Boutan, Tonquin, and Thibet, is most esteemed; but it is supposed its strength and the quantity produced by a single animal varies with the season of the year and the age of the animal. A single musk-bag usually contains from 2 to 3 drachms. Musk is imported into England from China in caddies of 60 to 100 ozs. each; that from Bengal is inferior, and from Russia of a still lower quality. The best is that contained in the natural follicle or pod. When adulterated with the animal's blood it forms into lumps or clots. It is sometimes mixed with a dark, highly colored, friable earth; the musk is then of a more friable texture, harder and denser than genuine musk. Musk is very remarkable for the diffusiveness and subtlety of its scent; everything in its vicinity soon becomes affected by it, and long retains it; a very minute portion, such as a grain or two will scent a room for years, and is sufficient for imparting to articles of dress, c, a powerful perfume. One part ot musk will communicate its odor to 3,000 parts of inodorous powder. Boiling water dissolves 90 parts of genuine Tonquin musk; alcohol only 50 parts. Musk is soluble in ether, acetic acidand yolk of egg. Moisture seems to ravor the odor of musk, for when dry it yields but little scent, and this becomes powerful when moistened. An artificial musk is prepared with nitric acid and oil ol amber.
This article was originally published with the title "Musk" in Scientific American 8, 36, 288 (May 1853)