"All the trees that grow by this river are either
cinnamon or brazil trees. They use these for firewood, and we cooked with
them throughout our journey." Friar Odoric makes the same hyperbolic
statement: "Here they burn brazil-wood for fuel."
It has been supposed popularly that the brazil-wood of commerce took its
name from the great country so called; but the verzino of the old
Italian writers is only a form of the same word, and bresil is in fact
the word used by Polo. So Chaucer: -
"Him nedeth not his colour for to dien
With brazil, ne with grain of Portingale."
- The Nun's Priests Tale.
The Eastern wood in question is now known in commerce by its Malay name
of Sappan (properly Sapang), which again is identical with the Tamil
name Sappangi. This word properly means Japan, and seems to have been
given to the wood as a supposed product of that region. It is the wood
of the Caesalpinia Sapan, and is known in Arabic (and in Hindustani) as
Bakam. It is a thorny tree, indigenous in Western India from Goa to
Trevandrum, and growing luxuriantly in South Malabar. It is extensively
used by native dyers, chiefly for common and cheap cloths, and for fine