Benvenuto Cellini, Memoirs of, translated by Roscoe, 1882

About this time, whilst I was still a young man, of
three-and-twenty, so dreadful an epidemic disease prevailed
in Rome, that several thousands died every day. Some-
what terrified at this calamity, I began to indulge myself
in certain recreations, as the fancy took me, and for a rea-
son which I shall state. So on holidays I amused myself
with visiting the antiquities of that city, and sometimes
took their figures in wax, at other times I made drawings
of them. As these antiquities are all ruinous edifices,
where a number of pigeons build their nests, I had a mind
to divert myself among them with my fowling-piece ; but
being greatly afraid of the plague, I avoided all commerce
with the inhabitants, and made Paulino carry my gun.
Thus we repaired together to the ruins, from whence I
often returned home laden with pigeons of the largest size.
But I never chose to put more than a single ball into my
piece; and, in this manner, being a good marksman, I
procured a considerable quantity of game. The fowling-
piece, which I held in my hand, was both on the inside and
outside as bright as a looking-glass. I likewise made the
powder as fine as the minutest dust ; and, in the use of it,
I discovered some of the most admirable secrets that ever
were known till this time. Of this I will, to avoid prolixity,
give only one proof, which will surprise even those who are
adepts in this matter. When I had charged my piece with
a quantity of powder, equal in weight to the fifth-part of
the ball, it carried two hundred paces point blank. In a
word, so great was the delight I took in shooting, that it
often diverted me from the business of my shop. Though
it had this ill consequence, it in other respects procured me
considerable advantages ; for, by this exercise of shooting,
I greatly improved my constitution : the air was of vast
service to me. Whilst I was enjoying these pleasures, my
spirits suddenly revived ; I no longer had my usual gloom,
and I worked to more purpose than when my attention was
totally engrossed by business : upon the whole, my gun
turned rather to my advantage than the contrary.
By means of this recreation also, I contracted an ac-
quaintance with certain persons, who were accustomed to
watch for the peasants of Lombardy, who, at a particular
season of the year, came to work in the vineyards about
Rome. These peasants, in digging the ground, frequently
discovered ancient medals, agates, cornelians, emeralds,
and cameos. They likewise found precious stones, such as
sapphires, diamonds, and rubies. Those who went in quest
of the peasants often bought such things of them for a
trifle ; and I, dealing with the former, have frequently
given them gold crowns for curiosities, which had cost them
only so many pence. This traffic, besides the great profit
I derived from it, which was ten-fold at least, procured me
the friendship of most of the Roman cardinals. I shall
mention only a few of the most remarkable of these rarities
that happened to fall into my hands. One was a dolphin's
head, about the size of a large bean. Though art was emi-
nently conspicuous in this head, it was still surpassed by
nature ; for this emerald was of so fine a colour, that the
person who purchased it of me for ten crowns, caused it to
be curiously set in a gold ring, and sold it for a hundred.
I had likewise one of the finest topazes that ever was be-
held : art and nature seemed to rival each other in embel-
lishing this stone, of the size of a large nut ; and upon it
was carved a remarkably fine head, intended to represent a
Minerva. Also another stone, of a different sort from the
latter: this was a cameo, upon which was engraved a
Hercules, binding a triple-headed Cerberus. This was a
piece of such extraordinary beauty, and such admirable
workmanship, that our great Michel-Angelo declared he
had never beheld any thing that surpassed it. Amongst a
number of bronze medals, one fell into my hands, upon
which was represented a head of Jupiter. This medal was
the largest I ever beheld : the head was one of the most
complete masterpieces of art. On the reverse were several
other figures in a similar style. I migh [sic] launch out into a
long dissertation upon this subject, but I wish to avoid