Benvenuto Cellini, Life, translated by Robert H. Hobard Cust, 1827

   At this period, when I was still a youth of about
twenty-three years of age, a pestilential disease broke
out of such unparalleled virulence that there died in Rome
many thousands per day. Somewhat terrified by this,
I began to take up certain amusements such as my
fancy directed, caused moreover by a circumstance that
I will relate. For I enjoyed on feast-days visiting the
antiquities (of the city), copying them either in wax
models or by drawing from them ; and since these said
antiquities are all in ruins, and amid these same ruins
build a great many pigeons, the desire came upon me to
employ against them my fowling-piece: and in order to
avoid intercourse with anyone, being afraid of the plague,
I put my gun upon the shoulder of my boy Pagolino,
and he and I went alone to the said ruins. It resulted
therefore that very many times I returned laden with
very plump pigeons. I did not care to load my gun
with more than a single ball, and it was therefore by
real skill in that art that I made such large bags. I had
a straight fowling-piece made by my own hands; and
(so bright was it) both within and without there was
never seen a mirror like it. I made besides with my
own hands the finest gunpowder, in the composition
of which I discovered the finest secrets that have ever
up to to-day been discovered by anyone: but with
regard to this I will not dilate much, but will give
one example to cause surprise to all those who are
skilled in such an accomplishment. This was that with
powder amounting in weight to a fifth part of the ball,
the said ball would carry two hundred paces point blank
(in punto bianco) Although the great pleasure that I drew
from this gun of mine tended to seduce me away from my
profession and my studies, this fact is also true, that in
another way it gave me back much more than it took
from me: for the result was that every time that I went
on my hunting expeditions, I greatly improved my
health, because the open air did me so much good.
Since I was naturally of a melancholy disposition, when
I found myself at these amusements, my spirits imme-
diately brightened, and I was able to work better, and
with more skill, than when I applied myself to my
studies and experiments without intermission; to such
purpose that my gun in the long run proved for me
more gain than loss. Besides, by means of this diversion
of mine, I acquired the friendship of certain curiosity-
hunters who watched out for those Lombard peasants,
who came to Rome at that season to till the vines. These
latter in the course of their tilling the earth often found
antique medals, agates, chrysoprases, cornelians, cameos:
they found besides precious stones, that is to say,
emeralds, sapphires, diamonds, and rubies. These same
curio-hunters sometimes got from those peasants for
very small sums some of these things; for which I ‐
meeting these curio hunters occasionally, nay, very often
‐ gave as many gold scudi for a thing which they had
frequently just bought for scarcely as many pence
(giuli). This circumstance, exclusive of the great profit
that I procured out of it, which was tenfold or more, set
me besides in high favour with almost all the Roman
cardinals. Of these objects I will only speak of the
notable and rarest examples. There fell into my hands,
among so many other things, a dolphin's head as large
as a big balloting bean. Amongst the other treasures,
not only was this the most beautiful, but nature in this
case had far surpassed art; for this emerald was of such
a fine colour that the man who bought it of me for some
tens of scudi had it set after the fashion of an ordinary
stone to wear in a ring; set thus he sold it for some
hundreds. I had besides another variety of stone: this was
a head made of the most beautiful topaz that the world
ever saw. In this object art had equalled nature. It was
as big as a large filbert, and the head upon it was as
well executed as it is possible to imagine: it represented
Minerva. There was besides another stone differing from
these. This was a cameo; upon it was cut a Her-
cules binding the three-jawed Cerberus
. This was of such
beauty and fashioned with such fine skill, that our great
Michelagniolo protested that he had never seen anything
so wonderful. There were besides, among many bronze
medals, one that fell into my hands, upon which was
the head of Jove. This medal was much larger than any
that I had ever seen. The head was so beautifully exe-
cuted that such a medal had never been seen. It had
a most beautiful reverse side, with some small figures
likewise superbly executed. I could have, beyond these,
described many fine things, but I do not wish to dwell
upon them lest I become too lengthy.