Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Linen, a fabric manufactured from the fibres of flax (q.v.). The use of linen cloth dates back to the earliest period of which there is any historical record. Flax and linen are mentioned in Genesis and other books of the Old Testament, and there yet remain linen cloths, often extremely fine in texture, which were used as winding-sheets for the embalmed Egyptian mummies. Spinning and weaving were known to the Greeks and Romans at a very early date, and were probably introduced by the latter people into all the European countries which formed part of their empire. From the beginning of the Middle Ages to the latter part of the 18th century the manufacture of linen continued to occupy an important position amongst the domestic industries of Europe. It appears te have taken root in Flanders aboutthe 11th century. It also flourished vigorously during the Middle Ages in the north of France, where it still holds its ground. Its progress in the United Kingdom was much furthered in the 17th century by the immigration of Huguenot refugees. The decline of the industry began in the last quarter of the 18th century, chiefly through the success of the machinery adopted in the manufacture of cotton. The cotton trade thus gained an ascendency which it has ever since retained, mainly owing to the greater cheapness of cotton and to the extreme adhesiveness of the gum in flax-fibres, which makes spinning difficult. Like other industries which were pretty generally diffused before the introduction of the factory system, the linen manufacture is now confined to certain well-defined areas. In the United Kingdom the finest linens are produced in the north of Ireland, especially at Belfast and other places in the neighbourhood, which are noted for linen and cambric handkerchiefs, damask table linen, and similar fabrics. Linen damasks, diaper towelling, and other goods of the same kind are woven in Fife and in Yorkshire. Sailcloth and other heavy linen goods are produced extensively at Dundee, Arbroath, and elsewhere in the county of Forfar. Abroad the industry is almost wholly confined to France, Belgium, and Germany. The French damasks and cambrics have acquired the greatest renown.