Online Encyclopedia

POUNCE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 221 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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POUNCE. (t) To drop upon and seize: properly said of a bird of prey seizing its victim in its claws. The substantive " pounce," from which the verb is formed, was the technical name in falconry for the claws on the three front toes of a hawk's claws, and so The Book of St Albans (1486) " Fryst the grete Clees behynde . . . ye shall call hom talons. . . . The Clees within the fote ye shall call of right her Pownces." (2) To decorate metal by driving or punching a design into it from the under or back part of the surface; also to decorate cloth or other fabrics by punching or " pinking " holes, scalloping the edges, &c. Both these words seem to be variants of " punch " (q.v.), which comes ultimately from the Latin pungere, punctum, to prick, pierce. From them must be distinguished (3) " pounce, " a preparation of powdered cuttle-fish or sandarach, the resin of the sandarach-tree, formerly used for drying ink on the roughened surface of vellum, parchment or paper where an erasure had been made; later, the word was also given to the black sand used generally as a dusting-powder for drying ink before the invention of blotting-paper. The " pounce-box " or " pouncet-box " was a familiar object on all writing-tables till that time. A similar box with pierced lid for holding perfumes or aromatic vinegar also bore the name. This word is formed from the Lat. pumex, pumice-stone, which was employed for securing a smooth surface on vellum, parchment, &c. The term " pounce " is also applied to a finely powdered gum of the juniper or to pipe-clay darkened with charcoal used in transferring designs to fabrics, wall-surfaces, &c., through holes pricked in the original drawing.
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