Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.
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A name given to various corky species of Polyporus, a genus of fungus growing upon trees; particularly Polyporus officinalis, or female agaric, growing on larch trees and used in medicine as a cathartic and emetic. Polyporus fomentarius and igniarius, Male agaric, was likewise used in medicine but as a styptic, as tinder [Houghton], and in dyeing. Given its medical uses, it is often found in the Latin form AGARICUS. A modern work on botanical preparations suggests its actions are aggressive, and in large doses may cause vomiting [Wren (1941)]. A proposal to cultivate agaric in the American plantations was patented in 1722, but whether the scheme came to anything is not known [Patents (1722)].
The name of agaric was also applied to various toadstools. One of these, fly agaric with a bright red top, Amanita muscaria, is toxic and attacks the kidneys, but it is slow acting so that its ill effects may not be felt for several weeks. Another is the so-called 'deadly agaric' or 'death cap', Amonita phalloides. This does not appear to have been in trade in the early modern period, though it is common in beech woods and under oak trees. It is responsible for most deaths in Europe from fungus poisoning as there are no symptoms for up to twelve hours after eating, by which time the application of any antidote will be ineffective [Brightman (1966)].
A PRECIOUS STONE, said by Theophratus to come from the river Achates in Sicily, now called the Drillo. Agates are found near Perth in Scotland, and hence are sometimes called SCOTCH PEBBLEs. Agate is almost opaque, with varying shades of colouration produced by minute quantities of IRON and disposed in parallel stripes or bands, or blended in clouds. As the internal faces are capable of receiving a high degree of polish and it may be found in quite large pieces, agates were much used for ornamental work, such as the HAFT of a KNIFE, RINGs, SEALs, BEADs, SNUFF BOXes, etc., and hence entries like 'a pocket-knife w'th an agate handle' [Diaries (Stapley)], and even examples of 'agate knife' for short.
Found described as LARGE, ROUGH, 'small as a Beane' Found used to make the handle or HAFT of a POCKET KNIFE and other BIRMINGHAM WARE and SHEFFIELD WARE, head of a BAMBOO cane
Small agates were rated by the 100 DOZEN, while large ones were rated by the PIECE.
This term is usually applied to a metal tag of a LACE (also called a POINT) intended primarily to make it easier to thread through the eyelet holes, but later also applied to an ornament to the pendant ends. An entry in the Book of Rates of 1582 suggests an alternative. The entry reads: 'Aglets or Buttons for _ Caps of Copper' [Rates (1582)]. This suggests, that in this context, the aglet was a BUTTON, possibly made of COPPER, which was sewn on to the top of a cap, where today there is sometimes a bobble. They have not been noted in the shops under this name.
Agnus castus was the name given to the tree, Vitis agnus castus, which was regarded as a symbol of chastity, largely because of confusion between the Greek term for this tree and for the term chaste. The SEED had a small place in early modern medicine, but it has only been noted once among APOTHECARY [Inventories (1665)], though it was apparently imported.
Also known as Aaron's rod and LIVERWORT, this small herbaceaous plant, Agrimonia eupatoria, is distinguished by its yellow spiked flowers, deep green foliage and aromatic scent. Agrimony was a popular domestic medicinal herb from Anglo-Saxon times due to its astringent and diuretic qualitities, and recommended in the Middle Ages for snake bite and 'elf-shot' (that is, infected by evil spirits) [Mabey (1996)]. Culpeper noted that 'Outwardly applied it helps old sores, ulcers, &c. Inwardly it helps the jaundice and the spleen.' [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)] It was most commonly ingested as a drink and brewed as a substitute or an aromatic addition to TEA, or as a DIET DRINK [Hess (1981)]. As a DISTILLED WATER, Culpeper remarked that it was 'good to all the said purposes, either outward or inward, but a great deal weaker [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)].
One of the medicinal DISTILLED WATERS, according to Nicholas Culpeper that was 'good to all the said purposes' to which AGRIMONY was applied in other forms 'either outward or inward, but a great deal weaker' [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)].
More often referred to as an EGRET, it was a tuft of feathers (in the style of that borne by the egret, or Lesser White Heron, and some other birds) worn by women as a head dress, or as the tuft of a helmet. By extension, the term was applied to a spray of gems, or similar ornament, worn on the head, like the 'Silk, Silver, and Italian Egretts for the Hair' promoted by one retailer [Tradecards (18c.)]. The manufacture of aigrettes and ARTIFICIAL FLOWERs seems to have been the preserve of Italian makers, or else a style believed to be Italian became fashionable during theeighteenth century.
OED, using a quotation dated 1829, described an air GUN as an instrument for projecting balls, or other missiles, by the elastic force of condensed air. This does not explain how it worked, and neither does the only example in the Dictionary Archive, in an advertisement for 'Fowling pieces, Rifles and Air Guns [Tradecards (1802)].