Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.
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A TEXTILE, this was a LINEN CLOTH found not infrequently in the shops after 1700. Its presence in retailing outlets suggests it was not intended for export to the West Indies or to Africa, although that would be an obvious explanation of the term. It was valued between 6d and 13d the YARD.
The FRUIT of the bramble Rubus fruticosus often cultivated today in improved forms. It does not seem to have been held in especial esteem in the early-modern period. This may have been, as the OED suggests, because they were 'almost the commonest wild fruit in England ... spoken of proverbially as the type of what is plentiful and little prized'. Blackberries were uncommon in recipes and do not appear to have been for sale by suppliers of plants for the GARDEN. The only reference to blackberries in the Dictionary Archive is for a proposed method of using them to make a SPIRIT said to be equal to FRENCH BRANDY [Patents (1732)]. This is just one example of the many attempts by distillers to make a strong drink equal to the true imported BRANDY.
A well-known European song-bird, a species of THRUSH, Merula turdus, whose flesh was considered to be a delicacy, as is evidenced in the nursery rhyme 'four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie ... a dainty dish to set before a king' [Recipes (May).
In the final section of his recipe book, Robert May (1660) suggested keeping tame blackbirds or other song birds with newly caught wild ones in the same cage in which 'divers troughs [are] placed therein, some filled with haws, some with hemp seed and some with water, that the tame teaching the wild to eat ... they will in twelve or fourteen days grow exceeding fat, and fit for the table' [May (1685, facs. 1994)].
The term refers to any preparation for providing a BLACK colour, including the PIGMENT made with LAMP BLACK that 'Plaisterers' were allowed to mix with SIZE for house decoration [Acts (1604)], and also to a black stain for LEATHER and black SHOE polish. This last is the most common.
During the eighteenth century shoe polish was one of the products that attracted trade names to blacking. Examples of named products were also quite common, likeYOUNG's BLACKING BALL, elsewhere called 'Elastic fine Blacking' [Tradecards (1792)], and Scheffer's Cakes for 'making shining Liquid Blacking for Shoes or Boots 6d each' [Newspapers (1780)]. Some retailers even claimed to stock 'Blacking balls and cakes by various makers' [Tradecards (1794)]. The manufacturers of blacking sometimes used the same methods of distribution as the makers of PROPRIETARY MEDICINEs, for example [Newspapers (1790)].
Blacking was essentially LAMP BLACK but it came in various forms when used as a shoe polish for the greater convenience of users, like 'Bings improved cakes and Balls for making shining liquid blacking for Carriages, Boots, Shoes &c' [Newspapers (1790)]. It was a common household product, but could be awkward and messy to use; a problem that advertisers claimed to address. Particular problems can be identified through advertisements like the one for cakes made 'by the Addition of Water only, [to produce] a most excellent Shining Blacking ... [which] gives a most beautiful Gloss to the Leather, yet never renders it stiff or hard, but on the Contrary, prevents its Cracking ... will neither soil the Fingers in putting it on, or the Stockings in wearing' [Newspapers (1780)]. William Bayley took more positive action and patented his product as well as advertising it [Patents (1771)] and [Tradecards (18c.)]. Another method of making a blacking that was waterproof as well as resistant to salt water was patented in 1784 [Patents (1784)].
All these examples, and many others, reflect the social importance attached to the appearance of footwear, particularly BOOTS. Fashionable smarts had the use of the secret recipes devised by their valets, but most aspirants to fashion had to rely on products offered in the market or on recipes found in books of household management. One anonymous writer gave two recipes. In the first it was recommended that LAMP BLACK, NEATS OIL and BEESWAX be boiled until they could be cooled and formed into 'a Roll' that could then be rubbed onto the LEATHER. This, it was claimed would 'keep out the Wet, set a Gloss and preserve your shoes'. The other method entailed the use of lamp black and STARCH 'of a thickness that is usually made for Linnen Cloth' [Anon, The way to save wealth (1695)].
Not only was blacking widely offered for sale in its various forms, but so were its accoutrements. Blacking was applied with a blacking BRUSH, an example of the increased specialisation of household equipment.
See also BLACKING BALL, DEW BALL, LAMP BLACK.
Sources: Acts, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Patents, Rates, Tradecards.
References: Notable things in the way to save wealth.
BLACKING was shaped into the form of a ball or cake, presumably for ease of use. The earliest quote in the OED indicates that it was an innovation from Germany, but blacking balls quickly became popular in England, encouraging manufacturers to use BRAND NAMEs.
A very cheap product being valued at less than a PENNY each, their precise use is not clear. In neither of the cases noted in the Dictionary Archive does the context suggest they were an item of TOILETRY. In the one example they were listed among other SALTERY in the inventory of a SOAP boiler [Inventories (1670)] and in the other in the inventory of a grocer coupled with 'black furry' [Inventories (1726)]. A blacking box may have been a form of DREDGER, intended for sprinkling BLACKING in the form of powdered BLACK LEAD.
'Blae' is an obsolete or dialect term for BLUE or bluish BLACK. Blae flax is probably therefore a synonym for BLUE FLAX. A quotation in the OED from [Marshal (1788, new ed. 1796)] suggests there was a distinctive variety of flax otherwise known as 'Blue, blow or lead-coloured flax - provincially blea line'.
An ALMOND that has been scalded with boiling water to loosen its brownish skin so as to facilitate its removal [Simmonds (1906)]. Blanched almonds were used in cooking, particularly as an ingredient of MARCHPANE, for example [Recipes (Nott)], and in perfumery, for example in OIL of JASMINE [Houghton] and in WASHBALLs, for example [Newspapers (1787)].
This type of cloth was sometimes woven on a special loom capable of accommodating a width of up to four yards. Flemish immigrants settled in NORWICH during the sixteenth century introduced the manufacture of the SPANISH - RUG or blanket using SPANISH WOOL for the weft instead of the old method of using NOILs and FLOCKS. Their enterprise does not appear to have survived for long, but by 1578 blankets were apparently being made in Witney, Oxon, which was to become one of the main centres of production. Fine Witney blankets were made in widths of ten to twelve quarters (i.e. 2.5 YARD to 3.0 yard) for double BEDs, from seven to nine quarters for single ones and six quarters for COTs and the like. Seventeenth-century blanket weavers in Witney were often large master clothiers with up to four blanket looms on their premises. Blanketing seems only rarely to have been offered for sale in the shops.
Probably a piece of equipment varying according to its intended use. In the Dictionary Archive it has been noted only once in the 'Polishing shop' of a BUTTON maker, where its function is unclear [Inventories (1764)].
A thin CORD or thick THREAD found associated with PACKTHREAD, which suggests it may have been used in packing up goods for transportation. Blocking LINE and blocking CORD have also been noted and probably served much the same purpose.
This is presumably a BLUE produced from LOGWOOD, the usual name for blockwood. Although a violet or purple DYESTUFF is fairly easy to produce from logwood, it is fugitive and with a tendency to shift towards the red end of the spectrum under acidic conditions. It was therefore viewed with suspicion by dyers, and rarely used by artists [Harley (1970)]. However, logwood treated with COPPER acetate (that is VERDIGRIS) produces a fine blue, which has also been made durable by this mordant [Anon (1833)].
Not defined directly by the OED who instead refer the reader to a quotation dated 1872, which defined a blood stick as 'A piece of hard wood loaded at one end with LEAD which was used when treating horses to strike the FLEAM into the vein.' [Youall, 'Horse', (1872), quoted OED, Blood]. Randle Holme, who described it in an almost identical way, called it a 'Blooding Stick or Striker' [Holme (2000)]. His illustration shows that it looked like a crude mallet.
Bloom CURRANTS have not been noted elsewhere, and in the Dictionary Archive they appear only as blue currants. Probably they were made from GRAPEs with a bluish bloom on the skin, as were BLOOM RAISINS.
Blooms were defined in the OED as a fine variety of RAISINS citing a mid-nineteenth century source. The blue raisins noted two centuries earlier were probably the same. Simmonds gave the distinguishing feature of bloom raisins as the bluish bloom on the grapes. They came from MALAGA and were dried in the sun. However they were not necessarily identical with RAISINS OF THE SUN as they have been found listed together [Inventories (1614)]; [Simmonds (1906)].
No definition of bloom TEA has been noted for the eighteenth century or the early-nineteenth. A quotation given in the OED from the Cornhill Magazine for March 1885 referred to 'That coating of indigo and gypsum which imparts [to tea leaves] the bloom so highly prized in the European market'. Simmonds added that 'Prussian blue, French chalk, indigo, turmeric and soapstone' were used to 'face' the tea and so improve the colour of GREEN TEA [Simmonds (1906)]. Possibly it was a similar, relatively harmless, adulteration used in the production of the eighteenth-century bloom tea that was fairly widely advertised in both London and provincial newspapers, for example [Newspapers (1751)]; [Newspapers (1791)]. However, since it appears from the contexts of these advertisements that bloom tea was a green tea, it seems more likely that the natural bloom on the leaves of any genuine tea of this type had been enhanced through the use of a highly toxic COPPER derivative; a practice Frederick Accum reported as widespread in the early-nineteenth century, particularly in the production of counterfeit teas [Accum (1820)].
The precise meaning is unclear. Blow dials appear only twice in the Dictionary Archive. The first is in a shop stocked mainly with TOYs of all kinds, including some made of PASTE BOARD and other ephemeral materials [Inventories (1682)]. The objects included numerous toys called BIRDs, which could have been WHISTLEs to make the sound of birdsong, or small models or both. The blow dials were said to be 'w'th burds'; this could mean that blowing gave the appearance of the birds attached were flying, or that two separate objects were found together. Given that the stock was listed item by item, the former seems the more probable. The second appearance is in [Tradecards (1794)], which consists of a substantial catalogue of TOYs and FANCY GOODS. Here both 'blow birds' and 'blow dials' are listed close together.