Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.
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A creeping plant, Cucumis sativus, a native of southern Asia, long cultivated for its fruits. It was grown in this country, usually under glass. Curiously, cucumbers were used to flavour VINEGAR and John Houghton claims that they, like green WALNUT and MELON, were used to make imitation MANGO by having their insides removed and being filled with GARLIC and GINGER [Houghton]. They were usually made into PICKLE, RAGOUT and, according to Richard Bradley, they were also PRESERVED 'for _Winter' by being stewed and then stored in a mixture of boiled WHITE WINE and PEPPER [Bradley (1736, 1980 ed.)]. These could then be fried. Cucumber SEED was available in several varieties. The medical writer, John Gerard, noted that 'the cucumber ... taken in meats, is good for the stomacke and other parts troubled with heat ... The seed ... being stamped and outwardly applied in stead of a clenser, it maketh the skin smooth and faire' [Hess (1981)]. Cucumbers were also valued medicinally as one of the four greater COLD SEEDs.
Found described as Early, Green DUTCH, Green TURKEY, long prickly, PICKLED, Ridge, White Dutch, White Turkey Found describing FRAME, GLASS, VINEGAR
As a seed: Found among the DRUGS, rated by the POUND
As pickled cucumbers: Found rated by the GALLON
Given the lack of taste in the CUCUMBER, it is improbable that cucumber vinegar, unlike most of the other flavoured vinegars with which it has been found listed, is VINEGAR in which cucumbers have been steeped and then strained. A clue may lie in a quotation in the OED from Pomet's History of Drugs: 'There is another kind of Fennel ... which we make Vinegar off to sell in winter with Girkins' [Pomet (1712)]. It therefore is likely to have been an already spiced vinegar suitable for eating with GHERKINs or for PICKLING them.
A cuirass, a piece of ARMOUR for the body that, according to the OED, was formerly made of LEATHER. However, Randle Holme, who may well have seen it only in heraldic examples, considered it an alternative name for the BRIGANDINE [Holme (2000)]. Whatever its form, the curat seems to have gone out of favour by the early modern period and replaced by other forms of body armour, particularly the ALMAIN RIVETS.
A fashionable headware for women, the precise nature of which is now unknown. Like all such articles of MILLINERY, the price depended upon the materials used and the complexity or fashionability of the design. It is not certain whether or not 'curl hood' and 'curled hood', which was also found in the same period, were synonymous.
Possibly it was the TEXTILE that the OED defines as 'Curled CLOTH'; a kind of WOOLLEN CLOTH made of Astrakhan or other similar WOOL with a curly surface, though this makes awkward some of the descriptors of the examples in the Dictionary Archive. The OED's quotation is also very late. It has not been noted in the authorities on textiles.
A method of making 'black-currant drops and lozenges ... for the cure of sore throats, coughs, and hoarseness' was patented in 1773 [Patents (1773)]. It was very likely this, or a similar product, that was offered for sale some twenty five years later [Tradecards (1800)]. They could well have been effective in soothing, if not curing, coughs and sore throats. They do not seem to have been intended for the more serious conditions of the lungs such as consumption (Tuberculosis), unlike some of the QUACK MEDICINEs such as the proprietary PECTORAL LOZENGES.
The dried FRUIT of dwarf seedless variety of GRAPES grown in the Middle East, particularly a variety of smaller fruited grapes grown in Greece. The name currant is a corruption of the place of origin, 'Raisins of Corinth'. They have been known in Britain since the Crusades, but entered the literary record properly during the later sixteenth century [Hess (1981)]. Currants ripen in July, and in August, when over-ripe, are harvested and exposed to the sun to dry. Although the currants are winnowed and fanned to remove dust, stalks and debris, recipes generally specified that currants should be washed and picked clean before use. Currants were popular in elite households and were used to make cakes, CONSERVE, MARMALADE, JELLY and WINE.
In sources like the Gloucester Coastal Port Books currants were often included in GROCERY and hence do not appear, though they may have been subsumed in RAISINS of which they are no more than a variety. In the 1780s, in an attempt to discourage smuggling, the importation of currants 'in Rolls and other small packages' was prohibited and all imports were required to be packed loose in a HOGSHEAD or a CASK containing 5 CWT net [Acts (1783)].
Currants were used to make CAKES, CONSERVE, CONFECTIONERY (through cooking with CREAM) and PASTE, and were preserved as JELLY or MARMALADE. Like other FRUIT currants were used to make currant WATER or WINE. Eliza Smith (1758) recommended boiling slightly under-ripe currants with WATER and SUGAR, and after straining, leaving the drink for a fortnight before decanting it into BOTTLEs [Smith (1758, facs. 1994)].
Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1998), Hess (1981), Smith (1758, facs. 1994).
A comb or instrument of metal used primarily for cleaning dirt from the coat. Today there are three types, the functions of which are governed primarily by the major material used in their structure. The same may have been true in the early modern period, but what they were made of was rarely mentioned. Only in one of the Books of Rates is there a clue; there they were included among the IRONWARE [Rates (1660)].
Randle Holme described two types; the sort similar to those commonly used today with several rows of teeth, and the one that he called an 'open curry comb ... haveing no back, and but one rowe of Teeth' [Holme (2000)]. In addition two other types have been noted in the Dictionary Archive, the BLACK COMB and the WHITE COMB, though what made them distinctive is not known. A patent in the 1790s was for a curry comb with a toothed edge 'for combing the manes and tails of horses and for combing dirt from horses and other cattle' [Patents (1798)]. It thus obviated the necessity of having a separate MANE COMB.
The curry comb was one of the essential tools of horse management and two were included on the list of equipment that an emigrant should take with him to America in the 1670s costing 5d each [Diaries (Josselyn)]. A similar importance is reflected in one inventory in which the curry comb was listed in the same line as the RACK and MANGER as if the three together were the minimal equipment necessary for keeping a horse [Inventories (1581)].
[curting rod; curtin rode; curteyne rodde; curteyne rod; curteyn irone rode; curtene rode; curten rodde; curten rodd; curteine rodde; curtayne rodde; curtayn rod; curtane rode; curtaine rode; curtaine rodd; courtin rod; cortinge rodde; cortin rodd; cortens rads; corten rod]
The horizontal rod from which the CURTAIN is suspended by the CURTAIN RINGs. most were for the curtains hung round a BED, and the context meant that appraisers often abbreviated the term to ROD, as in 'Curteins thre & the rodds of yron iiijs' [Inventories (1580)]. This entry also recorded that it was made of IRON, the only material ever mentioned in connection with curtain rods. Rather than suggest that this was what was normally used, it probably indicated that iron was uncommon. Probably curtain rods were usually made out of WOOD like the rest of the BEDSTEAD. As the WINDOW CURTAIN became more common, so do entries referring to the necessary rods, including the one for 'one window rodd' [Inventories (1667)].
A PHYSICAL HERB, Cuscuta epithymum (or another member of that genus), and a relative of convolvulus, known in English as Dodder or EPITHYME. It is a leafless mass of twining thread-like stems parasitic on other plants, usually THYME but also NETTLE and FLAX [Gerard (1633, facs. 1975)]. It was used medicinally.
Cushtaes probably took its name from Kushtia a place of considerable trade in the Nadiya district in India. It was a product of Bengal, apparently similar to CALICO or CHINTZ [Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996)]. It was seen as a competitor to British manufacture so that its importation was banned for home use, though its importation was allowed for re-export to Africa. They were listed among the 'India goods for Africa' in the 1760s [Acts (1766)]. Like many imports from India, cushtaes seems to have been a name that was deemed unacceptable to the buying public, so that if and when it was offered for sale in the shops during the seventeenth century it was probably under a generic term like CALICO.
The examples found in the Dictionary Archive suggest that it was LEATHER cut out ready to make SHOES, etc. [Acts (1722)]. The OED, however, whilst it does not define the term, gives two quotations dating from the nineteenth century, which suggest that it may have referred to leather bearing a pattern of holes punched out of it as a decorative feature.
Probably a NAIL cut out of a sheet of IRON rather than hand wrought; this is supported by the illustration accompanying an advertisement for 'Pres'd Hinges and Cut Nails' of a man working a press [Tradecards (1791)]. It was claimed they were as good as wrought nails, which suggests either that they were not, or that they were perceived as being inferior.
A term not found in the dictionaries, and only once in the Dictionary Archive among the equipment of a joiner as 'The cuttin screwes with ye box to it the chist w'th the tooles' all valued at just over £2 [Inventories (1667)]. Possibly it was some form of DIE for cutting screws, or a SCREW MANDREL used to cut the grooves on WOOD SCREWS. Whatever its precise form, if it were for cutting screws, then it could be an early example of the possible use of wood screws in JOINERY, which was only adopted in the late seventeenth century [Gloag (1952, revised 1991)].