Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.
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A large genus of sedge-like plants in which the bark or skin of the stem is not differentiated from the core. Some species were much used medicinally and in TOILETRY like WASHBALLs [Recipes (Nott)]. The two most important in trade were Cyperus longus or SWEET Cyperus, also known as ENGLISH - GALINGALE, and Cyperus rotundus, the plant from which CYPERUS NUTs were obtained. Based on texts, it is difficult to distinguish these from each other and from CYPRESS NUTs. Even CYPRE can only sometimes be definitively identified. In the List of Rates drawn up in 1657, 'Ciperus longus and rotundus' were distinguished from Ciprus Nuts [Rates (1657)] illustrating well the problems of identification that may be found.
The small nut-like tubers of sedges of the genus CYPERUS, especially Cyperus rotundus. In America this acquired the name nut-grass. It is impossible to discern in most cases whether this or CYPRESS NUT was intended.
The HENNA shrub, Lawsonia inermis, with fragrant white flowers comes from the Levant and is used to make various articles of PERFUMERY including PERFUME, perfumed POWDERs, WASH BALL, WATERS. Lack of precision in spelling makes it impossible at times to decide whether this plant or CYPERUS or CYPRESS was intended.
Earliest dates of use come from the sixteenth century, but in the eighteenth century the term 'cypress' was probably most often applied to Cypress lawn, a light transparent material resembling COBWEB LAWN or CRAPE. This was usually coloured black (occasionally white) and was much used for mourning. The term came to mean a length of the cloth used as a HATBAND. According to Caulfield and Saward the fabric was usually woven 26 inches in width, and this may have been the case in the earlier period, too. They give a quotation dated 1609 referring to a 'trebled Cyprus', presumably meaning folded to make three thicknesses, used about a hat. This is about the same date that 'treble bandes of silke syprese' appeared in the Dictionary Archive [Inventories (1605)] and in [Caulfeild and Saward (1885, facs.1989)] under Cyprus. One retailer in the early seventeenth century had cypress bands in variety, including 'sylke sypres platted bands, 'treble bandes of silke syprese' and 'fower platted bandes of sylke sypres' and 'platted sylke syprese band imbroyded' [Inventories (1605)].
The rounded fruit or cone of the CYPRESS, Cupressus sempervirens. Culpeper believed that the so-called nuts, which are almost as big as a plum, were 'dry in the third degree, without any heat, and very astringent'. He believed them to be useful to treat polyps and 'blotches and boils' and other similar conditions. Infused in VINEGAR, they would make the hair black [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)].