Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.
This free content was born digital. All rights reserved.
A shoulder-piece; an ornament worn on the shoulder as part of a military, naval, or sometimes of a civil uniform. Epaulets were in theory made of GOLD LACE or SILVER LACE and so were expensive, one retailer offering them at from 5s to 12s each [Newspapers (1798)]. It is not surprising therefore that they were also offered GILT or PLATED, though such cheaper products would have stood up less well to the corrosive effect of sea water.
A centre DISH or ORNAMENT for the dinner TABLE. Later examples were often in a branched form, each branch supporting a small dish for dessert or the like, or a VASE for flowers. From the OED's quotations it appears that the earlier use was chiefly to hold PICKLES.
An eighteenth-century PREPARED SAUCE, which its maker gave the fanciful FRENCH name of 'Sauce des Epicures'. He advertised it 'for Deviling all Sorts of Game, Poultry, &c. and for Seasoning Made Dishes' [Tradecards (1800)], which indicates that it possibly was a spicy or hot type of sauce and how it could be used, though not of its composition.
Note that in some cases it may be a variant spelling of EPITHEM. The English name for Cuscuta epithymum or Dodder, a parasitic plant mostly growing on THYME, but according to John Gerard also on the NETTLE and on FLAX, hence its alternative names of 'Epiurtia' and 'Epilinum' while, so he claimed, it was called CUSCUTA in the shops. He called it a 'strange herbe' [Gerard (1633, facs. 1975)]. It was used medicinally for urinary and liver complaints, though it was apparently not overly favoured for this purpose judging by its relative rarity in the shops. It did not appear in the mid-eighteenth century Materia Medica [Pemberton (1746)], though it still warranted an appearance in some modern herbals, still being used for urinary complaints and diseases of the liver [Wren (1941)].
This commodity is known as English Salt or Sal anglicum on mainland Europe. In 1695 the physician, Nehemiah Grew, obtained a salt, chiefly composed of hydrated magnesium sulphate, from the spa springs at Epsom in Surrey. He patented this PURGING SALT in 1698 [Patents (1698)]. George and Francis Moult established a factory at Shooter's Hill, near London, to market Epsom Salts in 1700, which were sold at the sign of the Glaubers-Head in Watling Street [Childs (1993)], and doubtless elsewhere. Unlike GLAUBER SALTS, the sodium sulphate first made in the 1650s, Epsom salts do not appear to have been widely advertised, although they were well used in some quarters at least and in the early nineteenth century St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London is said to have used two and a half tons of Epsom Salts each year [Childs (1993)].
Although originally Epsom salts applied only to the compound obtained from EPSOM WATERS, the term became the popular name of magnesium sulphate however prepared, hence the act granting additional duties on 'all Salts, known or called by the Name of Glauber and Epsom Salts, made at any Salt Works in Great Britain' [Acts (1782)]. Tomlinson described a manufactory operating at the end of the eighteenth century at Lymington in Hampshire, where the salts were being processed from the waste products of the evaporation of seawater to make SALT. This part of the process was carried out in the summer; the waste, called 'bittern' was stored in underground pits until the winter when it was reboiled in the same boilers as those in which the salt had formerly been made, and allowed to crystallize in shallow wooden coolers. From the brine that yielded 100 TON of common salt and one ton of SALT CAT or cat salt, four ton of magnesium sulphate were obtained [Tomlinson (1854)]. The dual process is an interesting example of economy of resources and in the management of time and resources.
Epsom waters came from a mineral spring at Epsom in Surrey that contained magnesium sulphate and acted as a PURGE. The waters had been known since the sixteenth century, and Epsom became a well-established spa town during the seventeenth century. Bergman wrote that 'the sal catharticus amarus has been in high esteem at Epsom from the year 1610', and the 'Epsome waters' were mentioned by Henry More in 1657 [Childs (1993)]. An anonymous householder in Sussex recorded in his/her accounts a payment of 2s for fetching Epsom waters in 1657 [Diaries (Lindfield)], a clear indication of their widespread reputation. In 1695 the physician, Nehemiah Grew, wrote an account of the medicinal virtues of the spring called 'A treatise on the Nature and Use of the Bitter Purging Salt contain'd in Epsom and such other waters', which furthered the reputation of the waters. Perhaps it was in consequence of this that George and Francis Moult established a factory at Shooter's Hill, near London, to market Epsom Salts in 1700 [Childs (1993)].
An umbrella term that was applied to almost any set of APPAREL or equipment. For example, one advertisement was for 'elegant Tea and Coffee equipages, painted after the Dresden manner' [Newspapers (1780)], another by a 'Coach & Harness Maker' was just for 'all sorts of Equipages in the Compleatest manner' [Tradecards (18c.)], leaving it to the reader to deduce what might be included.
The FUR of the ermine, an animal of the weasel family, called in this country a stoat. In winter in northern climes, but not usually in England, the fur is white with a black tip to the tail, and it was in this state that the tail was an item of trade. Because of its rarity, and therefore expense, it was mainly used in small items of APPAREL [Inventories (1679)], or as a trimming as in the 'fine dress of second mourning' noted by Samuel Pepys in 1667, 'being black, edged with ermine' [Diaries (Pepys)]. Inevitably a cheaper substitute was found in trade as in 'a mock Ermine tippet' and '1 yd 3/8 mock Ermine' [Tradecards (1745)].
The root of the SEA HOLLY, Eryngium maritinum, usually CANDIED and formerly used as a SWEETMEAT. It wa also regarded as an aphrodisiac. 'Eryngo' without further specification was in the mid-eighteenth century Materia Medica [Pemberton (1746)]. It is found only occasionally in the shops, presumably because it was a native plant and could be grown in gardens. John Gerard gave a recipe for candying the roots, which were, he wrote, 'exceeding good to be given to old and aged people that are consumed and withered with age' [Gerard (1597, 1985 ed.)].