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.
The shield or shield-shaped surface on which a coat of arms is depicted; also in a wider sense, the shield with the armorial bearings; a sculptured or painted representation of this. This term was also used to describe anything shaped like, or resembling an ESCUTCHEON, such as a key-hole plate or a name plate. It is in this last sense that the term is most often noted in the Dictionary Archive, usually among the stock of someone associated with the FURNITURE trade [Inventories (1799)].
A keeping SAUCE sold by several of the late-eighteenth century LONDON retailers of luxury foods. It was apparently sufficiently well known to need no description, unlike some of the other PREPARED SAUCES offered. A little information may be gained from the fact that it was listed among one retailer's RICH SAUCEs, most of which were highly flavoured and for use with savoury dishes [Tradecards (19c.)]. Apart from this, there is no clue to its composition or why it was so called.
The term refers to an extract, obtained by distillation or otherwise, from a plant or a medicinal, odiferous or alimentary substance, and containing its characteristic properties in a concentrated form. In pharmacy, it chiefly applied to alcoholic solutions containing the volatile elements or the ESSENTIAL OIL, which contain the perfume, flavour, or therapeutic virtues of the substance. Any material that fulfilled these requirement could be, and was, reduced to an essence, and a list is given below. Some like the so-called ESSENCE OF WATER DOCK and ESSENCE OF COLTSFOOT were QUACK MEDICINEs, others like ESSENCE OF SPRUCE and ESSENCE OF ANCHOVY were intended to provide a simplified ingredient essential in making a more complex preparation, but most, including ESSENCE OF LAVENDER and ESSENCE OF JESSAMY were intended as PERFUME. For these essential components of TOILETRY, special, and no doubt decorative BOTTLEs [Tradecards (1760)], and BOXes [Tradecards (1808)] were sold, as well as 'Compleat Toilet Boxes, with Essences' [Tradecards (1794)].
Varieties noted include: AMBERGRIS, BERGAMOT, BOUQUET, CAYENNE PEPPER, CELERY, GILLYFLOWER, JONQUIL, LEMON, MARECHAL, MINT, MUSK, MYRRH, OILLET, ORANGE, ORANGE FLOWER, PARSLEY, PENNYROYAL, PEPPERMINT, ROSE, SANDERS, THYME, TUBEROSE, VANILLA, VIOLET
See also BOOK OF ESSENCES, ESSENCE OF BERGAMOT, ESSENCE OF MUSTARD, ESSENCE OF ORANGES, ESSENCE OF PEARL, ESSENTIA BINE, ESSENTIAL OIL.
Sources: Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Rates, Tradecards.
Essence of anchovies
The natural juice extracted from ANCHOVY that could be stored for some time. It could be served hot or cold and was used to make ANCHOVY - SAUCE and as a condiment to FISH. Rival retailers made hyperbolic claims that theirs was 'genuine' or 'real'; presumably in contrast with poor-quality or false copies. An eighteenth-century proprietor of an 'Italian & Oil Warehouse', Burgess & Sons, advertised a 'Genuine Essence of Anchovies' that was 'So much approved of for Anchovy Sauce'. He claimed that for the cook making anchovy SAUCE, using the essence would prove 'less troublesome and less expensive than the common method of dissolving the Anchovies' [Tradecards (18c.)], making it an early-modern example of READY MADE food for the cook and the table.
Essence of bergamot
The OED online suggests it was an ESSENCE extracted from the fruit of the citrus BERGAMOT, but it is more likely to have been the very fragrant ESSENTIAL OIL extracted from the rind, much used in TOILETRY.
Essence of coltsfoot
Also known as the 'Pectoral Essence of Coltsfoot', this was one of the many QUACK MEDICINEs that supposedly relieved or cured coughs and even Consumption, the most dreaded and deadly of diseases [Newspapers (1790)]. COLTSFOOT was an accepted specific for complaints of the lungs.
Essence of jessamy
Essence of lavender
Like most ESSENCEs, this one was probably one of the oils distilled from LAVENDER, thus no more than a synonym for OIL OF LAVENDER. Like some other products of lavender like LAVENDER WATER, it attracted some extravagant praise like the 'Double refined Quintessence of Lavender' of one retailer [Newspapers (1770)].
Essence of mustard
Apparently an alternative name for the volatile ESSENTIAL OIL of MUSTARD, which was responsible for most of the pungency found in mustard. 'Whitehead's Improved Essence of Mustard' was patented in 1798 as a 'cure of rheumatism, palsy, and other complaints' [Patents (1798)]. Essence of mustard was of minor importance in medicine, but still appeared in Martindale's Extra Pharmacopoeia (ed. 29, 1989), as quoted in the OED.
Essence of oranges
ESSENCE was an imprecise term in may ways, and the various types of ORANGE, as well as the various parts of it which could give a useful product, make it difficult to be certain of the precise nature of an entry concerning essence of oranges. John Houghton, commenting on his lists of imports in the late seventeenth century, which include essence of oranges in small quantities from the Straits and Spain [Houghton], called it 'a very curious perfume' [Houghton]. It has been noted in the stock of only one retailer [Inventories (1660)], while a century later another advertised both 'Esence of Orange-flowers' and 'Esence of Oranges' [Tradecards (18c.)].
Essence of pearl
As it appears in the Dictionary Archive, ESSENCE of PEARL was a preparation, probably in the form of a POWDER made from FISH scales, marketed along with a PEARL DENTIFRICE and patented by Jacob Hemet in 1773. It was designed 'for preserving the teeth and gums, and remedying the disorders to which they are subject' [Patents (1773)]. Thereafter he promoted both himself and his products, claiming that he was 'Dentist to her Majesty and the Princess Amelia' and that his ESSENCE would 'preserve the Teeth in a perfect sound State even to old Age' [Newspapers (1770)]. However, the term itself appeared earlier than Hemet, so he may have been marketing no more than one form of this product.
Essence of spruce
An ESSENCE extracted from the twigs or sprouts of the black or the white SPRUCE fir tree [Smyth (1812)], used for making SPRUCE BEER. Whether the first of its kind, an essence of spruce was patented in 1772 [Patents (1772)], although SPRUCE BEER itself has been noted in the shops as early as 1724 [Inventories (1724)]. Given that the essence was apparently simply added to an ordinary WORT, it was according to one retailer 'so little Trouble to make this Beer, that a Person may make a Hogshead in ten Minutes, and it will be fit to drink in a few Days' [Tradecards (1800)].
Essence of water dock
Water dock, Rumex hydrolapathum, is a stately plant with long palm-like leaves, growing at the edge of ponds, canals and rivers [Mabey (1996)]. Neither John Gerard nor Nicholas Culpeper credited it with the virtue of curing scurvy, but it was for this purpose that a QUACK MEDICINE was marketed in the mid-eighteenth century [Newspapers (1760)].
The selling name for 'a late invented Liquor or syrup made from malt and water, boiled up to the consistency of MOLASSES' [Acts (1713)]. Although this suggests an ESSENCE made from MALT, the word 'BINE' suggests HOPS. Whatever its precise composition, its use in making BEER or ALE was prohibited. The act did not stop the abuse. A much later act again prohibited the use of a long list of contaminants including 'any article or preparation to used in worts or beer for or as a substitute for malt or hops' [Accum (1820)], although Essentia bine was not actually named.
A volatile OIL, usually obtained by distillation, and marked by the characteristic odour of the plant or substance from which it is abstracted as the OIL OF TURPENTINE. Pemberton described the process of extracting essential oils from various plants, specifying which part was used, for example, the ROOTs of SASSAFRAS, the leaves of several HERBs including ROSEMARY, RUE and WORMWOOD, the flowers of LAVENDER and CAMOMILE, and from JUNIPER BERRIES and from SPICES such as NUTMEG and CLOVES. 'These oils', he wrote, 'are obtained by distillation with an alembic [ALEMBIC] and large refrigeratory. Water must be added to the materials in sufficient quantity to prevent them burning, and the subject be macerated in that water a little time before the distillation. The oil comes over with the water, and either swims on the top, or sinks to the bottom, according as it is heavier or lighter' [Pemberton (1746)].
Some sources appear not to distinguish an ESSENCE from an essential oil since they were largely used for the same purpose in PERFUMERY and either would require to be kept in a tightly stoppered bottle or jar to prevent evaporation. Varieties noted include AMBERGRIS, BERGAMOT, BOUQUET, JASMIN, JONQUIL, LAVENDER, LEMON, MARECHAL, MUSK, OILLET, ORANGE FLOWER, ROSE, SANDERS, TUBEROSE, VANILLA, VIOLET.
Essential oils, particularly those extracted from an expensive source, were often adulterated. By the 1820s Accum claimed that the 'grosser abuses' were easily identifiable (though presumably they may not have been two centuries earlier), but the more subtle methods remained undetectable, except by the nose of an experienced perfumer [Accum (1820)]. No doubt adulterated oils found a market through use in cheaper PERFUME and TOILETRY.
Essential salts of lemon
Properly an alternative name for citric acid, but applied incorrectly in the mid-nineteenth century and probably earlier to potassium hydrogen oxalate. This was prepared, mainly in Switzerland and its neighbours, from WOOD SORREL, from which 70 LB of leaf would give about 5 OZ of the salt [Tomlinson (1854)]. It was used 'for taking out Ink Spots, Iron Moulds, &c. &c.' [Tradecards (1790s)], and less desirably for making LEMONADE and PUNCH [Tomlinson (1854)]. However, one maker in the 1780s claimed that his product was really 'nothing more than the pure acid Part of that Fruit, separated from the Pulp and Grosser substance' [Newspapers (1780)]. Pure lemon juice does not keep well, so it is unlikely, if the claim were true and lemons were the raw material, that it had been further processed into what Frederick Accum called 'concrete lemon acid'[Accum (1820)]. Accum added that it was frequently adulterated with tartaric acid. Possibly for this reason the maker added the descriptor 'True', though this may have been no more than a piece of puffery typical of the period.
A term found only once in the Dictionary Archive among the goods of a substantial London tradesman [Inventories (1670)]. It is likely that his Essings flax was imported from the Baltic, but apart from that there is no clue to its quality or its place of origin. The inland town of Essen is unlikely as European flax were almost always identified by the port from which they were exported.
A term having its derivation from the same root as STAMIN, STAMMEL, STAMMET and TAMMY with any of which it was sometimes confused. It was a fine, lightweight TEXTILE of WORSTED used for APPAREL. In one quotation in the OED it is defined as a STUFF. Alternatively it could be a tissue-like fabric used for separating FLOUR from BRAN or for straining liquors, whether made from worsted, LINEN, HAIR or any other substance [Montgomery (1984)].
Probably a corruption of 'Oesterreich' or Austrian WOOL. J. Smith in his 'Practice of Customs' declared it to have been used 'as a substitute for Beaver in the manufacture of hats' and further said that it was 'usually imported from Germany, the Levant, Italy, and other parts of the Mediterranean' [OED, Estrich]. Precisely what wool he referred to is uncertain, but since it came for Europe and the Mediterranean, it seems unlikely that it was from the bird called the OSTRICH. Eric Kerridge showed that it was in fact SHEEPS WOOL imported largely from central Europe, and then mixed with native hairy wools like WELSH WOOL [Kerridge (1985)].