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.


Table of contents

Background: a dictionary that explains 'zoobditty match'

The dictionary of terms related to traded goods and commodities, 1550-1820 is the work of the Dictionary Project at the University of Wolverhampton. It grew out of the work carried out to produce the Gloucester Coastal Port Books in the 1990s, and the present publication with British History Online is the first instalment of circa 4,000 terms found used in documents relating to trade and retail. The work on capturing the day-to-day language of commerce continues, with a view to publishing the next instalment of terms in subsequent editions.

The editors are not lexicographers but historians, not specialists but 'experts on being generalists'. Together with specialists they present a new dictionary for historians and those who are interested in early modern economic and social history and in the language of trade at that time. The aim is to name and explain the many different types of traded goods that have long since disappeared or that have changed over the years. These include 'zoobditty match', a rich sauce or pickle based on fish, which came from India and was popular at fashionable tables in the late eighteenth century.

An understanding of the vocabulary of trade is an essential tool for historians of the early modern period, and yet it is one that is ill served by existing dictionaries and historical research alike. Items both exotic and mundane such as 'carnation tape' and Daffy's Elixir, as well as those produced as a result of technological advances by specialist producers, each had an impact on contemporary life throughout the country. The dictionary aims to be more than a compilation of existing references. It offers an informed understanding of the complex relationships between innovation, the market place and the consumer, and a fascinating insight into nearly 300 years of material culture.

Using the dictionary - hints and tips

There are eight components to the package published with British History Online:

The headword
The headwords, each consisting of a single word or a phrase, were almost all abstracted from the Dictionary Archive though a few come from external sources. Collectively they are intended to provide a representative vocabulary of trade and material culture in the early-modern period, that is from the mid-sixteenth century to the early nineteenth. Although items concerned with manufacture and husbandry are included, the main focus is on those goods and commodities found in shops, and the terms used to describe them and to promote their sale.

Early modern English had few standardised spelling conventions, and the same word may be found spelled very differently even within the same document. Moreover, scribes and compilers often used abbreviations that may make it difficult to find a term using conventional search programs. For each headword all variants identified in the Dictionary Archive except straight plural forms have therefore been listed below the headword, enclosed in square brackets. It also gives terms as variant forms that suggest closeness in meaning, though they are otherwise different, and some 'strings' in which the first part of a compound headword is separated from the second. Examples of these two are, the variant 'aethiops mercury' under the headword AETHIOPS MINERAL and the variant 'alexandria or turkey plain' under ALEXANDRIA PLAIN. For the same reason variants like 'almond ditto' for ALMOND POWDER are included.

The editors emphasize that the list of variants is as much an interpretative construct as any other scholarly text. Allocating wildly bizarre words to their headwords often involves extensive study of contexts as well as experience in the language and spelling used in the sources concerned. Some variants belong to more than one headword. For example, 'garlick' is a variant of both GARLITZ and GARLIC, and it is an elliptical version of GARLIC VINEGAR. Apart from showing the variety of forms in which a term appears, the list of variants may also assist with understanding other texts that contain words that do not appear in dictionaries and works of information.

The article
This consists of a piece of free text ranging in length from one or two sentences to a thousand words or more. The thrust is less on definition, though this is included and discussed if the meaning is obscure, than it is on how the sale of the object or commodity was promoted and how it was valued and used in cultural terms. The article focuses on meanings that have been noted in the Dictionary Archive, though in some cases other meanings are given in the standard dictionaries, and in particular in the Oxford English Dictionary. Wherever possible, statements in the article are supported by examples from the Dictionary Archive and referenced with primary and secondary works. The article ends, or includes if more appropriate, an earliest date of use given either in the hard-copy version of the Oxford English Dictionary with supplement, shortened to OED, or in the Oxford English Dictionary online, shortened to OED online.

Additional information
Typically included in this section are a list of all the descriptors found associated with the headword, the materials used in manufacture and the units of measure and containment. To take two brief examples; the school book ACCIDENCE is found described as SINGLE and in units of DOZEN, while the textile PHILIP AND CHEYNEY is found described as CRIMSON, ENGLISH, and TAWNY, and found in units of PIECE and YARD. Where the material found is extensive and/or complex, it has been divided under headings for greater ease of use.

Related terms
The phrase 'See also' directs the user to related headwords pertinent to the subject under scrutiny. They are usually given in addition to those mentioned in the article itself.

This field contains the references used in addition to the materials from the Dictionary Archive. They appear in the same format as they appear in the article, and in the Bibliography. Typically, they are shortened to the author’s surname followed by the date in round brackets. Instead of a date, references from the web include the word 'online' in the brackets, and those from manuscripts the letters 'mss'. Wherever possible, the date is followed by a page reference. However, for works of reference arranged alphabetically this is unnecessary, and for others taken from the web often impossible.

See the Key to Sources

Editorial conventions

The use of special characters such as diphthongs and accented vowels is limited. For technical reasons special letters have not been used in headwords, and in most cases they have been rendered in their (approximate) Latin version.

The use of capitals in the articles signals that a word is also a headword. Where a hyphen combines two capitalised terms, the use of the separator indicates that both are individual headwords, but that there is no article for the combined terms, for example: LARGE - BOTTLE exists as LARGE and BOTTLE but not as LARGE BOTTLE.

The use of singular and plural: headwords are given the number that makes most sense of the material.

Where a phrase like 'not found in the dictionaries' is used, the editors are indicating that they had referred to most or all of the dictionaries and works of reference that are listed in the Bibliography.

The Dictionary Archive

The Dictionary Archive is the set of primary source materials selected, transcribed and digitised to facilitate the compilation of the dictionary and to gain insights into the use and meaning(s) of these terms. For technical reasons it is not included in this online edition. This archive consists of a collection of texts concerned with trade and material culture, and is subdivided according to the nine types or groups of sources (see Key to Sources). References to the Dictionary Archive are given in square brackets and indicate the source type, and the date or unique identification code of the individual item.


The editors gratefully acknowledge the financial support received from two private funding bodies, the Leverhulme Trust, which provided funding to get the research started, and the Pilgrim Trust, which made available a grant for research and technical development to see the project through to publication. Their thanks also go to the Oxford English Dictionary for providing advice and support, to the University of Wolverhampton for hosting the project, and to British History Online for publishing and hosting this online edition.

The editors would like to express their gratitude to all those people who have worked with them, helped them and advised them. Thanks go to the board of advisors, in alphabetical order of first name Andrew Prescott (Sheffield University), Claire Walsh (Open University), Cressida Chappell (Exeter University), Marc Overton (Exeter University), Peter Gilliver (Oxford English Dictionary), Ramesh Krishnamurthy (Ashton University), Simone Clarke (Keele University), Tony Carr (Shropshire Archives). Thanks also go to the programming and technical support provided by Marek Paul, Mary Garvey, Michael Pidd, and Steve Kunynek, Nicci Cooper, Paul Jackson and other members of the IT Unit at the University of Wolverhampton. And thanks go to the former editors: Angela Brown, Jan Broadway and Simone Clarke, and to the research assistants who have worked on the project over the years: Pat Andrews, Pauline Hamilton, Barbara Caddick and Michael Cahill.

The specialist contributors, whom the editors thank for their insightful work, are acknowledged with their respective contributions. And thanks, finally, go to those many others who have provided help and advice, for all of it has informed the shape and content of this dictionary.