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 early modern label of the shrub now called jasmine, and in particular Jasminum officinale. It has long been naturalized in southern Europe, and it has long been grown in England although it is on the edge of hardiness in the North [Bean (1914-33, revised ed. 1976)]. Next to the white jasmine, the ordinary 'jessamine' of English literature, the best known was the yellow-flowered Jasminum fruticans, known at least since the sixteenth century. The winter flowering Jasminum nudiflorum was not introduced into this country until 1844 [Bean (1914-33, revised ed. 1976)].
Jessamy was one of the four great flowers of perfumery, summed up in comment by the Earl of Manchester in 1633, 'Meditation is... as hee that smells the Violet, the Rose, the Jessamie, and the Orenge flowers dividually. But Contemplation is a water compounded of them all' [OED, Dividually]. Unlike VIOLET, ROSE and ORANGE FLOWER, jessamy was not used in medicine, but like them a substantial range of products was made from its flowers, including JESSAMY BUTTER, ESSENCE OF JESSAMY, JESSAMY OIL, JESSAMY POWDER, JESSAMY SOAP and JESSAMY WATER.
A preparation for TOILETRY perfumed with JESSAMY in which one base used was HOGS LARD [Houghton]. Like ORANGE FLOWER BUTTER, it appears mostly to have been used on the hair. Randle Holme described one way this was done in his 'Terms of Art used in Barbing and Shaving' where he gave the meaning of the phrase to 'Jecimy the Hair' as 'to put Jecimin on the palms of your hands and rub it on the hair' [Holme (2000)].
The OED suggests rather doubtfully that these GLOVES were of a light yellow colour presumably so-called after the flowers of Jasminum fruticans. A quotation given by the OED dated 1750 explained how one could colour gloves by adding YELLOW OCHRE to the WHITE LEAD [Smith (1750, 14 ed.), quoted OED]. However, there remains some doubt as to whether this is a complete explanation of the term. There is an ambiguous quotation from Samuel Pepys' Diary dated 27 October 1666 in which he seems to contrast 'jesimy plain gloves' with some that were white suggesting that colour was significant, but another from T. Duffet in which JESSAMY BUTTER and jessamy gloves were linked suggesting that the gloves may have been perfumed [both quoted by the OED online under Jessamy]. Perfumed gloves had been introduced into Britain from Spain in the latter half of the sixteenth century. Although made in Britain, too, the best were imported from Spain or Italy. According to a recipe published in 1577 by the Italian Alexius Pedemontanus, gloves were soaked in a scented water, then greased with TALLOW and Jessamy oil, before drying and storing among rose petals. One seventeenth-century bridegroom wrote 'I could not get so many woman's Jessamy gloves as I wrote for; and at the last was fained to pick upon cordinent [CORDIVANT] for men and perfumed kid for women. I had them perfumed better than ordinary that they might give content' [Shakespeare Birthplace Trust]. This strongly suggests that at least some jessamy gloves were perfumed.
The jury must remain out as to whether jessamy gloves were called by this name because they were yellow, or because they were scented with jessamy, or possibly both. Whatever the case may be, there is little room for doubt that jessamy gloves were luxury products requiring skill and expertise in their manufacture, and that therefore they were used as gifts of ceremony such as weddings and Valentines Day.
A POMATUM scented with JESSAMY. It was probably similar to, or identical with, JESSAMY BUTTER. A nineteenth-century recipe gave the ingredients as LARD and Jasmine water (that is JESSAMY WATER), with small additions of SUET and ESSENCE OF JESSAMY [Cox (1966, pb 1969)]. Such a pomatum would have been used to fix JESSAMY POWDER to the hair, hence advertisements like 'Jasmine Powders and Pomatums' [Newspapers (1790)].
One would expect this term to have been applied to a HAIR POWDER scented with JESSAMY and that may well have often been the case. However, according to James Cox, Jessamy powder was scented with ORANGE FLOWER WATER. The powder would have been affixed with a pomade or POMATUM, possibly with JESSAMY POMATUM to intensify the scent [Cox (1966, pb 1969)]. The two have been noted together in an advertisement, 'Jasmine Powders and Pomatums' [Newspapers (1790)].
A SOAP scented with JESSAMY. It is not clear why 'Making Jessamine Soap' was patented in 1794 [Patents (1794)], as it cannot have been substatially different from other scented SOAPs, except for the scent. Jessamy soap has not been noted, either in the shops or advertised, but soaps scented with flowers were apparently not common. There are modern recipes for making 'Jasmine soap', for example [Jameson (1929)], using synthetic scents. Even with these, timing seems to be crucial, with the scent added at the last moment [Jameson (1929)].
A distillation scented with JESSAMY flowers, and like many such preparations of TOILETRY, much was imported; hence 'Foreign perfumed Waters, such as ... Jessamine' [Newspapers (1785)], and the use of a French label 'Eau de Jessamine' [Tradecards (1794)].
A medicinal bark taken from species of Cinchona, also known as PERUVIAN BARK from its place of origin, and fever bark, since it was used to alleviate agues and other fevers. It was introduced into Europe from the Jesuit Missions in South America. It is one of the few really effective drugs introduced from the New World; its active ingredient being an alkaloid similar to Quinine. The term was also applied to the bark of Iva frutescens (false or bastard Jesuits' bark).
An ancient MUSICAL INSTRUMENT that has hardly changed its form over the centuries. It is of simple construction consisting of an elastic STEEL tongue fixed at one end of a small lyre shaped frame of BRASS or IRON and bent at the other end to a right angle. It is played by holding the frame between the teeth and striking the free end of the metal tongue with the finger, variations of tone being produced by altering the size and shape of the cavity of the mouth. It is a harmonic instrument, and so limited in its range, although it is possible for a virtuoso performer to play on two simultaneously so that the one instrument fills in the tonal gaps in the other to some extent.
By 1935 it was reported that a single Birmingham manufacturer made the whole world's supply, making about 100,000 a week [Scholes (1956)]. Unfortunately the Dictionary Archive affords no indication of manufacture in the early-modern period. All jews harps have been noted for sale in, mostly provincial, shops or by travelling salesmen like the chapman with '3 bone combes ix Jewes harps' valued together at 1s [Inventories (1618)]. Scholes suggests that jews harps were used for dancing in Scotland, perhaps because the twanging of the fundamental note is heard throughout, rather like with the bagpipes. The very cheapness of a jews harp suggests it may also have been used south of the border by the poor in a similar way. For example, in one shop '5 dozen of Jews harpes 7 dozen of pack needles & Compasses' were valued altogether at only 5s [Inventories (1668)], while another retailer had an unspecified quantity of 'Sprigs & jews harps' at only 6d [Inventories (1704)].
There is some difficulty in identifying all the jews harps in the Dictionary Archive as it would seem that the term was sometimes shortened to 'Harps'. The 'harp' valued at 16d noted in a mercer's shop [Inventories (1545)], was unlikely to have been either a full-scale harp or a jews harp, but what it was and looked like is unclear. On the other hand, the 'ii doszen of Brasen harpes' found in another shop valued at 3s could be jews harps, although the same man had an unspecified number of 'Jewes harpes' valued at 8d elsewhere in his shop [Inventories (1622)], which in turn may mean that the 'Brasen harpes' were a type of SCREEN for sifting grain etc. and not musical instruments at all.
An alternative name for the JEWS HARP. Judging by the valuation, the 'three dossen of trumpes all save twoe trumpes' at 8d altogether were probably jews trumps [Inventories (1623)]. Jews trumps were presumably imported, since they attracted a rate in both 1582 and 1660 [Rates (1582)]; [Rates (1660)].
The largest quantity of any sort of SCREW found in the Dictionary Archive is the '255 dozen jinny Screws a 2s p'r doz' ' found among the stock of a BRASS founder [Inventories (1792)]. The screws at 2d each were of higher value than any other type of screw noted in the Dictionary Archive like the WOOD SCREWS or the GUN SCREW. Although the earliest example of the use of the term 'Jenny' in the OED is dated 1789 and referred to the Spinning JENNY, which had been invented in the 1760s, it seems likely the term was already in use for an ENGINE. In which case, jinny or jenny screws may have been BRASS screws designed for use in engineering and perhaps even instrument making.