Mace - Malting tub

Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.

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[mase; macis; mac]

One of the most important and expensive of the SPICEs, it is the dried outer coating or aril of the NUTMEG. NUTMEG, the fruit of a tropical evergreen tree, Myristica fragrans, originated in the Far East, and until the late eighteenth century, the only sources of nutmeg and mace were the so-called Spice Islands or Moluccas, in what is now called Indonesia, which had been successfully colonized by the Dutch. Having established a monopoly on the trade in these two spices Dutch merchants went to great lengths to keep their market position; for instance, by liming nutmeg seeds prior to exportation, a process that was believed to render them infertile. However, seedlings were smuggled out, and eventually the British West Indies became the second largest centre.

The fruit of the nutmeg tree resembled a small peach or apricot. An outer fleshy layer surrounds the aril of the fruit, which in turn encases the seed known as a nutmeg. These were separated by hand. When removed from the seed the 'blades' of mace were spread out and dried. Being a thin, lacy material, the mace was light-weight, and consequently the ratio of dried nutmeg to dried mace was about 20:3. About 1 LB of mace was collected from a fully-grown tree each year. The Dictionary Archive demonstrates that during the early modern period mace was used to flavour food in cooking and was an ingredient of popular medicinal preparations such as MITHRIDATE and VENICE TREACLE. With the expansion of the spice trade there was a fall in price. Whereas it has been estimated, for instance, that in medieval times that a LB of mace was equivalent in price to three SHEEP and half a COW. By the mid-eighteenth century, the price of mace had come down though it was still very expensive, being valued in the shops at 12d-18d OUNCE or 16s-24s LB.

OED earliest date of use: a1377

Found describing as BLADES, LARGE, middle, small whole Found describing OIL
Found imported from Holland, India Found measured for sale by LB, OZ Found rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT, OUNCE, POUND

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Miller (1969, 1998 ed.), 58-60, Simmonds (1904), II/175-6, Welch (1994).

Madder black

[mathered black; mather black]

The colour made by dyeing TEXTILEs black using WOAD or INDIGO overlaid with MADDER. Prejudice about the alternative black DYESTUFF was strong, and fabrics dyed with madder black were required to carry a mark so that all could recognise the TRUE colour [Acts (1726)].

OED earliest date of use: 1763 as a colour rather than a product

Found described as TRUE

Sources: Acts.


The early history of the term is confused. The OED indicates that it was applied by some alchemists to a mineral alleged to be an ingredient of the Philosopher's stone, which could be used, so they believed, to produce the elixir of life, a concept that most recently returned to popularity through Rowling's first volume in the series of Harry Potter novels [Rowling (1997)]. Paracelsus, less recently, used the term to apply to gold AMALGAM which he called 'Magnesia of gold'. More pertinently, the term was applied both to magnesium and to manganese, the latter being distinguished by the addition of the descriptor BLACK', and sometimes even to the LOADSTONE (magnetic oxide of IRON).

The terms 'magnesium' and 'manganese' can be traced back to the same root, magnesia, the postclassical Latin name for a mineral found near the ancient city of Magnesia. This comprised mainly oxides and carbonates of magnesium and manganese. The ore may well have excited the interest of alchemists because, as seems likely, it also contained some TALC, which would have imparted a silvery lustre [Valentine (online)].

Magnesia niger, or black magnesia, was also known as MAGNUS or, following a proposal by Torbern Bergman, as magnesium [Valentine (online)]. The ore from which this derived was called pyrolusite, from the Greek 'pyr' (fire) and 'luo' (I wash), because of its use in decolourizing GREEN GLASS. The Swedish chemist, Carl W. Scheele, investigated pyrolusite in 1774 and passed a sample to his young colleague, J.T. Gahn, who obtained metallic manganese in an impure form by strongly heating the oxide with carbon [Partington (1953)]. It was not until the 1780s that manganese was generally accepted as the name of this element and it has not been noted so designated in the Dictionary Archive.

The discovery of metallic magnesium came still later, when it was obtained in an impure form by Humphrey Davy in 1808 [Partington (1953)], but some of the many chemical compounds were known well before. TALC and meerschaum (from which a type of TOBACCO PIPE was made) are both magnesium silicates, while EPSOM SALTS are hydrated magnesium sulphate.

The compound of magnesium most commonly referred to in the early modern period was MAGNESIA ALBA, or white magnesia, which consisted mainly of hydrated magnesium carbonate. CALCINED magnesia was magnesium oxide, made by heating the carbonate, and in 1820 Accum discussed ways of ascertaining the purity of these materials [Accum (1820)].

A late patent of the 1790s illustrates well the problem of deciding whether the writer meant white magnesia or black. The short title of the patent described a method of making a BLEACHING POWDER from magnesia without giving any further descriptor. Black magnesia (manganese dioxide) would yield such a material, but white would not [Patents (1799)].

OED earliest date of use: c1386 as an ingredient of the Philosopher's stone; 1641 as gold amalgam; 1677 as manganese dioxide; 1755 as white magnesia

Found described as CALCINED Found branded as Glass's, GREENOUGH's, Hanty's calcined Found used to make LOZENGEs
Found in units of BOTTLE

Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.
References: Accum (1820), Partington (1953), Rowling (1997), Valentine (online).

Magnesia alba

Hydrated magnesium carbonate, a white earthy powder used in medicine as an antacid and cathartic. The descriptor WHITE was usually applied to it to distinguish it from black MAGNESIA or MAGNUS, which were the common names for the black oxide of manganese. The examples found of branded products indicate that the use of magnesia alba medicinally had sufficient vogue to attract the attention of those who supplied the market for QUACK MEDICINEs in the eighteenth century like Thomas GREENOUGH, as well as established practitioners like the Manchester chemist, Thomas Henry, for example [Newspapers (1790)]; [Tradecards (1790s)]; [Porter (1989)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1756 under Magnesia

Found described as GENUINE

Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.
References: Porter (1989).

Magnesia lozenges

MAGNESIA made into LOZENGEs would be a convenient way to keep this known antacid handy to be taken as required. Although no proprietary versions of this MEDICINE have been noted, there were such products that might well have been similar, such as Swinfen's or Greenhough's ANTACID LOZENGES. According to Frederick Accum, magnesia lozenges were often adulterated with products like PIPE CLAY [Accum (1820)].

Not found in the OED online

Found in units of small BOX

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Accum (1820).



Magnus is one of the early-modern names for black oxide of manganese; other names were MAGNESIA nigra or black magnesia. Its use in glass making was first described by an alchemist, Jabir Ibn Hayyan, who lived in the late eighth or early ninth century [Valentine (online)]. In GLASS making the purpose of adding manganese was to assist in making the glass white [Singer et al. (1957)]. It was used, on the other hand, in the Staffordshire potteries to give a black colour, as in Wedgewood's black basalt ware. It is therefore not surprising that both examples found in the Dictionary Archive among the stock of tradesmen belonged to people involved with making or selling EARTHENWARE [Inventories (1699); Inventories (1733)]. A method of preparing oxide of manganese for use as a bleaching agent to remove 'colours from vegetable or animal substances' was patented in 1799 [Patents (1799)].

OED earliest date of use: 1640

Found in units of C, CASK, QU, LB Found rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT of 112 LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.
References: Singer et al. (1957), Valentine (online).


[mayden; mayde; maid's; maiden]

Also in the form of 'maiden', it is a term applied originally to a young woman or adolescent girl, but subsequently used in a variety of ways. With reference to a young girl, it was applied as a relatively standardized size or style of APPAREL suitable for the young female as in 'Eyght payre of maids kidds colored and white [GLOVES] [Inventories (1665)]. In this sense it has also been noted applied to HAT [Inventories (1604)], and SANDALS [INVLATE NY1807MACJ, though it was assuredly applied to many other garments sold READY MADE.

OED earliest date of use: 1205 in the sense of a young woman or girl

Redolent of a female servant, the term was applied to a CLOTHES HORSE and to various sorts of STAND. Occasionally a record suggests what stood on it, as in 'Driping pan Stand Maid and Hammer' [Inventories (1783)], and 'One bible & Other books & a wood maiden' [Inventories (1706)]. Sometimes it seems to have been an abbreviation for an IRON MAID as in 'a Crane & maid to hold ye pan' [Inventories (1754)]. In this sense the term seems to have been an eighteenth-century introduction, although Randle Home gave the name 'Maidens or Damsels' to the 'two Stands in which the Spindle turns' of a SPINNING WHEEL [Holme (2000)].

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1795

In a quite different extension of meaning the name was given to the young of two FISH, the SKATE and the THORNBACK. In this sense, the term appears only once in the Dictionary Archive in an statute regulating the way fish was to be marketed in Billingsgate, the fish market of London. By the act 'Flounders and Maids' were to be packed in units of 60 and 30 [Acts (1761)]

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1579

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Holme (2000).


[maydenhire; maydenhaire; mayden hayre; maidens heire; maiden heire; maiden haire; maden-hare]

The name of certain FERNs having fine hairlike stalks and delicate fronds. In trade particularly Adiantum capillus-veneris, called also Black or True Maidenhair, which is a rare native plant of limestone cliffs near the sea [Mabey (1996)]. It was much used in medicine for treating coughs and sore throats [Wren (1941)], as well as to make SYRUP OF CAPILLAIRE. A SYRUP of maidenhair was also quite common among the stock of apothecaries; for example, 'Sir' Maydenhire' [Inventories (1624)], 'Sirup of Mayden-haire 4 oz vjd' [Inventories (1634)], '1 li Sirr: mayden Hayre att 00 01 00 [Inventories (1673)].

One foreign visitor expressed surprise that 'refreshing drinks such as you find in Switzerland, ... of maidenhair ... and others' were not available in coffee houses, 'these drinks or syrups being almost unknown in England' [Diaries (Saussure)]. He could in fact have found the syrup in many apothecary shops.

OED earliest date of use: c1450

Found in the form of SYRUP
Found in units of LB

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period).
References: Mabey (1996), Wren (1941).


A town in Kent, situated on the river Medway. Nearby at Detling was an important source of FULLERS EARTH [Kerridge (1985)]. Perhaps for this reason, Maidstone became of focus of TEXTILE manufacture, with LINSEY WOOLSEY and KERSEY both produced there in the sixteenth century, as well as LINEN CLOTH [Kerridge (1985)]. Later, protestant weavers from mainland Europe settled there and produced various STUFFs [Kerridge (1985)]. Most importantly, these Dutch and Fleming workers introduced continental methods of twisting LINEN THREAD, known as MAIDSTONE THREAD.

Sources: Acts, Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Kerridge (1984).

Maidstone Geneva

A form of SPIRITS first made by George Bishop at Maidstone, Kent, who was given concessionary customs rates in [Acts (1788)]. The process used a high proportion of MALT.

Sources: Acts.

Maidstone thread

[maidstone threed]

A LINEN THREAD made in the Kentish town of MAIDSTONE, or of the type originally made there. Its manufacture had been introduced by Dutch and Fleming immigrants, so that by 1629 someone commented that 'the trade of thrid twisting is growne to be a great trade in the towne'. These foreigners established twisting mills, employing the poor in the work and even grew and dressed their own FLAX. Much of the thread was used in the button trade [Kerridge (1985)], though it has been noted in the shops. It is not clear what made it distinctive from other threads.

Not found in the OED

Found described as Fresh
Found in units of DOZEN, LB, OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Kerridge (1984).

Mailing cord

[maylinge corde; malinge corde; maling cord; malin coard]

A CORD for tying round a MAIL or for tying a mail to a HORSE. Mailing cord is sometimes found with the protective PACK CLOTH as in 'two packe clothes two maylinge cordes' [Inventories (1639)], or accompanying the package it will be used to tie up as in 'Cloakebags & some malinge Corde' [Inventories (1617)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (late).

Malaga raisins

[malligo raisons; maliga, and other raysins; maliga and other raysins]

Raisins from the southern Spanish district around the port of MALAGA, possibly an alternative name for RAISIN OF THE SUN. Into this century the choicest MUSCATEL grapes grown in the district were sun-ripened on the vine, the leaves being partially stripped off to facilitate the process which lasted two or three weeks. The slow process meant that the new crop arrived later in the season than inferior types such as the DENIA RAISINS [Simmonds (1906)]. It is probable that these were the same methods used in the early modern period. Malaga raisins were apparently imported, during the seventeenth century at least, in a distinctive BASKET subsequently used by the grocer and hence termed a 'grocer's basket' [OED, Malaga]. From 1693 until the Gloucester Coastal Port Books ended in 1765, the basket was the second most common container for RAISINS (unspecified) carried up the river Severn. This may be diagnostic of the type involved.

OED earliest date of use: 1698

Simone Clarke

Found described as DRIED, OLD, RICH
Found in units of BASKET, LB, PIECE Found rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT, PECK, POUND

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates.
References: Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1998), Simmonds (1906).

Male stick

[malestick; male sticke]

This term has not been found in the OED, but Randle Holme defines male sticks as 'the peeces of wood on the Male-pillen' [Holme (2000)]; that is they helped to make secure any packages fixed to a MALE PILLION behind a SADDLE.

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Holme (2000).


[molt; mawlt; maulte; mault; maltt; malte; mallt]

BARLEY or other grain prepared for brewing by steeping and germinating, which converts the starch in to sugars. The sugars are then preserved by drying the malt, usually in a MALT KILN, in which the malt was separated from the fire by a HAIR CLOTH. The differential in value between the malt fresh from germination, sometimes called GREEN MALT, and the DRIED appears to have been surprisingly small, considering that careless drying could ruin the entire batch [Inventories (1620)].

Although brewing to some extent competed with BREAD - making for grain, WHEAT was better suited to the latter, and barley to the former, though other grains were also used, including wheat. For example, John Houghton noted that in parts of northern England, where they were the most common crop, OATS were malted, though the resulting ALE and BEER was 'more laxative than that which is made of malted barley' [Houghton]. OAT MALT is occasionally found, as in 'Barley malte and ote malte' [Inventories (1577)]. PEAS and BEANs were also used at times to improve the quality of the YEAST. However, Houghton noted that RYE was never used and BIGG only occasionally [Houghton]. He had been informed that the two most common types of BARLEY used were SPRAT or BATTLEDORE [Houghton]. Steeping increased the amount of product 'by four BUSHEL in every 20' according to one act [Acts (1713)], but elsewhere different figures are found. John Houghton noted that the traditional way of drying malt in Derbyshire, had been by placing the malt on straw. This had been eclipsed fifty years before Houghton was writing by the adoption of COKE to dry malt. According to Houghton, Derbyshire was the forerunner in this development 'that all England admires' [Houghton]; [Sambrook (1996)].

Even in Houghton's day, the industrial production of malt produced different qualities according to place or method of production. A century later, one was advertising 'Nottingham, Derby and Mansfield' MALT, presumably because each had its own characteristics [Newspapers (1782)]. The so-called 'Short' Malt, in which 20 BUSHEL of barley was increased to 21 of malt, was mainly used by the English and Irish trades for brewing BEER, whereas 'Long' malt, which could be made from inferior grains, increased barley from 20 bushels to 30 of malt. This was popular in the distilling trade, and much was exported to Holland to make GENEVA. The distinction, though not spelt out, may be preserved in the '123 strike of good Malt' valued at £18 and '80 Strike of Bad Malt' at half the value noted in one inventory [Inventories (1723)]. London distillers were not too choosy about their malt, but were producing huge quantities of SPIRITS based on malt, hence records of malt BRANDY and malt spirits. A more important distinction than the one between short and long malt, was that between 'Pale Malt' and BROWN malt [Newspapers (1741)], the later being roasted to produce the dark colour. When roasted to the point of charring, it was used to make PORTER.

The occasional entries of 'Damnified malt' in trading records like the Gloucester Coastal Port Books show that malt was vulnerable in transit [Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1988)]. The preparation of MALT had been regulated by Parliament since the Middle Ages, for example [Acts (1548)].

OED earliest date of use: 700

Found described as BROWN, DRY, GREEN, GROUND, Pale Found describing BRANDY, DUST, SPIRITS

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1988), John (1976), 52-3, Sambrook (1996).

Malt corn

[molte corne; malt & bread corne]

CORN suitable for making MALT. This would most commonly have been BARLEY, though other grains were used like OATS and WHEAT, except RYE, which was not suitable because it contains too little BRAN according to John Houghton [Houghton]. In one example 'malt corn' was contrasted with BREAD CORN, indicating the main uses to which grain was put in this period [Inventories (1664)].

OED online earliest date of use: c1350

Found in units of STRIKE

Sources: Acts, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period).

Malt screen

[skreene for dressing of malt; mault screene; malt screene]

A SCREEN, similar to a CORN SCREEN, used for sifting and cleansing the grain during the malting process. 'Screen' was often used elliptically to denote a malt screen; although the purpose is sometimes made plain, as in '1 Skreene for dressing of Malt' valued at 5s [Inventories (1695)], in other examples only context makes its use palin, as 'in ye Maulthouse 1 screen' [Inventories (1678)].

OED earliest date of use: 1885

See also SCREEL.
Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).

Malting tub

[malt tub]

Possibly an uncommon name for a MASH TUB, this is otherwise a vessel for making MALT prior to the process of mashing. A malt tub has also been noted [Inventories (1801)] that may have been for the same purpose, or more likely for storing malt. A MALT MILL was listed close by.

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Inventories (late).