None so pretty - Nutmeg plums

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

None so pretty

[pritty; nonsopritty; nonsopretty; nonsoprettie; nonesoprittie; nonesopritey; none-so-pretty; none-so-prettie; none soe pretty; none so pritty; non so prety; non so pretty]

None so pretty is one of those terms like SANS PAREILLE and ALAMODE that was obviously devised to encourage sales. Fuller, writing in 1661, commented on enterprising manufacturers' practice of making new fabrics, 'many of them binominous, as which, when they began to tire in sale, are quickened with a new name' [Fuller (1662, abridged ed. 1952)]. It is equally true that when one fabric faltered in sales, its name, if it were a good one, might well be transferred to another one, or something else.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, to find that in the Dictionary Archive 'none so pretty' was a term applied to at least two different products. In the first half of the seventeenth century, it was a TEXTILE, probably a WORSTED, or lightish STUFF, though the context of the entries is otherwise unhelpful. Seventeenth-century quotations in the OED suggest this fabric was used both for APPAREL and for soft furnishings. It seems to have fallen out of favour in the eighteenth century, although the OED has quotations into the nineteenth century and beyond.

In the other instance, the term 'none so pretties' was used for articles of HABERDASHERY that became popular in the eighteenth century. Montgomery writes that it was applied generally to TAPEs and RIBBONs, but her examples suggest it had a more specific meaning. The contexts of examples in the Dictionary Archive support the notion that none so pretties were a type of TAPE, and therefore almost certainly made of LINEN or COTTON, as distinct from RIBBONs, which were usually made of SILK. Since they were listed in the promotional literature of eighteenth-century retailers, they were probably decorative rather than utilitarian. Montgomery's quotations confirm that they were indeed decorative, often woven in two colours or patterned with simple motifs like dots or diamonds, and that they were used to adorn furnishings rather than items of dress [Montgomery (1984)]. As a decorative tape, none so pretties were valued at 2½d to 5d the PIECE, whereas the only useful valuation found for a fabric was for 28s the PIECE. This substantial difference should help to indicate to which of the two products the reference relates.

OED online earliest dates of use: 1622-3 as a fabric, 1700 as a type of tape

Found in units of PIECE

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Tradecards.
References: Fuller (1662, abridged ed. 1952), Montgomery (1984).

Northern dozens

A TEXTILE and an alternative name for KERSEY made in the North, mainly from Yorkshire, and for NORTHERN - WHITES. Although the term is found in official documents such as RATES and ACTS, it has not been noted in retail outlets, in which kersey was the preferred alternative.

The London Drapers estimated in 1551 that northern dozens had formerly been 'solde by the clothmen' for £23 the PACK, but the price was now £38. This suggests a lower quality than those kersies made either in Hampshire or Devonshire.

OED earliest date of use, but no definition: 1523

Found described as BROAD

Sources: Acts, Rates.
References: Tawney and Power (1924), II/192.

Norwich stuff

[norridge stuff; norridge stuff; nor: stuffe; nor' stuffe]

A TEXTILE manufactured, or as manufactured in NORWICH. The term covered a huge range of different fabrics. In one probate inventory were listed no less than fifteen varieties including BARRACAN, GROGRAM and PARAGON as well as some lesser known ones [Inventories (1662)].

Norwich had long been a centre for the production of textiles, but it was the immigration of continental weavers during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, who introduced new technologies and innovative combinations of materials and finishes. The heyday of Norwich stuffs was the eighteenth century when the city had a flourishing export trade no less than an internal market. Names were as fashionable as the fabrics themselves were and equally short-lived, so that it is now virtually impossible to create a complete list of all the stuffs made in or around Norwich in this period.

Like KIDDERMINSTER, Norwich had its own Company to regulate the manufacture of stuffs. Established in 1650 [Acts (1650)], an act of 1662 set out further what its powers were, acknowledging too that 'the Trade of Weaving of Stuffs hath of late Times been very much increased, and great Variety of new sorts of Stuffs have been invented' [Acts (1662)].

OED earliest date of use: 1701


Sources: Acts, Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Tradecards.
References: Montgomery (1984).


Novato was a TEXTILE belonging to the so-called NEW DRAPERY that became popular from the later Middle Ages onwards. It appears to have been a type of FUSTIAN, either with a pile like VELOUR, or rowed like ROWED FUSTIAN. It seems sometimes to have been wholly or partly made of SILK, but at other times of LINEN and/or WORSTED. It was most likely similar to the 'fustianadoes' produced in the first two decades of the seventeenth century by the Flemish immigrants settled in Norwich [Kerridge (1985)]. One Norwich dealer was either exporting novatoes to Amsterdam, or importing them thence [Inventories (1646)]. Novatoes seem to have attracted an unfavourable press from those who scorned luxury, for example [Purchas (1619, facs. 1969)], but the Dictionary Archive (and other sources) suggest they never became really popular in this country, being found only occasionally in the provincial shops between 1620 and 1650, and not at all after 1660. The contexts of the few examples noted are not helpful, one being positioned among TUFTED - HOLLANDs, in other words LINEN, the others among fabrics usually made largely or wholly of WORSTED. On the few examples noted, it is only possible to suggest tentatively that novatoes were primarily a dress fabric, and were not much used in UPHOLSTERY.

Valuations (taken from a very small sample) were from 18d -24d YARD

OED online earliest date of use: 1614

Found described as WHITE Found used to make PETTICOAT
Found in units of PIECE (of 27 YARD), YARD

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Kerridge (1985), Purchas (1619, facs. 1969).

Nurenburg metal

An easily malleable metal intended to imitate GOLD or SILVER It was claimed to be made by 'translocation' (not a known term in modern chemistry), and was probably a form of BRASS. It was patented in 1691.

Not found in the OED

Defined as WHITE, YELLOW

Sources: Patents.

Nut water

The meaning is uncertain, but the nut WATER found in the Dictionary Archive was probably NUTMEG water, in Latin AQUA nucis moschatae. A recipe can be found in the eighteenth-century Pharmacopoeia, which directed that two OUNCE of nutmegs be distilled in a GALLON of PROOF SPIRIT, with sufficient water to prevent it burning [Pemberton (1746)]. An OED quotation dated 1592 shows that it was alternatively called a 'Myristic liquor', and was used externally. Somewhat later the name may also have been applied to COCOA NUT water, which, according to an OED quotation dated 1883, is 'found in the green pod before the fibrous husk and nut as we know them here are formed' [OED, Coco].

OED earliest date of use: 1592 for Water of nutmeg under Myristic; 1817 for Cocoa nut water under Coco

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Pemberton (1746).


[nuttmygge; nuttmegg; nuttmeg; nutmygg; nutmig; nutmegge; nutmegg; netmeg]

One of the most valued SPICES for both culinary and medical purposes, nutmeg is the hard, roughly spherical, aromatic seed of the East Indian tree Myristica fragrans or officinalis. This seed is surrounded by a shell, and then by the aril called MACE, with an outer casing called the rind. In preparing Nutmegs for trade, the two outer cases are stripped and the Nut is dried for several days until the inmost kernel can be separated easily from its immediate shell. The largest were most esteemed, giving c60-70 per LB. Smaller Nutmegs were sold, but were often used to produce a semi-solid mass usually called MACE butter [Simmonds (1906)]. It is probably this that Houghton referred to as a CHEMICAL OIL of nutmeg. Each fully grown tree yields about 10 LB Nutmegs a year. According to John Houghton, most nutmegs in the late seventeenth century still came through HOLLAND and the Dutch ports, though there was a trickly coming direct from India [Houghton].

OED earliest date of use: c1300

Found used in recipes for SNUFF, to induce sleep, and to cure a cold
Found described as CANDIED, CONDITED, Grated, LARGE, PICKLED, POWDER Found used to scent old CASKs in brewing
Found in units of DRACHM, OUNCE Found imported by the LB from Holland and India
Preserved Nutmegs are found among the DRUGS in the Rate Books, rated by the POUND The nuts are found rated by the C, POUND

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Simmonds (1906).

Nutmeg plums

[nuttmeg ploomes]

The term is not found in the OED, though other fruits are given the descriptor of NUTMEG, presumably because of their shape, or spicy taste. Nutmeg plums have been noted only once in the Dictionary Archive among a long list of preserved plums among the apothecarial stock of a Cheshire retailer [Inventories (1524)]. Presumably they were the same as the nutmeg plums illustrated in a roughly contemporary manuscript, usually assigned to John Tradescant. The illustration [Source: Roll 444.1 frame 26] shows a small yellowish plum that was said to ripen in mid-August [Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 1461].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (early).