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.
A name given to a variety of medicinal waters of supposed efficacy against the plague. Most commonly it was a distillation of various herbs and roots that were believed to be efficacious. The recipe given by Eliza Smith was typical in that it contained no less than 22 herbal products, both leaves and roots, all steeped in WHITE WINE and BRANDY and then distilled [Recipes (Smith)]. Samuel Pepys was given a bottle of plague water during the outbreak of the plague in London in 1665 [Diaries (Pepys)].
A long-toothed, robust COMB that has three, possibly more, broad slots to separate long hair ready for plaiting. They were used in dressing HORSEs, rather than human hair. Nowadays they vary in size, and are mostly used for tails, but historically they may have been used for mane plaiting too.The only example noted in the Dictionary Archive was found among the stock of a specialist in HARNESS and SADDLERY valued at 8d each - a fairly high valuation for this type of implement [Inventories (1665)].
A long, flat piece of smoothed TIMBER generally sawn thicker than a BOARD. The term denotes specifically a length of timber sawn for building or other purposes cut in standard sizes, which in modern times are generally cut to a thickness of 2 to 6 INCH, a width of 9 INCH or more, and 8 FOOT or upward in length. Houghton noted that smaller ships were usually made from planks 2 INCH by 20 FOOT; whilst larger one (over 300 TUN in weight) were made of planks 3-4 INCH by 26-40 FOOT. He also noted the lament of his friend Samuel Pepys about the shortage of home-grown plank, and the need to search foreign markets. English plank had a reputation for being particularly durable for ship-building, although as Houghton noted 'plank of Prussia, and the forementioned black of Bohemia, do in their durableness equal, or rather exceed that of our English production.' [Houghton].
Found described by ASH, BEECH, CEDAR, CYPRESS, DEAL, DOUBLE DEAL, ELM, ENGLISH, FIR, FOREIGN, GREAT, four INCH, three INCH, two INCH, of IRELAND, IRON KETTLE, KILN, LARGE, LITTLE, MAHOGANY, NEW, OAK, OAKEN, OLD, PEAR tree, PRESS, ROTTEN, SHIP, SMALL, TABLE, THICK, THIN, WALNUT tree, WHITE crown, of WOOD Found describing BENCH, END, STOOL
Found imported from Bohemia, DANTZIG, HAMBURG, HOLLAND, POLAND, PRUSSIA, QUINBOROUGH, RIGA, SWEDEN Found in units of FOOT, LOAD
A decoction made from PLANTAIN, a low herb with broad flat leaves and spikes of inconspicuous flowers. Nicholas Culpeper suggested this water for use with sore eyes, while one part of plantain water to two of 'the brine of POWDERED BEEF' boiled together were deemed a 'most sure remedy to heal all spreading scabs or itch ... and all other running and fretting sores' [Culpeper (1792)]. It was used by Josselin to relieve the pain of a sore navel and sore eyes, in both cases mixed with SUGAR [Diaries (Josselin)], much what Culpeper recommended.
Not, as might be thought, simply a BOX containing PLASTER or plasters, but a complete kit for a surgeon. Randle Holme's illustration is not overly helpful, but his description compensates by its fullness. The surgeon's plaster box, he wrote, consisted of three parts; first of all the box itself, 'in which lyeth such Instruments as serve for present use, which are small ones only'. These included Spatulas, FLEAM, Directorie, Probe, Stitching NEEDLE and QUILL, LANCET, BORAX (or Burras) PIPE, Levitor and Uvula SPOON. The second component was the lid with a pouch in which to keep LINT, and the third the 'Drawer, at the bottom of the Box, in which are kept all the Plasters ready made, and are for any sudden occasion'. These 'Emplasters which this lower Box or Drawer doth contain, are at the least three or more several kinds, as Emplastrum Stipticum Paracelsi' (presumably EMPLASTRUM PARACELSI), Emplastrum Diachalcichos (presumably DIACALCITHEOS), Emplastrum de Lapide Calaminari, and EMPLASTRUM E MINIO (Emplastrum de Minio) [Holme (2000)]. Entries like '1 plaisterbox w'th som smal Instrum's therein' [Inventories (1685)] fit Holme's description well. Some surgeons did have more complex equipment, for example, in the will of one, he left 'to my said Brother Richard Mayott my Plaster Box with the Instruments therein And my Salvatory and my Case of Lancetts with the Instruments therein' [Inventories (1686)]. The term seems to have died out, and has not been noted after 1701 [Inventories (1701)].
A substance apparently used in dyeing. The only reference to it is in an early-eighteenth century act listing those 'dying goods' to be deemed not rateable [Acts (1704)]. It seems unlikely to refer to Platanus, the generic name of the plane tree.
A TEXTILE, probably in the form of one of the many LINEN CLOTHs that were folded longitudinally. It is found in the Dictionary Archive as 'platt holland' and 'ploot holland' in one record [Inventories (1617)]. Probably both were the same and meant folded. A sixteenth-century act used the term in a similar way [Acts (1541)]. According to the anonymous author of the Merchants Warehouse, a number of HOLLANDs were sold crested or folded including such as ALKMAAR HOLLAND, BURLAP and FRIZE [Anon (1696)].
The PLOUGH harness was much simpler than the HORSE HARNESS required for use in a CART or COACH since there were no shafts, and therefore no CART SADDLE was needed. In addition, being without wheels, there was no danger of the plough running into the back of the horse, and therefore no need for any arrangement of strapping to prevent it. The plough harness may or may not have included the CHAINs to attach horse to plough.
The NAVE of the small WHEEL fixed at the front end of a PLOUGH away from the handles. Usually the wheels were in pairs, but some ploughs had only one, some none at all. Plough naves appear only once in the Dictionary Archive, listed among the stock of a Hertfordshire Wheelwright [Inventories (1720)], who was presumably making them for a 'Harfordshire wheeld plough' as illustrated by Walter Blith in his 'English Improver Improved' of 1653 [Fussell (1952, new ed. 1985)].
The fruit of trees belonging to the genus Prunus, usually classed under Prunus domestica, has long been cultivated. Since plums grow readily from seed there are endless varieties, some selected from those found in hedges and woods. There are varieties for making desserts, for cooking and for drying, though these last did not do well in the cooler climate of Britain [Masefield et al (1969)]. A list dated about 1620, probably by John Tradescant, included 23 varieties of plum that ripened from mid July to mid September, including DATE PLUMS, NUTMEG PLUM, and PEAR PLUM. The plums were variously coloured RED, YELLOW, AMBER, WHITE, GREEN and BLACK, in shapes varying from round to pear-shaped [Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 1461]. A catalogue dated 1782 listed about the same number of named varieties including ORLEANS PLUM, although apart from that one, there was not much overlap with the earlier list [Galpine (1983)]. Seed was available from some nurserymen [Tradecards (n.d.)].
The plums found in the Dictionary Archive were not in the form of fresh fruit, but either as DRIED PLUMs, or CANDIED. The anonymous 'True Way of Preserving and Candying' published in 1695 included several recipes. The process was laborious, involving soaking in cold water, then SYRUP, followed by gentle heating several times over several days before either drying them or preserving them in pots [Anon (1695, facs. 1994)]. One Cheshire retailer had at least seven varieties among his apothecarial stock [Inventories (1624)], as did a London retailer some one hundred years later, though his may have been largely coloured SUGAR PLUMs [Inventories (1740)].
See also PRUNE, PRUNELLA, PRUNELLO.
Sources: Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Anon (1695, facs. 1994), Galpine (1983), Masefield et al. (1969).
CAKE containing CURRANTS, CANDIED - ORANGE PEEL, and often other preserved fruits (formerly commonly dried PLUMs, hence the name). Most were normally made at home, so that recipes were common - Eliza Smith included no less than five [Smith (1758, facs. 1994)], but at least one retailer was offering them for sale by the end of the eighteenth century [Tradecards (1796)].
A soldering iron and one of the PLUMBERS TOOLS. Randle Holme showed them as shaped like an S with one of the ends markedly bulbous. This knob was probably made of COPPER since it is more conductive than iron, and would have increased the heat retention. According to Holme: 'These Sodering Irons are only used about Lead Workings, other Soddering Irons there are used by other Trades, but of different forms to these.' [Holme (2000)]. Holme's illustration shows the irons in pairs, presumably because one would have been heating up, while the other was in use.
MOULDs into which things made by a plumber may be cast such as LEAD PIPEs. One plumber had moulds for both half INCH and three-quarter inch pipes [Newspapers (1743)]. Sometimes when the context was obvious, the phrase was abbreviated as in '2 pair of Moulds' among the stock of a glazier [Inventories (1727)].
A particular type of PINCERS used by plumbers in which the two parts of the grip are different so that 'By these Pincers two edges or Skirts of Lead are turned one over the other, without cutting or bruising the Lead' [Holme (2000)].
TOOLS used by those working in LEAD generally, particularly pipe work, roofing and fitting leaded windows. Those noted in the Dictionary Archive include PLUMBERS IRON, PLUMBERS PINCERS and a VICE [Inventories (1727)], but a much fuller list is given by Randle Holme [Holme (2000)].
A FEATHER, particularly a large and conspicuous one used for ornament. They have been noted for use on a HAT, but more importantly they were one of the standard accoutrements of a funeral, hence advertisements like the one offering to 'Provide Funerals with Hearses and Horses, State board of plumes Escutcheons, and every Appendage relating to Funerals' [Tradecards (18c.)].
Plume alum, otherwise known as Alumen nativum f. plumosum, was the name given to one of the OREs of ALUM almost wholly soluble in water. It is a yellowish or greyish substance, sometimes a little shining, and consisting of slender, irregular hair-shaped fibres. It was imported, being found in mines in Austria, Germany and Italy [Rees (1819-20, 1972 ed.)].
In some sources 'plumbet', the term had two meanings. It was used in reference to a TEXTILE in the form of a mixed STUFF. The manufacture of plummets in this country seems to have been introduced by the immigrant Walloon weavers in Norwich, who by the 1570s were weaving various types of stuffs with the WARP of LINEN and the WEFT of JERSEY or SILK jersey The plummets, which were woven half a yard wide, were patterned with plumes produced in the weave [Kerridge (1985)]. According to Beck, Draper's Dictionary as quoted in the OED, a PIECE was 14 yards in length, and weighed but 4 LB. In the shops these home produced plummets may have had to compete with those from abroad, particularly from BRUGES [Kerridge (1985)].
A plummet in the OED is described as a lump or weight of LEAD with various uses. It does not appear in the Dictionary Archive with these meanings, but the term does appear in contexts that suggest it could also have been applied to some sort of kitchen vessel. Wright does not have plummet in this sense, but he does have Plunket, 'A wooden vessel for holding yeast' [Wright (1898-1905)].
A BIT in the form of a SNAFFLE, presumably made in Plumpton, or in the style of those once made there. Since the only example in the Dictionary Archive is from the North, the Plumpton referred to was probably the one in Yorkshire.
Not found in the OED with this meaning, but there are connotations of a plunging action in some of the definitions, in which case a plunk may be another obsolete term for a PUMP, like PLUMP. The context of the only example in the Dictionary Archive is of little help: 'too olde plunkes wyth lumber' valued in all at 10d [Inventories (1583)]. There seems to have been some interchangeability between 'plunk' and 'plump', for which see PLUMMET.
A TEXTILE in the form of a WOOLLEN fabric of varying texture, apparently of a grey or light blue colour. Suffolk plunket was lighter in colour than other cloths made in the area such as AZURE, BLUES, and watchet, but darker than huling [Kerridge (1985)]. Like azure, which it closely resembled, the manufacture of plunket was closely regulated by 5 & 6 EDW6 C6, which enacted among other provisions that 'all broad Plunkets, Azures, Blues and other coloured Cloth ... made within ... Wilts, Gloucester or Somerset', were to be in length 25 -28 YARD, and in width seven quarters or 63 INCH 'within the Lists', being 'well scoured, thicked, milled and fully dried', and with a weight per PIECE of more than 68 LB. The clothiers complained that they were finding it difficult to conform to both weight and width, and the latter was repealed [Acts (1593)].
A TEXTILE or a kind of CLOTH, plush was made of SILK or HAIR, COTTON or WOOL or other material (or any two of these combined) with a nap that was longer and softer than that of VELVET. Montgomery suggests that it was a speciality of FRANCE and introduced in the late seventeenth century [Montgomery (1984)], but Kerridge shows that it was being made in this country at Reading by the mid 1680s and the OED has a quotation from a century earlier [Kerridge (1985)]. It was used for APPAREL, especially footman's LIVERY, and for UPHOLSTERY, etc. It was generally valued between 2s and 4s a YARD, but has been noted at 9s when made of silk.
Found described as BLACK, BLUE, CARNATION, COLOURED, HAIR, IRISH, LANCASHIRE, SILK, SKY, THREAD, WORSTED Found describing GREY CLOTH, SIDE SADDLE, STOOL Found used to line a CLOAK Found used to make BREECHES, CAPE, JACKET, WHISK
Found in units of PIECE, YARD Found rated by YARD