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.
Red mangrove bark
Now red mangrove is the common name of Heritiera littoralis, a similar tropical species to the common mangrove. In the eighteenth century it was a label given to a variety of the common mangrove, Rhizophora mangle and thought to be a separate species, Rhizophora candel. According to nineteenth-century quotations in the OED the bark was tested for its potential in medicine, by implication unsuccessfully. What the bark was used for is unknown, but the duty on it was reduced by [Acts (1792)]. Since this act was concerned with DYEWOODs, it may be presumed that red mangrove bark was also used for this purpose, although Harley does not refer to it, nor do contemporary instruction manuals such as Partridge.
WHITE MASTIC was the product of Pistacia LENTISCUS, which produced a yellowish RESIN from incisions in the bark. No records investigated suggests that this was sometimes of a red colour. Red mastic is therefore something of a mystery. An Italian manuscript dated c1584 gave a recipe for a 'good varnish' for a VIOLIN in which the main ingredients were red mastic and LINSEED OIL [Badiarov (online)]. In no other recipe noted was red mastic required; modern recipes for VARNISH made with MASTIC, on the contrary, usually specify the 'clearest' or the 'pale picked' mastic, for example [Spon (1879)]; [Jameson (1929)]. The only references to red mastic in the Dictionary Archive appear in the Books of Rates, starting with the list of 1657 [Rates (1657)] The red, there and subsequently, was rated at a lower level. The most likely source of red mastic is one of the other species of Pistacia, but it could have been the inferior grade of mastic that was collected from the ground rather than that still clinging to the bark.
The OED suggests, with a question mark, that red mercury was a synonym of CINNABAR, but the quotation given (1664) is not entirely consistent with this. The sole example in the Dictionary Archive offers an alternative interpretation, particularly if taken in conjunction with the entries for MERCURY PRECIPITATE, such as the 'Mercur' pracip rub.' found in the stock of an apothecary in 1690 [Inventories (1690)]. This interpretation agrees with the received wisdom of the time, that red mercury should be labelled 'Mercurius precipitatus ruber', that is RED mercury precipitate, although by the mid-eighteenth century, the London College of Physicians preferred 'mercurius corrosivus sublimatus' or corrosive MERCURY SUBLIMATE [Pemberton (1746)].
According to the OED, this is a name given to various COPPER alloys of a reddish colour. The only reference to red metal in the Dictionary Archive suggests that 'metal' may have been used, as it often was, to mean CAST IRON, in which red metal may have meant red iron or rust. It was an ingredient of a CORDIAL [Recipes (Berington)]. IRON was part of the Materia Medica (as was copper), and Pemberton gave instructions on how to prepare it [Pemberton (1746)]. Iron was known to have the effects of a tonic.
One, or possible two species of north-American OAK, QUERCUS falcata (now often known as SPANISH oak) and Quercus rubra. Although Bean deems Quercus rubra as distinct [Bean (1914-33, revised ed. 1976)], Synge considers it to be an 'ambiguous species' confused with Quercus falcata and Quercus borealis. Houghton referred to a red oak in New-England that 'they season in some moist and muddy place, which branches into very curious works. It is observed that oak will not easily glue to other wood' [Houghton]. This suggests that red oak was used then as now as TIMBER rather than as a DYEWOOD. Gloag states that the wood is usually a reddish brown, coarse-grained but taking a good polish after filling [Gloag (1952, revised 1991)], The label, red oak, refers to the superb colouration of the leaves in autumn rather than the colour of the wood.
A variety of OCHRE of a reddish colour, commonly used for colouring. It was one of the rather limited range of PIGMENTs that plasterers were allowed to use for their work [Acts (1604)], but it was also used for any purpose which needed a reddish colour. It has been noted valued at 1d or less the LB and 3s 4d the C.
Red peony root
In Latin Radix Paeoniae rubra, peony ROOTS have played an important part in both modern and traditional Chinese medicine. RED peony root, so called because of the colour of the root when prepared, rather than because of the flower, are taken from the Chinese Paeonia lactiflora [E Natural Health Centre (online)], which did not appear as a plant in the West until the end of the eighteenth century [Synge (1951, new ed.1956)]. However, these Chinese roots may have been imported along with other East Indian drugs even though there were at least two well-known alternative peonies in Europe. Certainly entries of PEONY ROOT in the Books of Rates under DRUGs suggest that roots were imported in the latter half of the seventeenth century [Rates (1657)] and [Rates (1660)], though not necessarily those defined as RED.
In Chinese medicine today, red peony root is deemed one of the 'Heat Clearing Herbs to Clear Heat and Cool the Blood'. The roots are harvested in the autumn from cultivated plants that are 4 - 5 years old and are boiled before being sun-dried for later use [E Natural Health Centre (online)]. The medical applications of peony roots in Culpeper and Pechey are not dissimilar from the Chinese, although these two were referring to European plants [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)]; [Pechey (1694a)].
Red pepper is a term variously applied to any member of the genera CAPSICUM and Piper that has red fruits. The earliest reference in the OED is to what was called then Piper rubeum, but it apparently fell out of favour as other capsicums were discovered. Houghton used the term for the 'chile, called long red pepper' [Houghton].
Probably PINS made of BRASS that had not been 'blanched' (tinned). They were usually contrasted with WHITE PINS, as in '1 dozs redd & whit pins' [Inventories (1626)], but occasionally with FRENCH PINS [Inventories (1590)]. They have not been noted after 1660, presumably because unblanched pins were no longer offered for sale in reputable shops.
Pemberton included the red POPPY among the OFFICINAL plants or Materia Medica declaring it was the petals that were used. He gave its Latin name as Papaver erraticum [Pemberton (1746)], a name not known today, but Culpeper helps with the identification by calling it 'the erratic wild poppy, or corn rose' [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)]. Its botanic name is now Papaver rhoeas. It has a long-held association with death and new life, corn and harvest, being for the Romans the sacred plant of their corn goddess, Ceres. It comes up wherever corn is grown and its seed can lie dormant for at least 40 years. This is also the reason why it was chosen as the emblem to be worn on Remembrance Sunday each year in memory of those that died in the First World War [Mabey (1996)].
The petals were used to make a SYRUP and a WATER, though Pemberton only included a syrup in the Pharmacopoeia [Pemberton (1746)]. Culpeper said it was 'good to prevent the falling sickness', while a distilled water of the flowers was 'held to be of much good use against surfeits [over-eating or drinking]' [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)]. John Pechey used red poppies as the principal active ingredient of SURFEIT WATER [Pechey (1694a)].
Red port wine
Philip Milner in his Gardeners's Dictionary (1724) referred only to red-skinned and white-skinned POTATOes [Wilson (1993)]. However, by the second half of the eighteenth century, there were named varieties that had red skins, so that the situation was more complicated. For example, Gilbert White referred to a potato called 'The Yam', when he wrote that 'Red or hog potatoes are sold for six pence pr' bushel' [Diaries (White)]. The yam was a high yielder of poor quality largely and grown to feed stock [Wilson (1993)].
The red rose, in Latin Rosa rubra, is now known as Rosa gallica. It grows as a small, suckering, sweetly scented shrub, being native to southern Europe and the Middle East. It is probably one of the foundation species from which modern hybrids are derived [Bean (1914-33, revised ed. 1976)]; [Jones (online)].
Rosa rubra was an important officinal plant in its form with semi-double red flowers, appearing in the Materia Medica, and in the Pharmacopoeia in several preparations; as a CONSERVE, a HONEY as SUGAR of roses, and as a TINCTURE, while it was an ingredient of two of the ancient formulae, MITHRIDATE and VENICE TREACLE [Pemberton (1746)]. Pemberton recommended that the flower buds only should be used.
Culpeper waxed enthusiastic about the red rose. He declared that 'Red roses do strengthen the heart, stomach and liver, and the retentive faculty'. However, he warned against using the fresh petals on account of their bitterness and suggested that the WHITE ROSE was more 'cooling and drying' than the red. Even so the white was 'seldom used inwardly in medicine' whereas the red rose undoubtedly was [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)].
Probably Salvia officinalis var. purpurescens with reddish-purplish leaves, or Salvia officinalis var. rubrea with red flowers. Neither of these played a distinctive role in medicine, but red sage has been noted in a home remedy for scurvy [Recipes (Crossman)] and in a recipe for cooking LARKs [Recipes (Bradley, R.)].
A possible alternative in some contexts is the root of Salvia multiorrhizae Bunge, a perennial plant, of the family Labiatae that is not included among garden plants in Synge [Synge (1951, new ed.1956)]. Although said to be native to the Mediterranean region, it is naturalized in China and Japan. Here it has long been used in medicine, being classified among the 'Herbs for Promoting Blood Circulation and Relieving Blood Stasis'. Its most valuable portion is the root, which is reaped in autumn and early winter, washed clean and dried in the sun for use when raw or after being fried with wine. It is said to promote blood circulation, to regulate menstruation, to remove heat from the blood, to relieve inflammation and to tranquilize the mind. Chinese herbalists claim that recent research has confirmed the validity of its use in the treatment of heart and circulatory problems [EnaturalHealthcentre (online)]. It is possible that this root was imported among other DRUGS from the East or that the root of Salvia officinalis was used in the same way. Against this would speak that neither Culpeper nor Pechey made any reference to the medical use of sage roots [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)]; [Pechey (1694a)].
Probably a SAND coloured by the presence of an oxide of IRON. Some red sand may have had industrial uses other than for building since in the Gloucester Coastal Port Books two consignments measured by the TON were recorded going down river in 1747. At the time, only specific goods in which the government had an interest were recorded in the port books. The three entries in the Dictionary Archive suggest different uses. Two Sussex mercers each had red sand measured by the BUSHEL, and in the one case valued at 1s the bushel [Inventories (1706)]; [Inventories (1748)]. By contrast, a London oilman was advertising red sand along with other types, apparently to be used for scouring, though the others listed with it were more often advertised for using as an alternative to blotting paper [Tradecards (19c.)].
The term refers to red sandalwood or ruby-wood; the WOOD of an East Indian tree, Pterocarpus santalinus, used as a DYEWOOD and in medicine as an astringent and tonic, being part of the Materia Medica [Pemberton (1746)]. Red sanders were exempted from duty as a DYESTUFF under [Acts (1704)], although it was one of the most insoluble REDWOODs requiring it to be rasped or powdered [Ponting (1980, pb 1981)].
Red Smyrna raisins
SMYRNA was the chief port of Asia Minor through which RAISINS grown in TURKEY were exported under the designation of SMYRNA RAISINS. These have been noted occasionally in the Dictionary Archive, but the only reference to red Smyrna raisins is in the Book of Rates of 1660 [Rates (1660)]. Simmonds noted a variety of Turkey raisins called Red Chesmé that may have been the variety intended in the Book of Rates, but it must be said that he was writing two and a half centuries later [Simmonds (1906)].
The sprat is a small sea FISH, Clupea sprattus, common on the Atlantic coasts of Europe. Its fishing season was short, starting in November and much of the catch seems to have been sold as fertilizer, but some was processed for consumption by curing in smoke, which would turn it red in colour (cf RED HERRINGS) and then drying. The usual measure was the LAST of 10000 [Acts (1798)], but they were also packed in BARRELs or other appropriately sized cask. [Acts (1798)] also laid down that 25 LB of SALT should be used for curing each last.
A stone of a red colour, RADDLE. This could also be either a building STONE or a genuine or fake PRECIOUS STONE. In this sense a red stone may be no more than a piece of COLOURED GLASS suitable for NECKLACEs, BUTTONs, etc. The context should make it obvious which is intended.
Presumably VINEGAR made with RED WINE. The colour would have been a feature for some purposes, but would have been less suitable for others where the lack of colour was desirable, when WHITE VINEGAR or DISTILLED VINEGAR would have been used.