Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.
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Probably a BAND in the sense of a NECK BAND worn in conjunction with a RUFF. The earliest quotation in the OED online dated 1591 of 'Eight ruffe bands with their hand cuffs wrought with silke' suggests that ruff bands and hand cuffs sometimes came as a matching set.
Rug is usually defined as a rough TEXTILE, a sort of coarse woollen FRIEZE, in common use in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It sometimes had a very low value - in one case for as little as 4d YARD. An act of 1565 required each piece of LANCASHIRE rug 'being thick and fully dried' to weigh at least 44 LB, and to be 35-7 YARD long and ¾ YARD wide [Acts (1565)]. However, a mercer in Coventry had six 'sylke rug hatts' listed among his stock as well as seven 'Norwyche rug hats', suggesting that not all rug was made of wool, and that it was not necessarily cheap and rough [Inventories (1551)]. Other entries in the Dictionary Archive confirm that it was occasionally connected with SILK, as well as other materials such as HAIR and WORSTED.
The term was also used to refer to something made of rug. Used in this way, rug with no descriptor has only been noted in the Dictionary Archive as a large piece of thick WOOLLEN fabric used as a covering, in this period used on a BED rather than on the floor (but see HEARTH RUG). The inventories of the stocks of upholsterers show that some rugs were very large - up to 12 quarters or four YARD in one case [Inventories (1674)]. In probate inventories where there is sufficient detail to draw conclusions about the typical bed and its coverings, it seems that a bed was covered by a pair of BLANKETs, rarely COLOURED but sometimes said to be WHITE, and one rug, most often GREEN or RED, although other colours have been noted. Typically, blankets were counted by the PAIR or in twos, whereas rugs came singly. The importance of the rug as a brightly coloured feature of the bed was to some extent reduced in the seventeenth century by the introduction of more fancifully patterned coverings such as the CALICO QUILT.
Found described as BLACK, BLUE, BRITISH, CHECKED, CHILD, COARSE, for COATS, GREAT, GREEN, HAIR, KENDAL, MOTLEY, MURREY, OLD, Polish, RED, ROUG, RUSSET, set, SHAG, SILK, SMALL, THRUM, TUFTED, WELSH, WHITE, WORSTED, YELLOW, YORKSHIRE Found describing FRIEZE, WARP Found used to make GOWN, HAT
Found in units of PIECE, YARD
See also BLANKET, CALICO QUILT, COVERING, CRADLE RUG, HEARTH RUG, IRISH RUG, WOOLLEN RUG.
Sources: Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates, Tradecards.
References: Kerridge (1984), Montgomery (1985).
Easily confused with RUSSEL, which is another TEXTILE of a different nature. It is at least possible that the examples of SILK russets noted are due either to scribal or transcriptional error and should be russels.
A TEXTILE in the form of a coarse homespun WOOLLEN CLOTH of a reddish-brown, grey, or neutral colour, formerly used for the dress of country people. It was the fabric that was often used in literature to represent the typical countryman as in Thomson's poem, Autumn, 'Be mindful of those limbs in russet clad Whose toil to yours is warmth and graceful pride;' [Barrell (1980), quoting Thomson]. Although it was included in an act in the 1540s [Acts (1541)] among WELSH CLOTH, another act at the same time [Acts (1541)] indicates that Russets were also made in Norfolk of WORSTED YARN spun from NORFOLK wools.
By 1400 the term had acquired secondary meanings; both the reddish-brown colour typical of the cloth and, as an alternative spelling, of ROSET. According to one recipe, russet was a colour that could be used in food [Recipes (Brookes)]. In one act [Acts (1604)] russet is shown to have been a pigment used by both painters with OIL and by plasterers as one of their SIZE COLOURS.
With the idea of the colour in mind, russet was a name given to some varieties of APPLE (Russet PIPPIN) and PEAR (Russet Pear) [Galpine (1983)], but they do not appear as such in the Dictionary Archive.
Found described as BLACK, FRENCH, GREYlight, NARROW, PLAIN, SAD, SILK, WELSH, WHITE Found describing BELT, BROADCLOTH, CAMLETEEN, COAT, COVERLET, DANISHTE, FUSTIAN, HIDE, KERSEY, RUG, SERGE, STOCKINGS, STRAITS.THREAD, VELVET, WOOL Found used to make CASSOCK, GOWN, JERKIN
Found included among WELSH - CLOTH Found in units of PIECE, YARD
A term applied as an alternative form to most of the meanings of RUSSET. In the Dictionary Archive it appears as a pigment authorised for use as one of the SIZE COLOURS available to painters decorating the walls of buildings who wished for a reddish-brown colour. It probably consisted of one of the EARTHs such as RED OCHRE or UMBER. In this sense it is not in the OED, nor is it referred to by either Harley or Bristow.
A large country spanning eastern Europe and western Asia that only became an important source of goods and raw materials after 1660. The earliest imports from Russia consisted of RUSSIAN LEATHER; later RUSSIAN IRON became equally if not more important, though it does not figure large in the Dictionary Archive. FLAX and HEMP were extensively grown there, and were both exported to Britain in a semi-prepared state as RUSSIA LINEN and RUSSIA CLOTH. Used adjectivally for Russian, the term was used elliptically to denote RUSSIA CLOTH.
A very durable LEATHER with a reputation of being water-tight. It was made in RUSSIA from the HIDE of young CATTLE, and sometimes other animals, tanned in the bark of WILLOW, sometimes with that of FIR and BIRCH. The SKIN was then impregnated with OIL dry distilled from birch wood. The combined use of the oil from birch for dressing the leather minimized insect attack and made it popular with BOOK binders [Collins (1877)]. Russia leather was most often dyed BLACK or RED, hence the alternative name of RED LEATHER. In the Dictionary Archive it appears most often to have been used for covering the upholstered parts of a CHAIR, hence many entries like '10 Chayres of Russ: Leath'r' [Inventories (1666)].
This was a type of BAR IRON that first appeared on the English market in the 1710s. From this modest beginning Russian iron imports vaulted upwards in the middle of the eighteenth century, so that the volume of Russian iron landed in Britain exceeded 27,000 tons annually in the 1770s.
Iron had long been made in the central and north-western provinces of the Russian Empire, but from 1700 onwards a massive expansion began on the Siberian frontier. Because of this, British merchants sometimes distinguished between 'Russian' iron from old-established production centres such as Tula or Olonets and 'Siberian' iron from the new works in the Urals. The Siberian works were at first state-owned but an increasing number were ceded to private entrepreneurs such as the Demidovs or the Stroganovs as the eighteenth century wore on.
BAR IRON generally circulated on west European markets in the form of long thin bars. Russian iron generally came in shorter lengths and more irregular shapes: 'about 3 inches broad & ½ inch thick - not square at the end, but swelled and rounded' [Cardiff (mss)]. Its properties varied. Much of it was brittle and fit for little more than slitting into NAIL ROD. Other sorts were more highly esteemed. Those that bore the SABLE stamp of the Demidovs - or 'rat mark' as one iron merchant unromantically put it [Somerset Archives, DD/DN 424, Graffin Prankard to Benjohan Furley, 30 January 1731] - were sufficiently tough to be used in steel manufacture.
Russian iron as such is poorly represented in the Dictionary Archive, appearing only in the Books of Rates and John Houghton's lists of imports. One other entry indicates that the iron once imported was carried inland, as one would expect, by river [Newspapers (1778)].
POTASH imported from RUSSIA, an important source of this invaluable product. Its quality is suggested by its price. In one probate inventory ot was valued at about half as much again as ashes from POLAND or QUEENSBOROUGH, and 'Fecia Ashes' or FECHIA BRUGIATA [Inventories (1722)].
John Houghton described its production in Russia at some length, at least partly because he hoped it would inspire production at home: 'As to pot-ash, ... in Russia ... they burn a great deal of oak, birch, and several other woods to ashes, perhaps in their chimneys, if they have any, or rather in their hearths in the middle of a great room, as it is in some of our ancient halls, or sometimes in the woods, for no other design than for the ashes. These ashes they put into great tubs or casks, and pour on them water (I suppose hot) which runs out again at bottom by a tap, with a basket or some light thing on the inside, that will let the lixivium or lee run out, but not the ashes. When they have got sufficient quantity of this lee, they in some hollowish place in the ground set up an end a great deal of wood after the manner of our making of bonfires; and as the wood burns, they strew upon it some of the lee, till the wood is all burnt, and the lee spent, which will reduce it into a kind of liquor, which when it grows cold, gets all into one hard lump, as it comes over to us in great vats' [Houghton].