Speaking trumpet - Spiking

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

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Speaking trumpet

[speakingtrumpett; speaking trumpett]

An INSTRUMENT shaped rather like a straight TRUMPET designed to carry the voice to a great distance, or to cause it to be heard above loud noises, or to magnify the voice for those who are hard of hearing; hence 'Speaking Trumpetts Hearing Hornes for Deafe people' [Tradecards (18c.)]. Speaking trumpets were primarily used at sea.

OED earliest date of use: 1671

Sources: Inventories (late), Tradecards.


[specyes; specias; sp.]

The term is found quite frequently in the Dictionary Archive with the meaning of 'type' or 'sort', but in medicine and allied professions, it was applied to the separate materials or ingredients used in compounding a drug, PERFUME or similar preparation, or as Johnson put it 'the simples that have place in a compound medicine' [Johnson (1756)]. This meaning is made clear in Pemberton's recipe for MITHRIDATE, in which he finished his most complicated recipe with the instruction 'add by degrees the rest of the species reduced to powder' [Recipes (Pemberton)]. A secondary meaning given in Lloyds Encyclopædic Dictionary is 'a compound powder of any kind' [Lloyd (1895)]. Both meanings seem to have been in use in early-modern pharmacy. The abbreviation 'sp.' could stand for species or SPIRIT, and only the context may make clear which was intended.

OED earliest date of use: 1601


Sources: Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Recipes.
References: Johnson (1756), Lloyd (1895).

Species glass

[glasses for specyes; glasses for species]

This is a term that has not been noted in any of the standard dictionaries. Presumably it was applied to a DISH or PHIAL made of GLASS in which either to mix SPECIES or POWDERs or where to contain them. Some apothecaries had a fair number of species glasses - up to several dozen.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of DOZEN

See also SPECIES.
Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Specific lozenges

[specific do]

'Specific' in medical parlance may mean especially or exclusively efficacious against a particular ailment. Specific lozenges were probably intended to deal with venereal disease, which medics, whether genuine or quack, were not always inclined to name openly. If this supposition is correct, the lozenges probably contained MERCURY, which is effective, though poisonous to the patient [Tradecards (1790s)].

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Tradecards.

Speckled leaf

Apparently a form of GREEN TEA, more highly priced that 'Common Green Tea' but below 'Fine Bloom' and 'Good Hyson' [Newspapers (1791)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as FINE
Found in units of LB

Sources: Newspapers.

Spectacle case

[spetickle case]

A CASE of LEATHER, WOOD or other material in which SPECTACLES were kept when not in use. They were commonly, but not invariably sold with the spectacles. The Dictionary Archive suggests that before 1660 at least many such cases may have been made of very slight material such as PAPER, PASTEBOARD or cheap cloth since they were frequently valued at a penny or less. Even in the eighteenth century, most were still valued only at about 2d, though the occasional more expensive examples are found.

OED earliest use: 1597

Found described as BEST, GILT, ungilt, WOOD
Found in the shops measured by DOZEN Found rated by the GROSS

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.


[spise; spicery; spice; allspice]

Also found as spicery, the term refers to various strongly flavoured or aromatic food products of vegetable origin, mostly from woody tropical plants, but also sometimes including ANISEED, CUMIN, FENNEL, MUSTARD SEED and SAFFRON that were grown in Britain. The following discussion focuses principally upon the tropical types, such as CINNAMON, CLOVES, GINGER, GRAINS, JAMAICA PEPPER, MACE, NUTMEG, PEPPER, and TURMERIC. Aside from being most commonly listed among GROCERY owing to their use as condiments and food preservatives, spices were also used in MEDICINE, and less commonly in industrial processes.

The use of spices for human consumption is believed to date back to prehistoric times. In Classical Antiquity trade routes were established for spices from Goa, Calicut and Orient to markets in Nineveh and Babylon. Until the sixteenth centuries spices were sent from Asia via the Middle East (usually Egypt and Syria) to Europe, mainly at the Italian ports of Venice and Genoa. During the so-called Age of Discovery, in the late fifteenth century and the early sixteenth, sea routes to the spice-growing regions were found; and there was a vigorous competition between European sea-faring nations to seize control of land and the spice trade. In the short term, the Portuguese were particularly successful in that they claimed Ceylon, the East Indies and the so-called Spice Islands, and all the profits that went with them. However they were overtaken by the Dutch, beginning with their conquest of Malacca in 1641, followed by their takeover of the CINNAMON trade in Ceylon in 1650 and the best pepper ports of the Malabar Coast in 1663. Unable to compete with the Dutch in the East Indies after a disastrous attempt to establish a settlement on the island of Run [World of Spices (online)]; [Dalby (2000)], the British focused upon mainland India for their footing in the spice trade. Frustrated by the powerful position enjoyed by both the Dutch and the British, the French moved in a different direction, by successfully smuggling spice plants from Indonesia and growing them in their own colonies.

While the market for spices had been competitive and lucrative during the early modern period, it slacked off during the nineteenth century. There were two reasons: transportation times decreased through improvements in communications, and new techniques for the preservation of food were introduced. Supplies of spices became more frequent and cheaper at a time when there was actually less demand for the commodity [Welch (1994)].

Tradespeople and cooks needed both storage units, and equipment for grinding spices like NUTMEG. The most common storage unit was the SPICE BOX, but spice DRAWERS and a spice CUPBOARD have also been noted [for example INVMID EN1692BRWF; INVEARLY MY1625GVRJ]. Equipment imay have ncluded a spice MORTAR, like the one weighing '16 li ¾ at 7d li' [Inventories (1632)], or a spice MILL [Inventories (1748)].

It is not always clear what tradespeople included among the generic term. One big London retailer include among his 'Spices of the Choicest Kind' a fairly conventional list of 'Nutmegs, Cinnamon, Allspice, Mace, Cloves, Long Pepper, White and Black Pepper, Ginger, &c.' [Tradecards (1800)]. One of his contemporaries added 'Pimento or Jamaica pepper' and 'Cassia Buds' [Tradecards (19c.)], while a third included several goods that would not normally be called spices today, like 'Sagoe, Pearl Barley, Rice whole & ground' [Tradecards (18c.)]. Possibly it is in this context that the entry fits of 'Starch Sugars Spices Hard Spices ...' [Inventories (1727)], though how the two were separated out is impossible to say.

OED earliest date of use: 1225

Found described as COW, DRY, HARD Found describing CHEST, CUPBOARD, DRAWERS, GRATER, MILL, MORTAR

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (late), Rates, Recipes.
References: Dalby (2000), Welch (1994), World of Spices (online).

Spice box

[spyc' boxes; spice-boxes; spice-box; spice boxes; boxes spice; boxes for spices]

A BOX, usually having several compartments, in which to keep SPICE. Those for domestic use could be small and decorative, with perhaps only a few compartments like the 'Spice Boxes, Lettered, Inlaid and Plain' advertised in 1794 [Tradecards (1794)]. The same retailer also offered spice boxes with eight of twelve 'Holes'. Another style is demonstrated by the spice box with its GRATER included by Stone & Co. of London in among their advertised set of KITCHEN FURNITURE that they guaranteed to replace annually [Newspapers (1788)]. Tradesmen also needed spice boxes for their wares, but these may not necessarily have been designated as such, though the purpose of some is made plain like the 'case of spyc' boxes' among the stock of one retailer [Inventories (1551)], and the '2 sett of Boxes for spices' [Inventories (1606)]. Later spices were probably held in a NEST OF BOXES.

OED earliest date of use: 1527

Found described as with DRAWERs, LITTLE Found made of BRASS
Found imported by the DOZEN Found rated by the DOZEN

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates, Tradecards.

Spice vinegar

From the puffery that accompanied the advertisement for this product, it can be deduced this was a DISTILLED VINEGAR flavoured with 'all the Spices used in Pickling'. It was claimed that it would not spoil the colour of pickled vegetables as could happen if COMMON VINEGAR (that is MALT - VINEGAR) was used [Newspapers (1743)].

Not found in the OED

Found in units of GALLON

Sources: Newspapers.


A sharp-pointed piece of metal (especially IRON) or WOOD used for fastening things securely together; a large and strong kind of NAIL. Randle Holme, in his list of types of Nail, puts both the single and the DOUBLE SPIKE among those nails with heads [Holme (2000)]. Elsewhere he describes them as 'great long Iron nayles, with flat heads, and are of diuerse lengths, as a foot or two long. some are ragged speeks, that they may not draw out againe. they are used in many places for fastning of timber and planks in foule weather' [Holme (2000)].

Spike was also a common name for LAVENDER, hence OIL OF SPIKE.

OED earliest date of use: 1345-6

See also OIL OF SPIKE.
Sources: Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Holme (2000).


[spiknard; spicknard]

An aromatic substance, spikenard is obtained from the Northern Indian plant Nardostachys Jatamansi. In antiquity it was employed in the preparation of a costly OINTMENT or OIL.

OED earliest date of use: c1350

Found as an ingredient in MITHRIDATE, VENICE TREACLE
Found in units of DRACHM, OUNCE, OZ Found listed under DRUGS rated by the POUND

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), RATES RECIPES.


[spykynge; spyking; spikinge; spikin]

A spike-NAIL or SPIKE. Quotations in the OED of the early-nineteenth century appear to disagree in so far as they describe it as having a head, as well as not having one.

OED online earliest date of use: 1261

Found described as DOUBLE, SINGLE
Found in units of M, THOUSAND

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