Stibium - Stitching

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

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[stybium; stibu'; stibiu'; stibbiu']

A prepared form of ANTIMONY, otherwise known as black antimony or 'Antimonium preparatum', is the trisulphide of antimony calcined and powdered. Despite its toxicity - it is now banned from use for this purpose - it was used as a COSMETIC for blackening the eyelids and eyebrows. The same names were formerly used for metallic antimony, or any of its SALTS, especially when it was intended as a poison or an emetic.

OED earliest date of use: 1398

Found in units of LB, OZ Found rated by the POUND

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


The OED gives 'stick' as five distinct headwords including one, which is given between two to three dozen sub-meanings. Only some of these appear in the Dictionary Archive, which itself throws up a few of its own. Two of the distinct headwords in the OED are for units of measure; a measure of quantity of small eels (25 or 26) and the customary length (varying according to the material) of a 'piece'or roll of certain TEXTILEs imported from Flanders. Neither has been noted in the Dictionary Archive, but they could easily turn up in similar documents.

The most frequently found 'stick' in the Dictionary Archive is a form of WALKING STICK, where the term is used to distinguish a stick made of WOOD from one made of bamboo and called a CANE. A variety of woods were used, including HAZEL, OAK and SPECKLED WOOD, the most common apparently being oak. Sticks of this sort often had decorative handles or heads made of some more expensive material; hence entries like '5 dozen of Ebony and Coker sticks at 18s p doz' [Inventories (1671)]. Sticks of quality were protected with a FERRULE; hence entries like 'a parcell stick ferrills' [Inventories (1733)].

Occasionally in the Dictionary Archive and also in sources like the Gloucester Coastal Port Books, DYEWOODs were noted in the form of sticks, which was applied to the wood in the form of unprocessed - and long- lengths; hence stick FUSTIC, stick LOGWOOD and stick BRAZIL [Inventories (1733); Inventories (1781)]. The 'Three box sticks' in the stock of a knife sheath maker may fit here [Inventories (1714)]. The same construction was used for WAX or SEALING WAX; hence '2 li of small stick wax' [Inventories (1686)] and '6 sticks sealing wax' [Inventories (1705)].

Many sticks found in particular trades were given no descriptors as the term was not used except within the context of the trade. For example, 'sticks' was the name given by BASKET makers to the more substantial rods that made up the framework of a basket [Inventories (1700)], while TALLOW chandlers used sticks on which they suspended the candles for dipping them into the vat of melted tallow [Inventories (1723)].

One of the more evocative meanings of stick is that of a small DOLL or BABY, presumably commonly made of WOOD and unjointed. The stiffness and the simplicity of this CHILDRENS TOY is implied in its name. These simple dolls were found dressed in both male and female garb [Tradecards (1794)], indicating perhaps that the play value and realism was in the dress, rather than in the doll itself. It suggests, too, that dolls had not yet become the almost exclusive preserve of girls.

As a walking stick: Found described as CHILDREN, hook head, ORDINARY, PAINTED, VARNISHED Found in units of DOZEN
As a dyewood: Found in units of C, LB, QU
As a doll: Found described as DRESSED in BREECHES, DRESSED in LINEN, GLASS eyed, naked

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

Sticking plaster

[stickingplaister; sticking plaister]

The general term for material for covering and closing superficial wounds, consisting of LINEN, SILK, or other textile fabric, spread with an adhesive substance. More specifically, it included COURT PLASTER and DIACHYLON.

OED earliest date of use: 1655

Found described as BLACK, LADIES

Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.

Still head


The cup, helm or upper compartment of a STILL or ALEMBIC, from which the liquor is distilled. A typical record of the whole apparatus is 'One Copper Alembick & pewter Head' [Inventories (1724)].

OED earliest date of use: 1694

Found described as for AQUA VITAE, OLD Found made of COPPER, PEWTER

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

Still stick

[still sticke; stele sticke; steelstick; steelesticke; steele sticke; steele stick]

A term not found in the OED, although a stiller is there defined as a piece of wood designed to float on top of liquid to prevent it sloping over when carried. In this sense, Thomas Wright applied ot specifically to carrying milk [Wright (1857), and it may be what was referred to in the entry 'one churne one steele sticke one breadegrater fyffe pare of sheers' [Inventories (1608)]. One other entry in the Dictionary Archive, '1 still and still sticke' [Inventories (1619)], suggests a tool used in distilling, although no such term has been found elsewhere, for example in Randle Holme's Academy of Armory. The other entries in the Dictionary Archive either give no useful context except for valuations, as in 'Three steele sticks ixd' [Inventories (1590)], and 'thre stele stickes xd' [Inventories (1597)], or suggest an instrument used around the kitchen fireplace, as 'A Smoothing Iron & 2 steele stickes & j beefe forke' [Inventories (1626)]. and 'broyling plate 2 steelsticks & rounding block' [Inventories (1620)]. None of the entries, despite some of the spellings, suggest any connection with STEEL, although there may be with 'stele' as in MOP STELE. All the examples noted in the Dictionary Archive are pre-1660.

Sources: Inventories (early).

Stink trap


According to the OED, an alternative (and earlier) name for the 'stench trap'; a devise in a drain to prevent the upward escape of noxious gases.

OED earliest date of use: 1782

Sources: Patents.

Stirrup leather

[styrrup leather; strirup leather; stirrup-leather; stirropp leather; stirrope lether; stirrop lethar; stirrip: leather; stirrip leather; stirrap leather; leath stirrop]

An adjustable STRAP made of LEATHER attached to a SADDLE at the top and hanging down the side of the HORSE to the STIRRUP to which it is also attached. Stirrup leathers were usually listed in pairs, and the term was often abbreviated to LEATHERS.

OED earliest date of use: 1390s

Found in units of PAIR

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


[sticken; sticht; stiched; stich; stcht]

The OED suggests EMBROIDERED or worked with ornamental stitches. Some of the examples in the Dictionary Archive support this interpretation, as 'one broad spanish leather girdle & frogg sticht wth Silver att xs' [Inventories (1667)], and '2 Irish Stich Chaires' [Inventories (1670)]. However, the 'Sticht bodyes' and the 'unsticht bodyes' in one shop [Inventories (1688)] suggest that the term may have been used at times to denote quilting. Often it is not clear which meaning is intended.

OED earliest date of use: 1583

Found used to describe BARRACAN, BELT, CALICO, CAP, GARTER, SILK

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

Stitched taffeta

[stytched tafyta; stitcht tafeta; stiched tafata]

The TEXTILE, TAFFETA, that has been ornamented with EMBROIDERY. Under this name it only appears in the list of rates for 1643 and in INVEARLY, possibly because it was ousted by cheaper forms of ornament thereafter. It was being made by immigrants from the Low Countries in Canterbury from 1622 [Kerridge (1985)], although the Books of Rates suggest most was imported. It was one of the more expensive forms of taffeta, being found valued at 6s ELL and 5s YARD.

Not found in the OED

Found used to make HAT
Found in units of ELL, YARD Found rated by YARD

Sources: Inventories (early), Rates.
References: Kerridge (1985).


[stiching; stich]

The THREAD, SILK, or other material of which stitches are made. The term is rare in the Dictionary Archive. The single valued example, '12 li ordinary Stich at 1s p li' [Inventories (1725)] suggests a LINEN THREAD or COTTON THREAD as SOWING AND STITCHING SILK were much more valuable, as '3 p'd stiching silk 01 10 00' [Inventories (1713)].

OED earliest date of use: 1614

Found describing SILK

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