Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.
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Also known as saffer and saffre, this processed BLUE mineral, that is roasted COBALT ore, or impure cobalt arsenate. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the centre of production in Europe was in SAXONY. Although the product itself was long known, the method of manufacture there was only explained in the late seventeenth century. It involved heating the ore in a reverbaratory furnace until the ARSENIC came off in a white smoke that settled and was collected in a long wooden tunnel. The zaffre was cooled, mixed with pulverized stones, moistened and packed into barrels. Here it set so hard that it had to be broken up with sledge hammers [Harley (1970)].
Although Rees still saw Saxony as the most important source of zaffre into the early nineteenth century [Rees (1819-20, 1972 ed.)], according to Rolt, most zaffre was brought from the East Indies, particularly from Surat. Rolt claimed there were two sorts, 'the fine and the common: the former is in a blueish cineritious stone; and the latter is in a grey powder, like ashes'. The Ground fine Saphir 14 pound at j li viijs', 'Ground slite saphir 4 pound att iiijs', and '3 C 00 q 06 li Course Saphir att xiiij li' found in the stock of a manufacturer and seller of CERAMICS was almost certainly zaffre and not SAPPHIRE [Inventories (1699)]. The Book of Rates for 1660 has three adjacent entries 'Saffora, vide Barilia', 'Saffore, the pound', and 'Saffron, the pound' [Rates (1660)]. Only the last is unambiguous. The middle one, 'Saffore' is also assumed to be ZAFFRE.
Zaffre was the most important ingredient in the glass-like SMALT giving it a fine blue colour. It was also used in enamelling and in PORCELAIN. Rolt claimed that zaffre was so much in demand that the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce promised a premium in 1755 of £30, but with what success he did not say [Rolt (1761)].
The aromatic tuberous root of one or more species of Curcuma of the East Indies and neighbouring countries, sold in two forms, long zeodary and round zeodary, and used as a drug, having properties resembling those of GINGER. The term also refers to the plant itself. Analysis of the Dictionary Archive indicates that its use in medicine probably declined towards the end of the seventeenth century. It was suggested occasionally as a YELLOW colour wash in WATER COLOUR painting in the second half of the eighteenth century [Harley (1970)], but occurrences in the Dictionary Archive do not suggest it was commonly used this way.
A form of SAUCE or PICKLE, apparently originating in INDIA, but advertised around 1800 by tradesmen like BURGESS and one of Burgess' agents, the confectioner J. Johnson of Birmingham [Newspapers (1790)]; [Newspapers (1790)]. According N.M. Penzer, a specialist on wine labels, the term appears to be a corruption of two Indian terms 'joobitty' (tasty) and 'machli' (fish) [Winespectator (online)], although there seems to be no confirmation of the provenance for the former in particular. Advertizers of around 1800 positioned the sauce among desirable and expensive preserved foods. One included it among his long-keeping 'rich sauces for fish, ... and all made dishes' [Tradecards (19c.)] while another stated that it was used 'at the most fashionable Tables' [Tradecards (1800)]. Furthermore, someone apparently thought it worth their while to produce for it a metal label suitable for hanging round the bottle, similar to those produced for WINE.