Spinach - Sport


University of Wolverhampton



Nancy Cox and Karin Dannehl

Year published


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'Spinach - Sport', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820 (2007). URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=58880 Date accessed: 24 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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[spinnage; spinage]

A VEGETABLE, Spinacia oleracea is cultivated for its succulent leaves. The seed of at least three varieties seems to have been readily available in the eighteenth century, at least in London [Galpine (1983)]; [Tradecards (n.d.)]. Apart from its use as a vegetable, spinach was also used to provide a green food colouring [Recipes (Crossman)].

OED earliest date of use: 1530

As a seed: Found described as French, prickly, round, strawberry

Sources: Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Galpine (1983).


[spinnell; spinnall; spinnal; spinell; spinall]

The term is of obscure origin, but was apparently adopted from the German spinal (Du. spinaal), meaning THREAD or YARN of various kinds, even though the earliest references to spinal in the OED indicate that in the Middle Ages the term was applied to a TEXTILE. Later references indicate a yarn and the two early examples of spinal found in the Dictionary Archive, both in the same probate inventory, were of this type [Inventories (1622)]. In 1692 a new process of making 'spinnall' yarn was patented [Patents (1692)], apparently introduced by 'Severall workmen out of Germany skilled in makeing the said spinnall' (the OED's quote is from the same patent). Thereafter spinal seems often to have been referred to as SHORT SPINAL or UNWROUGHT INKLE, though these labels have been noted earlier as well. There was considerable confusion, at least in the official mind, as an act of 1713 shows [Acts (1713)]. Spinal, by whatever name, seems largely to have been used to make INKLE, which for the sake of clarity was increasingly labelled WROUGHT INKLE in official documents. The figures given by John Houghton of imports in 1694/5 suggest that substantial quantities of spinal were imported, mostly from Holland [Houghton], though by the eighteenth century spinal seems to have been made in Britain and was classed among MANCHESTER GOODS [Tradecards (18c.)].

Spinal or spinnel had a secondary meaning not found in the OED as a unit of measurement for YARN consisting of 4 SLIP or HANK or 48 CUT or 5760 THREAD [Ramsay (1750)]. In this sense it may be no more than a variant of SPINDLE.

OED earliest date of use: 1339-40 as a textile; 16-- as a yarn

Found described as FINE to make GAUZE
Found imported from Germany, Holland by the LB Found in units of LB Found rated by the POUND

Sources: Acts, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Patents, Rates.
References: Ramsay (1750).


[spinnett; spinnet]

A stringed MUSICAL INSTRUMENT in the same family as the HARPSICHORD and the VIRGINAL. Like the latter it has only one string to a note, but differs from it in being wing-shaped or triangular instead of square, thus allowing for a greater length of the base strings, and therefore a better sonority. It is played using keys that activated QUILLs to pluck the strings [Scholes (1956)]. It was both popular and fashionable in the eighteenth century, an interest reflected in a number of patents to improve performance, for example [Patents (1730)] and to facilitate tuning [Patents (1787)]. Both 'spinet hammers' [Inventories (1733)], and a spinet frame [Inventories (1709)], appear in the Dictionary Archive along with several complete instruments.

OED earliest date of use: 1664

Found described as SMALL, valuable

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents.
References: Scholes (1956).

Spinners card

[spinning card]

Also 'spinning card', and in [Diaries (Moore)] 'widdow Potter' was paid for spinning and carding. The indication that carding was part of houswifery and therefore within the province of women is supported by an entry referring to 'housewiffe cards' [Inventories (1631)]. These were much cheaper than WOOL CARDs or STOCK CARDs at a comparable date.

OED earliest date of use: a1613

Sources: Acts.

Spirit of hartshorn

[spt of hartshorn; sps hartshorn; spirits of harts horne]

The aqueous solution of ammonia, whether obtained from HARTSHORN or otherwise, though in the early-modern period it was properly only obtained from that horn. It was used like SAL VOLATILE to treat fainting fits. Frederick Accum claimed that spirit of hartshorn was 'counterfeited by mixing liquid caustic ammonia with the distilled spirit of hartshorn, to increase the pungency of its odour, and to enable it to bear an addition of water' [Accum (1820)].

OED earliest date of use: 1685

Found in units of OUNCE

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Tradecards.
References: Accum (1820).

Spirit of juniper

[sp't juniper]

A SPIRIT distilled from some part of JUNIPER, possibly JUNIPER WOOD, which was noticeably fragrant, or from JUNIPER BERRIES. If the latter, then spirit pf juniper may have been more or less a synonym of JUNIPER WATER.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Spirit of lavender

[sp't lavendula; sp't lavend; spirits of lavender; spir lavendulae; sp lavend']

The mid-eighteenth century Pharmacopoeia contained two recipes for spirit of Lavender, the SIMPLE made by distilling fresh LAVENDER flowers in PROOF SPIRIT, and the COMPOUND, which was a redistillation of the simple with SPIRIT OF ROSEMARY and spices. However, the College expressed their dislike of such COMPOUND WATERS, even though this one was included without any explanation [Pemberton (1746)]. The term was sometimes rendered into a latinized version, often abbreviated, as in 'sp't lavendula'.

Not found in the OED

Found described as COMPOUND, VOLATILE
Found in units of LB, OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Tradecards.
References: Pemberton (1746).

Spirit of sulphur

[sp't sulphur; sp'r sulphur]

A substance sublimed from SULPHUR, possibly sulphur dioxide. There was some confusion as to whether it was the same as OIL OF SULPHUR. However, according to Phillips, it usually came off before the 'oil' [OED, Oil], so he was making a distinction. At least one retailer in the Dictionary Archive had both the spirit and the oil of sulphur [Inventories (1730)]. In 1746 the College of Physicians proposed a change in the name of OIL OF SULPHUR to 'Spirit of sulphur', presumably, though this was not made explicit, with the descriptor 'strong', while what was formerly designated as the spirit would be additionally defined as' weak' [Pemberton (1746)]. This would explain the confusion sometimes found. A patent in 1749 contained a method of 'Making a liquor and spirit of sulphur with brimstone and saltpetre' [Patents (1749)]. This would have produced some sulphur trioxide, which reacts with water to give sulphuric acid. The contexts of two of the examples in the Dictionary Archive, suggest it was used medicinally.

OED online earliest date of use: 1706

Jeff Cox

Sources: Inventories (late), Patents.
References: Pemberton (1746).

Spirit of vinegar

An old name for Acetic acid, the most important ingredient in VINEGAR and an alternative name for DISTILLED VINEGAR [Pemberton (1746)]. In Latin, spirit of vinegar was called Acetum Distillatum or Spiritus aceti [Pemberton (1746)]. Since it appeared in the Pharmocopoia, it is likely to be found in these forms, though they have not been noted in the Dictionary Archive. Quotations in the OED online suggest that it was mainly used industrially and medicinally. For example, one retailer claimed that an 'Aromatic Spirit Of Vinegar' was good 'for the Head Ach, and to prevent the bad Effects of infected Air' [Tradecards (1790s)] and as 'a Preservative against Infection' [Newspapers (1790)]. These advertised products may be the 'Aromatic vinegar' described by Rees and included in several pharmacopoeias. It was invented by the 'late ingenious and respectable Mr Henry of Manchester', and seems to have been an improved version of a former aromatic vinegar composed of ROSEMARY, SAGE, LAVENDER and CLOVES macerated in DISTILLED VINEGAR [Rees (1819-20, 1972 ed.)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1641 under Edulcorate

Found described as Aromatic

Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.
References: Pemberton (1746), Rees (1819-20, abridged 1972).

Spirit of vitriol

[sp't vitriol; spt vitriol; spiritus vitrioli; spir. vitrioli]

Spirit of VITRIOL was a name given to dilute OIL OF VITRIOL (sulphuric acid). When this was rectified in a second distillation, the water in it was first driven off, along with some of the acid. This was called spirit of vitriol. However, for medical purposes at least, both were renamed by the College of Physicians in the 1740s, so that oil of vitriol became Spiritus vitriol fortis, and the former spirit, Spiritus vitrioli tenuis [Pemberton (1746)]. The spirit was used whenever sulphuric acid at full strength would have been undesirable. For example, as an alternative for those whose stomachs 'cannot bear the acidity of the' ELIXIR OF VITRIOL, the Pharmacopoeia suggested the dulcified elixir made with spirit of vitriol [Pemberton (1746)]. This practice of substitution of the stronger by the weaker in some cases, explains why some shopkeepers stocked both. For example, one had 'Spir. vitrioli oz j' valued at 3d and 'ol. vitrioli oz vij' at rather over 10d OZ, or more than three times as much [Inventories (1665)]. This seems to have been a typical price differential.

OED online earliest date of use: 1605

Jeff Cox

Found in units of OZ Found rated by the POUND

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Rates, Recipes.
References: Pemberton (1746).

Spirit of wine

[spir vini]

SPIRIT of WINE was an alternative name for ALCOHOL, or more accurately for ethanol, the most common alcohol. Since it is very difficult to remove all traces of water in the distillation, spirit of wine would still have contained some water. As the name suggests it was most often made by distilling wine, though a similar product could be achieved by the distillation of any spirituous liquor. On a first distillation wine gives BRANDY, but a second distillation would remove virtually all traces of the taste of the grape.

Spirit of wine was used extensively in medicinal preparations, so the term was occasionally given in Latin as 'Spiritus vini'. Both 'Proof Spirit of Wine' and 'Rectified Spirit of Wine' were part of the eighteenth-century Materia Medica [Pemberton (1746)]. 'Spirit of Wine' in which CAMPHOR had been dissolved was described in the eighteenth-century Dispensatory of the Royal College of Physicians as a preparation 'to be kept always at hand in the shops' [Pemberton (1746)], but it was by no means the only use of the spirit in the pharmacopoeias. It also had industrial applications and, for example, was used to dye BONE black [Houghton] and as LAMP SPIRIT in lamps.

The standardised application of terms like PROOF and RECTIFIED only came slowly, and were certainly not universal by the end of the eighteenth century, so that spirit of wine was frequently used as a standard of strength; for example the 'American Physitian' of 1672 contained the comment 'They ... make a sort of Strong-Water, they call Rum or Rumbullion, stronger than Spirit of Wine' [OED, Rumbillion].

OED online earliest date of use: 1626 under Pulse

Found described as 'highest rectified', 'well rectify'd'
Found in units of LB

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (mid-period), Recipes.
References: Pemberton (1746).

Spirits mundus

Spirits mundus is possibly a corrupted version of 'Spiritus Mundi' translated literally as the spirit of the world, but usually applied to indicate the essence of a given substance. This does not help to understand what was meant in the single example of spirits mundus in the Dictionary Archive, where it was linked to SAL VOLATILE [Tradecards (18c.)]. The context suggests it may have been a liquid version of sal volatile, or some other volatile substance that could be used for the same purposes.

OED earliest date of use: 1664 for Spiritus mundi

Sources: Tradecards.

Spoon hammer

[spoone hamm'; spone homer]

According to Randle Holme, 'The Spoon Hammer hath round Buttons at both ends' [Holme (2000)]. It was used for shaping the bowl of a SPOON in a mould or stamp. One brazier had among his equipment 'A beating Anvill' worth 10s, 'A Spoon Stiddy' at 2s 6d, 'One beating hammer' at 2s, and 'Seven booging Do' at 7s [Inventories (1719)]. Although the name 'spoon hammer' was not used as such, the process of shaping a spoon is clearly indicated.

OED earliest date of use: 1688

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Holme (2000).


According to the OED, a HAND BASKET. Yaxley suggests it was very large, and notes one bought for carrying MALT [Yaxley (2003)].

OED earliest date of use: 1656

Found rated by the DOZEN

Sources: Rates.
References: Yaxley (2003).