Vial - Vinegar pot


University of Wolverhampton



Nancy Cox and Karin Dannehl

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'Vial - Vinegar pot', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820 (2007). URL: Date accessed: 25 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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[vyolle; vyoll; vyole; vyall; vyal; viall; viale; phial]

In this period, 'Vial' was more commonly spelt 'Viol', and so may possibly be confused with the MUSICAL INSTRUMENT the VIOL. Valuation and unit of measure should help to distinguish the two. The OED has entries for both 'Vial' and 'Phial', but the two seem to have been identical in this period and the latter has been assumed to be a variant spelling of the former. 'Vials' were often called 'Vial glasses' [Inventories (1597)], but there does not seem to have been a distinction in meaning.

A vial was a vessel of a small or moderate size, commonly made of GLASS, and used for holding liquids. It was specifically a small GLASS BOTTLE, mainly used by apothecaries. Some vials were very small, as exemplified by 'j g's di thombe vyoles' [Inventories (1624)]; all were relatively cheap, for example 'iij dossen of jd vyolls at viijd p dossen; iij dossen of ob vyolls at viijd p dossen' [Inventories (1587)]. Judging by the numbers noted, much liquid medicine was sold in vials. VIAL CORKs were uncommon, so presumably theses full vials were covered with waxed paper or the like rather than corked.

One newspaper advertisement for a QUACK MEDICINE referred to 'oval Phials in one Front of which is imbossed the King's Arms ...' [Newspapers (1750)], suggesting that some vials were moulded rather than blown, while another for 'prepar'd Water Colours in Phials and Shells' [Newspapers (1760)] indicates that they were not used exclusively in apothecary. An act mentioning 'any Mounts, Screws or Stoppers to Stone or Glass Bottles or Phials' [Acts (1739)] suggests some were decorated with SILVER fittings and were certainly not for the brief containment of a medicine.

OED earliest date of use: 13--

Found described as 1d, FRENCH, GLASS, LITTLE, OB, with open mouths, SMALL, thumb, VENICE Found describing BOTTLE, GLASS
Found in units of DOZEN, GROSS Found rated by the HUNDRED of 5 SCORE

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

Vial cork

[violl corke; viol corke]

A CORK to stopper a VIAL. Vial corks have been noted only twice in the Dictionary Archive, though vials are common. It is probable that most vials were stopped with waxed paper cover, or possibly a glass stopper, though these have not been noted.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of GROSS

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

Vial glass

[viales glases; phial glass]

Commonly called 'phial glass', it was a form of GLASS somewhere in quality between FLINT GLASS and BOTTLE or GREEN GLASS [Rees (1819-20, 1972 ed.)], used primarily to make the VIALs used in APOTHECARY [Acts (1787)]. Vial glass was also sometimes used as a synonym for a VIAL as in '20 viales glases at 10d a do:' [Inventories (1632)].

Referred to in the OED under Phial, but without definition or quotation

Found described as FRENCH
Found rated by the CWT

Sources: Acts, Inventories (early).
References: Rees (1819-20, abridged 1972).

Vice reel

A obscure term that appears only in one piece of promotional literature in the late eighteenth century, and then both as a 'vice reel' and later as a 'reel vice'. As the latter it is associated with an equally obscure term, a 'cushion vice'. The context suggests some small TOY or an item of TUNBRIDGE ware, as do the materials used in making them, IVORY and HARDWOOD [Tradecards (1794)].

The term is not in the OED, but Joseph Wright indicated that a VICE could be part of the mechanism of a SPINNING WHEEL. It was fitted with wire hooks and was intended to steer the thread to the spool [Wright (1898-1905)]. Possibly a vice reel was the name of that spool, and those promoted were of a decorative nature and not designed for professional spinning.

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Wright (1898-1905).

Vinaigre a la capuchin

Probably a VINEGAR in which the seeds or buds of the nasturtium or INDIAN CRESS had been steeped. According to John Evelyn the seeds were used as an alternative to PEPPER, while the flower buds were used to flavour vinegar [Evelyn (1699, new ed. 1996)]. The plant is called 'capucine' in French.

Not found as such in the OED online

Found in units of BOTTLE, CASE

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Evelyn (1699, new ed. 1996).

Vinaigre a la ravigote

[vinaigre de ravigotte; vinaigre a la ravigotte]

A VINEGAR flavoured with HERBS, of which the most important was probably TARRAGON. According to a quotation dated 1877 in the OED the 'French give the name of Ravigote to an assemblage of four herbs tarragon, chervil, chives, burnet minced small, and have a rare faculty of resuscitation'.

Not found as such in the OED, but earliest date of use for Ravigote: 1830

Sources: Tradecards.

Vinaigre a l'estragon

[vinaigre a la estragon]

The French name for TARRAGON VINEGAR

Found in units of BOTTLE, CASE

Sources: Tradecards.

Vinaigre au celeri

[vinaigre de celleri; vinaigre de celeri]

A VINEGAR in which CELERY, though whether the leaves or the seeds is not clear, were steeped.

Not found in the OED online

Found in units of BOTTLE, CASE

Sources: Tradecards.

Vinaigre aux fines herbes

A VINEGAR in which 'fine herbs' have been steeped. Although these should be a mixture, typically PARSLEY, CHERVIL and TARRAGON and perhaps CHIVES, according to Larousse Gastronomique, in some circumstances the only HERB used is parsley [Froud and Turgeon (1961)].

Not found in the OED online

Found in units of BOTTLE, CASE

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Froud and Turgeon (1961).

Vinaigre des quatre voleurs

[vinegar of the four thieves; vinegar of four thieves; vinegar of four thieves; vinaigre des quatre volours]

According to a mid-nineteenth century quotation in the OED, this was a preparation made from ROSEMARY steeped in VINEGAR. Although usually found under the French version of its name, it has been noted in English. Sometimes both were given as in 'Vinaigre des quatre Voleurs or Vinegar of the four Thieves' [Tradecards (18c.)].

OED earliest date of use: 1868 under Four

Sources: Tradecards.


[vynnyger; vynigeare; vynigar; vynger; vynegr; vyneger; vyneg'; vynagar; vynacre; vinig'r; vinigr; viniger; vinger; vingar; vineger; vinagre; vinager]

A liquid produced by the further fermentation of WINE or other alcoholic liquor. The acetic acid that results, is the chief ingredient of all vinegars and is also responsible for the unwanted souring of alcoholic liquors like wine and BEER. It is produced by the vinegar fungus Mycoderma aceti, sometimes called 'mother of vinegar'. This grows most rapidly when the liquid to be converted is rich in organic matter and low in alcohol (though not less than 3%) and with a large area exposed to air. The term vinegar is used now to include all acetic liquors, regardless of the source liquid, but in the early modern period the term was more likely to have referred strictly to vinegar made from WINE, with terms such as ALEGAR, BEEREGAR, CIDERGAR and even occasionally perrigar, made respectively from ALE, BEER, CIDER and PERRY. MALT Vinegar is made from crushed malt fermented with yeast for a few days to produce alcohol. This vinegar needs filtering, a process that may be effected by running the liquor through a layer of RAPE [Simmonds (1906)]. The making of vinegar in England was closely controlled by law, which may have encouraged the setting up of plant manufacturing on a grand scale and with the designation 'vinegar maker'. Any form of vinegar may be distilled into DISTILLED VINEGAR, which is a strongly acidic but colourless liquor.

Vinegar either pure or with various admixtures was used in the preparation of food or PICKLE, in many SAUCEs and in KETCHUPs. Although not such a perfect preservative as SALT, it was more flavoursome. It was also used industrially, for example in the preparation of WHITE LEAD.

Making COMMON VINEGAR at home, perhaps from SUGAR, a practice banned for commercial production from 1688 [Acts (1688)] was part of a housewife's art. The method is described in collections of recipes, for example [Farley (1792)], and there are recipes for flavoured vinegars, such as ELDER VINEGAR, RASPBERRY VINEGAR and TARRAGON VINEGAR.

The commercial sale of flavoured vinegars such as GARLIC VINEGAR has a long history, in France if not in this country. Certainly, by the eighteenth century, vinegar is found for sale in great variety, mostly flavoured by steeping some herb or fruit in it, or using a hot spice as in CHILLI VINEGAR. Some retailer offered a range of different types; BURGESS, for example had nineteen, some of them with French names like VINAIGRE DES QUATRE VOLEURS and VINAIGRE AUX FINES HERBES suggesting, that they were seen as fashion-food [Tradecards (18c.)]. Others proclaimed a French origin such as BORDEAUX VINEGAR. Because one of the big markets for this type of vinegar was among those serving overseas, names like CAMP VINEGAR were popular.

A 'vinegar' was also the name given to a VINEGAR CRUET as in 'sawcers porrengers pewter pottes & saltes also twoo vyngers' [Inventories (1584)].

OED earliest date of use: a1300

Found described as choicest, ORDINARY, PLAIN
Found in units of ANKER, BARREL, CASK, FIRKIN, GALLON, HOGSHEAD, QUART, RUNLET Found rated by the TON of 252 GALLON

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Farley (1792), Simmonds (1904).

Vinegar beer


This term was applied to BEER made for, or employed for, conversion into VINEGAR. It is a curious term that conflates two roots, as is done today in the phrase 'MALT vinegar.

OED earliest date of use: 1677

Sources: Acts.

Vinegar can

[vinager cann]

The only example found in the Dictionary Archive appears among the goods of a London dealer who stocked VINEGAR on a large scale [Inventories (1692)]. His vinegar cans were presumably containers in which to keep vinegar, and were probably made of WOOD or STONE WARE, to avoid contamination from the action of the acid.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Vinegar cruet

[vinig'r cruett]

It is a vessel designed to contain VINEGAR served at table. An OEd quotation dated 1744 described one as 'having a round Bottom, and a long taper Neck'.

OED online earliest date of use: 1713

Sources: Diaries.

Vinegar measure

Presumably an implement similar to a GAWN specifically designed for VINEGAR, and therefore possibly not made from PEWTER, which would have been damaged by action of the acid. One London dealer who had much vinegar among his stock had measures 'from a Gallon to a Quarter of a pinte' [Inventories (1692)].

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

Vinegar of squills

[viniger squils; viniger of squills]

An official preparation known in Latin as Acetum scilliticum and made from dried SQUILL infused in warm VINEGAR, to which a twelfth part of PROOF SPIRIT was added to discourage the formation of 'dregs'. By the mid-eighteenth century, it was the only vinegar still in the Pharmacopoeia, but was used to make SYRUP of squills and OXYMEL of squills [Pemberton (1746)]. Nicholas Culpeper noted the disagreeable taste of squill [Culpeper (new ed.)], and this may be the reason why the Pharmacopoeia used them in a strong-tasting liquor like vinegar.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).
References: Culpeper (modern edition), Pemberton (1746).

Vinegar porringer

Found only once in the Dictionary Archive in the kitchen of a northern vintner. They were listed alongside 'porringers' and were presumably intended for serving VINEGAR at table given that he had a dozen [Inventories (1671)]. If this interpretation is correct, they may have had the same function as a VINEGAR CRUET, though not the same shape.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Vinegar pot

[vineger pot]

A container for holding VINEGAR. Given the dangers of contamination as a result of chemical reaction to the acid, metals such as PEWTER would not have been used for this purpose, and STONEWARE, GLASS or WOOD would have been used instead.

OED earliest date of use: 1669 but without a definition

Found described as STONE

Sources: Inventories (early).