Alfany - Almond powder

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

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Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl, 'Alfany - Almond powder', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online [accessed 16 June 2024].

Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl. "Alfany - Almond powder", in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007) . British History Online, accessed June 16, 2024,

Cox, Nancy. Dannehl, Karin. "Alfany - Almond powder", Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007). . British History Online. Web. 16 June 2024,

In this section


The editor of the 1582 Book of Rates, which is the only reference to it in the Dictionary Archive [Rates (1582)], suggests a corrupt version of ALKANET, but it seems more likely that it was a variant of alphenic, otherwise known as PENIDE or PENNET. This was a white barley SUGAR or SUGAR CANDY. Once sugar boilers became active in Britain, there would have been less need to import foreign sugar products, and the English term 'sugar candy' became more common replacing the less evocative foreign name.

OED earliest date of use: 1657 as Alphenic

Found rated by LB

Sources: Rates.



The Algarve region of Portugal appears in the Dictionary Archive as a place of origin for FIGs.

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Rates.


[alycant; alligant; allicant; allegant]

A type of SPANISH WINE imported from the Alicante region of south-east Spain. It was a rough, sweet RED WINE, which was at one time made of, or with, the MULBERRY [Nott (1726, facs. 1980)]. It seems to have gone out of fashion in this country as the OED's last quotation is dated 1693, although a single consignment was recorded coming up the River Severn in 1707 [Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1988)].

Alicant has also been noted describing other goods coming from the region of Alicante, hence Alicant SOAP and ALICANT RAISINS.

OED earliest date of use: c1500

Simone Clarke

Found describing SOAP
Found rated by BUTT, PIPE

Sources: Acts, Houghton, Rates.
References: Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1998), Nott (1726, facs. 1980).

Alicant raisins

[raisins of alicant; alycant reasons]

Raisins from the district around Alicante in Valencia in south-eastern SPAIN, whence the finest RAISINS came. According to Simmonds, such raisins were normally dried on the vine, giving the best results but a fruit that came onto the market rather later than those dried after cutting [Simmonds (1906)].

Not found in the OED

Simone Clarke

Found in units of POUND Found rated by the CWT of 112 LB

See also RAISINS.
Sources: Acts, Inventories (early).
References: Simmonds (1906).


[alkalies; alcaline]

Originally the term was used for a saline substance obtained by separating the soluble and useful component from the insoluble solids in the calcined ashes of marine plants such as BARILLA and KELP, which was later to be called MINERAL ALKALI. By the early modern period it had extended its meaning to any substance having the characteristics of SODA, particularly those of forming SOAP with OIL or of effervescing with or neutralizing acids. It was believed to be a specific substance, which was found fixed in SODA and POTASH and volatile in ammonia. In 1736, Duhamel showed that there were distinct types of alkali, MINERAL ALKALI obtained from plant ashes (soda), vegetable alkali obtained from plants such as kelp and barilla growing on the sea shore (potash), and animal alkali obtained from burning BONE or from stale URINE (ammonia). During the 1780s, several patents were taken out to make alkali more cheaply, for example [Patents (1781)], [Patents (1781)] and [Patents (1781)] Most seem practicable chemically speaking, but were presumably not satisfactory on an industrial scale. It was Leblanc's process of 1787 that finally made possible the manufacture of cheap alkali using common SALT and SULPHURic acid, though as a result of the French Revolution and the subsequent wars with France, its adoption was slow.

OED earliest date of use: c1386 in the first sense; 1602 in the second

Sources: Acts, Houghton, Rates.
References: Partington (1953), 74-7, 691.


[rad. anichuse; rad. anchusa; alchanet]

A DYE STUFF obtained from the bark of the roots of a boraginaceous plant, Anchusa tinctoria, which was mostly cultivated in France. This bark, which was more productive taken from the roots of young plants, yields a fine RED [Tomlinson (1854)]. Although the bark has not been noted in trade, the roots were sometimes found, as for example in the entry 'Rud: Alchanet' [Inventories (1665)], and under its Latin name as 'Rad. Anchusa oz 1 1d' [Inventories (1690)]. John Houghton noted that 50 LB of Alkanet Roots as 'Roots Alkanet' were imported in January and February 1682/3 [Houghton]. Judging by a comment of Thomas Sheraton in his 'Cabinet Dictionary' (1803), the roots were not stripped, but merely opened up to free the dyeing agent. Sheraton further gave instructions for making a red oil using LINSEED OIL, alkanet root and DRAGONS BLOOD for staining MAHOGANY [Gloag (1952, revised 1991)].

According to a modern authority, it has some medicinal uses as an emollient, but it mostly useful as a colouring agent in oily or greasy compounds as a POMADE, hair oil or OINTMENT. It cannot be used to colour water [Wren (1941)].

OED earliest date of use: 1326

Found used to provide red colouring to LIP SALVE
Found in units of OZ Found imported by the LB Found among the DRUGS rated by the POUND

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (mid-period), Rates, Recipes.
References: Gloag (1952, revised 1991), Tomlinson (1854), Wren (1941).



A plant, Physalis alkekengi in the family of Solanaceae. It is also called winter cherry, from its ornamental scarlet fruit, though it is not the same as the winter cherry sold today as a pot plant, which is Solanum pseudo-capsicum. The berries were used medicinally. According to a modern authority, it is a diuretic and febrifuge, and may be used in urinary disorders caused by rheumatism or gout [Wren (1941)].

OED earliest date of use: 1440

Found in units of OZ Found rated by the POUND

Sources: Inventories (late), Rates.
References: Wren (1941).



Like COCHINEAL, alkermes or kermes, as it was also known, was made from the dried bodies of female insect, in this case Coccus ilicis. It was also called the kermes or SCARLET grain insect. This insect was found on the kermes oak, a native of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. During classical antiquity in particular, this insect was thought to be a berry, and was also sometimes erroneously described as a GALL. It was not until the discovery of the microscope in the seventeenth century that kermes was recognised as being an insect. Alkermes was found among DYERS GOODS, owing to the colouring quality of the active ingredient, kermesic acid. Although the colour produced by alkermes was unusually bright, it had a limited place in the commercial market, compared with dyes such as MADDER and COCHINEAL, since the dyestuff produced by the kermes insect was present in a less concentrated form, making it a relatively expensive commodity [Ponting (1980)]. Even so, an attempt in the 1720s was patented to transfer the 'raising and cultivating' of kermes insects to the American plantations, presumably to avoid importation from areas not under direct British control [Patents (1722)].

OED earliest date: 1605 under Alkermes

As a syrup: Found rated by the LB
As a confection: Found rated by the OUNCE

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Patents, Rates, Recipes.
References: Ponting (1980).


[allkemore; alkemore]

A town in the northern part of HOLLAND, that became a city in 1254. The most famous event in the city's history is the Siege of Alkmaar in 1573, towards the end of the 80 Years War, when the citizens of Alkmaar, supported by only a handful of troops, held out against the Spanish army. The relief of the town is still commemorated every year on 8 October.

Alkmaar became an important trade centre after 1564, when the surrounding swamps were reclaimed, noted for its production of LINEN. The name was thus occasionally used elliptically for ALKMAAR HOLLAND.

OED online earliest date of use: 1855 under Leaguer

Found described as NARROW
Found in units of YARD

Sources: Inventories (late).

Alkmaar holland

[allkemore holland]

A TEXTILE; a type of HOLLAND CLOTH. The anonymous author of the Merchants Warehouse in the 1690s advised that the best sort was only made by 'one Stanlack of Holland', suggesting that the quality was variable. The PIECE contained between 29 and 34 ELL and, like BURLAP, Alkmaar holland came crested or doubled in the middle, but the 'strings in the Selvidges' were only sometimes sewn on. The chief disadvantage was that it did not wear white with repeated washing [Anon (1696)].

There are mixed messages about this textile. Although textiles from many other towns in the Low Countries were listed by name in the Books of Rates, Alkmaar was not. This is surprising since it was sufficiently distinctive and, indeed desirable to have been advertised as being made in Britain by the 1700s [Newspapers (1708)].

Not found in the OED online

Found described as ENGLISH MADE, half WHITED, NARROW, WHITED
Found in units of ELL, PIECE, YARD

See also ALKMAAR.
Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers.
References: Anon (1696).


A TEXTILE, and from the context of the only entry in the Dictionary Archive [Inventories (1711)] it may be deduced that it was a LINEN CLOTH, probably imported, since it was measured by the ELL, and apparently similar to DOWLAS in price and appearance. It may be the same as HALLCLOTH, altlhough there are considerable differences, since both are linen fabrics apparently from abroad. The term must not be confused with ALCHEMY in its many variant spellings, particularly in manuscript documents, though it is generally easy to distinguish the two as the fabric was measured by the ELL, and the metal by the OZ or LB.

Not found in the OED

Found described as ELL WIDE Found in units of ELL

Sources: Inventories (late).



A TEXTILE from India, possibly the same as ELATCHA, included by Milburn among INDIAN - PIECE GOODS [Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996)]. According to him it was imported from Madras and 'The Coast', but they seem to have been made elsewhere as well and to have differed widely depending on their place of origin. Montgomery suggests it was originally a STRIPED fabric of COTTON and SILK mixture, but those from other parts of the sub-continent were wholly of cotton and were sometimes classified as CALICO. By the 1720s allejas were being manufacture in this country [Montgomery (1984)]. They were one of the many fabrics whose import was prohibited in the early eighteenth century to protect the home cloth industry and so was listed in the 1784 Book of Rates among those goods that were 'prohibited to be worn or used' in Britain, although they could be be imported for re-export to Africa [Rates (1784)]. Like many imports from India, Alleja seems to have been a name that was deemed unacceptable to the buying public, so that if and when it was offered for sale in the shops during the seventeenth century it must have been under some other name such as CALICO.

OED earliest date of use: c1613

See also ELATCHA.
Sources: Rates.
References: Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996), Montgomery (1984).



The term may derive from the Arabic 'a'la' meaning superior, and 'bhala' meaning good.

Alliballies were a TEXTILE in the form of a MUSLIN of very fine texture. They were listed by Milburn among INDIAN - PIECE GOODS imported from Bengal [Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996)]. However they were not listed among the muslins included in [Acts (1700)]. In the Dictionary Archive they are only found defining MUSLIN and as 9/8 YARD, 2 YARD or 3 YARD, but whether it was the width or the length specified is unclear. It does not seem to be the same as the 'Alibannee' described by Florence Montgomery [Montgomery (1984)], which was of mixed SILK and COTTON, probably striped, and imported in the early seventeenth century.

Not found in the OED

Found described as superfine Found describing MUSLIN
Found in units of PIECE

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers.
References: Montgomery (1985), Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996).

Allnut chocolate

[allnutt chocolat]

The term has been noted in the bills of tradesmen selling GROCERY, for example [Tradecards (1751)] and [Tradecards (1749)]. Three entries in one inventory [Inventories (1716)] help to clarify the meaning; 'Croco Chocolate all Nut 2s 6d p LB'; 'Nut chocolate 2s 6d p lb'; 'Nut and Sugar Chocolate 2s lb'. The last is of particular interest as it suggests prepared chocolate was often sold unsweetened. Advertisements in the provincial press add further evidence offered for sale; for example, 'Choice perfum'd Spanish Chocolate all NUT 2s 6d lb' [Newspapers (1707)], and another offering 'Churchman's Fine Chocolate at 4s 6d lb', while 'The Shells of the Cocoa Nuts as well as the Nibs, which are parts of the wasted Cocoa in making the Chocolate, will be sold at a cheap rate' [Newspapers (1751)]. A further advertisement offered 'Chocolate, Cocoa Nus and Shells for sale' [Newspapers (1790)].

The combined evidence of the examples would suggest that it was possible to make a chocolate of sorts using the waste shells and nibs wholly or in part, but that good quality chocolate was made using the kernel or nut alone. Allnut chocolate was therefore the best quality CHOCOLATE made from the inner seed alone. An alternative interpretation is a chocolate containing WALNUTs, but the OED has not noted walnut spelt without its 'w 'and the evidence from the Dictionary Archive does not support this possibility.

Not found in the OED

Simone Clarke

Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers, Tradecards.


Although this term has other meanings, in the Dictionary Archive it was applied to mixture of metals or a metallic compound, though not one containing MERCURY, which was called an AMALGAM. The most common alloys were BRASS and PEWTER and the various versions of these two. Both examples found in the Dictionary Archive were among the stock of pewterers, and probably referred to a pewter in which there was a substantial proportion of LEAD mixed with the TIN [Inventories (1669)]; [Inventories (1700)]. In the latter example, there was a substantial differential between the value of the old to the new, 6d ½ as compared with 9d.

OED online earliest date of use in this sense: 1656

Found described as NEW, OLD Found describing PEWTER
Found in units of C, LB, POUND, QU, STONE

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


An aromatic SPICE from the WEST INDIES, more commonly called JAMAICA PEPPER or PIMENTO. It is the dried berry of the Allspice tree, more properly Eugenia pimenta (family Myrtaceæ).

OED online earliest date pf use: 1621

Found in units of LB, OZ, POUND

Sources: Inventories (late).

Almain knife

[knives almain; almaine knives]

A form of KNIFE, presumably for Germany, found only in the Books of Rates and not otherwise in the Dictionary Archive. It was probably hinged as one entry reads 'Knives paires called Almaine knives and other course knives' [Rates (1582)], and not very distinguished.

Not found in the OED

Found rated by the DICKER of 10 knives, GROSS of 12 DOZEN - PAIR

Sources: Rates.

Almain rivets

[aman rivett; almrn ryvett; almon ryvetes; almen ryvett; almayne ryvytts; alman ryvytts; alman ryvetes]

A kind of light ARMOUR, first used in Germany, in which great flexibility was obtained by overlapping plates sliding on rivets. They were usually found in pairs, denoting a front and a back.

OED earliest date of use: 1530

Found described as Full furnished, with SPLENTS Found made of LATTEN
Found in units of PAIR Found rated by the HARNESS

Sources: Inventories (early), Rates.


[almenack; almanacke; almanack; allmonake]

An annual table, or more usually a BOOK of tables, containing a CALENDAR of months and days, with astronomical data etc., and formerly astrological and astrometeorological forecasts. They were sold in a variety of forms; one retailer had them in the form of both single sheets and books [Inventories (1737)], and an act designed to prevent evasion of stamp duty reveals they were also printed on LINEN and SILK [Newspapers (1798)]. They were highly popular, selling for only a PENNY or two, and standard items among CHAPMANS WARE.

Almanacs were regarded by the authorities as potentially subversive and by way of control were subject to a heavy stamp duty. For example, in 1710 the annual charge was set at 1d for a single-sided sheet, and pro rata for more [Acts (1710)]. The possible success of the charge is reflected in the anxieties of one shopkeeper who doubted 'but few will be sold by reason of the additional duty of one penny on the sheets, and two pence on the stitched' [Diaries (Turner)]. In the long term his fears were unfounded and the sale of almanacs continued to increase with variety the only concern, as one printer and bookseller's advertisement shows: 'All Sorts of Almanacks for the year 1760' [Newspapers (1760)].

OED earliest date of use: c1391

Found described as BOOK, NEW, Oxford, SHEET
Found in units of DOZEN

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


Apparently an alternative name for ORCANT [Rates (1657)].

Not found in the OED online

Found among the DRUGS, rated by the POUND

Sources: Rates.


[almund; almone; almon; almod; alman; alman]

The kernel of the fruit of the tree Prunus dulcis, (formerly known as Amygdalus communis). The almond tree is believed to be a native of Persia, northern Africa and southern Europe, but it is now widely grown elsewhere. It will grow in Britain largely as a decorative tree, since there is insufficient heat to ripen the fruits [Simmonds (1906)]. Almonds are of two sorts: the BITTER ALMOND from the variety Prunus dulcis var. amara, and the SWEET ALMOND from P. dulcis var. dulcis. The former contains Prussic acid, but this is removed by heating [Masefield et al (1969)]. It is used little in cooking, but is important for OIL OF ALMONDS. Sweet almonds were used extensively in CONFECTIONERY, being the main ingredient of ALMOND CAKE, MACAROON, MARCHPANE, and MARZIPAN as well as sometimes being used as a flavouring in other sweetmeats like CHOCOLATE. Randle Holme also mentioned almond bread [Holme (2000)].

Almonds were equally important in medicine. John Gerard categorised sweet almonds as moderately hot, and the bitter as 'hot and dry in the second degree'. As is often the case with the early herbalists, he believed almonds were efficacious against a range of complaints. He noted that 'there is likewise in the almonds an opening and concocting quality, with a certain clensing faculty, by which they are medicinable to the chest and lungs, or lights, and serve for raising up of flegme and rotten humors.' He added, among many other applications that with 'hony they are laid upon the biting of mad dogs', while 'fiue or six being taken fasting do keepe a man from being drunke' [Gerard (1633, facs. 1975)]. In TOILETRY and PERFUMERY, almonds were a major ingredient of WASH BALLs and SOAP, and cosmetic preparations such as rouge and HAIR POWDER (see ALMOND POWDER).

In the Dictionary Archive almonds can often be found listed among GROCERY, with other commodities such as SUGAR, RAISINS, CANDY and BISCUITs, or among SPICES or DRUGS [Rates (1784)].

The occasional prices noted are generally uninformative, as they rarely indicate the type of almond. For example, Nicholas Blundell bought 'almonds' (unspecified, but probably sweet almonds) at 12d and 14d LB [Diaries (Blundell)]. However, one later advertisement was more specific, with sweet almonds listed at 18d LB and bitter at only 12d [Newspapers (1782)]. Not unexpectedly, valuations varied widely, depending presumably on type, age and demand. A few inventories allow comparisons. For example, one listed JORDAN ALMONDs at 15d LB, VALENCIA ALMONDs at 11d and BITTER ALMONDs at only 9d [Inventories (1665)].

OED earliest date of use: a1300

Found described as BROWN, OLD, in the shells, rough, SMALL, smooth, WHITE Found describing BREAD, SOAP, WASHBALL Found included among GROCERY Found used to make COMFIT
Found in units of LB Found imported from Barbary, the Canaries, Spain, the Straits by the BAG, BUSHEL, C, LB Found rated by the BALE, HUNDREDWEIGHT of 112 LB, OUNCE, TUN

Sources: Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Gerard (1633, facs. 1975), Holme (2000), Masefield et al. (1969), Simmonds (1904).

Almond cake

A CAKE flavoured with ALMOND, most probably an alternative label for a MACAROON. They are mentioned by Randle Holme as suitable for the third course among other types of BISKET in one of his lenglthy bills of fare [Holme (2000)]. The principal ingredients other than almonds were SUGAR, FLOUR and EGGS. The texture of these cakes appears to have varied because almond cakes sometimes appear with a defining term similar to BISCUIT, hence 'Almond Bisk-Cakes'. One retailer advertised 'all Sorts of Massipains, Almond Cakes Almond Bisk-Cakes' [Tradecards (18c.)], suggesting that here at least a distinction was made.

The term was also applied to the by-product of OIL OF ALMONDS, namely the residues once OIL OF ALMONDS had been expressed. John Houghton noted for instance that 'the cakes of the sweet almonds, which are made by pressing the oil from them, are beaten to powder' that could be found among a lady's TOILET, and was often sold under the name of ALMOND POWDER. Powdered almond cakes were also used to make IPSWICH WATER.

OED earliest date of use: 1751

Simone Clarke

Sources: Houghton, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Holme (2000).

Almond milk

A preparation made with blanched SWEET ALMONDs and water. Early manuscripts indicate that almond milk was used by Christians as a substitute for MILK during fast days when dairy products were prohibited [Hess (1981)]. This became less important as concepts and traditions of fasting became more relaxed. However, almond milk continued in esteem for its medicinal virtues as an emollient. Randle Holme included it among his list of medicines, calling it in Latin 'Amigd. latum', and in English 'Artificiall milk', describing it as 'an emulsion of Almonds' [Holme (2000)]. John Gerard claimed it was 'good for those troubled with the laske and bloody flix' and for those that have pleurisie and spit vp filthy matter' [Gerard (1633, facs. 1975)].

OED earliest date of use: c1430

References: Gerard (1633, facs. 1975), Hess (1981), Holme (2000).

Almond paste

Although this term could have been used as a synonym of MARCHPANE or MARZIPAN as it is today, this is not how it was applied in the Dictionary Archive. Here it was invariably applied to a PASTE for applying to the hair, presumably made from and therefore smelling of ALMONDS. In one catalogue it was listed under COSMETICS [Tradecards (1794)].

OED earliest date of use: 1751 under Almond used in the modern sense as a foodstuff

Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.

Almond powder

[almond ditto]

Possibly at times this term could have been applied to what would now be called GROUND - ALMONDs, but that is not the meaning given to it in the Dictionary Archive. John Houghton suggested that it was a POWDER made from the residues left after almonds had been pressed to extract OIL OF ALMONDS, called ALMOND CAKE. It was used in TOILETRY, particularly as a HAIR POWDER, for example [Tradecards (18c.)]. In one catalogue, it was listed as 'every kind of plain and scented Brown and white Almond Powders' [Tradecards (1794)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as BROWN, PLAIN, scented, WHITE
Found imported by LB

Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.