Auger - Azure blue

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

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Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl, 'Auger - Azure blue', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online [accessed 12 June 2024].

Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl. "Auger - Azure blue", in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007) . British History Online, accessed June 12, 2024,

Cox, Nancy. Dannehl, Karin. "Auger - Azure blue", Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007). . British History Online. Web. 12 June 2024,

In this section


[noger; awger; aulger; augur; augre; augor; augger; augar; algare; agers]

A carpenter's TOOL for boring holes in wood, etc., having a long pointed shank with a cutting edge and a screw point, and a HANDLE fixed at right angles to the top of the shank, by means of which the tool is worked round with both hands. Randle Holme's description of it shows both the variation in size and scope, and the sheer effort required to work it when humans exerted the only force available. He wrote 'its office is to make great and round holes suitable to the rotundity of the Bit; and when it is used, the Stuff worked upon, is commonly laid below under you, or set equal to your Breast; that ones strength may be the easier used for the twisting the Bit about by the force of both hands. There are several sorts of them from a quarter of an Inch Bore, to 4, 5, or 6 inches in the Diameter, but big or little, their form and make is all one and the same' [Holme (2000)]. There was at least one attempt to apply water power to it in the patent for 'Raising water to great heights to bore timber with a wooden augur' [Patents (1642)].

It was one of the basic tools in any carpenter's tool chest and a list drawn up in the 1670s of equipment needed by a group of emigrants to America included two [Diaries (Josselyn)]. They were apparently made by a specialist, one of whom called himself an 'Auger and Edge Tool-maker' [Newspapers (1770)].

OED earliest date of use: c700

Found described as for carpenters 'of all sorts', OLD
Found in units of DOZEN Found rated by the GROSS

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

Augsburg fustian

[osbrow or augusta fustian; ausborow fustian]

A variety of FUSTIAN apparently distinctively seen as made at AUGSBURG, or in that style. Augsburg fustians were imported and rated up until 1660, but during the first half of the seventeenth century they were being made in Lancashire, and sometimes called 'English Osborrowes' [Kerridge (1985)].

Not found in the OED online

Found described as COLOURED, with SILK
Found in units of HALF PIECE, PIECE Found rated by the PIECE of two HALF PIECE

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


[awne; awme; awlme; aum; armes]

Known also as an 'Aam', this is a German and Dutch measure of capacity, probably 40 GALLON, and usually used for RHENISH WINE; equivalent to 4-4.5 ANKER.

OED earliest date of use: 1526

Found used for WINE

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


By the early modern period an illegal scale similar to a primitive STEELYARD. It consisted of a beam suspended or supported at a specified point near the end from which the goods to be weighed were hung, while along the graduated longer section of the beam an auncel weight was moved until an equilibrium was attained. It was easy for the weigher to cheat and difficult for the customer to check [Zupko (1968)].

OED earliest date of use: 1314

Sources: Acts.
References: Zupko (1968).


The auriculas of gardens are probably derived from two species, Primula auricula and Primula pubescens [Synge (1951, new ed.1956)]. The ones from the former, now called show auriculas are tender, usually bi-ennial, plants, characterized, under cultivation, by trusses of many blooms and a covering of a farina of white or grey. They have long been in cultivation and much admired, and for instance, John Houghton regarded them as one of 'our choicest flowers' along with ANENOME and RANUNCULUS [Houghton]. Competitions were held, sometimes offering large prizes. For example one held by the 'Friendly Society of Florists' in 1760 offered a GUINEA for the best auricula and 7s 6d for the best seedling [Newspapers (1760)]. Nursery men like James Smith advertised 'many choice sorts' of auriculas in 'all colours' [Tradecards (n.d.)], or offered seeds [Galpine (1983)]. As a result of their popularity, auriculas attracted the attention of thieves [Newspapers (1707)]; [Newspapers (1770)]. A maker of ARITIFICIAL FLOWERS of Bath, introduced her advertisement with a poem eulogising the artificial auricula [Tradecards (1765)].

OED earliest date of use: 1655

Sources: Houghton, Newspapers, Tradecards.
References: Galpine (1983), Synge (1951, new ed.1956).

Auriculae judae

The Latin name for the fungus called in English JEWS EARS.

Found in units of OZ Found rated by the POUND

Sources: Inventories (late), Rates.


[auripigment; auri pigment]

An alternative name for ORPIMENT, given because 'being broken it resembleth Gold for shining and colour' [Harley (1970)]. It is a bright YELLOW mineral, the trisulphide of ARSENIC, used by painters under the name of KINGS YELLOW. John Houghton described a method of making GREEN using this with INDIGO. He warned that auripigment did not tolerate grinding and must be prepared by being 'bruised and tempered' only [Houghton].

OED earliest date of use: 1398

Found used to dye PAPER yellow
Found in units of LB, OZ Found rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT, POUND, 112 POUND

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (mid-period), Rates.
References: Harley (1970).


Apparently a colour; found once in the Dictionary Archive as 'a peice of Aurora Satten 26 Y'rds at 01 17 00' [Inventories (1718)]. The OED defines it as the colour of the sky at dawn, a rich ORANGE.

OED earliest date of use: 1791

Sources: Inventories (late).

Aurum potablie

Aurum potabile, or in English GOLD - LIQUOR, was one of the new CHEMICAL PREPARATIONs that became fashionable in the mid-seventeenth century. It was a QUACK MEDICINE described by the OED as GOLD held in a state of minute sub-division in some VOLATILE OIL. The recipe was by no means standardized and some was made by dissolving the gold in AQUAFORTIS. Like the mythical Philosopher's Stone', aurum potabile was credited with being a 'Universal Remedy for all Diseases'. It was promoted, though not first made, by Alice, the widow of Nicholas Culpeper, who died in 1654. She claimed her version to be the outcome of 'Studies of Doctor Freeman and Doctor Culpeper' (a title he never claimed himself). It is clear, however, that he had had nothing to do with the potion itself, nor with the pamphlet 'Mr Culpepper's Treatise of aurum potabile' that appeared a few months later. Although Alice claimed it was made 'without any corrosive medicine to prepare it', this was untrue as she was one to use AQUAFORTIS to dissolve the gold. As Dr John Ward, said when he visited her, 'She was a very ingenious woman' and gifted with promotional skills if not with medical integrity [Woolley (2003)].

OED earliest date of use: 1644

See also EAU D'OR.
References: Woolley (2003).


[evignion; avinian; avillion; auignion]

A French town on the River Rhone, north-west of Marseilles. English Roman Catholic refugees brought the STOCKING FRAME here in the 1650s and introduced the art of manufacturing SILK STOCKINGS on it [Kerridge (1985)], but a distinctive SILK fabric seems to have been established there already, which has been noted occasionally in the shops during the second half of the seventeenth century. What distinguished this silk TEXTILE from the many others available at the time is not known.

Not found in the OED

Found describing SARSNET, SILK
Found in units of ELL, YARD

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).
References: Kerridge (1985).


[hab. de poiz; hab. de pois; avoirdupos; avoirdepois; averdupoize; averdupoise; averdupois]

OED suggests that 'Averdepois' may be more correct and it is certainly found as 'averdupois' in the Dictionary Archive.

The standard system of WEIGHTs used in Great Britain originally applied to all goods sold by weight rather han by capacity or by piece. By the sixteenth century at least, it was used for all such goods except the precious metals, PRECIOUS STONEs and MEDICINE, which were measured by TROY WEIGHT. The POUND in Avoirdupois consisted of 16 OUNCE, the least weight generally used on this scale, but it could be divided into 16 DRACHM or GRAIN [Zupko (1968)]. In the Dictionary Archive the term is uncommon, except in official documents such as Acts of Parliament and Books of Rates, but it has been noted occasionally in the shops to distinguish one set of weights from another as in '1 Qu'r of a hundred & 4 pound pile Averdupois' [Inventories (1716)]. Retailers of GROCERY in particular may have needed weights in two scales.

The introduction to the mid-eighteenth century Dispensatory of the Royal College of Physicians dwelt at length on the problems associated with the different systems of weights in use. It noted that 'as the druggists and grocers sell by the Avoirdepois weight, few apothecaries keep weights adjusted to the Troy pound greater than two drams' [Pemberton (1746)].

OED earliest date of use: 1300

Found describing WEIGHT

Sources: Acts, Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.
References: Pemberton (1746), Zupko (1968).


Found in other sources as 'Aubrahs', it is a COTTON -TEXTILE imported from Bengal and included by Milburn in his list of INDIAN - PIECE GOODS [Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996)]. It was defined as a MUSLIN in 1700 [Acts (1700)]. It has only been noted the once in the Dictionary Archive, and if and when it was sold in the shops, it was probably termed a 'muslin'.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Acts.
References: Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996), .


[ull; nalle; awll; awle; aull; aule; aul; alle; all; all; ale]

A small hand TOOL, having a slender, cylindrical, tapering blade, with which holes may be pierced, especially the type used by SHOEmakers; a PIERCER, pricker, BODKIN. Awls varied according to intended use. One tradesman had awls defined by two cities, LONDON and SHEFFIELD, both centres of CUTLERY manufacture as well as what were designated 'ffeld Aules'. Those from Sheffield were valued least, with London the highest [Inventories (1690)].

Awls were made of two components, a metal AWL BLADE and a wooden AWL HAFT. The two were made by separate craftsmen and apparently often sold separately.

OED earliest date of use: c885

Found described as Field, LONDON, SHEFFIELD, SHOE, Shoemakers
Found in units of DOZEN, GROSS

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

Awl blade

[nalle blade; blades for aules; awle blade; awl-blade; aull blade; aule-blade; auleblade; aule blade; aulblade; aul blad; alle blade; allblad; all_; all blad; ale blad; alblade; alblad]

The metal blade of an AWL, and made by a specialist metal worker. It was sometimes sold before the handle or AWL HAFT was fitted.

Not found in the OED online

Found described as LONDON, SQUARE
Found in units of C, DOZEN, GROSS Found rated by the 1000, M

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

Awl haft

[hafts for aules; awll haft; awl-blades & hafts; awl hafts; aull halft; aule haft; aul haft; all hafte; alhaft; alhaffete; ale hafte]

The handle of an AWL, made separately from the AWL BLADE, and sometimes sold before the blade was fitted, as in '1 Gro: of Aul hafts' [Inventories (1690)].

Not found in the OED

Found in units of DOZEN, GROSS Found rated by the 1000, M

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



A TOOL or instrument for hewing, cleaving or chopping trees, WOOD, ice etc. It was also called a HATCHET, especially when of smaller or lighter make. In the Dictionary Archive the two seem generally to have been distinguished, as in '2 Doz: and ½ hatchets and two axes' [Inventories (1729)]. Unlike other tools, such as the AWL, the two components of the axe, the AXE HEAD and the HANDLE, were rarely recorded separately in the Dictionary Archive. The 'Axe halms' listed in the stock of a Carpenter [Inventories (1679)] is the only example of the latter noted separately.

OED earliest date of use: c1000

Found described as COAL, OLD
Found in units of DOZEN Found rated by the DOZEN Found under 'Iron wrought' rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT of 112 LB

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

Axe head


The head of an AXE, usually made of IRON, its shape depending on the purpose for which it was designed. Unlike other tools like the AWL, the components of an axe were rarely listed; in the case of the axe head only after 1700, despite the fact that they must have been made by a craftsman different from that who made the axe handle, which has only been noted once.

OED earliest date of use: 1611 under Axe

Found described as SMALL

Sources: Inventories (late).

Axle pulley

[axle pullies]

Presumably a PULLEY, with a fixed axle or spindle, that could be set in WINDLASS or a BLOCK or the like, to make the whole more efficient.

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Tradecards.

Axle tree

[axtree; axle-tree; axletree; axeltree; axeltre; axell tree; axaltree; ax tree]

Also more rarely called ax tree, the term nowadays is applied to the fixed bar or beam of WOOD on the rounded ends of which the opposite WHEELs of a vehicle revolve. This was the original sense, and it can be deduced that the '60 Axtrees' found listed among the stock of a Wheelwright were of this type [Inventories (1730)]. But in the Dictionary Archive the term is more often found applied to the axle tree of a GRINDSTONE, particularly one used by a cutler or the like as a Cutler's 'two Axeltrees 1 grinding stone one band' [Inventories (1691)], or a GUNsmith's 'Two old Grind stones & troughs with the Axaltree & Handles' [Inventories (1750)]. However, the use to which most axle trees listed in the Dictionary Archive is unidentifiable from the context.

OED earliest date of use: a1300

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

Azimuth compass

A minutely divided mariner's COMPASS, fitted with vertical sights used for taking the magnetic azimuth of the sun or a heavenly body.

OED earliest date of use: 1697

Sources: Patents.



A bright blue PIGMENT or dye; also elliptically a TEXTILE dyed this colour. A CLOTH of this colour was made in Somerset, Wiltshire, and/or Gloucstershire. It was apparently obsolete by c1600. A similar cloth was made in Suffolk, where azures were lighter in colour than BLUES, but darker than WATCHET, PLUNKET and huling [Kerridge (1985)]. Like plunket, which it closely resembled, the manufacture of azure was closely regulated by 5 & 6 EDW6 C6, which enacted among other provisions that 'all broad Plunkets, Azures, Blues and other coloured Cloth ... made within ... Wilts, Gloucester or Somerset', were to be in length 25 -28 YARD, and in width seven quarters or 63 INCH 'within the Lists', being 'well scoured, thicked, milled and fully dried', and with a weight per PIECE of more than 68 LB. The clothiers complained that they were finding it difficult to conform to both weight and width, and the latter was repealed [Acts (1593)].

OED earliest date of use: 1552

See also AZURE BLUE.
Sources: Acts, Diaries.
References: Kerridge (1985).

Azure blue

[azurre blue; assoe blewe]

The OED suggests it was a synonym for LAPIS LAZULI, and it may have been at times, but in the Dictionary Archive it was valued too low to be the semi-precious stone. Harley writes that it was probably BLUE BICE, sometimes in the seventeenth century an alternative name for LAPIS armenicus from which it was made [Harley (1970)]. On the other hand, Rees gave it as an alternative name for SMALT that has been finely powdered [Rees (1819-20, 1972 ed.)]. This would give a rather pale blue compared with that more coarsely ground, and would have been less esteemed. It seems to be the most likely meaning for that found in the Dictionary Archive.

The term was also used as an abbreviation of a TEXTILE of this colour, more frequently labelled merely as AZURE.

Not found in the OED in either of these senses

Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Harley (1970), Rees (1819-20, abridged 1972).