Board nail - Bone comb

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

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

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

Cox, Nancy. Dannehl, Karin. "Board nail - Bone comb", Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007). . British History Online. Web. 16 June 2024,

In this section

Board nail

[borde nayle; borde naile; bord naylle; bord nayle]

The OED suggests a SPIKE or large BRAD. Presumably, given its name, it was mainly used to nail down BOARD. However, Randle Holme included it among the nails that had heads [Holme (2000)], which a brad does not really have.

OED earliest date of use: 1866 under Board

Found in units of C, SCORE

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

Boars head

[boars' head]

The head of a wild BOAR, and by the late eighteenth century Warner could write 'One of the favorite ornaments of the board, particularly at Christmas, was the head of a boar, which was served up with every circumstance of pompous ceremony' [Warner (1791)]. It was always a dish for high society, and may have been intended primarily for display. A method of preparing it has not been noted in the cookery books. However, in the second half of the eighteenth century, some of the more fashionable London retailers of luxury foods were importing boars heads from Germany, already processed in such a way that they would keep. Both BURGESS and Skill, who seems to have used the same publicity, possibly from the same importer, claimed a boars head was 'of the True Epicurean Flavour' and 'the richest Delicacy that can be produced for a large Company, or a standing Dish for the Side-board' [Tradecards (18c.)]; [Tradecards (1800)]. Their advertisements suggest it was not intended for consumption, only for display.

Richard Bradley included a recipe 'To dress a Hog's Head, in imitation of the Jole of a wild Boar' in his 'Country Housewife'. It invloved boning the head then reshaping it and boiling it with WINE and spices for up to eight hours. He suggested serving it cold 'either whole or in slices' [Bradley (1736, facs. 1980)]. Clearly this dish was intended for consumption.

OED earliest date of use: 1820

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Bradley (1736, facs. 1980), Warner (1791).


[bolus; boale]

The name of several kinds of fine, compact, earthy, or unctuous CLAY, usually of a yellow, red or brown colour due to the presence of iron oxide. The distinction between bole and EARTH seems to have lain only in the fact that the former term was applied largely to medicinal products, while the latter term usually referred to PIGMENTs. The medicinal uses of bole are indicated by the more common Latin forms, BOLUS COMMUNIS or BOLUS VERUS.

OED earliest date of use: 1641

Found described as COARSE, MIDDLE
In the Rate Books: Found to include BOLUS VERUS or FINE BOLE rated by the POUND Found also to include BOLUS COMMUNIS (i.e. COMMON BOLE) or BOLE ARMENIAC rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT

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

Bole armeniac

[pole armanicke; bowle armoniack; bowle armericke; boule alminicke; boule alminack; bolus-communis or armoniacus; bolus communis, or armoniacus; bollarmoniake; boll armorick; boleus armenus; bolearmorick; bolearmonicke; bolearmoniack; bole-armoniac; bolearmoneack; bolearmonaicke; bolearmenak; bolearme nicke; bole arnimake; bole armoricke; bole armonyack; bole armonick; bole armoniack; bole armoniac; bole armereck; bole armenic; bole armanicke; bole armanick; bole ar moniacke; bole ar; bole almonak; bole almonacke; bole alminicke; bole almenacke; bole almanake; bole almanacke; bole almanack; bol alminack; boalminack; boale allm'; boalalmanacke; boal allmeneck; ballarmerick]

An astringent BOLE or earth brought from Armenia, and formerly used as an antidote and styptic. It seems to have been more or less a synonym for BOLUS COMMUNIS or COMMON BOLE. It was used in HOME MADE recipes for tooth care, probably as a filler or for its mildly abrasive properties, and in many medicinal preparations.It was valued very cheaply, at best at only a few pence a pound. Because of the similarity in name with AMMONIAC it was commonly termed 'Bole ammoniac' or some variant on that. It is possibly this confusion that led to the inclusion of both 'Bole Armoniack the C containing v.xx xii li.' rated at 20s and 'Boleus Armenus the pound' rated at 12d [Rates (1582)]. They were almost certainly the same product, possibly imported by different merchants.

OED earliest date of use: c1386

Found described as ORDINARY Found as an ingredient in VENICE TREACLE, wash for the teeth
Found in units of LB, OZ, PARCEL, POUND Found rated by the C of 112 LB, HUNDREDWEIGHT of 112 POUND, POUND

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


[bowlter; bowlster; bouster; boulst'r; boulstorn; boulstere; boulster; boulste'; boulstare; boulester; bolst'r; bolstr; bolstor; bolstewer; bolstere; bolstare; bolstar; bolst; bollster; bolester; boalster]

A term with a great many applications, some but not all of which are found in the Dictionary Archive. It was most commonly used there as a piece of BEDDING in the form of a long, stuffed PILLOW or CUSHION used to support the sleeper's head on a BED. The name is now restricted to the under pillow, stuffed with something firm on which the softer and flatter pillows are laid. In the sixteenth century bolsters were probably softer than they are today [Acts (1562)]. Inventories suggest this remained true throughout the period, although some beds were latterly furnished with both bolsters and pillows. However, the former remained the most common support for the head and is often found on its own.

Bolsters are sometimes confusingly described, often apparently conflated with the bed on which they lay so that it appears as if there was a term 'bed bolster'. The contexts of examples in the Dictionary Archive suggest this was not the case. For example, '1 bed bolster qt 72 li att 4' [Inventories (1689)] should more fully be written as '1 bed and bolster together weighing 72 LB at 4d LB'. Bolster on their own usually weighed 15 LB or less.

Like a bed, the bolster consisted of two parts; the outer casing, usually composed of the tightly woven BED TICK or BOLSTERING, and the stuffing of FEATHERS, FLOCKS, STRAW or CHAFF. It is this two-part composition that could give rise to entries like 'one emptie bolster' [Inventories (1671)]. An eighteenth-century advertisement indicates how at least some were made; 'very fine West-Country Ticking, ready fill'd with Lincolnshire live Feathers, with all the Down, in a neat Bed and Bolster' for £3 3s per Bed [Newspapers (1760)]. This advertisement illustrates how complex the market could be even for a utilitarian piece of BEDDING with the ticking coming from the West Country and the feathers from Lincolnshire on the other side of England. One example suggests that about 3¾ YARD of NARROW - TICKING was needed to make the average sized bolster [Diaries (Stapley)], although other examples suggest considerably more [Inventories (1707)]. In any case the bolster would have been as long as the width of the bed on which it was placed, so the material required would obviously have varied. Occasional examples gave the length as in 'iij v quarter bolstar' [Inventories (1544)] (five quarter YARD or 54 INCH) and 'one seauen qtr holland boulster' [Inventories (1674)] (81 INCH).

'Bolster' also had various meanings in metal working, in particular as a metal plate or BLOCK on which working can take place with a TOOL like a MANDREL or PUNCH; hence entries like the 'tongs pinchers mandrills bolsters naile tooles wayinge 1 C 0 qu 0 li at xxvs' belonging to a blacksmith [Inventories (1667)], or the 'Cast Iron Bolster with Holes' valued at 10s belonging to a brass founder [Inventories (1799)]. The '5 dozen of guilded boulsters' valued at 5s found among the hafts in the stock of a cutler were presumably the shaped pieces of gilded metal that protected the junction of the HAFT to the blade [Inventories (1622)]. Other meanings are given in the OED but do not appear in the Dictionary Archive.

OED earliest date of use as Bedding: c1000

As bedding: Found described as CRADLE, LITTLE, LONG, NEW, OLD, ROUND, SHORT, SMALL, unfilled Found stuffed with CHAFF, FEATHERS, FLOCKS, STRAW, WOOL Found made of BROWN - TICK, FLANDERS - TICKING, TICK Found weighed by LB, STONE
As a TOOL: Found made of CAST IRON, IRON

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

Bolster case

[boulster case; boulstar case; bolst'r case; bolster-case; bolstar case]

A removable case, similar to a PILLOW CASE, for fitting over a BOLSTER.

Not found in the OED

Found described as COARSE
Found in units of DOZEN

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

Bolster cover

Probably an alternative name for a BOLSTER CASE, but it could have been a small piece of LINEN CLOTH designed to wrap round or to cover a BOLSTER.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Bolster drawer

[boulester draure]

Wright suggests a PILLOW CASE, but it seems more logical to assume it was a BOLSTER CASE [Wright (1898-1905)], particularly as bolster drawers were listed with pillow cases in the only example in the Dictionary Archive [Inventories (1700)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Wright (1898-1905).

Bolster tick

[boulster tick; bolstertick; bolster ticken; bolster d'o]

A closely woven TEXTILE, a TICK, narrower than usual for making a BOLSTER. The '5 peices of half yard Boulster tick' listed among the stock of one retailer indicate what may have been a typical width [Inventories (1706)]. Boulster tick may also have been the label for the casing into which the stuffing was put before sewing up to make a bolster. This would most often probably have been made of tick, but the not uncommon association of boulster tick and FUSTIAN, as in 'bolstering and ffustian' [Inventories (1694)], suggests the latter may also have been used on occasion. Like many textiles, bolster tick came in the whole PIECE or the half, in which case it would have been designated as END, as in '1 bolster end' [Inventories (1707)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as DOUBLE, SINGLE
Found in units of PIECE, YARD

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (late).

Bolster wood

The only example in the Dictionary Archive of bolster wood appears among the stock of a BELLOWS maker [Inventories (1702)]. Probably it was the WOOD used to make the upper and lower BELLOWS BOARDs.

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Inventories (late).


[boulstertige; boulesteed]

Probably a synonym for BOLSTER TICK, used for making a BOLSTER. The term was sometimes abbreviated to 'Bolster'.

Not found in the OED in this sense

Found in units of YARD

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

Bolstering iron

A TOOL used by saddlers, HARNESS makers or BRIDLE makers, although its precise function is now unclear. It is not found in the dictionaries and only appears once in the Dictionary Archive in a list of tools that could be exported. Presumably it was considered that export would be unlikely to affect British industry so each was probably a simple and well-established TOOL [Acts (1786)]. A bolstering iron does not feature in Salaman's 'Dictionary of Leather Working Tools', at least under this name [Salaman (1986)].

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Acts.
References: Salaman (1986).


A term with two meanings, one in English, the other in Latin. In English a bolus was a MEDICINE, in size larger than a PILL but intended to be swallowed like one.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1603

The term was also used as the Latin equivalent of BOLE, meaning a kind of CLAY.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1682

Found described as 'isti' (probably 'usti' is meant, i.e. BURNT)

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Bolus communis

The Latin form of COMMON BOLE, also known as BOLE ARMENIAC. The use of Latin indicates its medicinal use.

Not found in the OED

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

Bolus verus

The Latin (and much more common) form of the true or FINE BOLE. The use of Latin indicates its medicinal use.

Not found in the OED

See also FINE BOLE.
Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.



Also bumbast. From the fourteenth century, it was applied only to the silk-worm and SILK, but it was transferred in the mid-sixteenth century to COTTON WOOL, called by one writer, 'sylke of the trees'. When first imported, bombast was used primarily as padding, to shape a garment such as a DOUBLET, HOSE, or COAT, etc. It is for this purpose, presumably, that bombast has been noted occasionally in the shops at valuations ranging from 8d to 10d the pound. By the end of the century, cotton wool seems to have become the preferred term.

The label was transferred to a cotton TEXTILE, but as such it was rare. All the reference to bombast in the Dictionary Archive, no matter in what form, come from the sixteenth century, except for a single reference to bombast seed, that is COTTON SEED recorded in the seventeenth century.

OED first date of use: 1565

Found measured in the shops by LB, POUND

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period).
References: Wilhelmsen (1943), 22.


Note that the terms, bond and BAND were virtually interchangeable.

A legal term that had several meanings. The most common meaning in English law was for a deed whereby an obligor binds himself, his heirs, executors and assigns to pay a certain sum of money to an obligee, usually by a certain date and/or at a certain place. If payment were made, then the bond fell void. Bonds of this sort had an exchange value that approached the agreed sum more nearly as the date of payment approached. Bonds given by reputable traders were also likely to fetch a higher exchange value, as were those issued in London.

A different type of bond found among some probate documents, was a tuition bond appointing a guardian for an orphan.

The term 'In bond' was applied to goods, on which custom duties were due but not yet paid, held in a 'Bonded Warehouse' for the importer by customs officials until such time as the duty was paid or (if applicable) re-exported.

OED earliest date of use: 1592


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

Bone ash

The mineral residue of BONE burnt in contact with air, being a white, porous and friable substance, composed chiefly of phosphate of LIME. It was used 'to improve land' and by 'the refiner to make his copels with' [Houghton], that is his cupels, or small porous dishes used in assaying GOLD and SILVER.

OED earliest date of use: 1622

See also ASHES.
Sources: Houghton.

Bone comb

[combes of wood bone or horne; boone combe; bone combe; boan comb]

In the seventeenth century at least, bone combs were 'made of the shank bones of horses and other large beasts' [Holme (2000)] and they are found in shops valued by weight rather than by unit, for example [Inventories (1583)]. One record of a retailer's stock suggests the bone comb was valued much more highly than the HORN COMB, respectively at 5s and 18d for nine combs [Inventories (1642)]. However, wide variations in valuations have been noted from 14s down to 5s LB, and from about 9d down to 2d each. One valuation of 'white bone combs' of only 8d DOZEN [Inventories (1680)], probably referred to a type of HORSE COMB called a WHITE COMB, which may explain a much lower valuation.

Not found usefully in the OED online

Found in units of DOZEN, LB, OUNCE Found rated by the POUND

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.
References: Holme (2000).