Case ginger - Cayenne vinegar

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

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Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl, 'Case ginger - Cayenne vinegar', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online [accessed 20 June 2024].

Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl. "Case ginger - Cayenne vinegar", in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007) . British History Online, accessed June 20, 2024,

Cox, Nancy. Dannehl, Karin. "Case ginger - Cayenne vinegar", Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007). . British History Online. Web. 20 June 2024,

In this section

Case ginger

[casse ginger]

Case GINGER is not a term found in the dictionaries, though other SPICEs like CASE NUTMEG and CASE PEPPER are and may help towards deducing the meaning. Probably it is an uncommon synonym for BLACK GINGER or WHOLE GINGER, that is the rhizome of ginger before the skin has been scraped off. In modern times, ginger is classed as either 'coated' or 'uncoated' [Simmonds (1906)], and it seems likely that the former could once have been termed as still in its 'case'.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Simmonds (1906).

Case trencher

[casse trencher; case trench'r]

A TRENCHER designed to fit into a CASE, as in 'one case and a dosen of ffyne trenchers' [Inventories (1555)], and 'a dosen of trenchers wth the case' [Inventories (1607)]. The entry 'case trench'rs & ij dose of trench'rs' suggests that they were regarded as different from ordinary trenchers [Inventories (1591)].

Not found in the OED

Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (early).


Currently they are no clues to its identity, though it may be a scribal error for SARSAPARILLA. This was regularly rated by the LB from 1657 [Acts (1657)] under DRUGS.

Not found in the OED

Found imported by the LB

Sources: Houghton.


The cashew tree (ANARCARDIUM occidentale) is cultivated in the West Indies and other tropical countries. It bears a fruit, the cashew nut or ANACARD, placed on the end of a thickened, fleshy, pear shaped receptacle popularly taken to be the fruit. The middle shell of the nut produces an extremely acrid black OIL, while the nut itself gives a milky exudation used in the nineteenth century in VARNISH and to flavour MADEIRA and CHOCOLATE [Slater (1907)]. It is not clear whether it is either of these products that were referred to in [Acts (1790)] as CASHEW gum, or whether there is a GUM exuded from the tree itself. Whatever it was, the gum was apparently used in a way comparable with that of using GUM ARABIC and GUM SENEGAL.

OED earliest date of use: 1703

Sources: Acts.
References: Slater (1907).


In an early eighteenth-century act, it was included among the DRUGS declared to be unrated, of which some were medicinal and others DYESTUFFs [Acts (1704)]. This could account for its absence from the subsequent Books of Rates. There are no further clues as to its identity.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of LB

Sources: Acts.


[casumunar; cassuminar]

The tuberous root of an East Indian plant (apparently Curcuma aromatica). It is warm, bitter and aromatic, and smells like GINGER. It was supposedly used in hysterical, epylectic and paralyctic disorders, but its presence has not been noted in the shops.

OED earliest date of use: 1679

Found describing RADIX
Found among the DRUGS, rated by the POUND

See also ZEODARY.
Sources: Rates.


A term with several meanings only some of them pertinent to this Dictionary. It was applied to objects that had been made by pouring molten METAL into a MOULD [CAST WARE] as opposed to those made by hammering into shape [BATTERY]. Although there were some objects that were almost invariably cast, like the BRASS POT and the IRON POT, and others, like the FRYING PAN usually made by BATTERY, yet others were made by either method of fabrication. Since the term 'cast' was used at one time or another for almost any metal object, or inferred when not explicitly stated, no attempt has been made to compile a complete list of them here.

'Cast' was also a variable unit of measure used among other products for FISH and for EATHENWARE; for which it probably contained three EARTHEN POTs [Rates (1582)]. A related meaning is given in the OED as the amount of CLAY used to make a certain number of FLOWER POTs. The compilers of [Inventories (1690)] were probably using the term in this sense, listing among others casts of blue pots and blue jugs, as well as of GREAT WARE and SMALL WARE. [Inventories (1569)] is an example of the term used to denote a quantity of FISH, listing '123 cast of STOCKFISH' valued at 40s. The OED has quotations suggesting the cast may have contained three or four fish, or as many as could be held in one hand.

In one act of parliament the term 'cast' seems to have been applied to the BILLET of wood, used as fuel; a billet of one cast having a circumference of 10 INCH, and of two 14 INCH [Acts (1553)].

Found describing metal, BACK, COPPER, FURNACE, IRON BOWK, LEAD
As a unit of measure: Found used for imported STONE POTs

Sources: Acts, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Rates.

Casting trough

[casting trow]

A casting trough was probably a large TROUGH filled with SAND in which small items made of BRASS could be cast using the 'Casting Moults' listed with it among the equipment of a Brass founder [Inventories (1703)]. It probably severd the same function as the 'Sand Trough' valued at 10s owned by another founder [Inventories (1733)]. A clockmaker has also been noted with a sand trough [Inventories (1734)].

Two 'cast troughs' have also been noted, but their contexts do not suggest they were the same; the one owned by a Mercer [Inventories (1628)], the other by a Grocer [Inventories (1716)]. It is not known what these were for.

Earliest date of use in the OED online: 1980 under Moulage

Sources: Inventories (late).



The term 'caster', which is separate entry in the OED, seems to have been used interchangeably with 'castor' in the Dictionary Archive. The two terms are therefore discussed together, with 'caster' treated as a variant form of castor.

Castor was a term with several meanings and two of the most important were derived from the Latin term for BEAVER. This was still used to some extent during the early-modern period, but mostly for the processed products of the beaver, the 'castor HAT' and the material extracted from the scent gland, CASTOREUM, used medicinally.

The HAT, sometimes called a Castor hat was, as its name suggests, originally made of BEAVER WOOL, or was intended to be taken as such, but by the end of the seventeenth century or the beginning of the eighteenth, it was more often made with CONY WOOL mixed with POLONIA WOOL, while the genuine hat made of beaver wool was called a BEAVER.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1398

Three other uses of the term superficially appear to be entirely distinct, both from the meaning discussed above, and from each other. However, the OED suggests that the three below were derived from the verb 'cast' in the sense of 'to throw out' or to 'veer'. In this sense, 'castor' was a label given to a small vessel with a perforated top, from which to cast or sprinkle FLOUR, PEPPER, SUGAR, etc., extended to other vessels used to contain condiments at table, as in 'a set of Castors'.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1676

The second related label was given to a small, solid wheel attached to a swivel and designed to be affixed to each leg of a piece of FURNITURE so that it can be moved more easily. Since this type of castor was also sold and used in a SET, it may be confused with the castor as a sprinkler unless due attention is paid to the context.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1745

The third and earliest, and the least common use of this label is for a small CLOAK or some such item of APPAREL. It has been noted only once in the Dictionary Archive in the entry listing '5 Casters' along with PARTLETs, KERCHIEFs, and an APRON [Inventories (1546)].

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1567 under Caster

As CASTOREUM: Found described as ENGLISH Found in form of SPIRIT Found in units of LB
As a sprinkler: Found used for PEPPER, SUGAR Found made of BRASS, PEWTER, SILVER
As a small WHEEL: Found described as BED, FRENCH
Found in units of SET

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

Castor oil


The origin of the name is obscure, but it may derive from CASTOR in that the use of it replaced OIL of CASTOR in midwifery. It is a pale yellow OIL obtained from the seeds of Ricinus communis or Palma Christi, having a nauseous, slightly acrid taste, and used in medicine as a purgative, or as LAMP OIL. From the seeds is now derived the deadly poison 'ricin'; even the oil is clearly somewhat toxic since it is not tolerated as a laxative by all stomachs. The fact that it was rated by the GALLON in 1784 rather than by the usual apothecarial measure of LB, suggests it may have been intended for lamps, although the OED states it was not so used in this country.

OED earliest date of use: 1746

Found rated by the GALLON

Sources: Rates.

Castor water

Water of CASTOR or AQUA castorei, was one of the medicinal waters that survived the mid-eighteenth century purge by the College of Physicians. It was a distillation of RUSSIAN CASTOR in sufficient water to prevent it burning [Pemberton (1746)].

Not found in the OED

Found included among COMPOUND WATERS

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


[costorum; castrum; castoru'; castorium; castoreu'; castorea; castaru']

A reddish-brown unctuous substance, having a strong smell and nauseous bitter taste, obtained from two sacs in the inguinal region of the BEAVER; used in medicine and perfumery. It has been referred to also as a medicinal OIL in Latin as 'oleu' castaru'' [Inventories (1624)].

OED earliest date of use: 1585

Found in units of LB, OZ Found among the DRUGS, rated by the POUND

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



Although the cat must have been a frequent inhabitant of the domestic house, the direct evidence for this is very thin. The regulations did not require cats to be listed in probate inventories, and they almost never were. Cats then as now were most often acquired by other means than through purchase; witness Pepys's 'boy' who took one 'home with him from my Lord's which Sarah had given him for my wife, we being much troubled with mice' [Diaries (Pepys)]. The only other clues are afforded either by the occasional reference to cats' skins used as FURS, in one case specifically taken from 'tame' cats [Inventories (1620)] or in such sources as nursery rhymes.

An advertisement for RAT POISON has an interesting addendum that throws light on the ubiquity of cats and on problems of safe pest control, when it was claimed that rats would take it 'in preference to all other food, and yet no Cat will touch it' [Newspapers (1790)].

OED earliest date of use: 800

Found described as tame, wild

Sources: Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Newspapers, Rates.

Cat skin

A SKIN from a CAT, either wild or tame. Cat skins were used as a cheap FUR. Some were probably obtained in this country, but, if the Books of Rates are anything to go by, others were imported. The term was often abbreviated to CAT as in '1 dozen of wildcatts' and 'Tame Catts' [Inventories (1620)]. The former were much more valuable. Apparently the cats head was used separately as in 'A face of Reddcatts' [Inventories (1581)].

Not found in the OED

Found described as from Tame and Wild cats, UNDRESSED
Found in units of DOZEN Found rated by the C of 120, HUNDRED of five SCORE

Sources: Inventories (early), Rates.


[catt calle]

A squeaking instrument, or a kind of WHISTLE that made a noise supposedly like a CAT. It was used especially in play houses to express impatience or disapprobation. It was not a common TOY, though Samuel Pepys bought one just before the return of King Charles II. Surprisingly, among all the many TOYs listed in some of the lengthy eighteenth-century catalogues such as Bettisons, catcalls do not appear [Tradecards (1794)].

OED earliest date of use: 1659-60

Found described as BLACK Found among other WHISTLEs
Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).


[catt gut; catgutt]

The dried and twisted intestines of SHEEP, also of the HORSE and the ASS were used for the strings of some MUSICAL INSTRUMENTs, as well as for bands in CLOCKs, LATHEs, etc. So far as the name can be traced back, it distinctly means guts or intestines of the cat, though it is not known that these were ever used for these purposes. In the Dictionary Archive catgut was also used to make WHIPs [Inventories (1671)].

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1599

The term was also used to label a TEXTILE or textiles. The OED suggests it was a coarse fabric formed of thick CORD, woven widely and used in the eighteenth century for lining and stiffening articles of APPAREL, particularly the skirts and sleeves of a COAT, or used for coarse HANDKERCHIEFs.

Montgomery defines two distinct fabrics, catgut itself and catgut GAUZE. Her evidence suggest that the former was an open LINEN CLOTH or COTTON CLOTH of plain weave in which both the warp and the weft were twisted and stiffened. This was used in EMBROIDERY. Catgut gauze was a distinct form of gauze weaving to produce a fabric suitable for stiffening and for providing the foundation for a BONNET. In the Dictionary Archive it is found in association with both gauze and handkerchiefs, though not as the fabric used to make them [Inventories (1766)]. Catgut was usually valued at about 12d the YARD.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1731

Generally there should be no difficulty in distinguishing the two distinct products, but the two textiles are less easily differentiated.

Found described as PARIS
Found in units of YARD

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Tradecards.
References: Montgomery (1985), 193.


A VEGETABLE, one of the cultivated varieties of CABBAGE, the young inflorescences of which form a close fleshy white edible head. The cauliflower was introduced to British culinary culture by French and Italian merchants during the Elizabethan period and soon became popular [Wilson (1973)]. It was cooked by boiling, frying, pickling and was an ingredient of POTTAGE and RAGOUT [Evelyn (1699, new ed. 1996)]. It appears in trade records as PICKLE and in the form of SEED, sold by specialist seed merchants.

OED earliest date of use: 1597

Simone Clarke

Found described as Early, Late

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Evelyn (1699, new ed. 1996), Wilson (1973).


[caviare; caveare; cavear]

The roe of the STURGEON or other large FISH from lakes and rivers of eastern Europe, pressed and salted, and eaten as a RELISH. One method of processing was described by John Houghton. The female roes were washed in Vinegar or WINE, then dried and salted before being 'pressed in a fine bag, that the liquor may run out; after which they are cask'd up in a vessel with a hole at bottom, that if there be any moisture left, it may run out; and then being well press'd and covered, 'tis sent away' [Houghton]. Martha Bradley gave a slightly different method by which the full roe of the female FISH was beaten flat, sprinkled with SALT and dried in the sun. When half dry it was formed into cakes and dried in ovens, before export. She said the market in MOSCOW was controlled by Italiam merchants. Most came to England through Archangel, but much was re-exported [Bradley (1756 facs.1996)]. It was then as now a luxury, and has not been noted in the shops, although RUSSIA caviar' was advertised by up-market retailers [for example LY17--BRG&].

OED earliest date of use: 1591

Simone Clarke

Found described as PICKLED, PRUSSIA, RUSSIA
Found rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT of 112 LB, POUND

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Rates, Tradecards.
References: Bradley (1756, facs. 1996).


Cavice appears to have been a fashionable sauce referred to in late eighteenth-century promotional literature. It was invariably listed along with KETCHUP or other 'rich sauces', but no other details of composition or use are given, suggesting it was too well known to need this. It was perhaps the same as 'caveach', which the OED said was a West Indian term for MACKEREL spiced and salted, fried in SWEET OIL, then placed in VINEGAR with a protective layer of oil on top. One cookery writer wrote that mackerel thus prepared were 'very delicious, and if well covered, they will keep a long time' [Collingwood and Woollams (1792)].

Not found in the OED as cavice; earliest date of use for caveach: 1822 as a product; 1750 as a method of cooking

Found in units of BOTTLE, CASE

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Collingwood and Woollams (1792).


[quartr pin; quarterne pin; kokin; gawk pin; cowk pin; cawkin pin; caukin pin; cau'in pin]

Although in literary contexts, 'Corking pin' seems to have been the preferred term, in trade, versions such as 'Cawkin', 'Cawking pin' or 'Calkin' were more common. However, the name was exceptionably variable, and some doubtful versions such as 'Quartern pin' have been found in the Dictionary Archive [Inventories (1613)]; [Inventories (1619)].

Cawkins or cawking pins were the largest size of PINS, at the opposite end of the sizing spectrum to the LILLIKIN. Since pins were made in standard numbered sizes, the term was fairly uncommon, most listings instead using the numeric system. Precisely how cawkins fitted into it, however, is not clear. In the 'Case or Petition of Pinmakers' of c1690 the alternative name of 'double long whites' was given [OED, Corking pin].

OED earliest date of use: 1690 under Corking

Found described as DOUBLE
Found in units of DOZEN, M, PACKET, PAPER

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


[kyan; kayan]

Cayenne was the name given to the several varieties of CAPSICUM, especially Capsicum annuum and Capsicum frutiscens (CAYENNE PEPPER). Capsicums are found widely in the warmer parts of the world, particularly in South America, hence its alternative and more common name GUINEA PEPPER. The flavour of cayenne lies in its oil and a resin, which are readily removed by exposure to damp or to heat and, as a result, cayenne easily loses its pungency. Even so, cayenne was widely esteemed; it made one of the six major foreign PICKLEs according to Martha Bradley [Bradley (1756 facs.1996)]. Apart from its use as CAYENNE PEPPER, the pods were pickled, made in to CAYENNE VINEGAR and used to produce an ESSENCE. In medicine it was deemed a stimulant.

OED earliest date of use: 1756

See also CHILLI.
Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.
References: Bradley (1756, facs. 1996).

Cayenne pepper

[kyan pepper; kayan pepper]

A very pungent powder obtained from the dried and ground pods and seeds of various species of Capsicum, especially Capsicum annuum and frutescens. Martha Bradley believed that the taste for it was brought to America by the negro slaves and 'they shewed our people the Way in America, and they have taught us' [Bradley (1756 facs.1996)]. Although some cayenne was sold plain, she claimed that 'Some mix Bay Salt with it, and others Powder of dry'd Mushrooms', particularly when made from the less pungent plants grown in this country, thus making it 'a very mild and pretty Kind' [Bradley (1756 facs.1996)]. Bradley warned of adulteration, and Frederick Accum spelt it out. It was dangerously mixed with RED LEAD, which preserved the colour if the cayenne had become bleached on exposure to light. He suggested that only English chillies be used as 'there is no other way of being sure it is genuine', and a hundred chillies, so his claim, would give 2 OZ of the pepper [Accum (1820)].

Found described as FINE, GENUINE
Found in units of OZ

Sources: Newspapers, Tradecards.
References: Accum (1820), Bradley (1756, facs. 1996).

Cayenne vinegar

A hot spiced VINEGAR. Burgess claimed that its alternative name was 'Chilly Vinegar' [Tradecards (18c.)], but another London retailer listed both as if they were distinct [Tradecards (19c.)]. Given that both were made by packing vinegar with a variety of hot CAPSICUM pods, it was unlikely there was much difference. Burgess also listed 'Essence of Cayenne Pepper' under vinegars, which again must have given the same pungent taste.

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Tradecards.