Embalming plaster - Empyreal stove

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

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Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl, 'Embalming plaster - Empyreal stove', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/traded-goods-dictionary/1550-1820/embalming-plaster-empyreal-stove [accessed 22 June 2024].

Nancy Cox. Karin Dannehl. "Embalming plaster - Empyreal stove", in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007) . British History Online, accessed June 22, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/traded-goods-dictionary/1550-1820/embalming-plaster-empyreal-stove.

Cox, Nancy. Dannehl, Karin. "Embalming plaster - Empyreal stove", Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton, 2007). . British History Online. Web. 22 June 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/traded-goods-dictionary/1550-1820/embalming-plaster-empyreal-stove.

In this section

Embalming plaster

[embalming plast'r]

A PLASTER used in the process of preserving (or attempting to preserve) a corpse.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (early).

Embden groats

GROATS are made of crushed OATS, or sometimes another grain like BARLEY. Embden groats, which have been noted only once in the Dictionary Archive in a list of sold goods [Tradecards (1825)], were probably a proto-brand name, or else were groats either from, or in the style of those from, the German town of Emden.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of PACKET

Sources: Tradecards.


[embossment; embossing; emboss'd; embos'd]

Also found as embossing and embossment. Although the general meaning is 'Carved or moulded in relief; ornamented with figures in relief', in the Dictionary Archive it was applied to processes, largely developed of raising patterns of relief by a STAMP. In this context it was applied to a number of soft materials that would take a more or less permanent imprint, like for instance FABRICs like CALAMANCO [Patents (1754], LEAD [Patents (1774)], and PAPER, as in [Newspapers (1760)], [Patents (1796)] and [Tradecards (1760)]. An alternative method, which was suitable for GLASS etc., was to make the impression in the mould. This was presumably how the bottles of 'BOERHAAVE's Grand BALSAM of HEALTH' were embossed [Newspapers (1751)].

OED earliest date of use: 1541


Sources: Newspapers, Patents, Tradecards.


[imbrothered; imbroidered; imbrodered; embroydered; embroider'd; embroderd; embraydered]

The term is used of TEXTILE fabrics, LEATHER etc. adorned or variegated with figures of NEEDLEWORK, and also of the needlework itself. Almost any article of suitable material could be, and probably frequently was, embroidered, but the term does not appear in the Dictionary Archive as often as one might expect. In the eighteenth century the embroidered WAISTCOAT seems to have become fashionable, hence a bill for a 'Green & Gold Embroidered waistcoat' [Tradecards (1742)], and several advertisements for such garments that had been stolen, including one 'embroidered with Gold Spangles' [Newspapers (1790)]. However, the embroidery did cause problems of maintenance, hence the advertisement for 'Embroidered Waistcoats cleaned or dyed' [Newspapers (1790)].

OED earliest date of use: 1591


See also STITCHED.
Sources: Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Newspapers, Rates, Tradecards.


[imbroidery; imbroideries; embroydery]

The art of ornamenting CLOTH and other fabrics with figures of NEEDLEWORK, and the work or material so EMBROIDERED. Much use was made of GOLD THREAD and SILVER THREAD, and for cheaper work COPPER THREAD, either plain or GILT. Embroidery was a common way of embellishing fabrics before PRINTED CLOTH became commonplace, but it remained important throughout the period as an accomlishment suitable for GENTEEL women. PATTERNs were widely advertised, like the ones for 'a Great Choice of Patterns for Ladys Work, in the newest Taste, as Mosello Quilting, Embroidery' [Tradecards (18c.)], and the retailer who claimed to draw 'all Sorts of Patterns as Brussells French Quilting, Embroydery' [Tradecards (1753)]. Various equipment was also availabe for such work, hence advertisemnts like the one for 'Silks for Netting, Embroidery and Sewing' [Newspapers (1780)]. But embroidering also remained an industry employing particularly poor women, who might otherwise become a charge to the authorities, so that the 'Importation and Wear of foreign Embroidery' was prohibited [Acts (1662)]; [Acts (1749)]. New possiblities of mechanical embroidery came with the invention of the STOCKING FRAME, hence a patent for 'Loom-embroidery, manufactured in gold or silver, on silk ribbon and woollen, linen, cotton, or mohair' [Patents (1770)].

OED earliest date of use: 1393

Found included among LADIES WORK

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Newspapers, Patents, Tradecards.

Emden cloth

[embden cloth]

A TEXTILE in the form of a LINEN CLOTH; more specifically it was one of the several categories into which HOLLAND CLOTH was sub-divided. Emden cloth has not been noted in the shop, which suggests that for most purposes it was not distinguishable from any of the other fabrics so categorized. It was presumably named from its original or actual place of origin, the German town Emden.

Not found in the OED

Found rated by the ELL

Sources: Rates.


A PRECIOUS STONE of bright green colour, in modern times applied exclusively to a variety of Beryl. Mediaeval references are often based on classical descriptions of 'smaragdus', which may or may not be the same. Even more dubious is the translation by Tyndale, and later by the authors of the Authorized Version of the Bible, of a Hebrew term rendered in the Vulgate as 'carbunculus'. By the early-modern period, emeralds were regarded as a PRECIOUS STONE important for the manufacture of JEWELLERY in this country. The import and export of emeralds, along with other precious stones was therefore permitted free of custom charges [Acts (1733)]; [Rates (1784)].

OED earliest date of use: c1300

Sources: Acts, Rates.


[emry; emerie; emerey; emere]

A form of aluminium oxide occurring in rhombohedral crystals as corundum, a crystallized mineral belonging to the same group of minerals as SAPPHIRE and RUBY. Emery is an impure fine-grained variety used in grinding and polishing metals, STONE and GLASS, often in the form of EMERY PAPER. Emery is exceptionally hard; on the modern scale of hardness it is inferior only to DIAMOND and Tungsten carbide and it was the hardest material available for industrial purposes in the early-modern period [Partington (1953)]. It was imported in the form of solid lumps called 'emery stone', which then had to be broken down by stamping, crushing or hammering, when the resulting fragments were passed through sieves of wire cloth and, for the finest sort, through sieves made of LAWN. This process separated the various grades from the coarsest corn emery (CORN POWDER), through to the finest FLOUR [Tomlinson (1854)]. Some stockists kept a range of grades, often in large quantities. For example, one advertised 'Flour Emery 2d per lb or 14s 6d per cwt' and 'Fine, Common, Second and Rough do 21s per cwt' [Newspapers (1780)]. In 1794 a 'Machine for ... washing or separating emery' was patented [Patents (1794)]. This washing, according to Charles Tomlinson was 'a beautiful application of the law of gravitation to the useful arts'. It allowed the sorting to be done largely through settlement [Tomlinson (1854)].

OED earliest date of use: 1481/90

Found described as of all sizes, of all sorts, COARSE, CORN, FINE, FLOUR, of Turkey Found describing STONE
Found in units of POUND Found as Emery stones rated by the C of 112 LB, HUNDREDWEIGHT

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Rates, Tradecards.
References: Partington (1953), Tomlinson (1854).

Emery paper

[emery and all kind of scouring papers]

PAPER coated with EMERY used for polishing or cleaning metals etc. It was made by spreading a thin layer of GLUE on a sheet of paper and then sieving on to it the required grade of EMERY. According to Charles Tomlinson, emery paper as used by an artisan is 'commonly wrapped round a file or a slip of wood, and applied just like a file, with or without oil ... [It] cuts more smoothly with oil, but leaves the work dull'. Emery cloth was similar, except cloth was used instead of paper [Tomlinson (1854)].

OED earliest date of use: 1772

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Tomlinson (1854).

Emigrants utensils

A term reflecting one market in the eighteenth century, the traveller abroad or the emigrant. A complete list of equipment needed by a migrant to Canada included various wood working TOOLS like HAMMER, SHOVEL, SPADE, as well as those for working the land like PLOUGH and SPADE, but notably few tools for the kitchen [Diaries (Josselyn)]. One Birmingham ironmonger addressed this segment of the market outright and advertised 'Emigrants Utensils and every description of Tools' [Tradecards (18c.)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Diaries, Tradecards.


[emplast'r; emplaste; emplaister]

A medicinal PLASTER, usually made of OLIVE OIL or BURGUNDY PITCH with additions to make the resulting pasty mass cohere satisfactorily and to make it smell more pleasant. The paste was put on LINEN strips and then applied externally to the body.

The eighteenth-century Pharmacopoeia contained fifteen varieties of plasters, of which seven appear in the Dictionary Archive. These are, EMPLASTRUM COMMUNE, EMPLASTRUM CEPHALICUM, EMPLASTRUM E CYMINO, EMPLASTRUM E MINIO and EMPLASTRUM STOMACHICUM. During th early eighteenth century, the recipes in the Pharmacopoeia were simplified and brought up to date. As a result some old medicaments disappeared and others were modified; for example EMPLASTRUM DIACHYLON CUM GUMMI and EMPLASTRUM MELILOT.

In addition to these official preparations, several other plasters have been noted in the shops. These include EMPLASTRUM E CICUTA, EMPLASTRUM JACOBI, and EMPLASTRUM PARACELSI, as well as others that have not been identified, such as 'Empl Ad persilli'' and 'Empl' ad veriat ad perpet' [Inventories (1730)].

In some documents plasters were simply listed under the generic terms of SIMPLE and COMPOUND, for example [Inventories (1665)]. It is not possible now to classify them with confidence, but probably those with few additions were labelled simple, and those with several or numerous additions as compound.

Found described as of all sorts, COMPOUND, SIMPLE
Found in units of LB, OZ

See also PLASTER.
Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).

Emplastrum cephalicum


According to Pemberton's Pharmacopoeia of 1746, this medicinal PLASTER was composed of BURGUNDY PITCH and LADBADANUM, with small additions of YELLOW ROSIN, YELLOW WAX and OIL OF MACE. The committee revising the Pharmocopoeia declared they had omitted COMMON PITCH because of its 'empyreumatic smell'. It seems likely that the oil of mace had originally been added in an attempt to drown out this smell [Pemberton (1746)]. The descriptor 'cephalicum' suggests it was intended for use on the head.

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Pemberton (1746).

Emplastrum commune

In English it is the COMMON - PLASTER. This medicinal preparation was composed of OLIVE OIL in which powdered LITHARGE OF LEAD was boiled in water. The pasty mass was then, like any plaster, rolled out on strips of linen for application to the affected part of the body. It was a simpler version of DIACHYLON, and was used in the same way, but no attempt was made to replace the older plaster as the committee revising the Pharmocopoeia felt that it had 'been thus prepared in our shops for so long a time, that no objection can be made from experience against it' [Pemberton (1746)].

Sources: Recipes.
References: Pemberton (1746).

Emplastrum diachylon cum gummi

[empl: diach cu' gum; empl. diachilon]

This seems to have been a rather different composition from DIACHYLON. According to Pemberton, it was an old recipe based on 'diachylon magnum', a composition deemed by the eighteenth century to be 'above measure absurd'. This had involved a hugely complicated preparation of various oils. The replacement, EMPLASTRUM COMMUNE 'cum gummi' involved the addition of GALBANUM, COMMON TURPENTINE and FRANKINCENSE to the LEAD based common plaster [Pemberton (1746)]. Despite the strictures of the revising committee of the College of Physicians, emplastrum diachylon, with and without the addition of gums, was still available in the shops in the 1730s [Inventories (1730)].

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Pemberton (1746).

Emplastrum e cicuta

[empl e cicut]

An EMPLASTRUM in which the active ingredient was HEMLOCK, here called by its old name 'cicuta'. Although highly poisonous, hemlock was used for external application and was, according to Culpeper, 'of good effect for inflammations, tumours, and swellings of the body, the privies excepted ... by cooling and repelling the heat' [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)]. This plaster was not part of the Pharmacopoeia, neither was hemlock; both were possibly deemed too dangerous. In the single example identified in the Dictionary Archive, this plaster was given the suffix 'cu' Ann'. Too heavily abbreviated to be helpful, it may refer to ANISEED.

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.).

Emplastrum e cymino

[e cimino]

A medicinal PLASTER composed chiefly of BURGUNDY PITCH, with additions of YELLOW WAX, CUMIN, CARAWAY and BAYBERRY. The wax was added to preserve the rolls of plaster, which were apt to fall flat in warm weather, and the caraway and the other odiferous ingredients were added to 'render it of a less disagreeable smell' [Pemberton (1746)].

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Pemberton (1746).

Emplastrum e minio

[emp. de minio; deminio]

Or in English RED LEAD - PLASTER. Apart from combining the red lead instead of LITHARGE OF LEAD in OLIVE OIL, this is the same as EMPLASTRUM COMMUNE [Pemberton (1746)].

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

Emplastrum jacobi

[emplastru' jacobi]

'Emplastrum' is the Latin form of PLASTER and was usually used for a medicinal product. 'Jacobi' means 'of Jacob' (James). It is not known how this composition differed from other medicinal plasters; it was not included in Pemberton's Pharmacopoeia of 1746 [Pemberton (1746)].

OED earliest date of use:1596 for Emplastrum only

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Pemberton (1746).

Emplastrum melilot

[empl. melilot]

According to Pemberton, this was replaced by EMPLASTRUM attrahens, or 'drawing PLASTER' in the first half of the eighteenth century. This was composed of YELLOW ROSIN, YELLOW WAX and mutton SUET in equal quantities. The MELILOT, which had been the essential ingredient of the older plaster, was omitted because it was 'of no significancy towards the use of the plaster, and of a very disagreeable scent'. The committee responsible for revising the Pharmocopoeia also referred to 'mischievous adulterations' to produce the green colour deemed an essential characteristic and difficult to achieve with the herb removed [Pemberton (1746)].

The above would suggest that Emplastrum melilot was a plaster with a base of vegetable and animal fats, containing the believed active ingredient. The plaster was green in colour and was used to 'draw' undesirable matter from ulcers and the like. It was almost certainly different from another plaster, DIACHYLON MELILOT.

Found described as SIMPLE
Found in units of LB, POT

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

Emplastrum paracelsi

[paracelsus plaister; paracelsi; empl: paracellsus; empl paracels]

A medicinal PLASTER named after PARACELCUS, who was said to have been responsible for the name of OPODELDOC, another similar type of medicament. According to John Houghton, ARISTOLOCHIA or BIRTHWORT was the principal ingredient [Houghton]. Although there are several examples of this plaster in the shops, it was not part of the official eighteenth-century Pharmocopoeia. The English name of its principal ingredient, suggests its use in pregnancy and childbirth.

Found in units of LB

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

Emplastrum stomachicum

[stom magist; empl stomach]

A medicinal PLASTER based on LABDANUM, with the addition of FRANKINCENSE, CINNAMON, OIL OF MACE and oil of MINT. The committee of the College of Physicians concerned with revising the Pharmacopoeia commented on 'the unreasonable profuseness in this composition'. It was a composition that needed frequent preparation in small quantities, or the volatile substances in it would lose their efficacy [Pemberton (1746)].

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


[emty; emtie; emptye; empting; emptie]

In the context of trade, 'Empty' probably meant 'for re-use', rather than not yet filled. Containers of all types were expensive and not regarded as expendable or disposable. The number of empty containers of all sorts found in the Dictionary Archive or carried on the River Severn [Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1988)] is an indication of this.

OED earliest date of use: 971


Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.
References: Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1998).

Empty bag

[empty bagg]

A fairly frequent item of cargo recorded in the Gloucester Coastal Port Books, but less so in documents like probate inventories. Empty gags, and empty SACKs were relatively valuable, and therefore were needed for re-use.

OED online earliest date of use: 1882 under Swan

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1998).

Empty barrel

[emtye barrell; emty barrelle; emtie barell; empty barrill; empty barrell; emptie barrel; emptie barell]

Empty BARRELs and all other containers of COOPERY were commonly recorded, as they were too valuable to be lightly expended. There were problems with recycling them. Barrels were sometimes made specifically for a particular product, like the LAMP BLACK BARREL, and even when that did not apply, they could not be used indiscriminately without risk of contaminating the contents, hence entries like 'empty Tarr Barrells' [Inventories (1783)].

OED earliest date of use: 1688 under Staff

Found described as SMALL for grocers, TAR, WEST INDIES Found rated by the DOZEN

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

Empty bottle

[empty botle]

Newly made BOTTLEs were carried on the River Severn in great numbers, although they were never so defined. Empty bottles were also carried in great numbers, for example one consignment in January 1729 going down river to Bristol was for 400 DOZEN [Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1988)]. Although never found on that scale in the Dictionary Archive, one stockist had 'Twenty foure dozen of Empty Qt bottles' [Inventories (1704)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1724 under Uncleanable

Found described as OIL, QUART, SQUARE Found in units of DOZEN Found rated by the DOZEN

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Patents.
References: Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1998).

Empyreal stove

[empyreal air-stove]

A STOVE, patented in 1786, in full called the 'Empyreal air-stove' designed 'for purifying the air of churches, theatres, gaols, sick and other rooms, and enclosed buildings' [Patents (1786)]. Quite why this product name was chosen is not clear. 'Empyreal' had long been used to denote the Heavens or fire. Probably this stove was not greatly different for other stoves available at the time, even if its purpose was primarily ventilation rather than heating. It is found advertised with sale along with other types of stove like the CANADA STOVE and the SHOP stove [Tradecards (1791)].

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Patents, Tradecards.