Mugwort - Muscovy yarn

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

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Correctly, this is the HERB or wild plant Artemisia vulgaris and formerly also occasionally called 'motherwort' and found as a common perennial of waysides and waste places [Mabey (1996)]. The label was also applied to other species of Artemisia, such as WORMWOOD. It was described by Pechey as 'frequently used by women, inwardly and outwardly, in all the diseases peculiar to them', hence, presumably, its alternative name. He also recommended it for 'hip-gout' and 'for those that have taken too much OPIUM' [Pechey (1694a)]. Smith used it in a recipe for 'Plague water', though along with many other ingredients as was so often the case in so-called cures for what were then incurable diseases [Recipes (Smith)].

OED earliest date of use: c1000

Sources: Recipes.
References: Mabey (1996), Pechey (1694).



From the Hindi 'malmal' meaning MUSLIN, this is a COTTON - TEXTILE in the form of a thin MUSLIN imported from Bengal. Milburn included it in his list of INDIAN - PIECE GOODS [Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996)]. It was defined as a MUSLIN in 1700 [Acts (1700)], to pre-empt any attempt in the trade to avoid paying the heavy duties that muslin itself incurred. According to Florence Montgomery, Dutch traders distinguished between FINE, COMMON and FLOWERED varieties, and it was apparently sometimes EMBROIDERED [Montgomery (1984)]. However, the anonymous writer of the 'Merchant Warehouse Laid Open' was very uncomplimentary. He described it as a sort of muslin, but added 'I cannot in the least give it any commendation, for there is not one property in it, in my Judgment, that is praiseworthy; in the first place, it is always very thin, the next is it (sic) generally fray'd, and it not only wears extraordinary ill, but when washed two or three times, wears very yellow, although when you buy them they are often to the view very white; it is a sort commonly sold by Hawkers and Pedlars, being the finest of the price of any Muslen, but in the wear is a perfect Cheat; this Muslen holds always twenty yards in a piece, ... and is usally one yard ½ broad, or as we call it, one yard half a quarter wide; you can know it no way but by the thinness, it deserves neither Time nor Paper to be bestowed on it, therefore I shall desist' [Anon (1696)].

OED earliest date of use: 1676, though Yule uses a quotation dated 1590

Sources: Acts, Newspapers.
References: Anon (1696), Montgomery (1984), Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996).


A kind of BEER imported from Brunswick in Germany, and sometimes called BRUNSWICK MUM. Apparently it was originally made entirely from WHEAT MALT, though later BARLEY MALT was used with a small addition of WHEAT MALT. HOPS were used generously. According to one anonymous writer, it 'is very wholsom for Melancholy Flegmatic People, and for those whose Food is coarse Bread and Cheese, Flower'd [that is . floured] Milk, Herbs and lean Potages, but I think not so wholsom as well'brewed ALE [Anon (1695)].

Martha Bradley included a version of what she called 'English Mum' in her 'British Housewife'. It was made from ground BEANS and OATMEAL brewed 'in every Respect as we have directed for the common Family Way', with the addition of the inner Rind of FIR, tops of Silver Fir and of BIRCH. She commented that 'The Taste is not pleasant, but it is an excellent Medicine; the Virtue of the Fir which is of the Turpentine Kind, is very great in the Gravel, and against inward Bruises' [Bradley (1756 facs.1996-8)].

OED earliest date of use: 1640

Found as Ullage Found in units of BOTTLE Found rated by the BARREL of 32 GALLON

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates.
References: Anon (1695), Bradley (1756, facs. 1996-8).


[mummia; mummi; mumma; mumia; mum'a; mum'; mum]

A medicinal preparation supposedly taken from the bodies of Egyptian mummies; hence, any unctuous liquid or GUM used medicinally. It was quite frequently found in APOTHECARY shops, particularly before 1700, and it was still an ingredient in the official recipe for VENICE TREACLE in the mid-eighteenth century [Recipes (Pemberton)].

OED earliest date of use: c1400

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

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


[munkcorne; muncorne; muncawne]

OED uses 'Mongcorn' as its headword, but this is a form not found in the Dictionary Archive

A mixture of different kinds of grain, usually WHEAT and RYE, especially when sown together. This practice was particularly prevalent when agricultural improvements in the second half of the senventeenth century were leading to a change over from RYE to WHEAT as the principal BREAD CORN. Sowing muncorn was seen as a precaution against failure of the wheat.

OED online earliest date of use: 1263 under Mongcorn

Found in units of BUSHEL, STRIKE

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



A CORNISH name for pyrites, especially IRON pyrites. Like COPPERAS, different sorts of pyrities were given a distinguishing word, usually an adjective of colour; WHITE mundic, for example, produced the best ARSENIC. COPPER pyrites, or YELLOW pyrites, is the most common ore of COPPER but also a useful source of SULPHUR.

Mundic barely appears in the Dictionary Archive. There are two patents; the one for 'Extracting and preserving sulphur contained in mundic' [Patents (1730)], and the other for 'Fluxing and mixing mundic into a metal, and extracting silver from it' [Patents (1730)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1666

Sources: Patents.

Mundic metal

[mundick metal]

This is not a term that appears in the OED, and it is not clear how it differed from MUNDIC. It appears only once in the Dictionary Archive, in an act permitting its export, a concession made also with regard to IRON and COPPER [Acts (1694)].

In the Gloucester Coastal Port Books, two consignments of mundic metal were carried up the river in the form of PLATE. This may have been 'plate mundic' or iron mixed with arsenic [see quotation from the Encyclopaedia Britannica of 1797 in the OED, under Mundic].

Not found as such in the OED

Sources: Acts.



A small CANNON or MORTAR. The name reflects the ambivalence many felt about the use of GUNPOWDER and the GUN. For example, Randle Holme, in his section on inventors, wrote: 'Bartholdus Swarth or Niger, a German Frier; first found out the way and use of making Gunpowder, whence sprung the original of Pistols, Muskets, Cannons, Morter pieces, and all kind of fire murthering Engines, about the Year 1470' [Holme (2000)]. He was not alone in his views even in the seventeenth century. The term is only found once in the Dictionary Archive as 'three Murtherers' on a ship [Inventories (1635)].

OED earliest date of use: 1497

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

Muriatic acid


An old name for hydrochloric acid. It was of interest in the eighteenth century as the so-called 'oxiginated muriatic acid'. This is now called Hypochlorous acid, of which familiar forms are calcium hypochlorite or bleaching powder and sodium hypochlorite, commonly known by the brand name of Milton. The potential of hydrochlorous acid to produce a satisfactory bleaching agent attracted the attention of industrialists and innovators, two at least of whom attempted to protect their work by patent [Patents (1792)]; [Patents (1798)].

OED earliest date of use: 1676

Jeff Cox

Found described as Oxyginated

Sources: Acts, Patents.


[murry; murrey]

Randle Holme included Murrey among his 'Painters Colours, describing it as 'a compound colour of Lake and Smalt' [Holme (2000)]. As such it is not mentioned by Rosamond Harley, which suggests that may not have been used much as a PAINT, at least not under this name, for Harley does mention the use of SMALT and LAKE to produce PURPLE [Harley (1970)]. As a DYESTUFF of a dark reddish brown colour like that of the MULBERRY, murrey was popular in the sixteenth century and the early seventeenth. It was presumably produced by first dyeing the fabric BLUE, using WOAD, and then adding the RED colour INGRAIN, or by other, cheaper means.

OED earliest date of use: c1412

Found described as INGRAIN Found describing COTTON, GOWN, KERSEY, RUG, SAY

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period).
References: Harley (1970), Holme (2000).


[muskedyne; muskadine]

According to the OED, this was a variant name for MUSCATEL. Whether identical, or only similar, it almost certainly had the characteristic musky flavour of the MUSCAT - GRAPE. According to John Houghton it was sometimes flavoured with CHIPs of CYPRESS [Houghton].

OED earliest date of use: 1541

Found describing RAISIN Found in units of PINT

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



A GRAPE used to produce both a RAISIN and a WINE. According to Frank Schoonmaker, there are both black and white varieties 'in quality from excellent to Poor' but all with a characteristic musky flavour [Froud and Turgeon (1961); Schoonmaker (1964)]. The 'muscatt' that Samuel Pepys received as a gift from someone returned from the 'Streights' seems to have been little known in this country at that time and he wrote 'I know not yet what that is, and am ashamed to ask' [Diaries (Pepys)].

OED earliest date of use: a1578

See also MUSCATEL.
Sources: Diaries.
References: Froud and Turgeon (1961), Schoonmaker (1964).


[muskadell; muscadel]

A strong sweet SPANISH WINE made from the MUSCAT - GRAPE. It was also the name sometimes given to the RAISIN of the Muscat type that became fashionable in the eighteenth century.

OED earliest date of use: a1400

As a WINE: Found included among other SPANISH WINE, SWEET WINE Found in units of QUART Found rated by BUTT, PIPE
As RAISIN: Found in units of BOX, BUNCH, HALF BOX, JAR

Sources: Acts, Newspapers, Rates, Tradecards.


[mustovo__ suger; muscovadoe; muscouade]

Often in the form 'Muscovado sugar', it probably came from a Spanish term meaning sugar of lowest quality and refers to RAW or unrefined SUGAR made from the juice of SUGAR cane by evaporation and drawing off the MOLASSES. In this form it was usually produced in the New World before export. Adam Smith claims that in the 1770s, the absurd differentiation of duty between WHITE SUGAR or REFINED SUGAR and Muscovado, meant that refining would have been virtually impossible in the colonies if the customs had not connived in admitting such sugar as muscovado, so long as it was powdered [Smith (1776)]. This may explain why muscovado was defined in the 1654 Book of Rates as either WHITE or BROWN.

OED earliest date of use: 1642

Found described as of BRAZIL, BROWN, ENGLISH PLANTATION, FOREIGN, of LISBON, WHITE Found in units of HUNDRED, LB, STONE Found rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT of 112 LB, POUND

Sources: Acts, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Patents, Rates.
References: Smith (1776).

Muscovado candy

[candy muscovadoes]

A CANDY made from MUSCOVADO rather than from a REFINED SUGAR.

Not found in the OED

Found rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT of 112 LB

Sources: Acts, Rates.

Muscovia glass

[muscovy glass]

A transparent mineral, characterized along with SELENITE, ISLING GLASS and SPAR by the ease with which it can be separated into flakes. According to John Houghton, most came from Germany and Hudson Bay in Canada, while he could only suppose that some came from MUSCOVY. He claimed it was used as WINDOW GLASS in ships as it was less prone to breakage than ordinary GLASS [Houghton].

OED earliest date of use: 1668

Found rated by the POUND

See also SLUDE.
Sources: Houghton, Rates.


[muscovia; muscovey; muscouy; muscouia; musco; moscovia]

It is the name of the principality of Moscow, but applied by extension to the whole of Russia and used to denote goods imported from that region. RED HIDE, for instance, was also referred to as Muscovy hide, indicating its place of origin. The name could be used elliptically for any of the products from the region, so it is impossible to say with certainty what '1 Bundl muscouy' valued at 30s 4d actually contained [Inventories (1694)]. An early form of the name was Muscovia.

OED earliest date of use: 1573

Found describing exports to Great Britain, including BRISTLEs, COW HIDE, DOWN, FEATHERS, HEMP, HIDE, IRON, MAST, TOW, YARN

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

Muscovy flax

[muscovie flax; muscovia fflax; muscove flax; musco flax]

FLAX from Russia from the region round Moscow probably imported largely from DANTZIG or Peterborough, and hence DANTZIG FLAX and PETERBOROUGH FLAX, or RIGA. This area enjoys a relatively short, but hot growing season, so that the flax tended to grow too rapidly and hence rather coarsely. Although much was imported from these parts, the flax was not of the highest grade [Tomlinson (1854)]. LINEN CLOTH was also woven in the region, hence MUSCOVY LINEN.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of BUNDLE, C, LB, QUARTER, STONE Found rated in HUNDREDWEIGHT OF 112 LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates.
References: Tomlinson (1854).

Muscovy linen

[muscovia linnen]

LINEN from MUSCOVY, and other areas often loosely designated as RUSSIA. According to John Houghton's list of imports in 1694, some 'Muscovia linen' came from DANTZIG, but over five times as much came from SWEDEN [Houghton]. There was a large number of named linens from this area, and Muscovy linen was probably a generic term that could have included any of them. Most were COARSE, tough linens that sold at a low price.

Not found in the OED

Found described as NARROW Found imported from DANTZICK, SWEDEN by the ELL Founded rated by the Hudred ELL containing 6 SCORE of ELL

Sources: Houghton, Rates.

Muscovy yarn

[muscovia-yarn; muscovia or spruce yarne; muscovia or spruce raw linen yarn; muscoua yarn]

LINEN YARN imported from MUSCOVY and probably from other areas bordering the BALTIC, often being associated with SPRUCE YARN [Rates (1582)]. It was distinguished in the Books of Rates from other linen yarns, but is not found in the shops under this name.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of LB Found rated by C of 112 LB

Sources: Acts, Rates.