Precipitate - Prussian blue

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

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A precipitate is a solid formed within a solution that falls to the bottom of the vessel in which the solution was contained. In old Chemistry and Pharmacy, the term (particularly with the addition of the Latin 'per se') was applied to certain preparations of MERCURY, sometimes with a defining word.

OED online earliest date of use: 1563

Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Rates.

Prepared sauce

The term denotes a SAUCE that was usually of proprietary make and designed to keep in the store cupboard. Although this term as such has been noted only once in the Dictionary Archive as 'To the Curious in ready prepared Sauces' [Newspapers (1790)], the concept was well established and there are many examples of SAUCEs that could have been included under the heading. There were several manufacturers of prepared sauces in London, including BURGESS and Skill, each of whom produced large catalogues full of promotional detail [Tradecards (18c.)]; [Tradecards (1800)], and they give some indications of how the market operated. Most of the manufacturers sold WHOLESALE and RETAIL and they appointed agents specifically for their own products in the provinces. Each made at least one proprietary FISH SAUCE and one or more designed specifically for meat dishes. Although not so effective promotionally as the catalogues of some of his rivals, the newspaper advertisement of William Hutchins displayed all these characteristics [Newspapers (1790)]. The perceived threat from spurious copies may have been justified [Newspapers (1790)] and it is an indication of the demand and potential profits to be had from the market.

Not found in the OED online


Sources: Newspapers.

Preserved ginger

[p'serv'd ginger; preserve ginger]

In modern times preserved GINGER consists of young, green and succulent rhizomes (GREEN GINGER), and sometimes the stem and leaves, washed and scraped, and preserved in SYRUP [Simmonds (1906)]. No doubt similar methods were used in the early-modern period. By the early twentieth century much was imported, and again it seems likely that this was true in former times as well. Ginger preserved in syrup and contained in sealed jars would have been a heavy article of trade, and would consequently have supplied a suitable alternative to PORCELAIN as ballast on the long journey from the Far East. Stored deep in the ship below the more fragile items like SILK, SPICEs or TEA, it would have been safe from water damage.

This may explain why eighteenth-century general cookery books like those of Eliza Smith and Hannah Glass did not contain recipes for preserving ginger, nor did specialist books on CONFECTIONERY like Mary Eales's Receipts of 1718 or W.M.'s Queens Delight of 1655. William Rabisha is the exception. His recipe starts with the ordinary LARGE GINGER, which needed paring and soaking before being boiled in a sugar syrup. It was then dried until it was 'Rock-candyed'. It is clear therefore that his preserved ginger was a CANDIED GINGER and not preserved ginger in the modern sense [Rabisha (1682, facs. 2003)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1889 under Worcestershire

Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Tradecards.
References: Rabisha (1682, facs. 2003), Simmonds (1906).

Preserved oranges

[preserve orring]

The ORANGE was sometimes preserved whole. Mrs Eales included a recipe that used peeled SEVILLE ORANGES boiled first in water then in syrup, and then potted up in a jelly made with apples [Eales (1718, facs. 1985)]. Such a recipe allowed for no waste; while the ORANGE PEEL was candied or made into ORANGE CHIPS, the fruit inside was also put into a form that would keep.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).
References: Eales (1718, facs. 1985).

Press screw

The SCREW that exerted pressure in a SCREW PRESS including particular types like the COLD PRESS, HOT PRESS and TOBACCO PRESS

Not found in the OED

Sources: Newspapers.



In the context where this term has been noted in the Dictionary Archive, it was probably synonymous with PRICKER. It appeared in an inventory of very uneven and non-standard spellings among the equipment of a shearman as '12 woorkinge boords iij preemes ij sheringe whookes ij rebuces ix prickes iiij hanets ij pearches' [Inventories (1619)]. However, what it was used for is not clear.

Sources: Inventories (early).

Prick snaffle


A type of SNAFFLE or BIT that, according to John Houghton, was made in the 1690s, at Walsall along with many other types [Houghton]. It was not included in Randle Holme's list of bits [Holme (2000)] nor in Mosemans's extensive section on bits [Moseman (1892, facs. 1990)]. Given the ready acceptance of cruelty at the time, it is probable that the prick was intended to induce pain and so make the horse respond more rapidly to the demands of the rider.

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Houghton.
References: Holme (2000), Moseman (1892, facs. 1990).


In essence, a pricker was any sharp-pointed instrument, and could therefore be found attached to any IMPLEMENT or TOOL where that definition would apply. Prickers were used in various trades, each of which had one in the form most appropriate to the purpose. For example, SUGAR boilers used them to unblock the hole at the bottom of a SUGAR MOULD, hence the '2 Chopping knives 4 prickers 2 sugar irons seu'all Candlesticks & a fire pann' among the equipment of one London Mercer involved with sugar refining [Inventories (1674)]. Randle Holme includes an illustration of a 'Loaf pricker', which, he wrote, 'much resembles the Shoomakers or Sadlers Aule ... yet they all differ, this being a long slender Iron sharp pointed, set in a wooden round head or haft hooped at the bottom.' [Holme (2000)]. The OED deals at some length with various types.

In the plural, prickers could be a set of IRON prongs fixed to the front of a FIRE GRATE on which to toast bread or cook sausages and the like [Wright (1898-1905)]. It was probably in this sense the term was used in entries like 'A pair of Bellows prickers & Tongs' [Inventories (1765)]. However, in the miscellany of items listed altogether in the shop of one retailer the 'prickers' were probably skewers, but they could just as well have been tools like AWLs [Inventories (1668)].

OED earliest date of use: 14--

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Holme (2000), Wright (1898-1905).

Pricking iron

This term 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)]. Probably the pricking iron was what Randle Holme called 'a Pricking or Garnishing Aul, this is for to make holes to adorn and to garnish Sadle Skirts with Silk, Silver, or Gold thrid' [Holme (2000)]. Salaman includes a big range of prickers, including the 'Pricker punch' or 'Pricking iron'. He describes it as a STEEL punch, with a flat (occasionally curved) body with sharpened teeth at the foot. The teeth were spaced to mark three to twenty-four teeth to the INCH [Salaman (1986)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Acts.
References: Holme (2000), Salaman (1986).

Prickly pear


The name given to varies species of the cactaceous genus, Opuntia, and the host plant of Coccus cacti from which COCHINEAL is derived. In 1739 a patent was granted to grow this cactus, along with other American plants [Patents (1739)]. It was subsequently grown commercially in Mexico, central and south America, the East and the West Indies, and in the Canary Islands, where it was especially important [Ponting (1980, pb 1981)].

OED earliest date of use: 1760

Sources: Patents.
References: Ponting (1980, pb 1981).

Princes stuff

An apparently new TEXTILE in 1744 when a method was patented of using a YARN made of WOOL combed with SILK instead of MOHAIR YARN to make Prince's STUFF, RUTHERINE and other similar fabrics [Patents (1744)]. However, a similar fabric was advertised in the London Gazette in 1713, also associated with rutherine to make a WAISTCOAT [Montgomery (1984)].

OED earliest date of use: 1814

Found described as BLACK Found used to make WAISTCOAT

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Montgomery (1984).

Princes yellow

[princes do.]

A yellow PIGMENT, apparently distinct from either KINGS YELLOW or NAPLES YELLOW, since all three have been noted in the same document.

Not found in the OED, Bristow (1996) or Harley (1970)

Sources: Tradecards.

Printed hangings

A term found only in the latter half of the seventeenth century. It was probably applied to HANGINGS of PINTADO and other decorative Indian TEXTILEs that were fashionable at the time.

Not found in the OED online

Found described as BLUE

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Printers black

Houghton said that it was made chiefly of LAMP BLACK [Houghton]. There is more detail in Chamber's Cyclopaedia (1727-41) where it was said to be made from burnt WINE LEES with the addition of some IVORY BLACK or fruitstone black [Harley (1970)]. It was also known as Frankfort black or German black and was popular for washing PRINTs as it had a good degree of transparency. It seems for this purpose to have been replaced by INDIAN INK.

Not found in the OED as such; 1568 as 'the ynke which the Printers now use'.

See also LAMP BLACK.
Sources: Houghton.
References: Harley (1970).

Printers ink

In Chambers (1727-41) 'Printing ink' was said to be 'made of nut-oil, or linseed-oil, turpentine and lamp-black'. Ure (1820), defined a 'good' printer's ink as 'a black paint, smooth and uniform in its composition' [both OED, under Printer].

OED earliest date of use: 1820; 1568 as 'the ynke which the Printers now use'


Privy trap

Presumably a devise designed to act as a STINK TRAP to reduce the foul smell emanating from a privy.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Tradecards.

Proking stick

[proking sticke]

A STICK for catching EELs

OED earliest date of use: 1799

Sources: Inventories (early).


Proof has a variety of meanings, though in the Dictionary Archive there are only three distinct ones. Proof was the standard strength of DISTILLED alcoholic liquors like BRANDY, GENEVA, RUM, or of SPIRIT OF WINE (or of VINEGAR). Now it is applied more precisely to the strength of a mixture of alcohol and water having a specific gravity of 0.91984, and containing just under half of its weight in absolute alcohol. An act of 1705 set out an early attempt at establishing proof for PROOF SPIRIT [Acts (1705)].

This use of 'proof' is closely connected to the way the term was used in SUGAR boiling to apply to the degree of concentration at which the syrup will successfully crystallize.

OED online earliest date of use in this sense: 1705; 1753 in sugar boiling

A second important meaning of 'proof' in trade was 'Capable of resisting thorns or the elements; WATERPROOF'. Probably the various reference to TEXTILE goods being proof fit into this group, like '128 Proof woostedd hose att 4s' [Inventories (1668)], '43 yds proofe Serge at 2/ 6d' [Inventories (1665)], as well as less certainly 'fyve yards and a halfe of Kersey of proofe at vs xd the yard' [Inventories (1619)]. However, proof in this sense may denote that the product concerned has been proved and marked by some official body.

The third meaning found is for proof as a synonym for FIREPROOF in the sense of being able to withstand the heat of a fire. This has been noted only once in the Dictionary Archive in a patent for 'Proof earthen-cases with heaters of the same composition' [Patents (1786)].

With regard to alcoholic liquors: Found describing SPIRIT OF WINE
With regard to textiles: Found describing KERSEY, SERGE, WORSTED HOSE
With regard to ceramics: Found describing EARTHEN case

Sources: Acts, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Newspapers, Patents, Tradecards.

Proof spirit

SPIRIT OF WINE or other alcoholic liquor, of PROOF strength. With the popularity of spirituous liquors growing rapidly in the early eighteenth century, attempts were made to clarify the terms used by the trade. One such effort was made in 1705, with an act that laid down that the distiller was to extract between 50% and 60 % as proof spirits, whether the starting point was LOW WINE or CIDER or PERRY [Acts (1705)]. Medicinally, by the early-nineteenth century, proof spirit was deemed to be RECTIFIED spirit or 'pure' ALCOLHOL diluted with 56-58 parts water in 100 parts [A.T. Thompson, quoted by the OED, under Proof spirit]. This was used in the preparation of TINCTUREs and COMPOUND WATERS such as ANISEED WATER [Recipes (Pemberton)].

OED earliest date of use: 1712 under Dephlegmate

Sources: Acts, Recipes.


[prunis; pruine; pruan]

A dried PLUM, although in the past the term was also used of the fresh fruit. The fruits were sometimes harvested and then dried, or, in the French manner, left on the tree to dry. This old French method was laborious, requiring constant attention over several days. Not noted in the Dictionary Archive is the French system of classification, which was based on the number of fruits to the LB, the best having 40-44 to the LB, and labelled accordingly as 40s, 44s etc.[Simmonds (1906)]. In the Gloucester Coastal Port Books they were not often recorded separately but probably subsumed in the term GROCERY. As well as being used for culinary purposes, for example in 'plumb-POTTAGE', prunes were also famed for their purging qualities.

OED earliest date of use: 1345-6

Simone Clarke

Found described as NEW, OLD, ORDINARY, 'to stew', WEST INDIAN
Found in units of BOX, CASK, LB, PUNCHEON, QUARTER Found imported from the Straits and Spain Found rated by the HUNDREDWEIGHT of 112 LB

Sources: Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates, Recipes.
References: Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1998), Simmonds (1906).


Prunello was used either as the name for a particular variety of PLUM or PRUNE, or to indicate the best kind of prune. According to John Houghton it 'has only its natural taste without the help of sugar'.

OED earliest date of use: 1616

Simone Clarke

Found described as 'French and Portugal plums'
Found in units of LB Found imported from the Straits Found rated by the LB

See also PRUNELLA.
Sources: Houghton, Rates, Tradecards.


A supposedly Latin term for a PRUNE

OED earliest date of use: c1400

Sources: Inventories (early).

Prussian blue

[prusian blew]

Prussian blue, or potassium ferric cyanide, was probably first discovered accidentally in the early 1700s by the Berlin colour maker, H. Diesbach, using materials supplied by the alchemist, Johann Conrad Dippel, though a method was only published in Latin in 1724 and in English soon after. It became an important artificial PIGMENT, advertised initially for artists' use. For this purpose it was ideal. It could be ground very finely, and was durable in both water and oil. Furthermore it was not poisonous and was available at about a tenth of the price of ULTRAMARINE. Even so, there were problems with its use at first such as a tendency towards green, almost certainly because it was often poorly manufactured [Harley (1970)]. As a DYESTUFF it made little progress in this country, possibly because the use of WOAD and INDIGO were well understood and produced excellent blues. Even so, Prussian blue gave a brighter shade than indigo and was especially fast on COTTON [Ponting (1980)].

OED earliest date of use: 1724

See also SAXON BLUE.
Sources: Inventories (late), Newspapers.
References: Harley (1970), Ponting (1980).