Swan quill - Swiss tea

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

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Swan quill


Probably used for the same purposes as the GOOSE QUILL, but much less common. They were listed along with goose quills by Randle Holme among 'Painters equipment' and 'Instruments for Drawing, Limning, and Painting' [Holme (2000)]. Swan quills have not been noted in the shops, although they were imported.

OED earliest date of use: 1839

Found rateD by the M

Sources: Rates.
References: Holme (2000).

Swathing band

[swathingband; swatheband; swadeng bond]

Now usually called a swaddling band or swaddling clothes, the term referred to a long thin piece of fabric like a bandage used to wrap round a new-born infant's limbs to prevent free movement. Later the term was extended to cover similar bandages used to wrap round the body like a bandage. Probably the latter meaning was most common in trade as in 'five gloves a bone combe and a swatheband' [Inventories (1578)].

OED online earliest date of use: c1435 in the first sense; 1615 in the second

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

Swedes tea

Known only from one advertisement, Swedes TEA was claimed to be 'a collection of salutary Herbs, used for Breakfasting, and a cheap, pleasant and wholesome succedaneum for the foreign Teas'. The use of the term 'tea' for such drinks was not uncommon, as, for example, in the case of ENGLISH TEA, SWISS TEA and WORM TEA. The reason for this was possibly that the beverage was infused in boiling water like conventional teas. It is, however, a surprising choice of term by the second half of the eighteenth century when there was quite a vociferous body of experts drawing attention to 'the Evils which attend the Use of Tea' [Newspapers (1770)].

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Newspapers.

Sweet almond

[sweet and bitter almonds]

As a sweet tasting ALMOND it did not contain the glucoside Amygdalin found in the BITTER ALMOND. John Houghton included the BARBARY ALMOND, the JORDAN ALMOND and the VALENCIA ALMOND in this category [Houghton]. Sweet almonds were used extensively in CONFECTIONERY and cooking rather more than in medicine, although they were in the eighteenth-century Materia Medica [Pemberton (1746)]. They gave OIL OF ALMONDS, used among other things as an ingredient of SOAP [Newspapers (1770)].

Sweet almonds have also been noted in their unshelled state in the Dictionary Archive for sale by nurserymen as SEED [Tradecards (n.d.)].

OED earliest date of use: 1719

Simone Clarke

Found used to make SOAP Found in units of POUND Found rated by the LB, OUNCE

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Newspapers, Recipes, Tradecards.
References: Pemberton (1746).

Sweet fennel

[sweete fennell]

Sweet fennel was a term attached to several varieties of fennel. It was used for an apparently improved version of Foeniculum vulgare, for Foeniculum officinale and maybe even for FINOCHIO formerly labelled botanically as Foeniculum dulce, now Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce. Now it is invariably applied only to Finochio, a variety of the common Foeniculum vulgare, grown in the kitchen garden for the sake of its swollen leaves. It is probable that during the early-modern period the descriptor SWEET was applied to any form of fennel with seeds tasting sweet compared with the unimproved so-called wild FENNEL, except to Finochio, which only became popular towards the very end of the eighteenth century. No eighteenth-century recipe has been noted setting out how to prepare and cook it. The seed of sweet fennel was an ingredient in both MITHRIDATE and VENICE TREACLE, two of the classic medicinal compositions of the time.

OED earliest date of use: 1796

Found listed among PHYSICAL HERB seeds
As seed: Found as an ingredient in MITHRIDATE, VENICE TREACLE

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

Sweet flag

A rush-like plant, ACORUS calamus, widely distributed in the North Temperate zone, growing in water and wet places, with an aromatic odour and having a thick creeping rootstock of a pungent aromatic flavour. Pemberton includes it in the Materia Medica, giving the root as the useful portion [Pemberton (1746)], and using it as an ingredient in MITHRIDATE and VENICE TREACLE [Recipes (Pemberton)]; [Recipes (Pemberton)].

OED earliest date of use: 1640 as sweet smelling flag under Flag

Sources: Recipes.
References: Pemberton (1746).

Sweet leather

[swete lether]

This is a type of LEATHER that had been PERFUMED, and which was intended for making GLOVES. Although sweet leather has not been found in the dictionaries, James Halliwell has 'sweet gloves' [Halliwell (1850, facs. 1989)].

Not found in the OED

Found describing GLOVE

Sources: Inventories (early).
References: Halliwell (1850, facs. 1989).

Sweet water

[sweete water]

A liquid PERFUME or one of the PERFUMED WATERS, such as ROSE WATER.

OED earliest date of use: 1544

Found in units of QUART Found rated by the DOZEN - VENICE GLASS

Sources: Inventories (early), Newspapers, Rates, Recipes.


A SUGAR - CAKE in the shape of a heart, it was possibly, at times at least, a variety of GINGERBREAD, as in 'Ginger Bread in Rowls & sweethearts' [Inventories (1735)] and in Thomas Turners purchases [Diaries (Turner)].

OED earliest date of use: 1732

Found in units of GROSS

Sources: Diaries, Inventories (late).


[swyfte; swyft; swifte; swefte]

The OED describes it as a light reel, usually of adjustable diameter, but sometimes in the form of a simple cross of wood, upon which a skein of silk, yarn, etc. is placed in order to be wound off. However the description given by Joseph Wright suggests an altogether more complex apparatus, though these may have been of later types. Although the form varied from county to county, all had more than one wheel, on each of which a hank of yarn was stretched. This was wound onto the PIRN or BOBBIN, though whether each onto its own pirn or both twisted together onto a single one, is not made clear. This type of swift superseded the YARNWINDLE [Wright (1898-1905)].

In the Dictionary Archive, the swift was usually associated with a STOOL and/or a TRUNDLE as in 'a trundell w'th 3 swyfts & a stoll' [Inventories (1602)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1564

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

Swine trough

[swyne trowe; swyne troughe; swyne trough; pigtrouff; hogtrough; hogstrough; hoges troffe; hodgs trowe]

A TROUGH for SWINE to feed out of. The term is also found, though less commonly as 'Hogs trough' and Pig trough'. The contexts suggest there are no differences in meaning.

OED earliest date of use: 1530

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

Swiss tea


According to a quotation in the OED from the Chambers' Encyclopaedia of the 1860s, Swiss tea was made from the leaves plucked from plants of the genus Achillea, which are common in the Swiss Alps. The use of the term 'tea' for such drinks in England was not unusual (for example ENGLISH TEA, SWEDES TEA, WORM TEA), possibly because the beverage was infused in boiling water like conventional teas. It is, however, a surprising choice of term by the second half of the eighteenth century when there was quite a vociferous body of experts drawing attention to 'the Evils which attend the Use of Tea', for example [Newspapers (1770)]. The only example of Swiss tea noted in the Dictionary Archive, was in an advertisement including other QUACK MEDICINEs [Tradecards (n.d.)]. This suggests that Swiss tea was not intended as a substitute for a conventional tea, but as a drink for health.

OED online earliest date of use: 1860

Sources: Tradecards.