First of all, I must apologise for not writing an article last month. I bet you didn’t even notice!
Back in the 1980s, I was lucky enough to be given the chance to have a look around a house that had been empty for a couple of years. It was full of books, and I mean full! A distant relative of the former occupier got in touch with me and told me he wanted to sell off all the contents. Un- fortunately, at that time, there was no way I could raise the sort of money he was after. However, he was nice enough to say that I could look through the books and pick out a few I really liked. In hindsight, I wish I had somehow raised the funds and bought them all. Having said that, I was more than pleased with the books I did get.
Amongst them was a book written in the late 1600s. It was Geography Rectified; or, a Descrip- tion of the World by Robert Morden. It is quite hard reading, but it is a fascinating insight into what was known about the world in the 17th Cen- tury. It contains 78 wonderful maps and general information on all the countries of the world. One of the sections is on weights and measures, and I have picked out those that were in use in London. Nearly everything was sold by the weight. I presume that when they say there are 480 grains in the ounce, they mean grains of corn. By these units, such items as pearls, precious stones, gold, silver, bread, and all manners of corn and grain were bought and sold. So, 20 grains make a scruple, 3 scruples a dram, 8 drams an ounce, and 12 ounces a pound. However, to purchase grocers’ ware, flesh, butter, cheese, iron, hemp, flax, lead and steel, the avoirdupois weight units are used. I’d never heard of this before, but it is more or less the same as we use today. Well, I do; I haven’t quite got to grips with the metric system!!
Something else I never knew was that three barley corn, in length, make an inch. It seems quite unscientific, and it’s not really surprising that in 1971, as a country, we switched over to the metric system. Some 100 years after this book was writ- ten, the French introduced the metre, which was one ten-millionth of the distance from the equator to the North Pole, on a line through Paris. It was so much more simple, everything in the unit of 10, but it still took us until 1971 to adopt it.
Ted is a local resident and keen collector.
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