Glossary of Early Modern Terms

This glossary provides explanations and definitions for terms and phrases that carry specific meaning in the context of early modern London. Content is based on similar entries in the Oxford English Dictionary, Henry Harben’s Dictionary of London, and Ben Weinreb et al.’s The London Enyclopaedia.



  • bachelor A junior or inferior member of a livery company. (JJ)
  • Baron of the Exchequer Judges of the Exchequer of Pleas, the branch of English court, distinct from the curia regis and the Court of Chancery, that dealt with equity suits and revenue disputes. (LS)
  • bars Makeshift gates (made out of posts, rails, and a chain) erected at various points outside the Wall to mark the extreme limits of the city liberties. (JJ)
  • barge A flat vessel, usually with one mast, used for transporting freight on the Thames. (JJ) A large vessel propelled by oars or a tugboat decorated for state occasions. (JJ)
  • beadle A functionary employed in the service of a ward, livery company, parish, or other institution. Depending on their station, a beadle might have performed the duties of a messenger, a watchperson, or different ceremonial roles. (TL)
  • bookseller A person who sold books. In early modern London, a bookseller was often a publisher as well. (JJ)
  • boss A water conduit, usually attached to an ornamental fountain on a wall, that provided Londoners with fresh drinking water. (JJ)
  • broadside A large sheet of paper printed on one side. (JJ)


  • clerk The chief executive officer of a livery company. (TL)
  • channel Any natural or artificial waterway. (CF)
  • charter A legal document written on a single sheet of paper. (JJ)
  • churchwarden A person who represented the laity in a parish church. (TL)
  • citizen A legal and political designation for Londoners who had attained freedom of the City by becoming members of a livery company. (ST)
  • city waits A versatile group of musicians employed by the City for official functions, originally derived from the guards stationed on town walls. (ST)
  • communitas The spirit of community. An unstructured body of people acting collectively and equally. (TL)
  • citizen’s common hunt A stag-hunting event which was popular until the late seventeenth century. (KMC)
  • civitas The social existence of a city as a community. (TL)
  • Clarenceux (alternatively, Clarentius) The King of Arms for the region in England south of the river Trent. (LS)
  • conduit A canal or pipe used to distribute water or other liquids. (JJ)
  • constable An officer who oversaw law enforcement within a ward or parish. His duties included supervising the Watch during the night, executing warrants given by a justice of the peace, and arresting those found committing crimes. (TL)
  • cordwainer Shoemaker. (JCH)
  • curtal An early bassoon constructed from a single, double-backed piece of wood. (ST)
  • custos rotulorum The principal justice of the peace in London and the keeper of the rolls and records. (JT)
  • church minister A person authorized by the Church of England to perform liturgical duties in a parish church. (TL)


  • dedicatory epistle A prefatory letter printed in early modern books and usually addressed to the author’s patron. (LS)
  • ducat A gold coin minted in Venice and used in commerce throughout Europe. Ducat could also refer to the generic monetary value equivalent to that of the Venetian ducat coin. (LS)
  • duodecimo The size of a book in which each leaf is one-twelfth of a printing page. Also refers to a sheet of paper of the same size. (JJ)


  • ell A unit of measurement, originally a cubit (although later it referred to longer units), that was the approximate length of a man’s forearm from his elbow (about 18 inches). (SM)
  • escutcheon Shield surface on which a coat of arms is displayed. (LS)
  • exchequer The department responsible for collecting and managing taxes on behalf of the crown. (LS)


  • folio The size of a book in which each leaf is half of a printing page. Also refers to a sheet of paper of the same size. (JJ)
  • foreigner A person whose place of resdience differs from their place of birth; unlike alien, a foreigner is not necessarily from the European continent and can be from within England. (LS)
  • franchise The privilege of free and full participation in civic life, including the right to own property, earn income, trade, etc. (JJ)
  • freedom Having the freedom of the City meant that a person could practice trade within London. Normally, a person entered into the freedom by becoming a member or brother of one of the livery companies. (JJ)
  • freeman A person who possessed freedom of the City. (JJ)


  • galley foist The lord mayor’s barge. (JJ)
  • greenmen Performers dressed in green, traditionally associated with the forest and fertility. Their role in outdoor pageantry often included discharging fireworks and gunfire. (ST)


  • hall A house or building belonging to a livery company and serving as a headquarters for the company. (JJ)


  • inn of court Institution where law students and junior barristers were housed and educated. (TL)
  • inn of chancery Preparatory school for students wishing to be admitted to an Inn of Court. (TL)


  • journeyman A person who, having completed an apprenticeship, worked for paid wages under a master of the craft in a livery company. (JJ)
  • justice of the peace A magistrate who was authorized to perform minor legal tasks, often without formal legal credentials. (TL)


  • king of arms A chief herald of the College of Arms. There were three kings of arms: the principal king of arms, the Clarenceux king of arms, and Norroy king of arms. (JJ)
  • Knight An honorary rank bestowed on individuals whose service to the crown is deemed equivalent to that of the medieval military knight. (LS)


  • lay sheriff A common person (i.e., not an alderman) elected to the office of sheriff. Unlike the aldermanic sheriff, the lay sheriff did not become eligible for the mayoralty of London. (TL)
  • legal quay Authorized locations where ships could load and off-load merchandise. (TL)
  • liberty A location not under the jurisdiction of the City of London or with special privileges. Also known as precinct. (TL) A suburban district located within the city limits as defined by the bars, but outside the Wall. (TL)
  • livery company A company in London responsible for regulating trade in a specific industry (e.g., furs, fish, iron, etc.), whose members donned distinctive livery and dress at ceremonial events. Also known as a guild or craft guild. (JJ)
  • liveryman A freeman of a livery company who, having met certain requirements, was entitled to wear the company’s livery at ceremonial events. (JJ)
  • lord mayor The mayor of the City of London. (JJ)


  • master common hunt A high ranking officer charged with the care and keeping of the Lord Mayor’s hunting hounds. He lived in or near the City Dog House. (KMC)
  • masque A courtly spectacle with elaborate scenic design celebrating royal events and often incorporating aristocrats as masquers. In early modern England, the masque was pioneered by the designer Inigo Jones and the poet Ben Jonson. It was associated with James I and Charles I. (ST)
  • master Chief in command of a livery company. (TL)
  • mayoral show An annual pageant celebrating the accession of the City’s chief guild official to its most powerful post, a tradition derived from the newly-incumbent mayor’s traditional oath of fealty sworn to the monarch. (ST)
  • moor A piece of uncultivated ground, especially a marsh. (LS)


  • octavo The size of a book in which each leaf is one-eighth of a printing page. Also refers to a sheet of paper of the same size. (JJ)


  • pageant A public spectacle, usually involving dramatic sequences, elaborate decorations, and a procession. (JJ)
  • pageantry Pageants and their performance in general (LS).
  • pageant book A commemorative playbook, containing the script for a pageant along with paratext by the playwright. (JJ)
  • patrimony One of the three ways that a man (or woman) could become free of a livery company. Without serving an apprenticeship, sons (and occasionally daughters) of a freeman could take the freedom of the company. (JJ)
  • portreeve A local official who, prior to the establishment of the office of the lord mayor in 1189, served as the king’s representative in London. The portreeve was primarily responsible for collecting royal revenues. (TL)
  • precinct A bounded area, especially when associated with a specific place or building. Sometimes used interchangeably with liberty when referring to a location exempt from the jurisdiction of the corporation of London (e.g. Blackfriars Precinct) (LS).
  • printer A person who who printed books and/or other publications. (JJ)
  • provost The head, representative, or administrator of an ecclesiastical or scholastic organization. (LS)
  • publisher A person who prepared and issued a book or other publication for sale. In early modern London, a publisher was often a bookseller as well. (JJ)
  • pump A pipe or conduit used for distributing water. (JJ)


  • quarto The size of a book in which each leaf is one-quarter of a printing page. Also refers to a sheet of paper of the same size. (JJ)


  • raker A citizen volunteer who carried out street cleansing and refuse removal within a parish, working under the supervision of a scavenger. (TL)
  • recorder of London Principal judge for the City of London. (TL)
  • redemption One of the three ways that a man (or woman) could become free of a livery company. At the discretion of a warden of the company, an individual could purchase admission to the freedom of a company. (JJ)
  • res publica The common good of a state. (TL)
  • royal entry A ceremony celebrating the formal passage of a ruler through a city for a coronation or another festive occasion. Also known as a triumphal entry. (ST)


  • sackbut A brass instrument with a telescopic slide. Similar to the modern trombone, but with a smaller bell. (ST)
  • scavenger A citizen volunteer who oversaw street cleansing and refuse removal within a parish, which was often carried out by rakers. (TL)
  • sea spectacle A waterborne pageant or set of festivities that welcomed a monarch or dignitary, often involving fireworks and reenacting naval battles or legendary sea quests. Also known as a water pageant or a pageant by water. (ST)
  • service One of the three ways that a man (or woman) could become free of a livery company. Service usually entailed a seven-year apprenticeship to a master. (JJ)
  • shawm A woodwind instrument with a double reed, predecessor of the oboe, which made a loud and piercing sound. Also known as hautboy. (ST)
  • sheriff An elected official who, along with the lord mayor, represented the City of London in court, parliament, and other official settings. Two sheriffs were elected each year on Midsummer Day (i.e., June 24th): one aldermanic sheriff and one lay sheriff. (TL)
  • show A pageant, masque, or procession prepared for the entertainment of spectators. (JJ)
  • sidesperson A person who facilitated church services in a parish church. (TL)
  • soke A form of private jurisdiction, as opposed to jurisidiction by the City of London, over an area of land. Soke can also refer to the area of land itself under private jurisidiction. (TL & NAP)
  • soundscape Any acoustic field of study, often the aggregate sounds of a given environment that are perceptible to the human ear. (ST)
  • stationers’ register A record book maintained by the Stationers’ Company, containing records of (supposedly) all books published in early modern London. (TL)
  • suburb A city liberty or other area of London located outside the Wall. (TL)
  • sweetmeats Sweets or confectionaries, often candied fruit or nuts. They were often thrown to the crowd during pageants and shows. (ST)


  • translation Process by which a livery company member could transfer to another livery company. (JJ)
  • Tudors The five monarchs of the House of Tudor (from Welsh Tudur) who ruled England, Wales, Ireland and parts of France between 1485 and 1603. (MDH)


  • urbs The physical, architectural existence of a city. (TL)


  • ward One of 26 geographical administrative units in early modern London. (KL)
  • warden Senior members who were responsible for specific offices within a livery company. (TL)
  • warder A prison guard. (TL)
  • watch A group of men responsible for patrolling the streets in a ward or parish at night, working under the supervision of a constable. (TL)
  • waterman A person who piloted a ferry. (TL)


Cite this page

MLA citation

Jenstad, Janelle, and Tye Landels-Gruenewald. Glossary of Terms. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 05 May 2022,

Chicago citation

Jenstad, Janelle, and Tye Landels-Gruenewald. Glossary of Terms. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed May 05, 2022.

APA citation

Jenstad, J., & Landels-Gruenewald, T. 2022. Glossary of Terms. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 7.0). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

RIS file (for RefMan, RefWorks, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

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ET  - 7.0
PY  - 2022
DA  - 2022/05/05
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 

TEI citation

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