A Discourse of Trade

Barbon, Nicholas
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Jacob H. Hollander, ed.
First Pub. Date
Baltimore, MD: Lord Baltimore Press
Pub. Date

|9|* Of the Quantity and Quality of Wares.


THE Quantity of all Wares are known by Weight or Measure. The Reason of Gravity is not understood, neither is it Material to this Purpose; Whether it proceeds from the Elastisity of the Air, or Weight of the utmost Spheer, or from what other Causes, its sufficient, that the ways of Trying the Weights of Bodies are perfectly discover'd by the Ballance. There are Two Sorts of Weights in Common Use, the Troy, and Averdupois.


The First are used to Weigh Goods of most Value, as Gold, Silver and Silk, &c. The Latter for Coarser, and more Bulky Goods, as Lead, Iron, &c. |10|


There are Two Sorts of Measures, the one for Fluid Bodies, as the Bushel, Gallon and Quart, for Measuring Corn, Wine and Oyl; the other for the Measuring the Dimensions of Solid Bodies, as a Yard, Ell, &c. to Measure Cloth, Silk. &c.


The Weights and Measures of all Countries differs, but that is no Prejudice to Trade; they are all made certain by the Custom or Laws of the Place, and the Trader knows the Weight or Measure in Use, in the Place he Deals to. It is the Care of the Government, to prevent and punish the Fraud of False Weights and Measures, and in most Trading-Cities, there are Publick Weigh-Houses, and Measurers: The Fraud of the Ballance, which is from the unequal Length of the end of the Beam, is least perceivable; and therefore in Weighing |11| Goods of Value, they usually Weigh them in both Scales.


The Qualities of Wares are known by their Colour, Sound, Smell, Taste, Make, or Shape.


The Difference in the Qualities of Wares are very difficultly distinguished; those Organs that are the proper Judges of those Differencies, do very much disagree; some Men have clearer Eyes, some more distinguishing Ears, and other nicer Noses and Tastes; and every Man having a good Opinion of his own Faculties, it is hard to find a Judge to determine which is best: Besides, those Qualities that belong to Artificial Wares, such as depend upon the Mixture, Make or Shape of them, are more difficultly discover'd: Those Wares, whose Quality are produced by the just Mixture of different Bodies, such as Knives and Razors, whose |12| sharpness arise from the Good Temperament and Mixture of the Steel & Iron, are not to be found out, but by the Use of them: And so doth the Mixture, and well making of Hats, Cloth, and many other things.


Because the Difference in the Qualities of Wares, are so difficultly understood, it is that the Trader serves an Apprenticeship to learn them; and the Knowledge of them is called the Mystery of Trade; and in common Dealing, the Buyer is forced to rely on the Skill and Honesty of the Seller, to deliver Wares with such Qualities as he affirms them to have: It is the Sellers Interest, from the Expectation of further Dealing, not to deceive; because his Shop, the Place of Dealing, is known: Therefore, those Persons that buy of Pedlars, and Wandering People, run Great |13| Hazard of being Cheated.


Those Wares, whose Chief Qualities consist in Shape, such as all Wearing Apparel, do not so much depend upon the Honesty of the Seller; for tho' the Trader or Maker, is the Inventor of the Shape, yet it is the Fancy and Approbation of the Buyer, that brings it into Use, and makes it pass for a Fashion.

Notes for this chapter

Double vertical bars, ||, denote page breaks in the original 1690 Barbon text, with page numbers when available (e.g., |2|). The bars and numbers were inserted by Hollander and are preserved in this Econlib edition.—Econlib Ed.

End of Notes

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