Glossary of Fabrics, Garments, and Textiles

in The Atlantic World and the Manila Galleons
Free access

This book aims to articulate a contribution to, and revises, the traditional understanding of the Atlantic World by emphasising the historical connections between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, and the importance of Spanish America in those connections. It explores the degree to which the colonial Spanish American elite and cities were main components of the economic and cultural encounter between the Spanish Empire and East Asia in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the reason why the Manila Galleon route was superseded by the Cape route as the main venue of exchange between the Atlantic World and Asia around the mid-seventeenth century. This book studies the historical factors that fostered trade from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic World in the late sixteenth century and the first half of the seventeenth century. Among those factors, there were the commoditisation of, and growing taste for, Asian goods in Spanish America, the strengthening position of Mexican merchants in the Spanish Empire, and the orientation of Manila’s economy toward international trade and strong commitment of the Chinese economy to silver. The book also analyses how growing international conflicts both in the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, and the delicate balance of powers within the Spanish Empire, weakened the trans-Pacific trade and gave way to the rise of the Cape route.

This glossary consists mostly of terms that refer to the fabrics, garments, and units of measure described in the text. Also included are some lesser-known general terms as well as geographical names given by the Spaniards to cities and regions of China and Southeast Asia.1

almática – white tunic (worn by Catholic priests) with short, wide sleeves and decorations of purple colour

bundled silk (seda en mazo) – raw silk piled up in rolls

capellar – cloak of Muslim style worn in early modern Spain

capichola – thin fabric made of silk in the form of lace

cate – weight measure used in the early modern Philippines; it was equal to one tenth of 1 chinanta, to 1 pound and 6 ounces, and to 632.63 grammes (cf. chinanta)

chaúl – Chinese silk woven with little shine and usually of blue colour

chinanta – weight measure used in the early modern Philippines; it was equal to one tenth of 1 pico and to 6.326 kilogrammes (cf. cate)

cordovan (cordobán) – goatskin leather

damask – patterned silk of high quality, woven (usually in drawings) with only one warp and with wefts woven using yarns of the same thickness and colour

espolín – strong fabric made of silk or cotton and patterned with drawings of flowers

floss silk (seda floja) – silk that has not been twisted

gorgorán – piping silk

holanda – fine linen

huipiles – low sleeveless tunics embroidered with bright colours of Aztec origin

lampote – cotton fabric produced in the Philippines

Lanquin – according to Alfonso Mola and Martínez Shaw, this is the city of Nanking (in Jiangsu province, China); according to Sugaya, this is a port in the province of Fujian (China).

long-pile silk (seda de pelo) – silk fabric typically used in embroideries, laces, ribbons, plaits, fringes, and other dress ornaments

manípulo – holly ornament similar to (but shorter than) priest’s stole

marlota – Muslim tight dress of medieval origin

mudéjar – art style, characterised by the use of Christian and Muslim ornaments, that flourished in the Iberian Peninsula from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries

medriñaque – Philippine fabric made of abaca, buri, and other vegetal fibres

pico – weight measure used in the early modern Philippines; it was equal to 10 chinantas and to 63.262 kilogrammes

raja – cotton fabric of high quality; in the early modern period, the rajas from Florence were renowned for their sumptuousness

raw silk (seda cruda) – silk (in skeins) that has been spun but not dyed

reposteros – decorative cloth for homes that was patterned with the owner’s coat of arms

satin – fabric made of fine, smooth, and shiny silk

sinabafa – fabric made of fine linen; similar to holanda

tabí – silk fabric with patterned motifs in the form of waves resembling water

taffeta – silk that is fine, dense, closely woven, and glossy

thrown silk (seda torcida) – raw silk of twisted yarns

vara – length measure used in early modern Spain; it was equal to 0.836 metres

velvet – silk fabric that is rough on one side and smooth on the other side

weft silk (seda de tramas)2 – either a variant of or a synonym for thrown silk (seda torcida)

wimple – a cloth covering for women that was worn over the head and around the neck and chin

1Term descriptions were checked against the following sources: Diccionario de la Real Academia de la Lengua Española, 22nd ed.; Sebastián de Covarrubias, Tesoro de la Lengua Castellana o Española (Madrid: Luis Sánchez, 1611); and Rosa M. Dávila Corona, Montserrat Duran Pujol and Máximo García Fernández, Diccionario Histórico de Telas y Tejidos. Castellano-Catalán (Salamanca: Junta de Castilla y León, 2004).
2This term does not appear as an entry in any of the dictionaries consulted.

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