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A mercery (mercer's shop) in Brussels

Mercery (from French mercerie, the notions trade) initially referred to silk, linen, and fustian textiles imported to England in the 12th century.[1]

The term mercery later extended to goods made of these and the sellers of those goods.


The term mercer for cloth merchants (from French mercier, merchant originally importing goods from the Eastern world[2]) is now largely obsolete. Mercers were formerly merchants or traders who dealt in cloth, typically fine cloth that was not produced locally. Inventories of mercers in small towns, however, suggest that many were shopkeepers who dealt in various dry commodities other than cloth.[3] Related occupations include haberdasher, draper and cloth merchant, while clothier historically referred to someone who manufactured cloth, often under the domestic system.

The working-class mercer which compromised the majority of the occupation, was far apart from the riches enjoyed by the select wealthy few. The basic operation ran by most commonly a family unit, consisted of the mercer, wife, family, servants, and apprentices. The husband was tasked with the duty of marketing and selling their wares to the public in places such as their small storefronts and in public fairs. The wife’s duty in the workshop was to use her skills as a silk woman to buy the materials for their mercery trade and make the various silk cloths and piece goods, she was also in charge of the workshop alongside her husband and often would be expected to train the apprentices and children to contribute to the household income.[4]

By the 21st century the word mercer was primarily used in connection with the Worshipful Company of Mercers, the first in precedence of the twelve Great Livery Companies of the City of London.[5]

Prominent mercers[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Mercery of London, Anne F. Sutton, pg. 2
  2. ^ "Etymologie du mot "mercier"". Centre National de Ressources Textuelles et Lexicales. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  3. ^ Europe's Rich Fabric: The Consumption, Commercialisation, and Production of Luxury Textiles in Italy, the Low Countries and Neighbouring Territories (Fourteenth-Sixteenth Centuries.) pp. 24–25.
  4. ^ Sutton, Anne F. (2005). The Mercery of London : Trade, Goods and People, 1130-1578. London: Taylor & Francis Group. ISBN 9781315238326.
  5. ^

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of mercery at Wiktionary
  • The dictionary definition of mercer at Wiktionary