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Mercery initially referred to silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

, linen
Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum. Linen is labor-intensive to manufacture, but when it is made into garments, it is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather....

, and fustian
Fustian is a term for a variety of heavy woven, mostly cotton fabrics, chiefly prepared for menswear. It is also used to refer to pompous, inflated or pretentious writing or speech, from at least the time of Shakespeare...

 textiles imported to England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in the 12th century.

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


The term mercer for cloth merchants (from French mercier, "notions dealer") is now largely obsolete. Mercers were formerly merchants or traders who dealt in cloth, typically fine cloth that was not produced locally. However inventories of mercers in small towns suggest that many were shopkeepers who dealt in various other dry commodities, not only cloth.

Related occupations include draper
Draper is the now largely obsolete term for a wholesaler, or especially retailer, of cloth, mainly for clothing, or one who works in a draper's shop. A draper may additionally operate as a cloth merchant or a haberdasher. The drapers were an important trade guild...

 and cloth merchant
Cloth merchant
Cloth merchant is, strictly speaking, like a draper, the term for any vendor of cloth. However, it is generally used for one who owned and/or ran a cloth manufacturing and/or wholesale import and/or export business in the Middle Ages or 16th and 17th centuries...

, while clothier
Clothier may refer to one of the following professions:*Tailor - the most common modern usage*Cloth merchant*A cloth manufacturer - see cloth productionAs a surname, Clothier may refer to one of the following individuals:...

 historically referred to someone who manufactured cloth, often under the domestic system.

See also

  • Wynne Ellis
    Wynne Ellis
    Wynne Ellis was a wealthy British haberdasher, politician and art collector.-Biography:Ellis, son of Thomas Ellis, by Elizabeth Ordway of Barkway, Hertfordshire, was born at Oundle, Northamptonshire, in July 1790, and after receiving a good education came to London...

    , 19th century British mercer
  • Geoffrey Boleyn
    Geoffrey Boleyn
    Sir Geoffrey Boleyn was a London merchant and Lord Mayor.-Life:Geoffrey Boleyn, the son of Sir Thomas Boleyn and Alice Bracton, was a wealthy London mercer. He served as a Sheriff of London in 1447, as alderman of the City of London in 1452, and Lord Mayor of London in 1457/8, and was knighted by...

    , 15th century English mercer.
  • Richard le Lacer
    Richard le Lacer
    Richard le Lacer of Bromley, Kent, was an English mercer and Mayor of London.He was appointed Sheriff of the City of London in 1329 and elected Mayor of London in 1345.He was married to Juliana, daughter of Steven de Asshewy and Margaret de Apuldrefield...

    , 14th century English mercer.
  • Haberdasher
    A haberdasher is a person who sells small articles for sewing, such as buttons, ribbons, zips, and other notions. In American English, haberdasher is another term for a men's outfitter. A haberdasher's shop or the items sold therein are called haberdashery.-Origin and use:The word appears in...