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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


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(2) - (a) a measure of weight; (b) an English money of account. (a) The English standard unit of weight is the avoirdupois pound of 7000 grains. The earliest weight in the English system was the Saxon pound, subsequently known as the Tower pound, from the old mint pound kept in the Tower of London. The Tower pound weighed 5400 grains and this weight of silver was coined into 240 pence or 20 shillings, hence pound in sense (2) (a pound weight of silver). The pound troy, probably introduced from France, was in use as early as 1415 and was adopted as the legal standard for gold and silver in 1527. The act which abolished the Tower pound (18 Hen. VIII.: the "pounde Troye which exceedeth the pounde Tower in weight iii quarters of -the oz.") substituted a pound of 5760 grains, at which the pound troy still remains. There was in use together with the pound troy, the merchant's pound, weighing 6750 grains, which was established about 1270 for all commodities except gold, silver and medicines, but it was generally superseded by the pound avoirdupois about 1330. There was also in use for a short time another merchant's pound, introduced from France and Germany; this pound weighed 7200 grains. The pound avoirdupois has remained in use continuously since the 14th century, although it may have varied slightly at different periods - the Elizabethan standard was probably 7002 grains. The standard pound troy, placed together with the standard yard in the custody of the clerk of the House of Commons by a resolution of the House of the 2nd of June 1758, was destroyed at the burning of the houses of parliament in 1834. In 1838 a commission was appointed to consider the restoration of the standards, and in consequence of their report in 1841 the pound avoirdupois of 7000 grains was substituted for the pound troy as the standard. A new standard pound avoirdupois was made under the direction of a committee appointed in 1834 (which reported in 1854), by comparison with authenticated copies of the original standard (see Phil. Trans. 1856). This standard pound was legalized by an act of 1855 (18 & 19 Vict. c. 72). The standard avoirdupois pound is made of platinum, in the form of a cylinder nearly 1.35 in. high and 115 in. in diameter. It has a groove or channel round it to enable it to be lifted by means of an ivory fork (for illustration see Weights And Measures) and is marked "P.S. 1844.1 lb." P.S. meaning Parliamentary Standard. It is preserved at the Standards Office, in the custody of the Board of Trade. Copies were also deposited at the Houses of Parliament, the Royal Mint, the Royal Observatory and with the Royal Society.

See the Reports of the Standards Commission (6 parts, 1868-1873), especially 3rd report (on the abolition of troy weight) and 5th report (on the business of the Standards Dept. and the condition of the official standards and apparatus; description of the reverification of the various official standards, with diagrams).

(b) 'The English monetary unit is the pound; it was originally a pound weight of silver (hence written £ for libra, Lat. pound weight), coined into twenty shillings, and is now represented by the gold sovereign (q.v.). The pound Scots was at one time of the same value as the English pound, but through gradual debasement of the coinage was reduced at the accession of James I. to about one-twelfth of the value of the English pound, and was divided into twenty shillings, each about the value of an English penny. The Egyptian pound, written £E, is a gold coin of 100 piastres, and was made the monetary unit of the country by a decree of the 14th of November 1885. Its weight is 8.544 grammes of gold o875 fine and its value in English standard gold is £1, os. 61d. The Turkish pound is written U. The Turkish monetary system is dealt with at length under TURKEY: Monetary System. Valuable information from the historical point of view will be found in the Reports of the Standards Commission quoted above, and in H. W. Chisholm's On the Science of Weighing and Measuring (1877) and his Seventh Annual Report as warden of the standards; R. Ruding, Annals of the Coinage (1819) and H. J. Chaney, Our Weights and Measures (1897). (T. A. I.)

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Pound'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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