A chandlery was originally the office in a medieval
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 household responsible for wax
thumb|right|[[Cetyl palmitate]], a typical wax ester.Wax refers to a class of chemical compounds that are plastic near ambient temperatures. Characteristically, they melt above 45 °C to give a low viscosity liquid. Waxes are insoluble in water but soluble in organic, nonpolar solvents...

 and candle
A candle is a solid block or cylinder of wax with an embedded wick, which is lit to provide light, and sometimes heat.Today, most candles are made from paraffin. Candles can also be made from beeswax, soy, other plant waxes, and tallow...

s, as well as the room in which the candles were kept. It was headed by a chandler. The office was subordinated to the kitchen
A kitchen is a room or part of a room used for cooking and food preparation.In the West, a modern residential kitchen is typically equipped with a stove, a sink with hot and cold running water, a refrigerator and kitchen cabinets arranged according to a modular design. Many households have a...

, and only existed as a separate office in larger households. Whether a separate office or not, the function was naturally an important one, in a time before electric light
Electric light
Electric lights are a convenient and economic form of artificial lighting which provide increased comfort, safety and efficiency. Most electric lighting is powered by centrally-generated electric power, but lighting may also be powered by mobile or standby electric generators or battery systems...

, and when production of candles was often done privately. It was closely connected with other offices of the household, such as the ewery
A ewery was the office in a medieval household responsible for water and the vessels for drinking or washing of the person. The word comes from 'ewer', a sort of pitcher. This office was not responsible for laundry, which was handled by the offices of laundry and napery . The three offices did work...

 and the scullery
Scullery (room)
A scullery is a room in a house traditionally used for washing up dishes and laundering clothes, or as an overflow kitchen when the main kitchen is overloaded. Tasks performed in the scullery include cleaning dishes and cooking utensils , occasional kitchen work, ironing, boiling water for cooking...

. With this use, the term is largely obsolete today but can refer to a candle business. As such, a "chandler" is a person who sells candles.

In chemistry, soap is a salt of a fatty acid.IUPAC. "" Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. . Compiled by A. D. McNaught and A. Wilkinson. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford . XML on-line corrected version: created by M. Nic, J. Jirat, B. Kosata; updates compiled by A. Jenkins. ISBN...

 was a natural byproduct of candlemaking and by the 18th century most commercial chandlers dealt in candles and soap, although even then many were becoming general dealers. As these were the dealers that provided ship's stores, chandlery came to refer to a shop selling nautical items for ships and boats, although for a time they were called ship-chandleries
Ship chandler
A ship chandler is a retail dealer in special supplies or equipment for ships.For traditional sailing ships items that could be found in a chandler might include: rosin, turpentine, tar, pitch , linseed oil, whale oil, tallow, lard, varnish, twine, rope and cordage, hemp, oakum, tools A ship...

to distinguish them. Americans used the term chandlery for these ship-chandleries, but tended to prefer the term chandler's shop. Both terms are still in use. And the job function and title, chandler, still exists as someone who works in the chandlery business or manages a chandler's shop.
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