Apothecary Jars and their Contents
In the gallery below you’ll see what the shelves of a mid-nineteenth-century pharmacy might have looked like. You’ll notice that the jars bear Latin inscriptions of their medicinal contents. Pharmacists and chemists would have learnt about these medicines during their training, and used materia medica (handbooks to drugs and their therapeutic properties) to keep themselves up to speed in their daily practice. Click on each image to view the drug and its entry in the materia medica, and to discover more about the diseases they were used to treat.
You can visit the glossary (PDF) to help you decipher some of the more archaic terminology!
All jars in the gallery are from the Apothecary Jar Collection of Rosalind and Elbert McLaury, M.D., and Suzanne and Harold Spear, M.D., held in the Harvard Medical Library at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. They are made of French porcelain, and are dated c. 1860s. Images courtesy of the Center for the History of Medicine.