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Museum treasures

English Delftware display jar, 1647

English delftware drug jar, 1647

Source: Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society Museum houses the earliest known date English delftware drug jar.

Beautifully decorated with the coat of arms of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, this 370 year old vessel is the earliest known dated English delftware drug jar.

The coat of arms shows Apollo, a Greek and Roman god of medicine and healing, killing the dragon of disease. This is the earliest dated appearance of Apollo on an English drug jar.

Apollo is supported by two unicorns from the royal arms of King James. The crest of the arms features a rhinoceros: the animal’s powdered horn was once believed to have medicinal properties.

The motto, ‘OPIFER QUE PER ORBEM DICOR’, is from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ and translates to ‘I am spoken of all over the world as one who brings help’.

Rather than having a practical storage function, it is likely that such jars were produced simply to look impressive in an apothecary shop. The jar was displayed to declare that the owner was a proud member of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203718

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