Workshop Secrets

The Development of Pharmacies and the Pharmaceutics

History of pharmaciesHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

The first Pharmacies

In Europe, the first pharmacies were established based on Arabic examples in the 9th century AD, mainly connected to the healing work of monastic orders. The first civilian pharmacy opened in Naples. The first known public pharmacy in Hungary was established in Buda in 1303.

Medieval Pharmacies

Medieval pharmacies initially resembled store rooms and grocery stores, where  piquing the interest of customers with taxidermied animals hung above their entrances.

Medicine Making in the 16th Century

From the 16th century onwards the manufacture of medicines in pharmacies was regulated by pharmacopoeias: reference books for drug specifications. The first pharmacopoeia was edited by Valerius Cordus (1515–1544), a German physicist and botanist, in Nuremberg. 

The first pharmacopoeia in Hungary was assembled by János Dávid Ruland (1585–1648), physician and doctor of humanities.

Pharmacies in 17–18th Century

In the 17th century only 27 pharmacies operated in Hungary. People tried to make do with home apothecaries, portable medicine chests and products procured from olejkár, other travelling merchants of spice and fabric.

Olejkár, travelling medicine merchants of Slovak origin, probably learned their craft from Jesuit monks who settled in Upper Hungary in the 16th century, and sold their wares all over Europe.
 

Home apothecaries were mostly portable, lockable cases filled with elongated bottles, or pieces of furniture with many doors and drawers used by nobility. 

The Prince of Transylvania, Gábor Bethlen (1613–1629) often bought pharmacy chests from Vienna or Venice for his ailing wife, Zsuzsanna Károlyi.

The first modern pharmacies were established by monastic orders but by the second half of the 18th century the number of secular pharmacies also increased, as sovereign Maria Theresa (1740–1780) made it obligatory to set up a pharmacy in each county.

The Jesuit Order founded pharmacies all over the country, for instance in Eger in 1713. Pictured are faience liquid medicine containers with the coat of arms of István Telekessy Bishop of Eger (✝1715).     

Baroque cartouches: ornate labels, are formally related to coats of arms, so they often carry other information in addition to the name of the medicine. They may refer to the owner of the pharmacy, the religious order operating the pharmacy, or even the name of the pharmacy itself.

Pharmaceutical Price Lists

The reforms of Maria Theresa and Joseph II (1780–1790) also affected the operation of pharmacies. The first important step was the development of the so-called taxa, i.e. official pharmaceutical price list.

First edited in Hungary by János Justus Torkos (1699–1770) in Bratislava in 1745. Before that the so-called Viennese price lists were used.  The first pharmacopoeia i.e. drug reference book and price list valid for the entire Habsburg Empire was published in 1776.     

The significance of price lists is that the name and recommended retail price of medicines are typically recorded not only in Latin but also in the official language of the given country. 

The cross system denoting the strength of different drugs which is still in use in Hungary, was introduced in the 1810 Buda taxa

Pharmacy and laboratory (1722) by Fleischmann, August ChristianHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

The 18th Century Pharmacy

Joseph II’s health reforms also affected pharmacies, as they required the pharmacy rooms to be clean, dry, bright, spacious and well ventilated, in accordance with drug storage and preparation regulations. 

Pharmacies had to include an officina, a laboratory, and a warehouse to store ingredients. The number and size of warehouses could vary. 

Initially pharmacies’ selling space or officina opened directly onto the street. Not only were medicines prepared and stored here, but it also functioned as an important social space. 

At the centre of the officina stood the work table or dispensary table where pharmacists stored their most important tools. 

The most valuable pieces of officina furnishings were the pharmacy jars of various materials, shapes, sizes and decorations, which not only played a functional role but also represented the authority of the pharmacist and the pharmacy. As the rules for storing medicines in pharmacies became stricter, so did pharmacy containers change. 

Faience apothecary jar by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

Beaked pitchers of different sizes were used to store liquids, including syrups or oils preserved with honey and later sugar.

Faience albarello by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

In the 15th century various albarellos appeared, some slim in the middle, some more stocky, some spindle-shaped which used to store powders, ground herbs and ointments. 

These jars, mostly decorated with copper green, manganese violet, cobalt blue and ochre yellow glazes, may have had cartouches, or labels too, although this was not yet common. 

Wooden apothecary jar by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

Another characteristic type of pharmacy apothecary jars in addition to early clay containers are wooden medicine jars, already prevalent in the earliest pharmacies. 

These cylindrical jars contained shredded or powdered herbs and resins, as well as chemicals and medicines less sensitive to humidity. 

Wooden apothecary jar by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

The most popular woods used for apothecary jars were linden, maple, ash, various fruit trees and poplar. The shape of wooden jars was mostly functional, decorativity was only secondary. 

Wooden vessels were banned in pharmacies in 1920, citing hygiene considerations. 

Faience apothecary jar by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

The word faience derives from the Northern Italian town of Faenza and refers to the ceramic material of jars. Apothecary jars made of faience were covered with opaque tin glaze (previously transparent lead glaze was used) and were fired at a high temperature. 

Tobacco container jar from Delft by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

In the Dutch Low Lands the city of Delft became the centre of faience production in the 16th century, with the aim of competing with expensive Chinese porcelain. 

One of the distinctive motifs of Delft pharmacy vessels are mostly blue on white background. This is called the alla porcelana, which was perfected in Italy. Their impact was evident on the products of local workshops across Europe. 

Faience albarello by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

The majolica technique, which got its name from the island Mallorca, spread from the Middle East to Spain, and via Mallorca to Italy. 

From the second half of the 15th century to the end of the 17th century the most significant of the Italian majolica workshops were in Faenza, Deruta, Urbino, Venice, Savona, Gaffagiolo, etc.

Wooden apothecary jar by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

Changes in fashion and style influenced the wooden pharmacy jars as well, thus they were repainted often. 

A characteristic feature of Baroque and Late Baroque apothecary jars is marble imitation, where the marble effect was created using different shades of green, red and white, blue and white and dark grey tones. 

Wooden apothecary jar by UnknowHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

One common feature of 18th century jars, regardless of their material, is the decorated, symmetrical coat of arms that is the cartouche, where the inscription was written. The name of materials stored in the jars was indicated in Latin, abbreviated. The colour of the inscriptions was usually black, with the initials marked in red. 

Glass apothecary jar by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

Transparent, stoppered glass jars in pharmacies contained liquids, spirits, oils and fine powders that were not photosensitive. Stained glass was used to store photosensitive materials. 

Bronze mortar with pestle by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

The mortar was one of the most important tools in a pharmacy, because solid ingredients such as bark, roots, seeds, bones, ores and crystals had to be crushed, milled or pulverized for medicine production. 

The mortar became the symbol of pharmacists as early as the 13th century.

Glass apothecary jar by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

Photosensitive materials used in pharmacies were stored in dark blue, violet, magenta, golden brown and black tinted containers. 

Serpentine stone mortar by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

In addition to crushing mortars, smaller mortars were also used. With the associated pestle, mostly finer-grained materials were pulverized. They could be made out of marble, different metals or stones. 

Pharmacy hand scales by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

From the beginning, some of the most important tools of a pharmacist’s work were scales. Balance scales were suitable for quick weighing but required a sure hand. They were stored on racks in pharmacies. 

Faience Haban apothecary jar by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

Creation of Italian Renaissance inspired ceramics decorated with floral patterns and after 1670 with animals and buildings, can be linked to the Anabaptist Hutterites: the Habán people.

Hutterite or Habán artisans, who probably fled Switzerland through Northern Italy finally reached Hungary, settling on the estates of Protestant lords in Upper Hungary, Western Hungary and Transylvania. 

After Maria Theresa disbanded the Hutterite communities, they dispersed throughout the country and many found work in the emerging craft production communities, so their influence prevailed. 

Habán pottery was frequently used in home pharmacies, but church- or aristocrat-founded pharmacies ordered their characteristic white pots as well.

Stoneware apothecary jar by Domokos Kuny’s workshop in BudaHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

The beginning of Hungarian ceramics industry can be traced back to the faience workshop of Holič, founded in 1743.  Similar products were later produced by the workshop in Tata and Buda, the latter founded by the ceramicist Domonkos Kuny (1754–1822) and operating in Buda between 1786 and 1818.  

The cartouches or labels appearing on Domonkos Kuny’s apothecary jars were characterized by their distinct “zopfstil” (classicist late Baroque style) and a double-curved leafy closure at the top. 

Stoneware apothecary jar by UnknownHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

Stoneware appeared in the 1780s. 

In Hungary pharmacy vessels were also made in factories founded in Košice, Kremnica, Spišská Nová Ves, Rožňava, Miskolc and Pápa, as the growing number of pharmacies represented significant demand in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Pharmacy educationHNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine

Training of Pharmacists

In Europe the emergence of the profession of pharmacist or apothecary can be attributed to healing orders. Monastic pharmacists grew and harvested the plants and herbs used in medicines in monastic herb gardens.

The beginnings of the Independence of Pharmacists

Until the 13th century pharmacy developed in interaction and parallel with medical and natural sciences. Doctors prepared their medicines themselves up until the decree of the German-Roman emperor Frederick II in 1241, in which pharmacy features as an independent field. 

Main Duties of Pharmacists 

Pharmacists mainly dealt with the manufacture and sale of medicine, but due to the lack of doctors they also played a healing and advisory role for centuries. 

Pharmacists belonged to the upper class of urban bourgeoisie, and in the 15th-18th centuries they played a major role in the development of natural sciences.

Training of pharmacists was also influenced by the decrees of Maria Theresa. From 1773, prospective pharmacists had to take exams before university professors, even though their training remained guild-based until 1851. 

The place of training for the pharmacist candidates was the pharmacy, and their master was the pharmacist. After the school years, the owner of the pharmacy issued an assistant certificate, and after gaining experience abroad, the pharmacist candidate took an exam before the city medical officer and two pharmacists. 

The training of pharmacists gradually reached university level. At the University of Pest they were able to obtain a doctorate in chemistry from 1852 and a doctorate in pharmacy from 1859. 

Assistant certificate of pharmacist Mihály Szénn, issued by the Order of Mercy in Eger in 1791. The certificates were also important because Maria Theresa’s 1773 decree forbade all monasteries to either sell or dispense medicines free of charge. 

The only exceptions were a few specially licensed pharmacies of the Order of Mercy, or monasteries that had no secular pharmacy within a two-mile radius. 

Due to how rare pharmacies were and the general lack of pharmacists, plenty of makeshift medical solutions were used in Hungary in the 17th century. 

Due to the precarious social and economic conditions and poor hygienic standards, home pharmacies and family herbariums played an important role among the nobility and wealthier citizens. 

The Herbarium written in Hungarian by Péter Méliusz Juhász (1532–1572), a reformed pastor and botanist, was published in print in 1578.

Herbariums that appeared in print from the 1520s onwards were written in the commonly used language of each country. The good quality engravings included made it easier to identify plants, which was very helpful for doctors and pharmacists. 

Ordinary village people usually utilized natural medicines available in their environment or turned to healing specialists and priests for help.

János Benedeki Enyedi ó: Pharmacy of Village Folk appeared in print in 1801.  The author, a surgeon himself, collected the diseases and symptoms seen during his healing work, along with their remedies. 

He recommended his book to village priests with the aim of helping villagers who lack medical help. Pastors were able to choose the right medicine recipe based on the symptoms, which they could have prepared in the nearest pharmacy. 

Credits: Story

Virtual exhibition of HNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine 

Curator: Gabriella Vámos 
Photos: Eszter Blahák

The film was made by:
Editor: Szilvia Kristóf-Goda
Narrator: Noel Nyariki
Historian: Adrienn Szilágyi Phd.
Contributor: Ildikó Horányi 
Director: Tamás Benkó
Camera-man: András Táborosi

Infographic:

Graphic concept: Bálint Mendlik
Graphic designer: Tamás Benkó

Thanks to: Arthur Kulcsár,  Cinerental Kft. 
© HNM Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archive of the History of Medicine 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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