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Article: The Apothecary

The Apothecary -
Hans Sloane

The Apothecary

He had been at the pains of consulting Mr Perry, the apothecary, on the subject. Mr Perry was an intelligent, gentlemanlike man, whose frequent visits were one of the comforts of Mr Woodhouse's life; and upon being applied to, he could not but acknowledge (though it seemed rather against the bias of inclination) that wedding-cake might certainly disagree with many -- perhaps with most people, unless taken moderately.


The following article is from "The Book of Trades, or Library of Useful Arts" published by Jacob Johnson, in 1807, with the original copper plate engraving.

The office of the apothecary is to attend on sick persons, and to prepare and give them medicines, either on his own judgement or according to the prescription of the physician. Apothecary It is well known that the word apotheca signified originally any kind of store, magazine, or warehouse; and that the proprietor or keeper of such a store was called apothecrius. We must not, therefore, understand by the word, when mentioned in writings two or three hundred years old, apothecaries such as ours at present. At those periods, persons were often called apothecaries, who at courts, and in the houses of great people, prepared for the table various preserves, particularly fruit encrusted with sugar, and who on that account may be considered as confectioners.

Hence, perhaps, we see the reason why apothecaries were in the country combined with grocers, till the reign of James the first. They were then separated, and the apothecaries were encorporated as a company: the reason assigned for this was, that the medicines might be better prepared, and that unwholesome remedies might not be imposed on the sick. Apothecary

From this period, apothecaries were distinguished for selling drugs used in medicine, and preparing from them different compounds, according to the prescriptions given by physicians and others. Prior to this, it is probable, physicians usually prepared their own medicine; and it has been thought that they gradually became accustomed to employ apothecaries for the sake of their own convenience, when they found in their neighborhood a druggist in whose skill they could confide, and whose interest they wished to promote, by resigning in his favor that part of the occupation.

Such an employment as that of an apothecary is, however, mentioned at a much earlier period in our history for it is said that King Edward the Third gave a pension of sixpence a day to Coursus de Gangeland, an apothecary in London, for taking care of and attending his majesty during his illness in Scotland; and this is the first mention of an apothecary. Apothecary Cabinet

In the year 1712 the importance of this profession was acknowledged by an act of parliament, which exempted for a limited time apothecaries from serving the offices of constable, and scavenger, and other ward and parish offices, and from serving on juries; which act was a few years afterward made perpetual.

The apothecaries, as a body, have a hall near Bridge-street, Black-friars, where there are two magnificent laboratories, out of which all the surgeons’ chests are supplied with medicines for the British navy. Here also drugs of all sorts are sold to the public, which may be depended upon as pure and unadulterated. But as almost all persons who practise in this profession are men of liberal education, and acquainted with the theory and practise of chemistry, there are very few of them who do not prepare their own drugs, either wholly or in part. Statue of Sir Hans Sloane in the Chelsea Physic Garden. Photo courtesy of C. Tancin.

In many places, and particularly in opulent cities, the first apothecaries’ shops were established at the public expense, and belonged, in fact, to the magistrates. A particular garden also was often appropriated to the use of the apothecary, in order that he might rear in the necessary plants, and which was therefore called the apothecaries’ garden.

In conformity to this principle, Sir Hans Sloane, in the year 1721 presented the apothecaries’ company with a spacious piece of ground at Chelsea, for aphysic garden, on condition of their paying a small ground rent of 5l. per annum; of continuing it always as a physic garden, and of presenting to the Royal Society fifty samples of different sorts of plants grown there, till they amounted to two thousand. The latter of these conditions has been long since more than completed. In this garden there are two very magnificent cedars, which were planted in 1683, and were then about three feet high.

The pine-tree, coffee-tree, tea-shrub, and sugar-cane, are among the curiosities which may be seen at this place. Apothecary OfficeThis is a very genteel business and a youth intended to be an apothecary should be a good scholar, at least he should know as much of Latin as to be able to read the best writers in the various sciences connected with medicine. All persons apprenticed to an apothecary are bound for eight years. An assistant, or journeyman, to an apothecary will have from forty to fourscore pounds per annum, exclusive of his board.

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