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Drug jar for mercury pills, Italy, 1731-1770

The mercury pills that were once in this jar are quite likely to have been made to a recipe developed by Augustin Belloste (1654-1730), which was famous throughout Europe. Mercury was the traditional remedy for syphilis and the demand for Belloste’s recipe made his pills very successful. The family became rich from the profits. The recipe remained a secret and was still available in the early twentieth century. The pills were also used to treat gout, and kidney and bladder stones. Unfortunately, the mercury in the pills slowly poisoned the patients.

Object number:

A42768

 

Glossary:

Glossary: drug jar

A (usually earthenware) container designed to hold apothecaries' ointments and dry drugs.

Glossary: syphilis

A sexually transmitted infection resulting in the formation of lesions throughout the body.

Glossary: sexually transmitted infection

Any disease transmitted by sexual intercourse. STIs include HIV/AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhoea, some chlamydia infections and genital herpes.

Glossary: pharmacy

The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.

Glossary: stone

A hard solid made of undissolved minerals and found in the kidneys or bladder.

Glossary: earthenware

Pottery made of clay which is fired at a relatively low temperature. Earthenware is often semi-porous, meaning some liquid or air can pass through it. This can be altered by treating the pottery with a glaze.

Glossary: gout

A disease with painful inflammation of the joints caused by deposits of uric acid salts. It results in acute arthritis and chronic destruction of the joints.