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Dispensing pot for Morton's Balsamic Pills, Italy, 1771-1830

On the far right is a jar for Morton’s Balsamic Pills. These were prepared us-ing crushed woodlice, flowers and spices before being pressed into pills and coated with gold leaf. The pills were used to treat consumption and the ‘King’s Evil’ (now called scrofula). Scrofula was said to be cured by the touch of a monarch, but clearly a little something extra was needed. The recipe is named after Richard Morton (active 1637-1698), who was an English cleric turned physician. The jar, one of four shown here, was presented as a gift to the Wellcome collection on the previous owner’s death in 1932.

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Glossary: dispensing pot

pot used to contain ointments, medications, perfumes

Glossary: pharmacy

The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.

Glossary: scrofula

A disease that leads to a swelling of the neck, and inflammations of the skin, bones and joints. It was once believed that the touch of a king could cure the disease, hence its alternative name: ‘King's Evil’.

Glossary: pulmonary tuberculosis

A deadly airborne disease which attacks the lungs.