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Small albarello drug jar for spermaceti, Barcelona, Spain, 1801-1830

Spermaceti is the oily substance from the head of a sperm whale. It was once used in large amounts as the base in medicinal ointments as well as cosmetics and moisturisers. A full-grown sperm whale may yield one tonne of spermaceti. However, because it is difficult to obtain the oil is very expensive. The jar used to store the oil is thought to be from Italy.

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Glossary: drug jar

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

Glossary: pharmacy

The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.