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Apothecary’s balance, London, England, 1812-1850

This balance would have been used to accurately weigh out ingredients for drugs. The pans are connected to the steel beam by green cotton cords. The large tassel in the middle is to help establish when the weight in the two pans is equal. The balance comes with nine brass weights. The label on the inside lid shows three scales for weights. The Apothecary scale was only used in a pharmacy. The Troy scale is now used to weigh silver and gold and other precious metals. The Avoirdupois scale was used for all other goods.

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Glossary: beamscale

Scales with a horizontal bar pivoting about a central fulcrum, creating equal-length arms; suspended from the ends of the arms are pans or baskets, in one of which is placed the item being weighed and in the other, a premeasured weight.

Glossary: pharmacy

The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.

Glossary: apothecary

A term used until about 1800 to describe someone who prepares and sells drugs or compounds for medicinal purposes. Today the term ‘pharmacist’ or ‘pharmaceutical chemist’ is used instead.