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Barber surgeon's sign, England, 1680-1830

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Hung outside a barber-surgeon’s premises, this double-sided carved sign illustrates one of the main services on offer, bloodletting. The sign also features a skull, as a representation of death, and a sand glass timer at the top, possibly to show the short nature of life. There are no words on the sign so even if you could not read you could still understand what the sign was advertising.

Object number:

A631340

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Glossary:

Glossary: shop sign

Use broadly for signs identifying places of business.

Glossary: sign

An entity that signifies another entity. Often a publicly displayed board giving information

Glossary: bloodletting

Puncturing a vein in order to withdraw blood. A popular medical practice for over two thousand years. Bloodletting often involved withdrawing large quantities of blood in the belief that this would cure or prevent many illnesses and diseases. The practice has been abandoned for all but a few very specific conditions.

Glossary: barber-surgeon

A medical practitioner in medieval Europe, who performed some types of surgery, such as bloodletting and pulling teeth. They often performed surgery on people wounded in war.