Medic's goods going under the hammer

A COLLECTION of weird and wonderful pieces of apothecary and medical equipment built up by Suffolk pharmacist is expected to make £6,000 when it goes under the hammer on Tuesday.

A COLLECTION of weird and wonderful pieces of apothecary and medical equipment built up by Suffolk pharmacist is expected to make £6,000 when it goes under the hammer on Tuesday.

More than 2,000 items, from the 19th and early 20th centuries were lovingly collected by retired Bury St Edmunds chemist John Harvey, will be sold at Bonhams' saleroom in Ipswich on December 20.

Mr Harvey worked as a pharmacist and store manager for a chemist until 1994 while all the time accruing the huge collection.

“When I started working as a chemist many of these things were being thrown out - I remember working for one place where bottles were literally being buried, with their contents, in the back garden of the chemists,” he said.


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“I thought it was a shame to loose these objects as they're of real historical interest and show the advances we've made in treating people.

“When you look at the prescription books from the mid 19th Century, some of the medications listed were very dangerous and the damage would have been done once they had been prescribed.”

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The collection includes a number of 19th Century, leather bound, prescription books from an unnamed Ipswich pharmacy detailing the treatment prescribed for the good and the great of Suffolk including Mrs Tollemache, The Earl of Cardigan, Lady Middleton, Reverends Lockwood and Orford who are all listed as receiving pills and potions along with their servants.

Mr Harvey expanded his collection by buying objects from antique shops and by word of mouth: “As I began rescuing some of the more interesting items people would hear that I was collecting and let me know about old pharmacies that were closing down our chemists that were clearing their store rooms.”

The collection reflects the rapid advances in medicine and pharmacy over two centuries although a lot of the early equipment was still in use in the mid half of the 20th Century; over the last few decades most of the equipment has been superseded and replaced.

One of the earliest items included in the collection is an 18th Century Albarello ceramic jar, which is decorated with colourful glazes - like many of the other items in the sale it would have been used to store medication or medicinal herbs.

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