About the Collection

Anna and Thomas’ loss … 

British Pharmacognosist Daniel Hanbury’s (1825-1875) book collection, consisting of over 500 items on pharmacognosy and botany, was donated to the RPS Library in 1892.  

We might never have been in possession of this fascinating collection if Daniel’s sister, Anna, had not moved house 17 years after his death. The Pharmaceutical Journal reported at the time that Daniel’s brother, Thomas, had always intended to donate the books to us but had found it difficult to part with them. Anna had housed the collection since 1875 and an imminent move precipitated the final decision.  

Do take a look at the RPS Library catalogue for everything the Hanbury Collection has to offer. 

Hanbury Collection bookplate

Some highlights from the Hanbury Collection

Herbarius Patavie (1485)

Printed by Johann Petri in Passau, Germany, Herbarius Patavie is the oldest book in the Hanbury Collection and in the RPS Library. It’s one of the first printed European herbals with plant woodcuts.

Alkakenge / Indentockel  (Chinese/Japanese Lantern or Winter Cherry)

Physica (1533) St. Hildegard of Bingen

Jean Kennedy Irvine gave Physica and Hildegard a special mention in her address to Council on being voted the first woman president of the Pharmaceutical Society in 1947.

As reported in the Pharmaceutical Journal, Irvine commented that the ‘impression that women [were] something new in pharmacy’ was incorrect, adding: 

‘St. Hildegard, Abbess of a Benedictine monastery at Bingen, on the Rhine, has been described as the greatest scientific writer of the Middle Ages, and of one of her works, ‘Physica,’ we have a fine copy in our library.  It is one of the books of the Hanbury Bequest - not indeed a first edition, but dated 1533 – and anyone who doubts the place that women took in the pharmacy of that time should read that book.  They will read of the hundreds of drugs that Hildegard brought into use, how she taught, and how she treated patients.’

Woodcuts of a patient being seen by physicians and a mediaeval 'wound man'

Histoire Générale des Drogues (1694) Pierre Pomet 

Pomet was ‘chief druggist’ to Louis XIV of France. His Histoire Générale des Drogues is divided into 3 classes – plant, animal and mineral.

The book includes information on such exotic drugs as Egyptian mummies and unicorn horns. The engraving below depicts a male and female whale. Demand for products like cetaceum wax, found in sperm whales and used in pharmaceuticals, boosted the whaling trade.

Male and female whales

Icones Plantarum Medicinalium (1788-1812) Joseph Jakob Edler von Plenck

Icones Plantarum Medicinalium covers indigenous European medicinal plants, ordered according to the Linnaean classification system and giving their pharmaceutical application. 

Von Plenck was born in Vienna in 1735.  He worked as a surgical apprentice from 1753 until 1756 and post apprenticeship attended lectures at Vienna University Medical School.  By 1758, he had joined the Imperial Army’s artillery corps as regimental surgeon, where he remained until the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763.  

After another spell at university, he obtained a licence to practise surgery.  At the invitation of Empress Maria Theresia, he later took the position of Professor of surgery and obstetrics at the University of Tyrnau.   From 1783, he was Director of Military Field Pharmacies in Vienna and was appointed Professor of Chemistry and Botany at the Military Medical Academy in 1786.

Von Plenck wrote on many different subjects, including pharmacology, surgery, botany, anatomy, chemistry, dermatovenereology, obstetrics and gynaecology.

Arnica montana

Deutschlands wildwachsende Arzneipflanzen (1828) Johann Gottlieb Mann

Mann said that he had written his work specifically for doctors, veterinarians and pharmacists, who wouldn’t otherwise have the time to study plants growing wild.  The aim was to faithfully reflect Germany’s wild medicinal plants, and the most dangerous cases of mistaken identity.

Plants are listed alphabetically according to their Latin names, with plant locations, flowering time and the parts of the plant used in medicine all included in the text.  

Paeonia officinalis

Flora Japonica (1835) Philipp Franz von Siebold

Born in Würzburg (Germany) in 1796, Philipp Franz von Siebold also studied medicine there.

Later, working as a physician in Japan, he introduced European techniques to cataract surgery, including the use of belladonna to dilate the pupils, and he was equally open to learning about Japanese medical practices in return.  With his interest in botany, von Siebold also researched Japanese plants, writing this book on the subject.  

O-Ine, von Siebold’s daughter, became the first woman doctor to practise Western medicine in Japan. 

Title page of Flora Japonica

Illustrations of the Nueva Quinologia of Pavon (1862) John Eliot Howard

Howard, a chemist and quinologist, was known for his study of Cinchona (Peruvian) barks and of quinine, an alkaloid derived from the bark, which was the first successful drug treatment for malaria.

He was a member of a number of societies including the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain from 1853, and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1874.

Both John Eliot Howard and his brother Robert worked for their father’s firm, which was a well-known manufacturer of quinine amongst other products.

In 1798, their father, Luke Howard, had entered into partnership with William Allen, first president of the Pharmaceutical Society, under the name Allen and Howard. (The Hanbury family were later to become partners with Allen under the company name Allen and Hanburys).

Luke Howard was responsible for Allen and Howard’s research and manufacturing laboratories, situated in Plaistow, Essex.  Around 1805, the laboratories moved to Stratford, London, and Howard continued to work from there after his partnership with William Allen was dissolved.  The friendship between the two men remained for the rest of their lives.

Cinchona succirubra

A letter, dated 29 October 1873, attached inside our copy of Illustrations of the Nueva Quinologia of Pavon, is from John Eliot Howard to his friend Daniel Hanbury inviting him to lunch the next day.  Howard writes that Dr. Weddell, mentioned in the work, will also be joining them.

Letter from John Eliot Howard to Daniel Hanbury

Who was Daniel Hanbury?