Tools of the Trade

Tincture Press

Maw's Tincture Press

Early 20th Century

This enamelled metal single-screw tincture press was manufactured by S. Maw Son and Sons in the early 1900s.

Tincture presses were used by pharmacists to extract oils or juices from plants by compression.

On this example the handle at the top turned the internal screw device, compressing the plant matter within. The juice or oil, to be used in medicinal preparations, ran from the spout at the base of the press. The press is marked with the name of the manufacturer: 'S MAW SON AND SON, LONDON'.

Root Cutter


Late 19th Century

Before being ground down and used in medicinal preparations, bulky raw materials such as large roots and rhizomes had to be cut or chopped into smaller pieces. Root cutters were an essential piece of equipment used by pharmacists preparing medicinal ingredients. This root cutter, with a steel blade and mounted on a wooden base, is of a conventional design.

Single Tablet Press


Circa 1870-1900

These three examples of the single tablet press, or Brockedon press, were manufactured by S. Maw, Son and Thompson around 1870-1900. The basic design of the single tablet press consisted of three parts: a base die, a sleeve and a close-fitting cylindrical punch.

This simple early tablet machine only produced one compressed tablet at a time, using the following method: The sleeve was placed on the base die. The pharmacist then introduced a weighed amount of powder into the sleeve. The punch was then fitted and struck with a hammer - thus producing a compressed tablet.

Fact: The first tablet making device was patented by William Brockedon in 1843, who is credited as the inventor of the compressed tablet. Called a single tablet press or Brockedon press, it produced a measured dose of the active ingredients without the use of a binding agent. 

Culpeper-type Compound Microscope


Circa 1760

This microscope is based on a design developed by Edward Culpeper between 1725 and 1730. The body tube was used for focusing. On the base, instead of a flat mirror, Culpeper designed a concave mirror which both reflected and concentrated light up onto the specimen held in the ivory viewing slider.

English Bell-Metal Mortar



This English bell-metal mortar inscribed 'WCA 1654', was manufactured at the Sturton Foundry in South Petherton, Somerset in the year 1654. The mortar is decorated with the four-arc mark of the founder Thomas Sturton II. 

English Bell-Metal Mortar



English bell-metal mortar, manufactured by George Oldfield I at The Oldfield Foundry in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire in 1619.

The mortar rim has a band inscribed: 'ONELY PRAISE AND GLORY BE TO GOD FOR EVER 1619'. There is a small floral design (hexafoil (six-petalled) flowerheads within C scrolls) between each word.

The waist is inscribed with the initials 'E B', presumably the initials of the owner, with a strip of cabled ornament between. The mortar has two half loop handles. The base is deep with three moulded rings above.

Brass Nuremberg Nested Cup Weights



This beautiful set of brass Nuremberg nested cup weights was probably made by Dietrich Hagen who worked in Nuremburg, Germany in the mid-1500s.

The six weights are respectively: 16 marcs, 8 marcs, 4 marcs, 2 marcs, 1 marc and 4 once. 

The lid of the 16 marcs house vessel, which encloses all the other weights, is particularly ornate and decorated with human figures and hybrid creatures from Greek mythology. The catch on the lid is decorated with a hippocampus; a Greek mythological creature, typically depicted as a horse in its forepart with a coiling, scaly, fish-like hindquarter.

The lid hinge is decorated with a Cerberus; a Greek mythological dog that guarded the gates of the underworld, almost always portrayed with three heads and a serpent’s mane and tail. The supports of the lid handle are human figures.

Bleeding Bowl


Circa 1700

The Bleeding Bowl is a circular ceramic, tin-glazed earthenware barber’s bowl. As you can see, the rim of the bowl is decorated with a scallop design. The bowl also comes with a comb, scissors, razor and two lancets.

English Delftware Heart-Shaped Pill Tile 



This English Delftware Heart-Shaped Pill Tile is decorated with the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries Coat of Arms. Inscribed ‘1670 THOMAS FAVTRART OPIFEQUE: PER: ORBEM: DICOR’, it was made in Southwark, London in 1670 for a Thomas Fautrart.

Fact: The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries’ coat of arms feature Apollo (a god of healing) killing the dragon of disease, supported by two unicorns (from King James's royal arms) and with a rhinoceros as the crest (the powdered horn was believed to be medicinal). The motto ‘Opiferque Per Orbem Dicor’, from Ovid's 'Metamorphoses', translates: “I am spoken of all over the world as one who brings help”.

Apothecary Trade Tokens



This trade tokens would have been issued to customers by apothecaries in lieu of small change. Tokens like this would have been embossed with the names and towns of the apothecaries and decorated with symbols representing the apothecary profession.

Popular designs include the coat of arms of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries or a pestle and mortar.