Italian pharmacy jar, 1641.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This tin-glazed earthenware drug jar (or albarello) is from Rome or Deruta, and was used by the Jesuits and intended for storing theriac. Theriac was an electuary (medicinal paste) used as an antidote to venomous snake bites. The flesh of the snakes themselves was an esential ingredient. Later, theriac was compounded to various formulas and was regarded as a universal antidote and panacea. The first London pharmacopoeia of 1618 contained a recipe for Theracia Andromachi (Venetian Treacle). In various towns such as Venice and Montpellier, theriac was prepared in public under official supervision to ensure the correct composition of the remedy.