Albarello drug jar, Italian, 1641, and a copy of 'Gerarde's Herball', 1633.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The 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. English Herbalist and barber-surgeon John Gerarde (1545-1612), wrote 'The Herball' or 'General Historie of Plants', which contained around 1000 species, in 1597. For each plant Gerarde provided the Latin and English name, physical description, place and time of growth, and 'vertues' (medicinal properties). This is the revised, enlarged edition.