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Apothecary's moon-shaped shop sign, Europe, 1701-1900

Before the numbering of street buildings began to become commonplace towards the end of the 1700s, houses and commercial properties were usually known by their name or by the signs that hung over them. Businesses would often advertise that their products could be bought at, for example, ‘the sign of the dragon’ in a particular street. This moon-shaped sign once hung outside an apothecary’s shop, somewhere in Europe. The moon was believed to influence human behaviour and represent cycles of life and death, which could explain why it was chosen.

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Glossary: shop sign

Use broadly for signs identifying places of business.

Glossary: apothecary

A term used until about 1800 to describe someone who prepares and sells drugs or compounds for medicinal purposes. Today the term ‘pharmacist’ or ‘pharmaceutical chemist’ is used instead.