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Medicine chest, Italy, 1601-1700

Ointments and powders to relieve everyday ailments were contained in this Italian medicine chest. It dates from the 1600s. The ingenious design features hidden drawers. These are revealed when the shelves, housed in the doors of the chest, open up. This example is complete with four screw top pewter vials and eight glass bottles, three of them large. The lockable box is silk lined. It is covered in a geometric mosaic of tiny tiles. Medicine chests were usually found in apothecary shops and pharmacies. Others were made for wealthy families and kept as household medicine chests.

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Glossary: medicine chest

Small chests fitted for bottles and intended to hold medical supplies; of a type made in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Glossary: materia medica

A Latin medical term sometimes used to refer to medical substances.