A Glass Medicine Bottle

by Marcus Milwright | Talking about art

Why do we often use the term ‘balsam’ to describe a soothing medicine? This talk discusses a small glass bottle dating to the nineteenth century, and connects it to the use of medicinal tree resins in ancient and medieval times.

Figure 1. Clear glass bottle of Turlington’s Balsam of Life, c. 1880. 7 x 3.4 x 2.1cm. Caption reads: BY THE KINGS ROYAL PATENT GRANTED. Photograph: Iona Hubner.

Figure 2. Back face of the bottle. Caption reads: ROB.T. TURLINGTON FOR HIS INVENTED BALSAM OF LIFE. Inscriptions on the sides read: LONDON and JAN[UAR]Y. Photograph: Iona Hubner.

Figure 3. Glazed ceramic drug jar used for ‘balsam of the philosophers’, from Liguria, eighteenth century. Science Museum, London. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).