The Herbalist


The Herbalist


Promotional 17th century Delft reproduction ceramic pill tile produced by the Burroughs, Wellcome & Co. for their Pharmacy Education Fund. The front of the tile depicts a druggist measuring ingredients for a preparation. The following description is glued to the back of the tile on a piece of paper. "The Seventeenth Century saw pharmacy's use of medicinal plants evolve from herbalism to botany. In the Middle Ages, information and illustration had been based on previous description, rather than on direct observation. Mythology and magic often crept in, exemplified by simplified motifs or fanciful designs. By the mid 1600's, however, a group of druggists in Nuremburg, Germany, formed an association with physicians to study the plant kingdom. It became their custom to make botanical excursions called "herbations" in fall and spring, and they classified and described any plants they found to have medicinal properties in the Annals of the College of Physicians. These early attempts at the scientific method spread rapidly throughout Europe. "Herballs" were even carried to America by colonists who relied on them to cure their health problems. These early herbals recognized many qualities about plants which are still appreciated today. For example, Culpeper's herbal prescribed the juice of willow leaves for fevers. The chemical in this potion has acquired respectability as salicylic acid, a base for drugs now used for the same purpose. When cinchona first arrived in Europe in the 1630's, Thomas Sydenham viewed the quinine derived from it as the ultimate vindication of herbalism, for it was the first efficient drug to cure a specific disorder (malaria). Many similar observations and experiments of the Herbalists were to contribute a respectable share of the scientific foundation of the coming Renaissance in chemistry, botany, and pharmacy. Pill tiles were used to prepare medications in apothecary shops. They were awarded to pharmacists upon completion of their formal training and in recognition of their service to the community. In keeping with this fine tradition, Burroughs Wellcome has commissioned craftsmen in Delft, Holland, to create a series of handmade porcelain pill tiles. This limited edition is part of our Pharmacy Education Program series. (BW-1139)."



Tiles copyrighted by Burroughs, Wellcome & Co.







6 in x 6 in

Temporal Coverage

Original Format


Burroughs, Wellcome & Co., “The Herbalist,” American Institute of the History of Pharmacy Digital Collection, accessed July 23, 2024,