Apothecary’s Coffer

Object Name: 
Apothecary’s Coffer

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Object Name: 
Apothecary’s Coffer
Accession Number: 
Overall H: 21.5 cm, W: 19 cm, D: 18.3 cm
Not on Display
Web Description: 
This unusual wooden box has compartments containing 10 glass bottles with metal screw tops, two metal jars with tops, and a pewter syringe. It would have been used by a traveling pharmacist or by a doctor on house calls. The glass bottles in such a set contained liquid solutions for application or ingestion, while the pewter bottles held creams or pastilles. The bottles remind us of the importance of glass in hygiene and medicine. Glass containers were not subject to corrosion or to the contamination of their contents. They could thus remain sterile, and they could be tightly sealed. While none of the glass and pewter containers in this coffer are labeled, three of the small wooden drawers have paper labels bearing the names of drugs and instruments, and they are printed with the name and address of an apothecary named Bouvier, located at the Place de la Croix Rouge. In the 16th and 17th centuries, a family of pharmacists named Bouvier was recorded in Sens, Burgundy, in central France, but no Place de la Croix Rouge exists there today. Perhaps the location of the pharmacy changed or a member of the Bouvier family resided in another provincial town in France or in the French-speaking western part of Switzerland where such a square can be found. Indeed, this was the nature of the working life of a traveling apothecary in rural France before the French Revolution. The elegance of the coffer itself, and the sophistication of the interior fittings and the materials with which it was made, reflects the status of this profession at that time.
Kunstauktionshaus Schlosser GmbH & Co. KG, Source
Bouvier Apot Pt. dela Croix Rouge
on interior paper label
Primary Description: 
Colorless glass, wrought iron, wood (walnut veneer on walnut and coniferous wood); mold-blown, assembled. Wooden box with a number of compartments contains 10 glass jars with metal screw tops, 2 metal jars with tops, and a pewter syringe. Hinged lid and sides of box open to reveal 4 drawers and numerous compartments in which each jar fits. Lid of box is lined with red and gold materials and all drawers are lined with marbled paper. Some drawers have applied paper labels are mostly illegible. Exterior is decorated with numerous decorative metal elements and has locking mechanism and key. Inscription on paper labels on interior reads, "Bouvier Apot Pl. dela Croix Rouge".
The Corning Museum of Glass: Notable Acquisitions 2009 (2010) illustrated, p. 18, #8; BIB# AI79879