Tag Archives: Hungary

Arany Sas Pharmacy Museum, Budapest

By Stephanie Eichberg

Arany Sas Pharmacy. Creative Commons. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic. By Kotomi.
Arany Sas Pharmacy. Creative Commons. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic. By Kotomi.

A steep climb to Buda – the older half of Budapest – leads to the medieval Castle district and to the beautiful building of 18 Tárnok utca where the Arany Sas (‘The Golden Eagle’s’) Pharmacy Museum is located.  Once a 15th-century merchant house, it was also home to the very first pharmacy in Buda which operated until 1745; the building itself was used as a pharmacy until World War One.  The Anna street side of the building serves as an example for the 18th-century ‘Serbian shop-door’-style of dispensing medicines to customers in the street. Inside, the pharmacy’s 18th-century furnishings are on display, together with artistically shaped glass or wooden jars once containing powdered or liquid drugs, instruments and a reconstruction of an alchemist’s laboratory. Showcasing the history of medicine and chemistry, along with Renaissance and Baroque pharmaceutics and pottery, the Museum is a hub, albeit a tiny one, that reveals a changing understanding of medicine and long-gone alchemical splendour.

An 18th-century pharmacy counter. Creative Commons. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic. By Kotomi.
An 18th-century pharmacy counter. Creative Commons. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic. By Kotomi.

The captions accompanying the objects are in Hungarian and do not reveal substantial or detailed background information.  It is possible to book a tour in English in advance, though if a translator is at hand, visitors might prefer to opt for a tour in Hungarian on the day of visiting. The tour guides are staff of the Semmelweis Medical History Museum to which the Pharmacy museum is attached and are not necessarily experts on the history of drugs. For a detailed presentation on the history of Hungarian pharmacies, it might be worth contacting the museum’s expert Ildikó Horány. In any event, visitors with little background in the history of medicine and pharmaceutical drugs can still marvel at the variety of beautiful vessels that once contained curious remedies, the grinders, scales and glass utensils, as well as the lovingly displayed 18th-century pharmacy counter and the alchemist’s laboratory. Historians of medicine, pharmacology and chemistry will definitely enjoy taking it all in.

 

Objects on display at Arany Sas. Creative Commons. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic. By Kotomi.
Objects on display at Arany Sas. Creative Commons. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic. By Kotomi.

Further information:

Website and contact details:
http://www.semmelweis.museum.hu/aranysas/informaciok_jegyarak_en.html

Literature:
Ágnes Romhányi , ‘ Pharmacists in Hungary during the 18th Century. Their Education, Stores and Practice through the Visitation Reports of the Year 1786’, in G. Barth Scalmani et al. (eds), Research Workshop: The Habsburg Monarchy in the 18th Century (Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Gesellschaft zur Erforschung des 18. Jahrhunders 26,  Winkler Verlag, 2011), 209-224.

Mária Vida, Pharmacy Museums of Hungary (Hungarian Society for the History of Medicine, Semmelweis Institute, Budapest: Révai Printing House, 1984)

The Semmelweiss Library and Archives of the History of Medicine

By Stephanie Eichberg

The Library is situated on 12 Török utca and is housed in a beautiful neo-baroque villa.
The Library is situated on 12 Török utca and is housed in a beautiful neo-baroque villa.

Established in 1837 by the Royal Society of Physicians in Budapest, the cultural and historical legacy of the current Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archives of the History of Medicine is much older than the 170 years of its official existence. Its substantial collections comprise more than 150,000 volumes, including over a thousand rare treats of hand-written early modern manuscripts, incunabula, numerous books on medicine and science, and an invaluable Index Medicus of scientific periodicals. The treasures to be found in the library are historical testament to the aim of the society’s founders “to cultivate science”, and, due to the multicultural make-up of Hungarian society in the nineteenth century, more than 30 languages are represented.

László Magyar and UCL’s IBSc History of Medicine students at the Semmelweis Library. By Carole Reeves.
László Magyar and UCL’s IBSc History of Medicine students at the Semmelweis Library. By Carole Reeves.

In 1968, the Semmelweis Medical History Museum and the Library and Archives were merged administratively and are now treated as a single institution. As a consequence, the Library became somewhat less visible than the more widely advertised Museum.  Although the Library is open to anyone interested in the history of science and human health, only academics specialising in one of the disciplines represented by the library’s holdings are currently frequenting the premises. In an article from 2011, the Library staff and director concluded that the library and its archive “remain underutilized”, not only by the international scholarly community. Potentially daunted by the Hungarian language, few are aware that there are some 1,717 publications in a variety of languages in the ‘collection of rarities’ alone, such as a fifteenth-century astrological-medical text in Latin by an unknown author, a variety of prints in German (a legacy of the Habsburg empire), as well as valuable English, French and Italian editions and manuscripts on science, medicine, philosophy, occultism, witchcraft and theology. A visit is highly recommended.On occasion of our visit, László Magyar, medical historian and director of the Semmelweis Library, had organised a little exhibition of curiosities with a cross section of the juiciest items found in its archives. Among beautifully illustrated prints from the early modern period, ranging from herbalist accounts to treatises on alchemy and anatomy, unusual early modern scientific endeavours were also represented, including a fascinating account of a curious physician who conducted experiments with accused witches to test their ability to fly whilst being locked up in barrels. The test subjects, having swallowed their customary potions beforehand, did indeed emerge from the barrel with a report of a journey through the air, which led the scientifically-minded physician to conclude that the witches’ journeys were spiritual ones – possibly induced by drugs – rather than actual flight. It should also be noted that, next to being a passionate archivist, László Magyar happens to be an expert on the history and theory of Vampirism; a like-minded researcher can therefore be assured to find a variety of sources on the subject in the Semmelweis Library.

 

Further information

http://www.semmelweis.museum.hu/index_en.html

Katalin Kapronczay, László Magyar, Constance E. Putnam, ‘The Library of the Royal Society of Physicians in Budapest becomes today’s Semmelweis Medical History Library’, Journal of the Medical Library Association 99 (1), Jan. 2011, 31-39.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3016667/

Based on an interesting project related to the library, one can also find a list of digitalized medical dissertations from 1729 to 1848. http://www.orvostortenet.hu/disszertaciok/?page=4&type=2