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The Materia Medica cabinet of William Heberden (1710-1801)

Description

William Heberden was a Fellow of St John's College and a noted physician who first identified angina pectoris. Between 1740 and 1748 he delivered an annual course of lectures at Cambridge on Materia Medica, a range of vegetable, animal, and mineral substances supposed to have some medicinal virtue. This cabinet contains the collection he formed to illustrate his lectures. Cole states that Heberden presented his collection to the College in 1790 (Scott, p. 378) but the cabinet contains a manuscript catalogue entitled 'A Catalogue of the Specimens of the Materia Medica in the Cabinet of St John's College Library. July 10th 1751.'

The wooden cabinet stands 194cm tall and comprises two detachable halves. The top half measures 105cm x 91.5cm x 30 cm and has a drop down lid on two hinges, lockable at the top. It contains 28 drawers in two rows of 14, numbered from top to bottom. The drawers range in depth from 3.5cm to 12cm, increasing in depth from top to bottom. Each drawer is divided into compartments, each containing labelled samples. The bottom half measures 89cm x 96cm x 32cm. It comprises a cupboard with two doors, with a lock and bolts, and a shelf in the middle dividing it in two. A label pasted onto the top half of the cabinet bears the inscription Materia Medica in an 18th-century hand.

Contents

The contents of the cabinet, as listed in the 1751 catalogue, are as follows.

Top half

Drawer 1 (Seeds) Semen Sinapios; Pimpinellae Saxifragae; Cari; Nigellae; Staphidos Agriae; Levistici; Acetosae; Anisi; Foeniculi Vulgaris; Cymini; Agni Casti; Erucae; Sophiae Chirurgorum; Ptarmicae; Hipposelini; Ammeos; Amomi officinarum veri; Apii; Dauci Cretici; Seseleos; Foeniculi dulcis; Bamiae Moschatae; Anethi; Angelicae; Coriandri; Cardamomi minoris; Cardamomi majoris; Grana Paradisi; Nasturtii sive Thlaspios officinarum.

Drawer 2 (Seeds) Semen Cydoniorum; Ciceris; Papaveris albi; Papaveris nigri; Psyllii; Aquilegiae; Peponum; Foenu-graeci; Melonum; Cucumeris; Cucurbitae; Hordeum Perlatum; Hordeum mundatum sive Gallicum; Sesami; Citrulli; Cichorii Hortensis; Portulacae; Lactucae; Endiviae; Lupini; Hormini Sylvestris; Santonici; Sumach; Mespilli; Milii; Panici; Lini.

Drawer 3 (Seeds) Cardui Benedicti; Genistae; Petroselini Macedonici; Petroselini Vulgaris; Citriae; Paeoniae; Napi Dulcis; Urticae Romanae; Atriplicis olidae; Lolii; Cepae; Cannabis; Basilici; Colocynthidos; Carthami; Dauci Sylvestris; Pastinacae Sylvestris; Can potius Spondylii?; Bardanae; Urticae; Hyoscyami albi; Lentis; Althaeae; Vermiculi; Zeae sive Speltae; Cataputiae; Lithospermi; Violae.

Drawer 4 (Seeds) Caryophylli Indici; Fructus Caffae; Cubebae; Nux Moschata Condita; Saxifragae albae; Rapi; Lolii; Bombacis; Sesami; Raphani Hortensis; Lapathi acuti; Cardui Mariae; Digitalis; Iberidis; Hyperici; Loti; Fructus Baniliae; Cassia Fistula.

Drawer 5 (Flowers, nuts, and fruits) Succus Acaciae; Myrti Baccae; Fructus Cacao; Nucleus fructus Arecae; Carpobalsamum; Euphorbium; Piper Indicum; Luccus Hypocystidis; Gallae; Cortex Citriorum; Cortex Granati; Nux Cupressi; Piper Iamaicense; Piper Nigrum; Piper Album; Baccae Lauri; Baccae Juniperi; Piper Longum.

Drawer 6 (Flowers, nuts, and fruits) Jujubae; Dactyli; Nux Vomica; Siliqua Hirsuta; Cocculus Indus; Anacardium Orientale; Anacardium Occidentale; Fructus Sebesten; Faecula Bryoniae; Elaterium; Nux de Ben; Fructus Alkekengi; Myrobalanus Chebulus; Myrobalanus Citrinus; Myrobalanus Bellericus; Myrobalanus Emblicae; Myrobalanus Indus; Siliqua Tamarindi.

Drawer 7 (Roots) Radix Valerianae Sylvestris; Nardi Celticae; Nardi Indicae; Zedoariae; Zinziberis; Zinziberis nigri; Cyperi Rotundae; Cyperi Longae; Ginseng ex America; Doronici; Galangae; Ginseng e China; Ginseng e Carolina; Acori Veri; Angelicae Hispanae; Cassummuniar; Caryophyllatae; Contrayervae.

Drawer 8 (Flowers and fruits) Flores Stoechados; Ballaustii; Folliculi Senae; Fructus Tamarindi; Fructus Colocynthidos; Anthos; Flores Origani Cretici; Stamina Croci; Usnea Cranii Humani.

Drawer 9 (Roots) Radix Rubiae Tinctorum; Costi dulcis; Radix Pyrethri; Tormentillae; Solani Lethalis; Gentianae verae; Radix quaedam venenosa, quae, una cum Gentiana vera importata fuit; Alia radix venenosa coloris magis fusci, etial cum Genetiana vera importata; Radix Anchusae; radix Enulae Campanae; Bistortae; Serpentariae Virginianae; Curcumae; Petasitidos; Aristolochiae Clematitidis; Aristolochiae Longae; Aristolochiae Rotundae; Mei Athamantici; Fraxinellae.

Drawer 10 (Roots) Radix Hermodactyli; Rhabarbari Veri; Ialapii; Turpethi; Thapsiae; Pilulae no. v ex Ialapii Ji Mucilag. G. Tragacanthae q.s. confectae; Radix Esulae; Hellibori Albi; Hellebori Nigri; Mechoacannae; Polypodii; Althaeae; Radix Salep; Scorzonerae; Eryngii; Alni Nigrae.

Drawer 11 (Roots) Radix Cynoglossi; Traumatica; Valerianae Hortensis; V. Sylvestris hyeme effossa; Senegae; Substantia quaedam ex muro balnei calidi; Radix Pareirae Bravae; Iridis Florentinae; Chinae; Chinae Nodosae; Sarsaeparillae; Rhapontici; Rhubarbari Monachorum; Asari; Ipecacoanhae; Filipendulae.

Drawer 12 (Woods) Lignum Tinctorium; Nephriticum; Tartarus solutione et filtratione purificatus; Gummi Campechense; Lignum Guaiaci; Lignum Sassafras; Amygdalae Amarae; Lignum Aloes; Nativum Bitumen Pitchfordense; Oleum Palmae; Styrax Liquida; Styrax colata; substantiae quaedam petrefactae ex Knaresboro; Terebinthina Chia; Terebinthina Veneta; Terebinthina Communis; Ossa Gallorum Gallinaceorum rubro colore tincta, qui per xij dies farina hordei partibus ij Radice Rubiae Tinctorum parte una vescebantur.

Drawer 13 (Substances in stoppered bottles) Balsamum de Copaiba; Tinctura Corticis Peruviani Spiritu Vini parata; Flores Bismuthi; Balsamum Gileadense verum Officinarum; Nitron sive Natron Aegypti; Camphora Cruda; Oleum Terrae album; Petraelaeum nigrum; Liquidambar; Balsamum Peruvianum; Phosphorus liquidus; Substantia calcaria ex aqua Collegii S. Trinitatis; Pix Barbadensis; Oleum Petrolei Veri; Oleum Sinapeos expressum; Mercurius Vitae; Oleum Caryophyllorum; Tinctura Corticis Peruviani cum Spiritu Salis Ammoniaci; Scorpius; Oleum Cerae; Balsamum Polychrestum; Sal Succini; Oleum Succini; Oleum Cari Chemicum; Elaterium; Camphora.

Drawer 14 (Animal products etc.)Hippopotami Dens; Crystalli Salis Ammoniaci; Gummi Anime falsum; Cervi Priapus; Muscus Indus; Cannal coal; Pieces of Coco shell; Schaenantus; Sugar-cane; G. Benzoin. foliis amictum; Asbestos; Aluminis minera.

Drawer 15 (Mineral products) Sulphur ex Aquisgrano; Terra Ampelytes; Bitumen Indaicum; Gagates; Succinum Citrinum; Succinum Album; Tripolis; Sulphur Nativum; Auripigmentum; Auripigmenti flores citrini; Arsenicum Citrinum; Arsenicum Album; Arsenicum Rubrum; Ambargriseum; Terra Lemnia; Terra samia; Bolus Bohemica; Bolus Armena; Bolus Blesensis sive Gallica; Terra Silesiaca; Rubrica Fabrilis; Ochra.

Drawer 16 (Mineral products) Alumen Plumosum; Talcum Venetum; Talcum Commune; Asbestos [= Amiantus]; Lapis Lazuli; Lapis Armenus; Lapis Hibernicus; Lapis Calaminaris; Osteocolla; Pumex; Lapis Spongiae; Vitriolum album; Vitriolum Viride; Vitriolum Caeruleum; Borax sive Fincar; sal Prunellae; Sal Ammoniacus ex Solftara; Alumen Rupeum; Nitrum; Nitrum Purificatum.

Drawer 17 (Mineral products) Lapis de Goa; Philosopher's Stone; Adamas; Lapis Turchois; Lapis Topasius; Lapis Sapphirus; Lapis Amethystus; Lapis Smaragdus; Lapis Indaicus; Lapis Hyacinthus; Lapis Acqua Marina; Granatus; Rubinus; Heliotropium; Spar tinctur'd with metallic steams from the lead-mines in Derbyshire; Carneolus; Achates Mochocensis; Asteria; Cornu Ammonis; Belemnites; Lapis Nephriticus; Lapis Aetites; Crystallis Iselandica; Crystallus; Lapis Selenites; Lapis Specularis.

Drawer 18 Opium; Opii gr ij & gr iij; Pilula e Styrace; Opii Ji - 1 scrupulus; zi - 1 Drachma; Sulphur ex Vesuvio; Scammonium; Gambogia; Sal Catharticus Glauberi; Resina Ialapii; Crocus Antimonii; Vitrum Antimonii; Auripigmentum rubrum sive Sandaracha; French chalk; Vitriolic substance made at Solfatara; Sal Ammoniacus; Resina Scammonei; Resina Jalapii; Opii granum unum; Resina Corticis Peruviani; Resinae ex vilis Corticis Peruviani ziv; Resina Guaiaci; Crystalli Tartari; Tartarum Crudum.

Drawer 19 (Gums etc.) Terra Japonica; Sanguis Draconis; Opopanax; Sagapenum in Pyxide; Gummi Anime; Gummi Anime falsum; Gummi Labdanum in Pyxide; Aloe Socotrina; Aloe Caballina; Gummi Bdellium; Galbanum; Asa Foetida in Pyxide; Arabicum; Cerasorum; Senega; Tragacantha; Sarcocolla; Ammoniacum.

Drawer 20 (Gums etc.) Styrax Calamita; G. Mastiche; Labdanum; Siliqua Dulcis; Gummi Juniperi; Olibanum; Caranna; Lacca in Ramulis; Lacca in Granis; Lacca in Massa; Gummi Hederae; Another specimen from an old tree near the Abby of Bury St Edmund's; Gummi Hederae Spiritu Vini paratum; Myrrha; Elemi; Copal; Camphora; Tacamahacca; Thus Vulgare; Benzoinum; Balsamum Tolutanum.

Drawer 21 (Barks) Folium Indum sive Malabatheum; Lignum Agollochum given by P. Burrel Esq. whose relation brt. it as a great rarity from China, where it is us'd as Incense; Cortex Cassiae Caryophyllatae; Sassafras; Guaiaci; Tamarisci; Peruvianus; Corticis Peruviani Jir in ij chartulis; Cortex Simaroubae; Cortex Capparis; Winteranus; Eleutheriae; Pilulae Corticis Peruviani; Cortex Cinnamomi; Capiae Ligneae (optimum specimen).

Drawer 22 (Mineral products) Mercurius Alcalizatus; Aethiops Mineralis; Pyrites; Mundick; Stannum; Pompholyx; A Substance whose weight is to water :: 9,3:1 with which Gold is said to be adulterated; Aes Viride; Mercurius extinctus Balsamo Sulphuris Terebinthinato; Cinnabaris Nativa bis; Tutia; A substance found plentifully near the stinking well at Harygate; Minium; Bismuthum; Cerrissa; Lapis Haematites; Lapis Smyris sive Smerillus; Chalybs cum Aceto paratus; Chalybs cum Sulphure paratus; Cithargyrus; Antimonium; Cobaltum verum ex fodina Rappolt juxta pagum Sneeberg Saxoniae superioris; Magnes.

Drawer 23 (Animal products) Sperma Ceti; Idem in Pyxide; Glossopetrae; Os Carpionis; Icthyocolla; Margaritae Orientalis; Margaritae Scoticae; Seed Pearl; Oculi Cancrorum; Lapillus Cancri verus; Mater Perlarum; Dentalium verum; Aselli os sive Dentallium Officinarum; Grana Kermes; Os Sepiae; Cantharides; Coccinella; Folliculi Bombycum.

Drawer 24 (Animal products) Mumia; Castoreum e Nova Anglia; Calculus e Vesica humana; Castoreum Russicum; Moschus; Zibethum; Os e Corde Cervi; Bezoar Occidentale; Ungula Alcis; Bezoar Orientale; Rasurae Cornu Cervi; Dens Apri; Sanguis Hirci; Lapis ex Felle Bovis; Scincus.

Drawer 25 Corallium; Manna; Semen Arboris Peruviani; Muscus Pyxidatus; Gummi Hoc; Polium Montanum; Flores Chamaemeli; Agaricus; Folia Senae; Lichen Cinereus Terrestris; Auricula Indae; Dictamnus Creticus; Corallina; Corallium Rubrum; Corallium Album.

Drawer 26 Gummi Benzoinum; Resinae ziiss ex corticis Eleutheriae ziv; Extractum Corticis Peruviani; Epithymum; L. Santalum Citrinum; L. Santalum Rubrum; A Hair-Ball; Lignum Lentiscinum; Alumen; Calcin'd matter from Vesuvius; Resina e Styrace Calamita Officinarum ope Spiritus Vinosi elicita; Ebenus; Gummi Guaiaci; Lignum Camphorae; Cortex Brasiliensis; Cornu Cervi Calcinatum.

Drawer 27 (Substances in stoppered bottles) Magisterium Bismuthi; Tartarum Solubile; Bezoarticum Minerale; Tartarus Emeticus; Mercurius Praecipitatus Viridis; Sulphur Antimonii B. Proc. 209; Oleum Rosarum; Mercurius Praecipitatus albus; Colcothar Vitrioli; Saccharum Saturni; Cinnabaris Antimonii; Sal Jovis; Mercurius Emeticus Flavus; Sulphur Praecipitatum Antimonii; Causticum Antimoniale; Flores Sulphuris; Balsamum Sulphuris Terebinthinatum; Aurum Musivum; Mercurius Calcinatus; Flores Salis Ammoniaci Martialis; Calx Antimonii; Sulphur Praecipitatum; Causticum Lunare; Mercurius Corrosivus Ruber; Hepar Sulphuris; Antihecticum Poterii; Spiritus Cornu Cervi; Ens Veneris; Blasamum Terebinthinae; Sal Martis; Spiritus Viperarum; Cerussa Antimonii; Mercurius Sublimatus Dulcis; Calomelas; Cinnabaris Factitia; Flores Salis Ammoniaci; Oleum Animale; Tartarum Vitriolatum; Oleum Terebinthinae; Mercurius Sublimatus Corrosivus; Oleum Sassafras Chemicum; Flores Benzoini; Lapis Septicus.

Drawer 28 (Substances in stoppered bottles) Residuum Cinnamomi post distillationem; Species pro Tinctura Helvetii bis; Sulphur; Smyris; Red Rag; Limatura Ferri; Folia Senae; Soap stones; Lacca in Granis; Limature Aeris; Squat Root; Alum; A little box of fossils; A piece of Marcasite; Bristol stones (these stones gatherd at Leppington); Cornu Ammonis; Pumex; White Arsenic.

Bottom half

The 1751 catalogue lists the following contents 'In the lower part of the Cabinet': Radix Alni nigrae; 2 small collections of dry'd plants; A Coco Nut; Lignum Rhodium; Hortus Siccus; Malus Cottonia; Cannal Coal 2 pieces; A large Fungus.

The current contents are as follows:

  • 'A Catalogue of the Specimens of the Materia Medica in the Cabinet of St John's College Library. July 10th 1751.' Vellum-bound volume; with a typescript transcript of the contents.
  • The Order of a Course of Lectures on the Materia Medica, 1740. Printed syllabus, 1p. With Heberden's annotations. He notes that he began the lectures on 9 April 1740, records how long each lecture lasted, and at what point he began and ended.
  • The Order of a Course of Lectures on the Materia Medica, 1745. Printed syllabus, 1p. With Heberden's annotations. He notes that the lectures began on 3 April 1745 and ended on 18 May, and records how long each lecture lasted.
  • The Order of a Course of Lectures on the Materia Medica, 1746. Printed syllabus, 1p. With Heberden's annotations. He notes that the lectures began on 7 April 1746, and records how long each lecture lasted.
  • The Order of a Course of Lectures on the Materia Medica, 1747. Printed syllabus, 1p. With Heberden's annotations. He notes that the lectures began on 7 April 1747 and ended on 22 May, and records how long each lecture lasted. He also notes 'Left off a week between the 10th & 11th lecture for Newmarket Races'. With multiple other copies. This syllabus is printed in Gunther, pp. 331-2.
  • A box containing a set of 123 nature prints made from herbarium specimens, c. late 18th century. The plant names written on each sheet are mostly Linnean. The writing does not appear to be in Heberden's hand. The collection includes many non-British plants.
  • A coconut in a box.
  • Fragments of an earthenware pot in a box.
  • A wooden box containing: Seaweeds (wrapped in brown paper); Cotton Plant (wrapped in brown paper); Bird Pepper (wrapped in brown paper); various pieces of wood; a piece of coal.
  • A giant mushroom, 35-40cm in diameter.
  • A folio volume containing 50 loose plant specimens with captions, 18th-century. Also contains an engraving: 'Samuel Wood whose arm with the shoulder blade was torn off by a mill ye 15th of Aug: 1737. He was brought to St: Thomas's Hospital ye next day where he was cured by Mr Ferne. Publish'd by Samuel Wood according to Act of Parliament Nov: 1st 1737.'
  • A folio volume containing 43 loose, uncaptioned plant specimens, 18th-century.
  • 24 fascicles and 11 loose sheets containing c.450 plant specimens, with captions. 18th-century. With a contemporary handwritten list of contents, 4p.

Bibliography

  1. R.T. Gunther, Early science in Cambridge (Oxford, 1937) pp. 226, 284, 331-2, 482-9.
  2. R.F. Scott, Admissions to the College of St John the Evangelist in the University of Cambridge Part III July 1715 - November 1767 (Cambridge, 1903) pp. 377-9.