The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Depth: 45.000 cm
Width: 45.000 cm
Height: 4.500 cm
On loan from the Natural History Museum SLi
Enlightenment: Natural world
Hans Sloane's specimen tray
England, first half of the 18th century
This drawer was once part of the
materia medica - a sort
of pharmaceutical cabinet - in the collection of
As a physician, Sloane was interested in the medicinal properties of the substances he collected. He was also interested in historical and folk remedies. His catalogue of the collection give us a fascinating glimpse of some of the remedies used in the first half of the eighteenth century. For instance, they include ground mummies' fingers as a cure for bruises and rhinoceros horn as an antidote to poison.
As Sloane's interest in natural history grew along with his income, he was able to widen the scope of his collection from being primarily medical to being more encyclopedic, representing the widest possible variety of substances and artefacts for his own reference and for others to consult.
A. MacGregor (ed.), Sir Hans Sloane, collector, sc (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)