Museum of Pharmacy in Krakow

The Cracow Museum of Pharmacy was founded in 1946. Its first organiser and director was Stanisław Proń, who at that time, held the position of legal adviser and administrative director of the district chamber of apothecaries` in Cracow. Until the end of the 1980s, the museum was located in an apartment house at 3 Basztowa Street, where displaying conditions (a couple of poorly lit rooms) were not optimal. Conditions radically improved when the museums collections were transferred to the apartment house at 25 Floriańska Street, which had been newly-renovated, and in which many aspects of pharmacies of previous centuries have been recreated.

Stanisław Proń (1892-1971), founder and organizer
of the Museum of Pharmacy in Cracow.
One of the museums room in the apartment house at 3 Basztowa Street.
One of the museums room in the apartment house at 25 Floriańska Street.

Similar to several neighboring houses in the area, this building was constructed in the 15th century. Although it was rebuilt a number of times, some of its historical elements have been preserved until today, for example gothic, vaulted cellars, several renaissance portals, two Renaissance wooden ceilings, one of which is still covered with the original paint, one baroque ceiling covered with a decorative wallpaper (the so-called "paper hanging") and a painstakingly renovated 19th century fresco, which depicts a stylized garden in pastel colors.

The monument of Hygeia, Greek Goddess of health,
standing in a stone, Renaissance portal.
Renaissance wooden ceiling with the original paint.
19th century fresco, which depicts a stylized garden in pastel colors.

The permanent exhibition of the museum is spread over all five stories - from the cellars to the attic. Lets start from the museum hall. Apart from the bust of Stanisław Proń, here is a Latin inscription from a 17th century pharmacy. It begins: "Haec domus est Hygieiaâ??" and its full English translation is: "This is a house dedicated by Hygeia to the ill. May all medicaments be pleasant and cure all kinds of illnesses. What the hand of Phoebe (ie, Apollo, the patron of doctors) wisely prescribes, may the apothecary rightly perform. May the Lord in His mercy always take care of our health". Hygeia was the mythical patroness of pharmacy. The last line of the inscription contains an encoded date of the pharmacys foundation. The capital letters can be treated as Roman numerals, for example, M equals 1,000 and D equals 500. Summing the numbers gives the date 1625. Such coding method is called a chronogram (from the Greek word chronos, which means time).

Latin inscription coming from a 17th century pharmacy.
In the last line the pharmacys foundation date (1625) is encrypted.

There is a reasonable justification for displaying some of our objects in the cellars. According to the words of Jan Lachs (Dawne aptekarstwo krakowskie - An old Cracow dispensing apothecary): "Under the pharmacy there was a cellar (cellarium in Latin), used for storing materials, which could otherwise quickly decay in a dry compartment or under the influence of light, but not in the presence of moisture and in a dark place - namely wax, oil, etc". Throughout the centuries, wax has been used by apothecaries, not only in the productions of ointments and plasters but also, and in some periods mainly, to manufacture candles - the main source of light in the 17th century. This is why in the 17th century woodcut, placed on the way to the cellars, we see that the apothecary??s attribute is not a vessels or other typical apothecary device, but a candle. The apothecary is on the right hand edge of the cut, dressed in black.

In the first of the two cellars there are old wine barrels. Wine stored in barrels was used by the apothecaries to produce medicinal wines. In apothecaries hand-books from the 16th century there are recipes for wines "suitable for cordial illness", "for pensive and pituitous persons", "against cold", for the wine which is "very useful in pestilent times", "absinthe-flavoured wine, good for stomach catarrh, since it dissipates flatulence, which brings the pain from the phlegm" and "saffron-flavored exhilarating wine removing pensiveness".

Color woodcut titled "Lament of various people above the dead credit".
On the right-hand side, apothecary dressed in black, a candle in his hand.
Labels of medicinal wines from pharmacy of Fortunat Gralewski
(Cracow, 1st half of 20th century).
Apothecary cellar (fragment), barrels for medicinal wines.

The other cellar houses the reconstruction of an old apothecarys laboratory. Here, we find a stove with chimney and bellows for rekindling of fire and kettles above the furnace. Next to this are copper apparatus for distillation, rows of retorts and alembics, filters, crucibles, presses for extraction of juices and oils, mills, etc. - in other words, all equipment used to make medicinal substances.

Laboratory press. 19th century.
Copper kettles with alembics for distillation. 17th-18th century.
Glass alembics and retorts for distillation. 18th century.

In the ground-floor room, we have a collections of pieces of furniture from old monastery pharmacies - for example, the baroque chest of drawers for medicinal herbs. There are also coats of arms of old pharmacies. Ones bearing a Negro symbolized medicinal raw materials from exotic countries, which were fashion-able during the late medieval period and the Renaissance. Hanging on the walls and from the ceiling we also have a tortoise carapace, a dried crocodile, a snake and the saw of a sawfish. These are elements of the traditional decoration once found in pharmacies, and which have often been depicted in old drawings and described in belles-lettres - for example, in Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet, in the scene where Romeo visits a pharmacy in order to buy a poison.

Emblem from "Lion Pharmacy" in Darłowo (north Poland). 19th century.
Fragments of polychrome preserved on the drawers
from a monastery apothecary cupboard. 18th century.

On the first floor there are (among others) two rooms containing pharmacy furniture in the Empire, neobaroque and the Biedermeier styles. In the first room there are also portraits of the first professors of pharmacy at the University of Cracow, including portraits of Jan Szaster (1746-1793), Józef Sawiczewski (1762-1825) and Florian Sawiczewski (1797-1876). In another room on this floor there is a collection of mortars and pharmacy scales. The fourth room on this floor is dedicated to pharmacist Ignacy Łukasiewicz (1822-1882). Łukasiewicz studied pharmacy in Cracow and Vienna and was the first man to distill kerosene from petroleum and construct (in 1853) the worlds first kerosene lamp. Apart from the lamps prototype this room houses Łukasiewiczs domestic medicinal chest, with labels written personally by him, his escritoire, a handwritten pharmacy manual and the inventory of the Brzostek Pharmacy also crafted by Łukasiewiczs hand.

Interior of a pharmacy in Empire style. First half of 19th century.
Table apothecary scales plated with gold. 19th century.
Home pharmacy of Ignacy ?ukasiewicz. 19th century.

On the walls along the staircase hang portraits and a selection of valuable diplomas conferred on Polish pharmacists by Polish and foreign universities. It is worth mentioning that this collection includes a masters degree diploma of Sister Konstancja Studzińska from a Cracow pharmacy, conferred on her by the Doctors Department at the Jagiellonian University in 1824. This diploma is unique because it was the first university diploma in the world granted to a woman. We also have here a magnificent drawing made by Piotr Stachiewicz (1858-1938), which presents Hygeia, Greek Goddess of health, as well as a beau-tiful stained glass artwork depicting a mortar surrounded by medicinal plants.

Masters degree diploma of Sister Konstancja Sudzińska, granted to her
by the Doctors Department at the Jagiellonian University in 1824.
Piotr Stachiewicz (1858-1938), "Hygeia". A coal drawing.
Stained glass door a mortar surrounded by medicinal plants
(digitalis, aconite, poppy and belladonna).

In the first room of the second floor, among other objects, we have table balances and small hand scales with horn scale pans, as well as sets of weights of different kinds. We also have here machines used to produce medicines in various forms, for example, pills, tablets, powders in wafers and so on. Also in display is a travel first aid kit made in a form of a triptych, containing equipment and materials needed to make a medicine by the patients bedside or in a field hospital in wartime.

Pharmaceutical hand-machine for coating pills. Turn of 19th and 20th century.
Travelling portable medicine chest. Ca. 1830.

Another subject in this room is Tadeusz Pankiewicz, the owner of the "Eagle Pharmacy" in Cracow and author of The Cracow Ghetto Pharmacy which has been translated into many languages and in which he described dramatic events and crimes commited by Germans against Jews. In 1983, Tadeusz Pankiewicz was awarded a Righteous Among the Nations medal by the state of Israel.

Polish, German, French, English, and Jewish edition
of "The Cracow Ghetto Pharmacy" by Tadeusz Pankiewicz.

In the other room of this floor, we find old apothecary vessels from various periods. They are made from a variety of materials, including wood, tin, transparent and coloured glass, faience (glazed, coloured earthenware) and porcelain. There is also a series of glass vessels of monastery origin, including two small monstrance-shaped jars, one for storing Muscat flower oil and the other for storing Cinnamon oil. Our collection of majolica vessels is from Italy, Holland, Spain and Britain. It was presented to the museum in 1976 by the late Mateusz Grabowski from London, who was a registered pharmacist in Great Britain.

Examples of majolica vessels from collection of the late Mateusz Grabowski,
presented to the museum in 1976.

In this room we can also find a bust of Teodor Torosiewicz (1789-1876), a Polish apothecary who was the first (in a publication from 1839) to pay attention to the usefulness of brown glass vessels for apothecary purposes. And, over there, are old-time apothecary curiosities. These include a portion of theriac (an ancient antidote of which the main ingredient was dried and pulvered flesh of viper) in a genuine, 17th century wrapping, bezoar (a concretion found in the alimentary tract of some ruminants and valued throughout the centuries as an antidote) and a so-called unicorn horn (ie, a narwhal tooth), which was also used as an antidote after being pulverized. Some of the majolica jars collected here are labeled "Axungia hominis" (human fat), "Mumia vera" (genuine mummy), "Canthari-des" (also known as Spanish flies), "Millepedes" (centipedes) and "Blattae orien-tales" (cockroaches).

Glass vessel labeled BLATT.(AE) ORIENT.(ALES) PULV.(ERATAE)
(pulverized cockroaches).
Genuine 17th century wrapping of a portion of theriac.
Majolica jar labeled "Cantharides" (Spanish flies).
Glass vessel labeled CRAN(IUM) HUM(A)N(UM) P(RE)P(ARA)T(UM)
(preparation of human skull).

The last room in the museum, placed on the third floor, has been stylized the apothecary attic. Attics, being spacious and dry, were often used by apothecaries to dry and store medicinal herbs. The wooden structure of this room is similar to rafter framing and on this, wooden frames with thick canvas stretched over them, were installed. The frames were once used for drying herbs. On the plat-forms are various kinds of herb cutters. There are also sieves of various gauges, presses, percolators, a traditional repository with drawers used for storing herbs, and straw containers equipped with wooden sign boards. The collection of objects connected with herborisation is the so-called Merck collection. This is a 19th century collection of medicinal plant raw materials, stored in special glass tubes, that was used for scientific and didactic purposes.

Straw containers for herbs.
Repository for different parts of herbs.
Sieve for preparation of Spanish flies.

The outbuilding of the museum houses a library, where are stored old herbaria, antidotaria, pharmacopoeias and other prints connected with apothecary history, contemporary albums and handbooks on the history of medicine and pharmacy, and archival portfolios, in which are collected documents and photographs re-ferring to eminent Polish pharmacists, as well as videos and slides. These portfolios were compiled from different points of view and illustrate the history of the Polish and European apothecary. Pharmacists who are interested in the history of pharmacy are welcome to use the library.

One of the pages from Edward Winklers "Flora lekarska" ("Medicinal plants")
(Warszawa, 1852).
One of the pages from Elizabeth Blackwells "Herbarium"
(N??rnberg, 1750-1773).
One of the pages from the German translation of "Commentaries to Dioscorides"
by Pietro Andrea Mattioli (Frankfurt, 1586).
Title page of "Pharmacopoea Wirtembergica" (Stuttgard, 1786).