Book launch

The catalogue was officially presented to the public on November 17th 2023, 3 PM, at the headquarters of the National Museum of Transylvanian History, C. Daicoviciu St. 2, Cluj-Napoca. The event was attended by manager Felix Marcu, PhD, Mr. Cristian Sincovici director of the Mega Publishing House, project leader Ana-Maria Gruia, PhD, most of the authors and collaborators (Ioana Gruiță, PhD, doctoral candidate Ioana Cova, Ágnes Găzdac-Alföldy, PhD, Márta Guttmann, PhD, Oana Habor, PhD, Magó Andrea Beatrix, PhD, Melinda Mitu, PhD, and Cornelia Rotariu) and numerous historians, professors and the general public. We thank all participants for their support, we hope the catalog will provide a starting point for future researches and we are looking forward to feedback, completions, and collaboration proposals. For details, one can watch a presentation by TVR Cluj:

Sending out the catalog

Our collaborators at the Mega Printing House have just completed all volumes of the catalog, that we received fresh from the print. 150 sets will leave today for libraries in Romania and abroad, to authors, collaborators and specialists that have become part of the network created through the PHARMATRANS project. We want to thank everyone for their efforts and expertise. We are now preparing for the launch event and for uploading all seven volumes on the website for free use.

The Botanical Museum in Cluj-Napoca

The Botanical Museum in Cluj-Napoca, part of the ”Alexandru Borza” Botanical Garden, functions under the administration of the Babeș-Bolyai University. One the museum sections focuses on medicinal plants, presenting around 800 such plant parts, with their respective therapeutical indications. The museums includes both exotic and local plants and drugs, and even two lots of healing herbs employed by village healers (so-called ”wise women’s pharmacies). A number of extracts and preparations on display have been obtained in the second half of the 20th century from the education materials company run by Ludwig Wilhelm Schaufuss. The Botanical Museum is located in the building of the Botanical Institute, at the entrance of the Botanical Garden.

Glass apothecary containers

Apothecary bottles and jars reveal several interesting technical details, that tell us about how and sometimes when they were produced, as well as elements of use and reuse. Glass produced evolved significantly between the 18th and the 20th century, from handmade free-blowing to automated mass production. Though thorough research is needed in identifying the exact production techniques and their introduction in Transylvania, the lot of apothecary containers in the History of Pharmacy Collection from Cluj-Napoca show the transition from older glass items (with significant asymmetries and irregularities, tall bases, and crude pontil marks) to the manufactured and eventually industrial ones (with relief decoration). One notes crude or polished pontil marks (created with the removal of the glass rod), seam marks (from molding), faceted and sanded surfaces, colored glass and transparent class painted over in dark colors (to protect the content from sunlight), or milky glass imitating porcelain. Due to the transparency of glass, these items also include spectacular examples of hand-painted enamel decoration and of reuse, featuring two inscriptions, on opposite sides, sometimes indicating the same content, but written in a different style.

The first pharmacy museum in Cluj

The first history of pharmacy exhibition opened in Cluj in 1917 and was on display for the general public until 1918. The more than 1000 artifacts had been gathered by Dr. Iuliu (Gyula) Orient (1869-1940), professor of toxicology at the Hungarian and subsequently Romanian university of Cluj. Dr. Orient was also a surgeon, a pharmacist, and a passionate collector of old apothecary goods. At the end of the 19th century he started collecting such artifacts and after discussing the idea with Béla Pósta, the director of the Erdélyi Nemzeti Múzeum (National Transylvanian Museum), he launched a public call for donations that would allow for the foundation of a pharmacy museum. Between 1902 and 1918, Iuliu Orient donated his own collection and various artifacts offered by other pharmacists in answer to the public call to the museum. He was directly involved in organizing this initial history of pharmacy display in two of the ground floor rooms of the history museum. Dr. Orient published several studies describing his collecting efforts, sometimes his disappointment with the process, and the structure of the exhibition – with the various historical pharmaceutical artifacts on display in/on original pharmaceutical furniture. Today, these rooms house the library of the National Museum of Transylvanian History, on C. Daicoviciu st. 2, Cluj-Napoca.

Reused apothecary jars

Apothecary jars were specialized items, often bought in lots, sometimes customized, thus rather valuable. For this reason, they were often reused. Some inscriptions have been repainted (with an identical text in case the writing had faded, or with a different text if the content had changed). Other inscriptions have been effaced or covered with paper labels. Our collection includes jars with two or more inscriptions, painted on the body, written on labels (sometimes overlapped), or inscription fields that have remained empty. Inside some of the covers and on some of the jar bases one finds notations of contents and quantities removed/remaining. One wooden jar preserves two successive labels, with the printed data of two different pharmacies (thus the first was likely sold and reused, including the jars). Other jars have special labels with the notation of their weight (when empty), marked TARA or T. This allowed pharmacists to calculate the exact weight of the remaining content without having to remove it from the jar.

The Pharmacy Museum in Krakow

The Krakow Pharmacy Museum, administered by the Faculty of Pharmacy of the Jagiellonian University, was established in 1946 and is the largest museum of its kind in Poland, occupying all the floors of a historical house in the center of the city. The building hosts the pharmacy collection since 1991. The display is impressive, with numerous and varied types of artifacts, including a series of entire officinae from different periods and areas of Poland. The last pharmacy with furniture included in the display has ceased functioning in 2009. One must also note the great variety of materia medica, ranging from stuffed crocodiles and sea horses to chemical substances, vegetal matter and even a human skull. The basement reunites tools from historical pharmaceutical laboratories, while the attic recreates a herbarium, with numerous plants hung to dry. Though the display is classical and devoid of interaction or technology, the value of the collection is remarkable and the bilingual explanations are of very good quality.

The College of Pharmacists of Valencia

Part of The Hygeia Legacy international seminar we have visited the headquarters of the College of Pharmacists of Valencia (Muy Ilustre Colegio Oficial de Farmacéuticos de Valencia). Housed inside the charming 19th-century Fernando Ibáñez Payés urban palace, the college has a rich collection of old pharmaceutical books as well as historical artifacts connected to the production and marketing of pharmaceutical products in Spain. The institution itself is remarkable through the antiquity of the documents attesting it, from the 15th century, that make it the oldest college of pharmacists in the world.

”Res Ladani” as paperweight

Among the stranger artifacts in the collection one can mention three dry, dark, not very appealing spirals recorded as small paperweights. The material they are made of though has prompted us into researching the different types of materia medica preparations, thus discovering their true identity. The small spirals are in fact a vegetal resin obtained from the Cistus ladanifer plant, a native of the Mediterranean. The substance, known as Resina Labdani (or Ladanum / Labdanum) was used in the making of both perfumes and medicines, in cures against cold, cough, menstrual troubles, or rheumatism. During Antiquity, the substance was collected by combing the beard and fur of goats and sheep that grazed among the bushes of this plant. For easy transportation and preservation, pharmacists would prepare the resin as a small spiral, that was not used for weighing down paper sheets, but for different preparations. The collection also preserves two wooden jar for the preservation of Ladanum, as their inscriptions suggest.

In search of the György Hintz pharmacists

The pharmaceutical profession and the baptism name György were traditional among the men of the Hintz family. In 1863 Dr. György Hintz (I) took over the pharmacy in the corner of the main square in Cluj, having inherited it from his mother, Matilda Mauksch. György Hintz I was the first Transylvanian to obtain a doctorate in pharmacology. He subsequently taught pharmacy-related topics at the university in Cluj, forming future pharmacists. He was also general curator of the Lutheran church. When he died, at just 50, from appendicitis, the pharmacy was run by a hired administrator until his son, György Hintz II, completed his studies and took over the family business in 1898. György Hintz III worked with his father since 1939 and was chief pharmacist 10 years later, when all private pharmacies in Romania were nationalized. In 1949 the Communist regime closed down the Hintz pharmacy and turned it into a museum five years later. György Hintz III and his brother, Gábor, continued to work in public pharmacies in Cluj, but were denied top positions. In the 1980s, the entire family left the country. While owned by the family, the pharmacy was called “Dr. György Hintz”, sometimes also “Saint George” or ”The Red Cross”.

Credits for the portraits of the three pharmacists:

György Hintz (I) – photo by Ferenc Veress, glass negative in the collection of the National Museum of Transylvanian History.

György Hintz (II) and (III) – photos by Ella Hintz, wife of the first and mother of the latter, images in the collection of the Hintz family, digitally processed by Melinda Blos-Jáni.