In search of pharmacist Tobias Mauksch

Tobias Mauksch (1727-1802, sometimes spelled Maugsch or Maucksch), a Saxon from present-day Slovakia, was the most successful pharmacist of Cluj during the Baroque period. In 1760 he obtained an exclusive privilege from empress Maria Teresia. He became the only one with the right to run a pharmacy in the free royal city Cluj and to pass down the business to his children. Tobias had bought, from his uncle’s widow, the old urban pharmacy that had functioned since around 1550 in one of the buildings that stood around St. Michael’s church, and moved it to the house on the corner of the main square. He had the building renovated and decorated with interior painting in 1766. Tobias became curator of the evangelical church, chief of the police force, and even a senator of Cluj. He married twice and had 18 children. Two of his sons continued his profession and for them he acquired another pharmacy, in Târgu Mureș. The Unicorn pharmacy he bought in Cluj was gifted to his son-in-law. He died in Cluj, at the age of 75, and is buried in the Central Cemetery. His sons, Tobias Samuel Mauksch and Johann Martin Mauksch, ran the pharmacy in Cluj successively, but they both died relatively young. The business remained in the property of the latter’s widow and then daughter, Mathilde Augusta, under the coordination of paid administrators (Daniel Slaby from Bratislava and his heirs) and was eventually taken over by Mathilda’s son, György Hintz.

A number of artifacts connected to Tobias Mauksch have been preserved in the pharmacy collection from Cluj, three manuscripts and a glass container with a depiction of a stag, likely used in the pharmacy from Târgu Mureș. A portrait labeled Tóbiás Maucksch has been preserved by the Hintz family, but remains unclear if it depicts the privileged pharmacist or his son, Tobias Samuel. The funerary monument of the first has been recently restored by Dr. Georg Hintz.

In search of countess Kemény Teréz

The first step in identifying the owner of the 18th-century medicine chest in our collection was to closely analyze the manuscript preserved in one of the drawers. This is in fact an invoice issued by pharmacists Anthonius Perestick for medicines dispensed from the pharmacy in Șimleu that countess Terézia Kemény paid for in cash on October 13, 1787, in Nușfalău. Terézia Kemény, born in 1739, was married to baron Bánffy Mihályi, and died in Cluj, in 1806, at 66 years of age. Her portrait once stood, beside her husband’s, inside the Bánffy palace in Cluj. During her research in the archives, Dr. Mária Pakucs has also identified Terézia’s and signature, noting that the countess continued to sign with her maiden name, as her own family was among the most important in Transylvania. Mother of five, Terézia Kemény looked after her family by owning and periodically refilling a medicine chest, essential especially during their numerous travels. The invoice preserved in the chest, listing medicines dispensed over several months, was probably paid at the Bánffy castle in Nușfalău (Szilágynagyfalu), Sălaj County.

The portrait is published in BORDÁS BEÁTA, A KOLOZSVÁRI BÁNFFY-PALOTA. MÚLT ÉS JELEN, KOLOZSVÁR, 2019, p. 108.

Ear candling

Among the mysterious artifacts in our collection we can mention a 10-cm-tall wooden cone with concave base, with no data on original context of use and means of acquisition. Such artifacts have usually ended up in the museum from pharmacies nationalized in 1949, have not been published before, and the inventory ledger only records brief descriptions. We have thus turned to the expertise of practicing pharmacists, namely to a Facebook group that reunites such specialists from Romania. They have kindly clarified the function of this item: such cones were used in modelling ear candles, employed in the (medically not recommended) treatment of ear inflammation, hearing troubles, headaches and the removal of ear wax. The base concavity prevented wood deformation during sterilization.

The surprise in the theriac jar

While collecting samples of materia medica for analysis, we discovered a circular metal item in a theriac jar dated 1905. According to the label, the medicine was prepared in Szendy Antal’s “Hungarian Crown” pharmacy in Baia Mare. Some of the black-colored dried substance was still preserved on the bottom of the glass jar and in it what we thought looked like a coin. The item was taken to the restoration laboratory of the National Museum of Transylvanian History, where Radu Cordoș cleaned the corrosion as much as possible. It seems the item was not a coin after all, but a blank with two asymmetrical perforations. With the kind help of Barbara Di Gennaro Splendore, PhD, affiliated to the Research Institute of the University of Bucharest, we discovered analogies and the ongoing mystery function of the coins/tesserae, sometimes perforated, and relief metal lids sometimes found in theriac jars in Italy, for example, in the 18th and 19th centuries. Future XRF analyses, revealing the metal composition of the theriac “coin” from Baia Mare might shed some light into the matter.

Conference in Wrocław

On 10 and 11 December 2022 Ana-Maria Gruia has delivered an online presentation about reconstructing pharmacy interiors during a conference organized by the University of Wrocław, Poland, entitled ”Historical reconstruction as a research tool”. The presentation ”Museum Reconstructions of Pharmacy Interiors” focused on the case-study of the Mauksch-Hintz pharmacy in Cluj-Napoca. The most interesting discussions though dealt with the analysis and reconstruction of historical medicines, especially teriac. The event was financed through grant no of the National Science Center.

Bucovina – File de Istorie Symposium

Ioana Cova has delivered the presentation entitled Aspecte privind conservarea Colecției de Istorie a Farmaciei din Cluj [On the conservation of the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj] during the works of the Bucovina – File de Istorie Symposium (the XXIVth edition), in the conservation and restoration panel. The symposium was organized by Muzeul Național al Bucovinei in Suceava, in partnership with Universitatea „Stefan cel Mare” – Facultatea de Istorie și Geografie, November 24-25, 2022.

Parchment and vellum analysis

Two cultural artifacts made of animal skin, part of the History of Pharmacy Collection, were analyzed through a collaboration between specialists of the National Museum of Transylvanian History (conservators, restorers, investigators) and PhD Lucreția Miu from the National Research-Development Institute for Textile and Leather in Bucharest.

The first artifact is a document with seal, representing the diploma through which pharmacist Blasius Galambos was granted a nobility title in 1644. The direct examination of the material and analyses performed with a portable microscope have revealed the fact that the document was written on vellum (parchment made from calf skin). The outer side of the skin, supporting the text, was carefully processed, while the inside shows traces of processing technique errors.

The second document, a diploma issued for pharmacist Samuel Velits, dated 1776, was made of goat skin, written on the outer side. The dents where hair follicles have been removed are visible in those areas where the text support preparation was partially removed through repeated manipulation.

Materia medica sample collection

After several preparation and selection meetings with the project team, in September 2022 our collaborators Dr. Magó Andrea Beatrix and dr. Guttmann Márta have collected 14 samples of materia medica. The procedure followed specific non-contamination restrictions, as the intended means of analysis is very sensitive to the smallest quantities of organic matter. During the opening of the selected apothecary containers, most from the 8th-century medicine chest, we have made several observations and discoveries: the content of a glass container for Pulvis Bezoard Sennert, a compound medicine invented by a famous German doctor, included gold foil fragments; a paper envelope inscribed on the outside Cantharides did contain crushed Spanish flies, with their typical green metallic shine, but on the inside it proved to be part of an accounting page that will help in the dating of the chest; a container for Theriaca included not only traces of the product but also a circular metal object, most likely a coin; and the human mummy fragments preserve imprints and actual textile fragments. The sample have been sent to the Department of Chemistry of the University in Pisa, the Dr. Maria Pakucs has started transcribing and analyzing the new manuscript, the coin is under restoration and the laboratory of the National Museum of Transylvanian History, while Dr. Beatrix Magó will perform a microscopic investigation of the cantharid powder.

Pewter marks

The History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj includes 33 items made of pewter, measuring cups and various containers. Pewter, an alloy made of tin, antimony, copper, sometimes bismuth and silver, relatively easy to process, was widely used in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries in the production of everyday objects. Most of the pewter artifacts have production marks, with heraldic symbols, dates, and initials, quality marks, control marks etc. The items in our collection also display such symbols, and in their identification we turned to an external specialist, Dr. Kovács Mária. She has kindly informed us that some of the items were made in Ghimbav, Brașov county, and in Vienna (with the mark REIN Zinn, pure tin) and can be dated to the 18th and 19th centuries.

”Libro di me, Gio Batta Gussetti”

Among the books preserved in the history of pharmacy collection, we have a favorite one, a volume printed in Venice in 1596, which includes recipes for the preparation of various medicines, including the famous Theriaca Veneta. As indicated in the title, the volume was meant to be useful to doctors, pharmacists, and all families. It seems that its former owner, a merchant from the the Veneto area, Giovanni Battista Gussetti, who bought the book in Vienna in 1687, was just as passionate about it as we are. Wanting at all costs to be recorded as the owner of this volume, he left several annotations on both the cover and inside the book. Part of the Pharmatrans project, we tried to fully decipher the texts handwritten in Italian, but we encountered difficulties in the case of the one on the cover, which, being written in ink on parchment, has faded over time. In order to render the inscription more visible we asked for the help of our colleagues from the restoration laboratory of the National Museum of Transylvanian History, and we used their UV lamp and special glasses. At the same time, through the expertise of Dr. Miu Lucretia from the National Research-Development Institute for Textiles and Leather, we have learned that the parchment was made of sheepskin, and has been well preserved, considering its age.