We recently discussed apothecary weights, and I asked if there were any books or catalogs written about them. -Editor
Martin Purdy of Upper Hutt, New Zealand writes:
There's "Apothecaries Weights, An Outline Catalogue" by Norman Biggs, White House Publications, 1994, ISBN 1 898310 01 7. It
seems to be devoted to UK items, but it does reference the following in the bibliography:
D. Vangroenweghe and T. Geldof, Pondera Medicinalia, Bruges 1989, which may be more general - I don't know anything more about this
Thanks. Here's some more info from Ron Haller-Williams. -Editor
I have a copy of Biggs, bought some 20 years ago.
1. Norman Biggs, "Apothecaries Weights: An Outline Catalogue" (White House Publications, 1994) - 32 pages ISBN 1898310017,
2. Daniel Vangroenweghe & Tillo Geldof, "Apothecaries' Weights (Pondera Medicinalia)" (Centre for the Study of Apothecaries'
Weights, 1989) - 268 pages
The symbol for dram or drachm (?) resembles a flat-topped "3", possibly relating to the fact that it was three scruples(?), but it also
seems to resemble a script "z" - "z" was used in abbreviations (such as "oz" for "ounce") and even to
indicate the word "and". The ounce, though, seems an extension of this: ? See also
"the 1/2 dram is marked 3s which I do not understand since it weighted 1.892g or 1.5 scruples, ideal weight 1.994g" It is quite simple:
Following the symbol for scruple/drachm/ounce/etc, we have a Roman numeral to indicate how many:
s = Semis (The long "s" ſ is sometimes used - or even "ſs" as first and last letter)
i or j = 1
ii or ij = 2
iiii, iiij or iv = 4
So, of course(?), ʒiv = ℥s.
And ʒs is half a drachm = 90 grains = 1.5 scruples which (if there were a single weight for this) would be indicated as "℈is"
P.S. The convention was sometimes used, for a final "i" to be written as "j".
Thanks! That's actually a great explainer. Thanks for the links as well; it's nice to know some of these references are available online.
And here are some additional ones Ron found just today. Thanks again, -Editor
An on-line catalog:
Also this descriptive page:
and this downloadable on-line 20-page booklet, posted about 4 months ago:
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
BEAUTIFUL AND UNUSUAL MONEY : Two Scruples Apothecary Weight
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: JUNE 23, 2019 : More on Apothecary Weights
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