Friday 18 May 2012

Old Pharmacist's Prescription Book

We had spent most of the day at the recent Caloundra show and were getting tired and ready to go home.  I told my wife, Karen, that I just wanted to say goodbye to some of my collector friends from Melbourne, who each year make the pilgrimage to Queensland to sell a few bits and pieces at this show.  Karen was patiently waiting for me while I was having a good old natter to my friends when she spotted a book for sale on their stall.  She eagerly waited for me to finish talking to announce her discovery, knowing full well that this was just the sort of item that I had been looking for for my pharmaceutical collection.  Needless to say, I also got excited about her find and had to have it for myself.  I didn't even quibble over the price and was only too happy to buy it from my friends.  I would never have known what I had almost missed if I hadn't gone back to say goodbye to them.

This book is probably my favourite find from the show.  It's an old leather bound pharmacists prescription book from 1922/23 from, I believe, a Middle Park pharmacy in Melbourne.  Middle park is a very old inner city suburb between Albert Park and Port Phillip Bay, just north of St. Kilda. 

The book has nicely decorated page edges.  Edge decoration or fore-edge painting is the decoration of the edges of the pages of a book, visible when the book is closed.

It is quite a large volume being 42cm long, almost 20cm wide and 5.5cm thick.  It contains a complete list of all the prescriptions issued by this Middle Park pharmacy from the 20th of July 1922 to the 19th of June 1923.  Each page contains customer's names, exactly what was dispensed to them (sometimes with instructions on how to take the remedy) and the prices they paid.  The only address that I could find in the book is on one of the front pages and says 83 Carter Street, Middle Park.  Is this the address of the pharmacy?  Probably not as Google maps shows this to be a domestic dwelling, although it fits the period well, probably from the late 1800s to early 1900s.  Maybe this was the pharmacist's own home address and he worked from out of his home.  Just to muddy the waters a little more, above this address is written a name that looks like "Miss Bushell".  Could the pharmacist have been a woman or does this name and address have nothing at all to do with the pharmacy?  We will probably never know.

Below are some photos of some of the pages of this book.  It is interesting to note that there are many different names signed at the ends of each prescription.  This seems to indicate that there were a number of different pharmacists using the same book.  I would expect this to be the case in a chemist shop today but not in an early pharmacy of the 1920s.  Maybe this book actually came from a large pharmacy right in the city that employed a number of different pharmacists?  Another interesting thing to note is that the pharmacy was obviously open on Christmas day as evident by the number of prescriptions issued on the 25th of December.


Look out for this book on my Pharmacy Dispensing Department display at the September 22nd Antiques & Collectors Fair at Morayfield Leisure Centre later this year. This fair will be hosted by the Queensland Historical Bottle & Collectables Club.


  1. amazing.. I have one very similar from 1886.. my father was a pharmacist and had many old "treasures". He gave away loads of old pill making devices and medicine bottles but the book he gave to me.

    1. What a shame he didn't give you any of the pill making devices and bottles as well. Treasure the prescription book, they are pretty cool.

  2. I was given a book named "1000 Favorite Prescriptions" Contributed By 1000 Physicians, Compiled By ( C. Lawson Johnson) copyright 1923. It looks like it would be a Bible I cannot find anything online about it I have found a couple digital copies from a few other of his books this is something that I plan on selling if you would be interested please contact me at my email or at Bradley Lucas in Southeast Missouri on Facebook

  3. How do one get to know the worth of one's book?


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