Cromwell's medicine chest

Contributed by Cromwell Museum

Cromwell's medicine chest was made in Bavaria in the early 17th century and is very high quality.  C. Cromwell Museum.

The chest contained medicines and medical tools, including a tongue scraper.The chest was made in Augsburg in what is now southern Germany, which was a centre for high quality metalwork. A similar chest was owned by Peter the Great and is in The Hermitage in St Petersburg. The silversmith who made it was Nickolaus Kolb who died in 1621. The chest is made of ebony and the tools and containers are silver and silver gilt. The tools include some that are readily identifiable, such as a pair of scissors and a gold spoon but also include a metal syringe and scalpel, as well as an ear and tongue scraper. Not all of the tools can be identified with certainty. The contents of the bottles and cannisters is unknown, as no traces remain, but the medicines in use at the time in a chest of this kind would have been very expensive and from all over the known world. The chest was almost certainly a gift to Cromwell when he was Lord Protector and has been passed down through the family. Cromwell's health was of great concern to him.

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