Bristol-Myers Squibb European Apothecary -- Prescription Labels

Prescription Labels

The Bristol-Myers Squibb Collection has over two hundred early prescription labels from dozens of apothecaries across Germany and Austria. Eighteenth and nineteenth century prescription labels were very different looking from the generic pieces of paper glued to prescription bottles drug stores dispense today. Two-hundred years ago prescription labels were triangular in shape, colorful and artistic. They were attached to the neck of the bottle with a piece of string.

Early labels were plane and without adornment. Later embellishments included decorative borders, images of animals such as stags, lions, elephants or important buildings associated with the name of the apothecary. Later in the nineteenth century colored labels were used to differentiate between medications meant to be used externally or internally. Labels were printed with the pharmacist’s name, the name of the apothecary, the city and the street address. (p.128, Pharmacy in Pre-Soviet Russia, by Mary Schaeffer Conroy, in Pharmacy in History, volume 27, No. 3, 1985)

One special sheet of uncut labels (13 ½ H x 8 ½ H) has thirteen prescription labels, each one with a different image, and may have been a salesman’s’ sample depicting the different designs available to the pharmacist. Generic sheets with the center of the labels left blank are ready for the doctor or pharmacist’s prescription.