In 1618, for a number of compelling reasons, the College of Physicians published their first pharmacopoeia, the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis (PL). This was a landmark publication, being the first standard list of medicines and their ingredients in England. Chief amongst the reasons which lead to the publication in 1618 was that in the previous year the Apothecaries had finally secured their separation from the Company of Merchant Grocers and it was according to the physicians’ ‘Antidotary’, that all apothecaries throughout the realm of King James were to manufacture authorized preparations which the physicians would prescribe. However the origins of the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis within the College were not straightforward and there were clearly rival factions at work, such that 10 months later the first version was replaced by a second, enlarged and grander volume. An important consequence of the publication of Pharmacopoeia Londinensis was its eventual evolution into the British Pharmacopoeia. Another important direct ‘descendant’ of the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis was Nicholas Culpeper’s 1649 translation of it into English. This and related works by Culpeper were thereafter greatly valued by ‘common man’ as sources of information about the medicinal attributes of plants and their place in the treatment of disease.
Finally the 1618 Pharmacopoeia Londinensis provided the inspiration for the PL gardens which now flourish in the grounds of the Royal College of Physicians’ London home in Regent’s Park.
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Location: Maplethorpe Lecture Theatre, UCL School of Pharmacy, 29-39 Brunswick Square London WC1N 1AX