Collection & Access


The Society’s Collection is made up of artefacts, books and records that have come into the Society’s possession by gift or acquisition over the 400 years of the Society’s existence. Broadly, the Collection is made up of paintings, silverware, furniture and a range of pharmaceutical, medical and other artefacts which have associations with the Society and its work. The Collection also includes some special collections of historical importance, as well as the Society’s extensive Archives, together with the Library and a selection of rare books. The care of the Collection is overseen by a Curator, who is generally a Past Master of the Society.
All inquiries in relation to records in the Archives should be made in writing to the Archive Office, with full contact details, including home or institutional postal address, or by e-mail Details of any information already known, and the sources used, would be very helpful.

Personal access to the Archives may be granted by prior appointment with the Archive Office to bona fide scholars and researchers. Scholars and researchers are required to specify the information they are seeking, complete the appropriate request or copyright forms and agree to abide by the Society’s rules for researchers.

There is no research fee and therefore no charge for enquiry work but a donation to the Friends of the Archives towards the Friends conservation programme is welcome. Payment may be made by personal cheque (in pounds sterling) payable to: “Society of Apothecaries” or by bank transfer marked “Archive Donation” to Sort Code 18-00-02,  A/c 05959640.

Microfilm copies exist for many of the major series of the Society’s pre-20th-century records. These microfilms are on open access through the London Metropolitan Archives at 40 Northampton Road England EC1R 0HB and online at e-mail

The Library

The Library is open at selected times, prior to the Eponymous Lectures run by the Society’s Faculties.  A short history of the library can be found here. The nucleus of the library was started by the presentation of a Gerrard’s Herbal in 1633 and dedicated space for a repository of books was created in the Hall in 1682. During the 18th and 19th century a portion of the library was held at the Chelsea Physic Garden and in 1953 over 300 volumes were transferred permanently to the Physic Garden.

Adopt a Book Scheme

The Society launched a scheme to Adopt a Book in 2015 as a way for members of the Society, its Faculties and its Friends to support the restoration of some of the Society’s rare books. This collection of some 250 largely medical and herbal texts date from the 16th century on to the mid-19th century and are an important heritage area for the Society of Apothecaries. Although some are in good condition, a number  have suffered from the ravages of time or overuse, and some may have been in a damaged condition when the Society acquired them. This project aims to conserve and restore these volumes for use. Members are invited to sponsor the restoration of a book for which they will be acknowledged in a bookplate and it is also possible to support one in memory of a deceased family member, friend or colleague.  A representative list of books with their restoration costs may be downloaded (see below) and a leaflet giving more details of the scheme with a form to indicate preferences and personal details may be downloaded as a pdf file and printed out. Please note that the Restoration List (see below) shows just a sample of the restorations needed. Details of a wider list of restorations may be obtained by e-mailing Curator or by clicking here.


Historical Collections Research Grant

The Friends of the Collections at the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries will award up to 4 grants each year, each of £250, to support researchers to use the Society’s collections.

The grants are intended to encourage researchers to use the collections either as the main focus of their project, or as part of a larger research proposal. We are keen to widen further use of the collections and engage with a wider range of researchers.  Research projects that lead to a published outcome or those that use material that has previously been under-utilised are particularly welcomed. We interpret “publication” widely to include book, article, chapter, conference paper or poster, lecture, blog, exhibition, or film.

Application form – click here
Guidelines – click here

Friends of the Collections

Contact: Beci Ryan

Curator & Past Master

Contact: Mr Nicholas Wood

Archives and Collections

Contact: Janet Payne
Telephone: 020 7236 1189