Picture of Health: Images of Medicine and Pharmacy from the William H. Helfand Collection
Commentaries by William H. Helfand
Essays by Patricia Eckert Boyer, Judith Wechsler, and Maurice Rickards
126 color and 39 black-and-white illustrations
9 x 11 inches
William H. Helfand, a pharmacist, chemical engineer, and longtime Merck executive, started collecting prints related to pharmacy and medicine in the 1950s, and in the 1960s began adding posters and printed ephemera, eventually acquiring more than 7,500 images. Over the years he has donated some 1,600 of these to the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s famed Ars Medica Collection, of which 128 are presented here.
The rise of the medical profession and the heightened concern with issues of public health in the late 1700s gave birth to a varied genre of imagery whose purposes developed and changed over time. From eighteenth-century caricatures, to the earliest nineteenth-century engraved cards and labels of doctors and pharmacists, to the mass-produced color lithograph sheet-music covers, trade cards, and other items of the early twentieth century, medical ephemera covered a range of subjects and object types. Taken as a whole, the diverse group of printed images of medicine and pharmacy included in this book mock and entertain, promote the benefits of products, address issues of social welfare, and advertise events; some of them even appeared on objects designed for practical use.
Three essays by specialists in the field, along with lively, evocative descriptions by Mr. Helfand, help to place these engaging images in context and give the reader an understanding of their purpose and the techniques used to create them, as well as a taste of the humor, instruction, salesmanship, and even provocation present in these popular art forms.