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Refined copper was used chiefly in the manufacture of electrical cables and plumbing fittings, in addition to industrial applications such as boilers and stills.

While a few different mixtures of copper were included in the Pharmacopeia, the Compendium focused on the application of Sulphate of Copper (a blue crystalline salt). The Compendium lists Sulphate of Copper as a Caustic/Counter-Irritant, and as an Emetic, and recommended a preparation of Sulphate of Copper to treat epilepsy.

British Pharmacopoeia 1867

Sulphate of Copper Cupri Sulphas

“May be obtained by heating sulphuric acid and copper together, dissolving the soluble product in hot water, and evaporating the solution until crystallisation takes place on cooling.” [1] Characteristics

“A blue crystalline salt, in oblique prisms, soluble in water, forming a pale blue solution which strongly reddens litmus.”[2]

Copper Cuprum

“Fine copper wire, about No. 25”[3] Preparation containing copper:

  • Cupri Sulphas

Preparation in which copper is used:

  • Spiritus Aetheris Nitrosi

Preparations of Copper

Spirit of Nitrous Ether / Spiritus Aetheris Nitrosi [4]

  • syn: spiritus aetheris nitrici
  • “a spirituous solution containing nitrous ether”
  • nitric acid (3 fl oz), sulphuric acid (2 fo oz), copper, in fine wire (about No. 25)(2 oz), rectified spirit (as needed)
  • dose: ½-2 fl drachm
  • “transparent and nearly colourless, with a very slight tinge of yellow, mobile, inflammable, of a peculiar penetrating apple-like odour, and sweetish cooling sharp taste.”

Copper Foil [5]

  • “pure metallic copper, thin and bright.”

Subacetate of Copper of Commerce [6]

  • “Verdigris” (oxidised copper?)

Sulphate of Copper, Anhydrous [7]

  • “sulphate of copper deprived of its water by heat of 400°.”
  • “A yellowish white powder, which becomes blue when moistened with water.”

Solution of Acetate of Copper (Test Solution) [8]

  • subacetate of copper of commerce, in fine powder (1/2 oz), acetic acid (1 fl oz), distilled water

Solution of Ammonio-Sulphate of Copper (Test Solution) [9]

  • sulphate of copper, in crystals (1/2 oz), solution of ammonia (as needed), distilled water (as needed)

A Compendium of Domestic Medicine, 1865

Savory classifies sulphate of copper under Caustics and Counter-Irritants (Remedies Which Chemically Destroy or Burn the Animal Tissues When Locally Applied) (412/391) and as an Emetic (414/393). Sulphate of copper and sulphate of zinc are both recommened emetics when treating poisoning from opium. [10]

Diseases Treated with

General Diseases

  • Epilepsy: Strong stimuli and tonics are to be used when the disease is the result of “weakness or nervous irritability,” with a preparation of sulphate of copper being one to the effective treatments.[11]


  1. General Medical Council of Great Britain, British Pharmacopeia, (London: Spottiswoode & Co.,1867), 94
  2. GMCGB, 94
  3. GMCGB, 95
  4. GMCGB, 293-94
  5. GMCGB, 380
  6. GMCGB, 383
  7. GMCGB, 383
  8. GMCGB, 384
  9. GMCGB, 386
  10. Savory, John. A Compendium of Domestic Medicine (London: John Churchill and Sons, 1865), 176.
  11. Savory, 230

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