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Pill slabs are thought to have been used for grinding pills and for mixing ointments, though their primary use may have been as a sign to hang in the window of a shop.

The inscription – Opifer Que Per Orbem Dicor – refers to Ovid’s story of Apollo and Daphne where Apollo introduces himself with the words: “the art of medicine is my discovery, and I am called help-bringer throughout the world, and all the potency of herbs is given unto me.”

Offered on behalf of a Somerset deceased estate by the Taunton auctioneers Greenslade Taylor Hunt on October 28, it sold to the Kensington Church Street dealer Jonathan Horne at £53,000 (plus 12.75 per cent buyer’s premium).