A complete Arabian pharmacy was shown on the cover
of the first Dutch book of prescriptions
printed in Brussels in 1515.
This proves that eastern medicine
were very much appreciated in the 16th en 17th century.
No wonder that an eastern was depicted
above drugstores and pharmaceuticals.

The world market of medicine and drugs
was mainly in the hands of the Dutch and this explains
that the so called ‘’yawner’’ is a typically Dutch sign
that was especially found in Amsterdam,
the centre of colonial commerce.

The yawner was also called a black moors head.
At first is was not presented with a pill on his tong
but with a role of sulphur in his mouth,
an eastern drug against plague.
The ‘’yawner’’ has been the symbol of pharmacy ever since.
Herbs were important parts of pharmaceuticals for ages.
They were not only used in the making of medicine, they can also be used in the production of wine.
Bishops’ wine is still popular in the Netherlands.
The old pharmacist sold this drink and many more.
Nowadays we still drink black-current gin, current wine etc.
The old chemist’ shops did not only provide drinks that might produce hangovers,
but they even sold means to cure them.
In the 17th century one of these shops had the following text on his sign.

"We sell drinks upstairs as downstairs, Downstairs for the healthy and upstairs for the sick".

Next to the yawner we still find a mortar, in which herbs can be crushed, as a sign of the druggist.
In the north of this country you may sometimes bump into an occasional pair of deer antlers.
Almost dying out are the griffin, salamanders, unicorns and the saw tooth fish.
In de course of time a lot of wooden yawners were lost due to the weather.
Although it is a pity it is also understandable
that a lot of these worn out ‘’yawners’’ were not replaced
and if this was the case their places were taken by more modern ones.

But not only the influence of the weather is responsible or the disappearance of these signs.
They are also stolen and that’s another reason
why this colourful tradition disappears more and more rapidly.
Nowadays you can count the ’’yawners’’ of Amsterdam on the fingers of one hand.

There are different theories explaining why the yawner puts out his tong with or without a pill on it:

a. to show that medicines are sold
b. to diagnose a disease
c. he shows his tong to those who pass and don’t buy.

You take your pick !!!

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