Wellcome Foundation Product Literature

Part of:
Wellcome Foundation Ltd
  • Archives and manuscripts

Collection contents

About this work


This collection of Product Literature was maintained by the Marketing Department of the Wellcome Foundation Ltd. It appears to have been instigated after the demise of the 'Guard Book' - volumes containing examples of product literature c.1880-c.1950 (see WF/M/GB). However, there are some items in this 'later' series surviving from before 1950. It forms an extraordinarily complete set of pharmaceutical product literature for the late 20th century (c.1950-1990). The collection includes some high-profile products for key drugs, such as Daraprim (anti-malarial) or Zovirax (anti-viral), and popular over the counter remedies such as Actifed or Calpol.

The majority of the series is from the original collection, and remains in its original order (A-Z by Product name). Some additional loose items of product literature were incorporated as part of the sorting process upon arrival at the Wellcome Library in 2002.

For each product listed there are varying numbers of surviving literature. The 'Extent' shows the number of producible items (i.e. how many folders). Where less than 6 pieces of product literature survive these are given as sub-items. E.g. 1 Item (2 sub-items). If no subitems are indicated the researcher can assume there is a substantial amount of material surviving.

The type of literature varies as to whether the product was a prescription or 'over the counter' product. Marketing and press packs survive for some products.

Prescription drugs have technical information leaflets which were for use by the medical profession (usually accompanying the pills in their packaging). Some packaging also survives - these tend to be simple boxes with a standard corporate design and text.

Over the counter products contain advertising material aimed at consumers. These are often visual, with images associated with a particular brand, logos, pamphlets, posters, 'educational' advertising aimed at individuals or parents. Packaging also survives and this tends to be more vibrant than the prescription drugs - with clearly specific brand designs.

Products were marketed throughout the world, including:
Europe - Croatia, England, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Yugoslavia;
Asia - Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand;
Africa - Kenya, Nigeria;
North America - Canada, USA, and South America - Argentina.

Languages included: mainly in English, but also in Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Dutch/Flemish, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Serbo-Croat, Spanish and Swedish.

Sometimes included are small complimentary marketing items given to medical staff - such as post it notes, pens, note pads, magnets, window stickers, coasters, window/point of sale display boards, magic writing tablets and other small 'executive toys'.

Although recorded in lists created prior to transfer to the Wellcome Library, the following material was not identified at the time of cataloguing and therefore is not present in the catalogue:

WF/M/PL/152 - Hypoloid - General
WF/M/PL/207 - Neokharsivan:Phenothiazine Compound Dispersible
WF/M/PL/206 - Neokharsivan:Kharsulphan
WF/M/PL/299 - Stypen (Russell Viper Venom)



Physical description

83 boxes This series is a mix of physical media - mainly product inserts on flimsy paper and glossy/heavy paper for product brochures. However there are also promotional items, which are noted in individual descriptions:- plastic objects such as measuring spoons, wallets etc; post it notes; pens; metal medals. There are also adhesive items - stickers, and product adverts for placing in shop windows (transfers etc).


Product information arranged by product in alphabetical order.

Finding aids

CHEMICAL WARFARE ABBREVIATIONS (this section added by AS 14/10/2002) For a list of terms used to describe poison gasses manufactured and/or used during the First World War, see 'Seeking Victory on the Western Front: the British Army & Chemical Warfare in World War One' by Albert Palazzo, 2000, London (University of Nebraska Press) - a copy is available. This list helps to explain some of the names given to products by BW&Co during the early part of the twentieth century.

Appraisal note

This was in the original handover papers to the Wellcome Library 2001:
As a general rule:-
* Keep only one copy of standard "Dear Doctor" and "Dear Sir" letters.
* Keep three copies of each item of prod. lit.
* If one item of product literature has more than one reprint keep only two of each reprint.
* Abstracts only keep one copy of each item.
* Do not keep copies of GACT.
* Do not keep Medical Marketing Notes/Medical Marketing Digest or Marketing Memos to Reps.
* Do not keep Press Cuttings/Press Releases (unless they are of old products and of special interest).
* Do not keep articles from Wellcome Journals/Magazines.
* Do not keep any product related PROFS notes.
* Do not keep journals which are product related.
* Do not add any more Calmic or Cooper products to the series.

When the records were transferred the product literature was weeded, so that only one copy of each item was retained.

Language note



SE Selenium
Fl. fluid
mg. - micro gram
oz. ounce
b/w black and white
info. - information
Q and As - Questions and answers
approx. - Approximately
IU - International units
Vit. - Vitamin
P.M. - Phosphorus magnesium
BW&Co. - Burroughs Wellcome and Company. Antigen - A substance, usually a toxin produced by bacterium, that stimulates the production of antibodies.
Anti-emetic - Active against vomiting.
Antipyretic - Active against fever.
Antitoxin - Blood serum that contains a specific antibody.
Antitussive - Active against coughing.
Antiserum - Blood serum containing antibodies against a specific antigen, used to treat or provide immunity to a disease.
Aqueous solution - Compound dissolved in water.
Emetic - Induces vomiting.
Prophylactic - Protective or preventative measure.
Radio-immunoassay technique - Technique for the measurement of protein hormones in bodily fluids.
RDS - Respiratory Distress Syndrome
Vaccine - An inoculation used to provide immunity to a disease by stimulating the production of antibodies.

Ownership note

Please see main WF collection description (ref. 'WF').

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