- The unicorn's horn was credited with the ability to detect or neutralize poisons, and to cure many diseases, including plague, epilepsy, and the bite of a mad dog. Various objects were sold as such, at very high prices; one kept in the Tower of London was officially valued at Ј600 in 1649, though one visitor in 1635 had estimated it at Ј18,000 or Ј20,000 (Travels of Peter Mundy, iii, I, p. xx). Most were narwhal tusks; a slice from one, mounted in enamelled gold and dating from about 1560, known as the Campion Pendant, has been partly pared away on the reverse, presumably so that the parings could be taken as medicine. Walrus tusks and rhinoceros horns were also used, for example sliced to make cups and spoons. Less expensive were medical powders and potions supposedly containing scrapings of unicorn horn; these were still being sold by English pharmacists in the mid-18th century (Shepard, 1930/1996).
A Dictionary of English folklore. Jacqueline Simpson & Steve Roud. 2014.
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