As a college librarian, I often hear stressed-out students searching for primary sources say, "I'll take anything." Don't settle for just anything. There is a treasury of primary source material available electronically. Peruse my selection of 200-plus primary source sites by conducting a keyword search, exploring the tag cloud at left, or browsing by historical era. You can also visit my Delicious and Diigo sites to review my bookmarks. Here's hoping you find what you're looking for.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A plague on your house? Better get out the white wand.

After writing the previous entry about Harvard’s Contagion collection, I stumbled upon another resource for historical materials about contagious diseases. The World Health Organization’s Historical Collection includes “Rare Books on Plague, Smallpox and Epidemiology". In that collection, you’ll find Sir John Colbatch’s 1721 work - A Scheme for Proper Methods to be taken, should it please God to visit us with the Plague.

That publication described a plan to divide the city of London into districts. Each of those districts would be assigned physicians, apothecaries, nurses and militia to tend to the sick, keep order and bury the dead in the event the city was visited by the deadly virus. That treatise offered very specific advice for those families of some means – individuals who could afford to hole up in their homes and wait for the epidemic to wane.

“That Families of Substance, who have Servants and all convenience for cleanliness and everything else, be left in their own Houses, and even those not shut up, only a mark to be set upon them. But that it shall be Death for any well person to come out of such house without a white wand in his hand, to warn all people that he belongs to an infected family."

According to the Dictionary of National Biography, Sir John Colbatch died in 1729. There’s no mention of the cause of death. Other samples of Colbatch's work can be found on Google Books, such as the one pictured above. The timely title of that work? – Dissertation Concerning Misletoe: A most wonderful Specifick Remedy for the Cure of convulsive Distemper, Calculated for the Benefit of the Poor as well s the Rich and heartily recommended for the Common Good of Mankind.

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