PLAGUE

A Short Discourse concerning pestilential Contagion, and the Methods to be used to prevent it … The third Edition.

London: Printed [by William Bowyer] for Sam. Buckley … and Ralph Smith … 1720.

8vo., pp. [8], 59, [1]; a very good crisp copy in recent wrappers.

£375

Approximately:
US $474€443

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A Short Discourse concerning pestilential Contagion, and the Methods to be used to prevent it … The third Edition.

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‘Third edition’ of the most famous medical tract on the plague scare of 1720-1, written at the request of James Craggs, the secretary of State following the bubonic outbreak in Marseilles in late 1719. There were seven London editions within the year, those from the third on being re-impressions with minor resetting and textual alterations.

‘Mead argued that plague was contagious, caused by a “volatile active spirit” (p. 11) which acted chemically to corrupt the blood. He had no notion of living contagious particles, however. He recommended separating the sick from the well (against the usual practice of quarantining entire households), and noted especially the role of soft goods such as fabrics in the transmission of plague, which would indeed provide transport for plague-carrying fleas. Mead’s Discourse was credited with alleviating local panic, and in 1721 he, Sloane, and Arbuthnot were ordered by the privy council to investigate measures to be taken in case of an outbreak of plague’ (Oxford DNB).

Blake/NLM p.295; Cushing M250; Garrison & Morton 5123; Heirs of Hippocrates 769 (3rd ed.); Norman 1476; Osler 3364 (9th ed.); Waller 6394; Wellcome IV, p. 95.

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