Remedies for the Plague, ca. 1569

In 1559 Jan van der Noot published a pamphlet offering his readers signs to predict an outbreak of plague, a list of causes, bedside techniques for comforting the afflicted, and ways of avoiding and curing the plague: The Gouernance and preseruation of them that feare the Plage. (available from EEBO if you are lucky enough to be at an institution that pays for access).

Jan van der Noot’s The Gouernance and preservation of them that feare the Plage (London, 1569)
Jan van der Noot’s The Gouernance and preservation of them that feare the Plage (London, 1569)

Along with the standard bloodletting and regulating diet, van der Noot encourages his readers to be “mery, glad, & be emong mynstrels Harpes, Lutes, and other melodies, reade fonde and mery stories and songes.”. He also gives them recipes for six different medicines and instructions on when to take them:

¶ The vsyng of these foresaid sixe medecines.
The first day early in the morning shal you take of the Syrop, & after sleape vpon it one houre or twayne.
The second day shall you take a dragma of the Triacle.
The thirde day shall you take a sponeful of Corianders confite.
The fourth day, shall you take the decoction agaynst wormes.
The fift day shall you take a dragma of the Pylles.
The syxt day shall you rest.
The seuenth day shall you take any of these.
And it is very good, for to take ones in a weeke one dragma of these Pilles.
When soeuer you doo take any of these Pilles, that day you shall take none other medecine.

Van der Noot concludes his text with an interesting remedy he attributes to King Henry:

A medecine of Kyng Henry for the Plage or Pestilence.
TAke Marigolds, Sorrel, and Burnet, of euery of them a handful, Rew and Fetherfew of euery of them an other halfe handfull, and of Dragons a quantite of the crop or of the roote, and wash them in running water all cleane, and seeth all them softly in a pot, with a pottell of runninge water, till it come to a quarte of licker, and then set it backe till it be colde, and then strayne it in a fayre linnen cloth, and then drinke it, if you cannot drinke it for bitternesse, put therto Suger Candy. And if this drinke be taken before the markes of God be vpon them, he shalbe whole by the grace of God.

Some quick looking around did not reveal any other remedies attributed to King Henry. Van der Noot does not make it clear which King Henry is the source of this remedy. By the time this pamphlet was published, Queen Eizabeth I was on the throne. In his preface, Van der Noot thanks “the King his highness” and “my Lord Suffolk” for their support. Perhaps van der Noot had come to London during Henry VIII’s reign and simply stayed around.

The van der Noot who wrote this pamphlet is not, apparently, the Dutch poet by the same name who also spent time in London. The author of The Couernance seems to have run afoul of the College of Physicians a couple times for practicing medicine without a license. He was fined the first time and died before a sentence was passed the second time.1

For various reasons, van der Noot’s The Gouernance seemed like a nice chance to see how hard it would be to create an EPUB file. So I put together an EPUB3 file (which should be compatible with any reading system that supports either EPUB2 or EPUB3—let me know if you have problems). I then converted it to a Kindle file (for some reason, some of the styling broke in the conversion, but not so badly that I can be bothered to fix it right now):

Looking forward, I think it would be interesting to add a glossary and perhaps reading notes to this EPUB file (until Kindle begins to support more of the EPUB standard, I can’t be bothered to work too hard on the that version). What would make this file more useful to you?

1See Bas Jongenelen and Ben Parsons, “Jan van der Noot: A Mistaken Attribution in the Short-Title Catalogue,” Notes & Queries (2006): 247 — PDF available here.

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