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Der Doctor Schnabel von Rom, a plague doctor wearing protective mask with beak filled with aromatic spices

P. Furst1656

National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research

National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research

By the middle of the second millennium, Indian botanicals were essential items of European life as medicines, food flavorings and food preservatives. The facemask of the plague doctor shown in this image was filled with various strongly aromatic spices including Indian spices, believed to be effective against bubonic plague that devastated Europe in the 15th century.

The vital role all Asian spices and medicines in medieval Europe households is illustrated by an apothecary's bill from Filipo di Lapo & Co, Florence to the household of Francesco Marco Dantini, a rich Venetian merchant, at the beginning of the 15th century. The bill is for “Pounded pepper, Pounded cloves, Pounded ginger and other strong fine spices.” (Origo, Iris,“The Merchant of Prato,” Nonpariel Books, 1986).

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  • Title: Der Doctor Schnabel von Rom, a plague doctor wearing protective mask with beak filled with aromatic spices
  • Creator: P. Furst
  • Date Created: 1656
  • Subject Keywords: Dr. Anna Spudich, India Spice Trade
  • Type: Copper plate engraving on paper
  • Original Source: Historisk Museum, Copenhagen
  • Rights: courtesy University of California Libraries
  • Reference/Accession No.: SRLF_UCSD:LAGE-1758117
  • Bibliography: Der_Doctor_Schnabel_von_Rom, a plague doctor by P. Furst, 1656, Medicinsk-Historisk Museum, Copenhagen.

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