New York Academy of Medicine's Rare Book Room: Plague and Pestilence - Atlas Obscura

New York, New York

New York Academy of Medicine's Rare Book Room: Plague and Pestilence

Discover the fascinating written history of plague and human diseases through an after-hours exploration of the Academy's incredible collection of rare medical textbooks and manuscripts.

Inside the privacy of the library, we’ll gather around to explore highlights from the New York Academy of Medicine’s rich collections on plague and pestilence. We’ll spend the evening looking at manuscripts, plague broadsides, and illustrated books documenting the way the early moderns coped with the uncertainty of the threat of infection. 

Last year marked the hundredth anniversary of the 1918 influenza pandemic, which swept the globe, infecting about 500-million people (about one third of the world's population). Long before the flu pandemic, 14th-century Europe was devastated by the Black Death, a contagious bacterial disease that killed between 75 to 200 million people, with recurring outbreaks through the 17th-century. Medieval Europeans feared the plague, which was more deadly than war or any other illness of the time, and traveled along the path of the Silk Road and through flea-infested rats aboard merchant ships. We’ll also look at books and artifacts related to more recent pandemics, including cholera, smallpox and HIV/AIDS.


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