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Everyone dreaded catching the plague. Victims were often nailed into their houses in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease. They usually died within days, in agony and madness from fevers and infected swellings. The Plague devastated London in summer 1665, virtually shutting down all trade and social life. Other cities were hit too, such as Salisbury, Cambridge and York. Those who could, fled to the countryside.
As soon as the Plague appeared in London, so did quack doctors selling fake remedies. There were many different pills and potions available to buy, claiming to provide either cure or immunity. This image shows a 'Famous and Effectual Medicine to cure the Plague', an advert in a broadside - a printed bill, cheaply-produced and intended for a wide circulation. Of course, the medicine was not a cure at all. Over 68,000 officially died of the plague in London alone; the true figure is probably nearer 100,000. Now we know it is likely that the disease spread through bacteria carried by fleas living on the black rats common in towns, especially poor areas. But then, its cause was a terrifying mystery.
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A cure for the Plague
Famous and Effectual MEDICINE TO CURE THE PLAGUE.
And having (through Gods blessing) cured these several Persons under written, (and above fifty more) I thought it my duty to publish it abroad in the World, for the benefit and good of others; And have put an easie price on the medicines (very little more then what they cost making) for it is my chiefest aim to do good, and not to get gain; For I thank God I can very well subsist without it, and truly I dare say through Gods blessing, and with careful looking unto, not ten in one hundred will miscarry.
The name of those as have been Cured.
Henry Contelloe, and five in his Family, living in New-Market.
Rich Pearce, his Wife and his Nurse, Mrs. Muncross,}in Bridges street.
Ann Pole, Mary Baget, Andrew Baget, Eliz Egenhead, Margret Sanders, Ann Rumner, and her Nurse.}In St. Gile's.
Four Milk-women, Mrs. Joan's Daughter, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Adkings.}In Coven Garden.
Antho. Basket-field in Grafe-Inn.
John Brown, Eliz. Contelloe,}in Stanup Street.
Mary Waight, in Bedford-Bury.
Five more in White-hart-yard in the Strand.
Sixteen more in Chequer-Ally at Westminster.
12. more in Church-head-Ally in Fetter-lane.
Now followeth the MEDICINE.
The red Poweder. 1s. IF any one is infected, and finds themselves ill, then presently let them (without delay) take this powder, and then to bed and sweat carefully three hours; And if they are dry, make a Posset with Sage, or Sorrel, and Dandilion, and so drink freely in their sweat, or afterwards, and be sure after your sweat that you keep your self warm; And if any swelling appear, beware of drinking any Beer or Ale, hot or cold, but keep your selves to the above-said Posset-drink, or Beer, or Ale boyled with a crust of brown Bread, with one blade of Mace and two Cloves. Put the Powder in a Spoon, with a little Bear or Posset-drink, and so take it.
Also this Power is excellent good against Small-Pox, Fevers, Agues, and Surfeits; and if it be for a Child, then take but one half of this Powder.
Plague Water. 2s. Then when you are out of your sweat, and well rubbed and dryed, then take a spoonful of this cordial water, if the party be sick, take one spoonful every four hours, if well, do not wast it.
Plasters. 2d. And if you find any pain in your heads after your sweat, then presently apply two of these Plasters to your Temples, which will give you both ease and rest, and if your pain continues, then shift every twenty four hours.
Salve. 1s. And if you find any Risings in any part of your body, then take some of this Salve out of the Pot, and spread it on Ships-leather, and then lay it to the Sore or Swelling, which Plaster will both ripen, break it, and heal it; the first Plaster, keep it on as long as you can, and when the Sore is broken, then dress it twice every day.
Cordial Water for Griping. 2s. But in case the distemper break out into a Vomiting and Loosness, or Griping in the Belly, then take of this Cordial water every three hours two spoonful, untill you find ease, and in case you are dry, drink Mace-ale, not too sweet.
1s. Also here is a most excellent water for a sore mouth, either for Canker, Thursh, or a sore mouth by reason of a Feaver, being a little warmed, and with a cloth garble the mouth, and let one drop or two down.
1s. And infallible Powder for Men, Women, or Children, troubled with Convulsion-fits, Falling-sickness, or fits of the Mother, taken with a little Black Cherry water [fasting?] in a morning. If the Children are very young, then divide the Paper of Powder into three parts, and for middle aged Children take one half, and for Men and Women take the whole Paper.