plague tracts

Itineraries and Transformations: John of Burgundy’s Plague Treatise

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

As one of the most popular medieval plague treatises produced during the Second Plague Pandemic, John of Burgundy’s tract offers an excellent example of how medical books changed over time and place: in their material formats (such as manuscript to print), their textual contents and meanings, the people involved in their production, their readership, and sometimes even their purpose. The seemingly formulaic structure and medical contents of plague tracts has contributed to a long-standing perception that they were largely static or even ahistorical, one treatise easily exchanged for another. However, by examining copies of the treatise as individual and unique productions, rather than simply seeing the apparent uniformity of a few exemplars (or even the entire genre), we can begin to trace the itineraries through which they traveled and the rich tapestries of change that mark their life stories.