©Wellcome Library, London

This map depicts the history and global distribution of the Black Death. The iconography includes a theriac jar, rats, a ‘Pied Piper' figure, sufferers with bubos, a pomander, and a door sign upon which is written, ‘Lord have mercy upon us'. Officials, doctors, and the public reacted to the plague in myriad ways. In Milan, the city council sealed in the occupants of infected houses and left them to die. In Basel, Jews were blamed for the plague and were burned alive in a wooden building. Twelve thousand Jews were said to have been slaughtered in Mainz. Groups of flagellants whipped themselves from town to town, stirring up riots and creating panic until banned by Pope Clement VI. Florence destroyed its population of dogs and cats, and the Florentine doctor, Lapo Mazzei (1350-1412) recommended drinking, ‘a quarter of an hour before dinner, a full half-glass of good red wine, neither too dry nor too sweet'.

Watercolour by Monro S Orr (b. 1874).