First Edition. Remarkable ephemeral pamphlet on the horrors of the highly transmissible and routinely fatal scourge of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries known as sudor anglicus. The English Sweating Sickness, named for its source and its chief symptom, was known in five major outbreaks in England and Europe between 1485 and 1551. The fourth and most devastating outbreak, which occured in southern Germany, Switzerland, and the Low Countries in 1528-1529, was particularly well documented, with a number of pamphlets in circulation, some of which were written by divines (both Catholic and Protestant) warning that the disease was the price of sin. Other tracts were written by medical professionals, and served as emergency warnings to affected or at-risk populations. Our book, composed by the otherwise unknown physician Peter Wild of the southern German town of Isny, bears a stern warning that the sweating sickness was indeed the wages of unfettered sin, but it is also a handbook on the nature, causes, and remedies for the disease. Wild does not seem aware of the contradictory assertions of his pamphlet (that a God-sent pestilence can, and should, be fought), and discusses in detail the character of the scourge, concluding with a detailed pharmacological remedy. Perhaps most interesting are Wild's notes that the disease may be caused by putrescence and stale, damp air. He also observes that a sufferer's panic at contracting the disease (which can kill within hours) can be a contributing factor in its lethality. Wild, who states that he is a doctor with an especial interest in the poor, clearly had firsthand knowledge and experience with the disease, and echoes prevailing wisdom that the afflicted must be kept out of the wind, must not use pillows or blankets that contain goosefeathers, and are more likely to die if the disease first manifests in the morning. Wild's treatment, which does not seem to have been published elsewhere, contains apple juice, pomegranate wine, and bugloss:
Recipe conserv. rosar. borag. bugloss. pomorum citri conditorum, ana unciam mediam). Spec. electu(ar.) de gemmis frigidi scrupulos jj. corall. rub. dragm. mediam, margaritarum scrupulum medium, quinque lapid. preciosorum ana grana v. misce cum vino granatorum q. s. fiat mixtura. (A3v)
Recent research suggests that the Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome may be related to the historical sudor anglicus, with which it shares symptoms and characteristics, though it is argued that a true hantavirus is not transmissible between humans. (There are cases where the Andes virus has been transmitted between humans in Chile and Peru.) Withal a most curious eyewitness account of one of the most mysterious and swiftly fatal of all epidemic diseases to strike Renaissance Europe. One copy of another edition in US libraries (a Worms imprint of the same year, held at the National Library of Medicine); three copies of two editions (both 1529) in institutional collections abroad (BL, UB Munich, UB Basel).
Nuremberg: Johann Petreius, 1529.
8vo half-sheet, 147 x 101 x 1 mm. A4;  pp. Modern wrappers of old paper. Staining to title, including two small inkblots, which have seeped through to verso, obscuring a few letters, but not affecting legibility. Leaves toned, scattered blemishes.
VD16 W3604; Gruner, Christian-Gottfried. Scriptores de sudore anglico superstites, Jena: Friedrich Mauk, 1847, pp 117-123. Not in Wellcome or Osler.
Status: On Hold