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Contagion on the Page: an online exhibition

11 December 2020

Like the rest of the College, the Library has been busy throughout Michaelmas term, adjusting to the new situation, but making things as normal as possible. Thinking about such adaptations, we wondered about times when the College had to confront similar pandemics in the past, and what the collections reveal about earlier times of contagion.

Thanks to the donations of John Floyer (1649-1734) and others, the College’s library is particularly strong in historical medical texts. Taking their cue from the ongoing pandemic, the library team have been spending some time with these collections as well as other holdings to create a short online exhibition, Contagion on the Page. Along with Floyer’s thoughts on cold-water bathing, the exhibition highlights other contributions from College members over time, including Sir Edmond Halley’s development of statistical science and mortality tables and Oliver Sacks’ work with victims of the encephalitis lethargica epidemic. Explore the exhibition here.

The exhibition coincides with a documentary collecting project and competition run by the Communications Office and the Library and Archive. Like several other organisations (for example Cambridge University Library and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets), we are collecting materials to document our experience of College during the period of the coronavirus. It will form a valuable historical collection in the future. More immediately, the donations will be eligible to play part of an online exhibition, and they will be in with a chance of winning a useful and stylish Queen’s College Keep Cup. Further information, including details on how and what to submit can be found on our Queen’s 2020 page.

Images: (above) John Hancocke, Febrifugum Magnum: Or, Common Water the best cure for Fevers, and probably for the Plague…: With a Discourse of Curing the Chin-Cough by Water (London, 1726). NN.s.73(2); (below) Thomas Willis, A Plain and Easie Method for Preserving [ by God’s blessing ] those that are Well from the Infection of the Plague, or any Contagious Distemper in City, Camp, Fleet, &c. and for Curing such as are Infected with it (London, 1691). NN.s.2873.