In our tenth episode, Dr. Lori Jones explores John of Burgundy’s Plague Tract’s travels and transformations. This text was one of the most famous and influential plague treaties of the Middle Ages, though we know relatively little about John himself except that he introduced himself in writing as “a physician and professor in the art of medicine in the city of Liege.” He wrote his Tract around 1365, during the first major outbreak of plague after the Black Death, which had ravaged Europe between 1346 and 1353. Today, the many copies of this text survive in several European languages. Indeed, John’s work circulated in both manuscript and printed forms centuries after his death. However, this influential work’s text changed significantly through its lifetime, as we explore in the episode.  

A Treatise of medicynes good agaynst ye pestilence devided into three parts. Wherof the first declareth how a man should bere and keepe himself in the tyme of the pestilence yt he fall not in to the said sicknes. The second expressethe how this sicknes comethe. And the third part showeth what medycynes are good and fitt to be used agaynst this contagious disease.

Extract from John of Burgundy’s Plague Tract, provided by Dr. Lori Jones


Dr. Lori Jones is a medical historian at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, in Ottawa Canada. Her main area of expertise is medical writing about the plague. She is also known for her work on detecting images from the past that have been labelled wrongly as showing plague and the Black Death. In addition to several published articles and book chapters about plague texts, she is wrapping up a monograph version of her dissertation and is editing two upcoming volumes about premodern disease, death, and the environment in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Further readings

Jones, Lori. “Unrecorded Versions of John of Burgundy’s Plague Tract and Identifying ‘Lost’ Copies of the Same.” Notes & Queries 65, no. 1 (1 March 2018): 14–17.
—–. “‘Apostumes, Carbuncles, and Botches’: Visualizing the Plague in Late Medieval and Early Modern Medical Treatises.” In Asclepius, the Paintbrush, and the Pen: Representations of Disease in Medieval and Early Modern European Art and Literature, edited by Rinaldo Canalis and Massimo Ciavolella, Turnhout: Brepols, 2021.
—–. “Experience over Education or Education over Experience? Late Medieval and Early Modern Medical Writing About the Plague.” In Medical Education: A History in 20 Case Studies, edited by Delia Gavrus and Susan Lamb. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2021.
—–. “Itineraries and Transformations: John of Burgundy’s Plague Treatise.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine Forthcoming. 
Jones, Lori and Richard Nevell. “Plagued by Doubt and Viral Misinformation: The Need for Evidence-based Use of Historical Disease Images.” The Lancet Infectious Diseases 16, no. 10 (Oct. 2016): 235–40.
Honkapohja, Alpo and Lori Jones. “From Practica Phisicalia to Mandeville’s Travels: Untangling The Misattributed Identities and Writings of John of Burgundy.” Notes & Queries 67, no. 1 (March 2020): 18–27. 

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