Thomas Poole on the Pandemic Imagery In Leviathan’s Frontispiece @LRB @DrTomPoole
Thomas Poole discusses the frontispiece of Leviathan‘s first edition for the London Review of Books. He focuses on the tiny images of two physicians in the illustration. Amid the rest of the much more familiar symbolism, what can we take from these often overlooked figures?
[R]ight in the middle of the frontispiece, there are two figures wandering the empty city. Their clothes identify them as plague doctors, with their characteristic beaked masks, containing herbs or sponges soaked in vinegar to filter the air. I have studied the frontispiece many times, read about it and discussed it with students, but had never noticed these figures until I was alerted a few weeks ago to Francesca Falk’s book Eine gestische Geschichte der Grenze (‘A Gestural History of the Border’), which includes a substantial discussion of the plague doctors in Bosse’s engraving.