Doctor Schnabel (1656) – Image and Background

The image is by Paul Fürst. It was a copper engraving of a plague doctor, accompanied by a satirical poem.

Doctor Schnabel (1656) - Image and Background

Poem- Translated by The Leery

For you, Do you believe as a fable
Doctor Schnabel written from
The past contagion.
He authorizes fine reward of this
The corpses he seeks to fisting
Same as Joe on the crap
Ah Believe, do not go there
Then Rome, ruled by the Plague.

Who would not be very scared
The thief slashes or stretches
Where floods, as if he was dumb
And interprets as his plan
How many a credit without doubts
That makes him a black devil
Pouch(purse) is called fine Hott
And arum the fetched soul.

Interpretation

‘Doctor Schnabel’ means ‘Doctor Beck. ‘Schnabel’ means bill or pecker, which is what the doctor’s mask looks like. Also, ‘Schnabel’ was used in a derogatory manner. Now we might say something like ‘Shut your mouth!’, in the past it would be ‘Halt den Schnabel!’.

The corpses he seeks to fist, refers to his interest in probing the dead infected. The next line refers to this as bullshit. Instead of the doctor wanting to find clues to cures, he fondles the corpses for pleasure. ‘Joe on the crap’, is like saying now “Full of crap”. Joe is a general name for males.

‘Where floods’ refers to the swelling lymph nodes on plague victims. The doctor cuts the bumps open and stretches the skin of the patient. The purpose of doing this is to relieve the patient of the pressure and remove puss.

The pouch, or purse, is referring to the bags of strong scented organic contents, that the Plague Doctors would carry around. The belief was the disease was carried through the stink and smell.

The current and only definition I could find on ‘Hott’ is an extractor hood. This is an electrical Kitchen device fitted over cooking areas. The hood sucks off vapors from cooking. During the plague times, there were no such things as electrical extractor hoods.

I have two guesses as to what the text on the image means by ‘Hott’. Firstly, it could be simply a way of stating the pouches took in the bad air, and exhausted it as good air.

Secondly, the ‘Hott’ could had meant the doctors hood. It would also be good at preventing vapors. Although it would do this be preventing the vapors from entering vs exhausting. Also, ‘Extractor hood’ literally has hood in it.

Arum is gold. So maybe the last line was saying the doctor turns the sick wretched souls into money.

Original Text on Image(Mixture of Latin and German)

Vos Creditis, als eine Fabel,
Quod Scribitur vom Doctor Schnabel
Der fugit die Contagion.
Et autert feinen Lohn darvon
Cadavera sucht er zu fisten
Gleich wie der Corvus auf der Misten
Ah Credite, zibet nicht dort hin
Dann Romae, regnat die Pestin.

Quis non deberet fehr erschrecken
Fur feiner Virgul oder strecken
Qua liquitur, als war er stumm
Und deutet sein Consilium
Wie mancher Credit ohne Zweiffel
Das ihn tenter ein schwartzen Teuffl
Marsupium (Geldbeutel) heist feine Holl
Und aurum die geholte Seel.

More Information

This image is from page 171 of the 1921 German book “Die karikatur und Satire in der Medizin“; in English “The Cartoon and Satire In Medicine“. The book is free to read online and download. For context, I would like to share accompanying text.

Original

Der große Schrecken vor der Pest war im Mittelalter und bis hinein in die Neuzeit so überwältigend, daz jemand, der sich über diese göttliche Züchtigung lustig gemacht hätte, wohl einfach totgeschlagen worden ware. Dagegen ärgerten sich die überlebenden darüber, dab die Ärzte suz diefer Gottesgeißel noch Nutzen gezogen batten und zum Teil durch die Pest auch zu Wohlstand gekommen waren. Wieviel Ärzte aber in Ausübung ihres unglaublich schweren Berufes zugrunde gingen, das vergißt natürlich der negierende Volksgeist.

Diesen Kritikern sollte man das Bild von Mignard (siehe figur 111 in Medizin und klassische Malerei) vorhalten, wo in hochdramatischer Weise die Szene geschildert wird, in der ein Arzt, der gerade einem jungen Weibe die Pestbeule in der Achselhöhle geöffnet hat, als Opfer der Contagion dahin sinkt.  Boccaccio schildert schon in seinem Decamerone die Übertragung der Pest durch das Berühren der Kleider. Die Ärzte suchten sich infolgedessen bald durch eine abschließende Gewandung vor dieser Ansteckung zu schützen.

Sie trugen eine Lederkleidung mit Handschuhen und eine Maske vor dem Munde und der Nase, in welche sie prophylaktisch wirksame Specereien taten. Bei aller Lächerlichkeit des Aussehens wird eine solche Schutzkleidung nicht wirkungslos gewesen sein. Wir besitzen einen Stich von Columbina, der einen solchen Arzt gelegentlich einer Pestepidemie zu Rom im Jahre 1656 nach dem Leben zeichnete. Die berühmte Druckerei von Paulus Fürst, aus welcher eine Unzahl interessanter Einblattdrucke ins Land gingen, benutzte diese Vorlage, um daraus eine Satire gegen die Ärzte zu machen, den Doctor Schnabel von Rom. Wir geben die sprachlich amüsanten, den Charakter des Bildes verändernden Verse wieder. Das bild selbst hat Furst nur insofern gefälscht, als er statt des kleinen puls fühlenden Stöckleins einen langen Stab dem Arzt in die Hand gibt, der in Fledermausflügeln endet, so dab das Ganze zu einem Kinderschreck wird.

Ebensowenig wie mit der pest war zu scherzen mit der großen Genital pest, die seit Anfang des fünfzehnten Jahrhunderts die alte Welt heimgesucht hatte. Das satirische Material in Wort und Bild gegen diese Gott gesandte Seuche ist natürlich ein sehr geringes. Beichte und Buße waren die landläufigen Gegenmittel. Das Schmerzen aber kam beinahe dem Lastern gleich und des Kaisers Maximilian I.

Translation

The great horror of the plague was so overwhelming in the Middle Ages and even into modern times that someone who had made fun of this divine chastisement would probably have been simply beaten to death. The survivors, on the other hand, were annoyed that the doctors had benefited from the scourge of God, and that some of the plague brought them to prosperity. How many doctors perished in the exercise of their incredibly difficult profession, of course, forgets the negating national spirit.

These critics should be presented with the picture of Mignard (see Figure 111 in Medicine and Classical Painting)*, where the scene is described in a highly dramatic manner in which a doctor who has just opened the plague bump in the armpit of a young woman is a victim of the Contagion sinks there. Boccaccio describes in his Decamerone the transmission of the plague by touching the clothes. As a result, the doctors soon sought to protect themselves from this contagion with a final garb.

They wore leather clothing with gloves and a mask in front of their mouth and nose into which they made prophylactic effective spices. Despite its ridiculous appearance, such protective clothing will not have been ineffective. We have a engraving of Columbina, who drew such a doctor on occasion of a plague epidemic at Rome in 1656 after life. The famous printing press of Paulus Fürst, from which a myriad of interesting single-page prints went into the country, used this template to make it a satire against the doctors, the Doctor Schnabel of Rome. We reproduce the linguistically amusing verses that change the character of the picture. Furst has falsified the image only insofar as, instead of the small pulse-feeling lump, he gives a long staff to the doctor who ends up in bat wings, so that the whole thing becomes a child’s fright.

Just as little as with the pest was it to joke with the great genital pest that had struck the old world since the beginning of the fifteenth century. The satirical material in word and picture against this God-sent plague is of course a very small one. Confession and penance were the common antidotes. But the pain was almost like vices and the emperor Maximilian I.

*This is an image from another book. After lots of looking, I could not find it.

Information source Wiktionary – The Free Dictionary, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

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