Plague Doctor’s Mask.
During times of pestilence, it was quite usual to spot the figure of a plague doctor walking around covered from head to toe in a long overcoat, all the way to his ankles, and wearing a mask reminiscing of a bird’s beak.
The mask would have two holes for ventilation, the eyes would be protected by two round pieces of glass, and the oblong shape would allow to stuff herbs, like lavender and mint, or even a rag soaked in vinegar in front of the doctor’s nose. It was the common medical belief that the disease could spread through its “bad smell”. That was known as the “miasma theory”.
The costume was completed by heavy boots, gloves and a brim hat.
There was a popular 17th century poem describing the costume:
"As may be seen on picture here,
In Rome the doctors do appear,
When to their patients they are called,
In places by the plague appalled,
Their hats and cloaks, of fashion new,
Are made of oilcloth, dark of hue,
Their caps with glasses are designed,
Their bills with antidotes all lined,
That foulsome air may do no harm,
Nor cause the doctor man alarm,
The staff in hand must serve to show
Their noble trade where’er they go”