According to Webster 1913, a hand bill published as "an official statement of the number of deaths in a place or district within a given time". Like the modern obituary, they detailed the causes of the deaths in a prescibed area during a certain length of time. However, the names of the deceased are not given. Think of it as a ghoulish scorecard, used to warn the populace of increasing health threats.

The London Bills of Mortality were used in the early sixteenth century in London as an early warning system against the spread of bubonic plague, which festered in the city for much of the century. The Parish Clerk's Company of London collected the information from clergymen in each of the cities parishes and published weekly. In the beginning, they contained the total burial number for the city. In the 1570s, the total number of baptisms was also returned. Beginning in 1629, as they grew in popularity, the level of detail provided by the bills increased. Specific cause of death information was given, with totals. In the early 1700s, the returns began supplying a distribution of the ages at which Londoners died. Why all the ghoulish detail? Studious Londoners bought copies of the bills and scanned them for signs of spreading epidemics, as a way to keep one step ahead of the next outbreak of killers like bubonic plague, smallpox or measles.

Of particular interest are the statistical details that the bills capture about the worst outbreaks of bubonic plague in London during the 1600s. The endemics killed between 20 and 25% of all Londoners in 1563, 1603, 1625 and 1665.

A bill of mortality for London, England, the week of September 4th, 1665, during the Great Plague.

All spelling differences and variations as they appeared. Capital S used in place of stylised Fs character.


The DiSeaSes and CaSualties this Week

Abortive - 6
Aged - 54
Apoplexic - 1
Bedridden - 1
Cancer - 2
Childbed - 13
ChriSomes - 15
Collick - 1
ConSumption - 174
ConvulSion - 88
DropSie - 40
Drownd two, one at St. Kath Tower, and one at Lambeth - 2
Feaver - 353
FiSula - 1
Flox and smallpox - 10
Flux - 2
Found dead in the street at St. Bartholomew the LtSs - 1
Frighted - 1
Gangrene - 1
Gowt - 1
Grief - 1
Griping in the Guts - 74
Jaundies - 3
ImpoSthume - 18
Infants - 21
Killed by a fall down Stairs at St. Thomas ApoSile - 1
KingS evil - 10
Lethargy - 1
Murdered at Stepney - 1
PulSie - 1
Plague - 3880
PluriSie - 1
QuinSie - 6
Rickets - 23
RiSing of the Lights - 19
Rupture - 2
Sciatica - 1
Scowring - 13
Scurvy - 1
Sote legge - 1
Spotted Feaver and Purples - 190
Starved at NurSe - 1
Stilborn - 8
Stone - 2
Stopping of the Stomach - 16
Strangury - 1
Suddenly - 1
Surfeit - 87
Teeth - 113
ThruSh - 3
TiSSick - 6
Ulcer - 2
Vomiting - 7
Winde - 8
Wormes - 18

ChriStened
Males - 83
Females - 83
In all - 166

Buried
Males - 2636
Females - 2663
In all - 5319

Plague - 3880

Increased in Burials the Week - 1289
PariShes cleared of the plague - 34
PariShes Infected - 96

The ASize of Bread Set forth by Order of the Lord Major and Court of Alderman,
A penny Wheaten Loaf to contain Nine Ounces and a half, and three helf-penny White Loaves the like weight.



The 1665 epidemic, detailed in Samuel Pepys' Diary, was the last great outbreak, and set the stage for the horrific 1666 Great Fire of London.

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