Control measures included cleaning and clearing infected places, disposing of infected cloth, and controlling the movement of people and goods. Different towns, cities and regions set up their own systems for managing these measures.
The earliest formal quarantines of incoming people, goods and ships are recorded in the trading city of Venice in the 15th century. From the 16th century, systems of certificates of health and non-infection for people, goods and ships developed. Local authorities issued formal printed documents known in Italian as fedi di sanitá or bolletini di sanitá. Local officials would inspect travellers for signs of disease and complete the form by hand if the visitor passed the examination.
‘To be gone from this place’
On 13 August 1636, the officials at Treviso alleged that there was a gap in Harvey’s documentation. Harvey was adamant that he had all the necessary papers, starting with certification from the Bavarian city of Regensburg (also known as Ratisbon), and then another at Villach in Austria. He believed that there was ‘noe neede’ for certification at Pontebba, which was considered free of plague, and though Harvey had no fede from Conegliano, his guide and the group’s horses were certified there, and Harvey had been told that this was sufficient for the whole party.
Harvey was so cross about the situation that he refused at first to enter the lazaretto, although he was later forced to do by ‘threatning of muskets’. After spending 6 days and nights in ‘a very nasty roome’ he reported on 19 August that he was suffering sciatica, leaving him unable to walk:
The ill diett I have heare, and the wors usadg hath produced this ill effect that now these two nights I have had a sciatique in my right thigh and legg that much discorageth me, and maketh me lame.
As he became more desperate, he started to suggest that the officials were really holding him for some other nefarious reason, and that quarantine against plague was just an excuse. He beseeched Feilding to come to his aid, bemoaned the lack of replies and suspected the local officials of not passing on his letters. By 23 August he had given up on ever reaching Venice. Harvey’s messages clearly were reaching Feilding: they were preserved in Feilding’s family papers at Newnham Paddox, Warwickshire until the 20th century. However, it’s not clear what aid Feilding could or did provide; he has been described as a ‘prickly and maladroit diplomat’, so he might not have been the most useful ally to Harvey.
By 26 August (the 14th day in quarantine) the sciatica had eased, but Harvey was clearly not in a good state of mind, not least because he had been told that he might have to wait 7, 10 or 20 days longer in the lazaretto. In his next letter to Feilding, he gave vent to a new fear: that the poor conditions would make him succumb to a normal disease, that the officials would mistake those symptoms for plague, and that they would keep him isolated for even longer:
I never longed for any thinge in all my life soe much as any way and on any condition to be gone from this base place and barbarous poeple and fearing lest I should be sick and then they would crye me into the plaug, and keep me and cheate and tyrunise over me, God knoweth how long.