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Cholera Epidemics in the 19th Century

The Great Plague of London, 1665

The Boston Smallpox Epidemic, 1721

“Pestilence” and the Printed Books of the Late 15th Century

Spanish Influenza in North America, 1918–1919

Syphilis, 1494–1923

Tropical Diseases and the Construction of the Panama Canal, 1904–1914

Tuberculosis in Europe and North America, 1800–1922

The Yellow Fever Epidemic in Philadelphia, 1793

General Materials

Notable People

Related Links



This page provides basic guidance for users of the Contagion web site. Please consult our Building the Collections page for an overview of the selection processes and digitization practices routinely used by OCP. If you have additional questions about the collection or its contents, please contact the Open Collections Program.

Usage policies are stated on the Permissions and Copyright page.

Browser Compatibility

The Contagion site has been designed and tested for Internet Explorer 5.xx and Firefox 2.xx, with Javascript enabled. Older versions of these browsers and/or other browsers may not display contents correctly.

Site Navigation

For a broad overview of the Contagion collection and its organization, use the links on the left side of the screen. These links provide access to web pages that introduce nine historical "eposiodes" of contagious disease, provide general information on diseases and epidemics, and offer brief biographical sketches of notable individuals.

The Related Links button leads to a page that highlights complementary resources at other web sites that provide authoritative information for students, teachers, and researchers.

In turn, each of these pages includes links to a selection of the digital materials in the collection.

Use the navigation bar at the head of each page to consult a timeline for diseases and epidemics in history, to search and/or browse the collection in detail, to view a list of contributors to the collection, and to obtain information on permissions, linking, and copyright.


We offer three ways to search thee Contagion site:

Use Catalog Search to find items relaed to a specific term or phrase in the "virtual collection" catalog records that describe the books, manuscripts, archives, maps, broadsides, and images digitized by the Open Collections Program. Tips on searching are available in the Virtual Collections User Guide.

Use Full Text Search to search the Optical Character Recognition (OCR)–generated text for many of the 31 languages present in Contagion. Full Text Search does not include a search of the data in the Catalog records. Note also that OCR–generated text was not corrected; nor were Contagion texts transcribed. So there is no guarantee that a full–text query will return all instances of a term or phrase in the collection. Tips on full text searching are available in the PDS User Guide. (See section, "Navigating a PDS Document.")

Use the Site Search feature to search for a term on any of the web (HTML) pages on the Contagion site.

Note: For a comprehensive search of all three domains, we recommend using Google’s Advance Search function.


The Contagion Browse functions are designed, with a single click of the mouse, to retrieve all material in the collection belonging to a common topic, region, or genre. You will find all topics and genres on the Browse Topics page, as well as links on the Search/Browse page to find all: texts, manuscripts, broadsides, early printed books, or images.

Access to Digitized Materials

In most cases, access to digitized materials is provided through a hyperlink in the item’s catalog record. For textual materials, each search result includes a hyperlink to the digitized book, pamphlet, manuscript or other multi–page work. Search results for visual materials also include thumbnail images, with links to full records and larger views of the image.

Viewing and Navigating a Text

When you click on the hyperlink to view a digital book or other multi–page resource, a separate window will open, taking you into the Harvard University Library Page Delivery Service. For more information on viewing, navigating, and printing from this application, see the PDS User Guide.

Downloading and Printing Digitized Materials

To download pages or portions of pages (e.g., images), use the "Save" feature available in your web browser. To print pages of a digitized document from the Page Delivery Service, select the "Printable Version" link located in the red menu across the top of the page. This will give you the option of creating a printable PDF version of the page, of a specified page sequence, or of the entire document.

Page Delivery Service/No Content Displayed

If you follow a link that opens Harvard’s Page Delivery Service with an empty content frame, it is likely that you are using a workstation at an institution that has blocked Internet port 8080. (This port allows large files to transfer more quickly, and some organizations block this port to prevent the access of large Internet files via their systems.) Ask your systems administrator if port 8080 is blocked, and whether he or she will enable it. If this is not feasible, try accessing the same files from an Internet connection at another location.

Prompted to Log In to Access a Text

In some cases, full record displays of catalog records will contain links to multiple electronic versions of a work. (This is particularly true for published texts.) If you are using a workstation outside of Harvard University and are prompted to log in to the Harvard University PIN Authentication system, go back to the search results and click on a different link—look for ‘’ in the URL—to access the publicly available, "open" version digitized by OCP.


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