Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Naming Contest for Plague Doctor Mask

I've had many people want my classic plague doctor mask but wished it didn't cost so much ($285). Much of the cost comes from the hours and hours of handstitching that goes into each one, so I have designed a variation that is faster to make. I have replaced most of the stitching with metal rivets, which not only lowers the price ( to $195) but gives the mask an edgy steampunk look.

I've kept the shape of the mask as close to the original as I could, so it still has a look of historical accuracy. Here is the original classic plague doctor mask on the right, and the new riveted mask on the left.

I took some photos while making it, shown here. Once the holes are cut the two-part rivets are set by hand.

Then hammered together with the ball peen hammer on a steel shoemaker's anvil.

Here is the mask all riveted together, ready for the eyepieces to be stitched in place and then painted.

And here is the completed mask all painted black and with gray acrylic lenses.

I'm holding a contest to come up with a name for the new mask. It will run until midnight PST, November 15, 2011. The winner will receive the mask pictured, which is the first one I've made. Winner will have to pay for shipping from Penn Valley, California, US. I will be sole judge to determine the winning entry.

To give you an idea of what I'm looking for, here is how I named my other steampunk plague doctor masks. Beulenpest is the German word for bubonic plague. And Ichabod is named after Ichabod Crane from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, because the long beak reminded me of a crane's. So send in your creative names for the new riveted mask (by commenting on the blog post), and maybe you will win. You may submit as many entries as you like. In the event of duplicate entries of the winning name the first posted in this blog will be the winner.


  1. I love the new version! Thanks for sharing some of your process with us, too; I love to see how things are put together.

    Some ideas for names:
    *Schnabel (means "beak" and there's a 17th century image of a plague doctor called Doktor Schnabel von Rom)
    *Pestarzt (German for "plague doctor")
    *Pestmeester (Dutch for "plague doctor")

  2. My suggestion is 'Michel de Nostredame' who is probably the most well known figure who was ever a plague doctor.
    Also, I really like the riveted version of this piece, excellent work as always.

  3. Zoolose ( as reference to the infectious desease that can be transmitted from animals to humans ( fleas on the bubonic plague ) ou vice-versa )

  4. Nellanus ( from the Nellanus Glacanus, an Irish physician that earned deep respect in Spain, France and Italy for his bravery in treating numerous victims of the plague )

  5. -The MkII. Miasmic Protector (refering to its intended purpose to prevent Miasmas from infecting you)
    -The Masque of the Red Death (classic Poe poem)
    -Yersinia Pestis (the name of the bacteria that causes bubonic plague)
    and a slightly more daft one:
    -The Ring, a ring, a rivets.

  6. This is a really novel idea for a contest! I only have two entries:

    Paracelsus- A famous medieval plague doctor

    Corvus Corvidae- The Genus and Family names for Crow. The black leather really gives the feeling of a crow-like entity, especially with the eyes. I think it makes a suitable fit!

  7. Greetings Master,
    as promised, here i am, i've thought of some good names, that i hope will fit well for a mask like that.

    - Monatto : is the italian plague doctor. It appears in the famous novel of Manzoni "I Promessi Sposi". The monatti were in fact people who were first infected by the plague, but somehow healed, and so they were immunized by the virus, and were the only one who could touch the ill people without being infected.

    -Decameron: is a book written by Boccaccio during 1350 and it speaks of a group of noble young men and women which escapes from the plague in a house far from the city in the fields of tuscany, and spend their days telling funny and irreverent stories about Italy and it's costumes and traditions.

    i hope they will be enought, even if only as a hint.

    Best regards


    http://adhras.deviantart.com/ On DeviantART

  8. Beautiful work.

    How about "Icarus"? It keeps linguistic consistency with the Ichabod mask, and it also references a man who wanted to be a bird, which is appropriate.

  9. Pugicor.

    Pugio is a Roman dagger, cor is Latin for heart.

  10. Oh man, I have wanted one of your masks ever since I laid eyes on them. They're so beautiful it's ridiculous.

    Here are my suggestions:
    - Nostradamus (someone already suggested his birth name, but I thought I'd just throw it out there)
    - Ventura (or Dr. Ventura)
    - Phillipus
    - Hohemheim
    - Aurelius
    - Celsus

    All of these are physicians from various centuries. Not all worked during the plague.

  11. I'd like to toss out a few tidbits, if I may:


  12. Poe: author of "The Raven"
    Corax: from Corvus Corax
    Èan Dubh: Irish Gaelic for "Black Bird"

  13. Hraesvelgr - Translates as 'Corpse Swallower'. In Norse mythology Hraesvelgr is a giant who takes the form of a great bird. He sits at the end of the world and causes the winds when he beats his wings.

  14. Suffimen(tum), Balsamum - Latin for incense
    Glaesum - Latin for amber, a common incense used inside doctors' masks
    Malfatto - From Assassin's Creed

  15. My name idea is "Drebbel." The rivets and colour remind me of a submarine. The Drebbel was the world's first submarine, made by the Dutchman Cornelius Jacobszoon Drebbel.

  16. your work is magnificent...
    there are many good suggestions already but i must try :)

    Clement: the name of the pope during the black death plague in 1348

    De L'Orme: The name of the doctor who invented the garments the doctors used in 1619 including the protective eye goggles and the beaked helmet to hold incense.

    Dr. Benway: from William Burroughs books

    Agent Pasteur: Louis Pasteur was the research chemist who discovered that airborne microbes were the cause of disease

    thanks for giving us all this opportunity!

  17. Best regards, below are some of my suggestions:

    Locomotor - Because it reminds me of old steam-engined locomotives.

    Ridge - Because the nose/beak has that ccharacteristic feature there

    Sheggetzer, Khallapats and Type2 are some "why not" made up names, the first two based on hungarian words for rivet and hammer.

    I might be checking in with more later.

  18. There Goes my suggestions

    Troffea - Was the First Person Affected by the Dancing Plague in 1518

    Dr. Remache - Is the spanish word for rivet, and sounds nice to me

    Cheers. Great Work !!

  19. I have two names for you to consider,

    Mompesson-The reverend at the village of Eyam who persuaded the residents not to flee the village when plague struck it in the hopes of containing the spread of plague in the 1665 outbreak.

    Forthave- after a Richard Forthave who may have originally concocted a tincture later known as four thieves vinegar, thieves who stole the possessions of plague victims were said to use it to stop them selves from catching the plague as it was sweet smelling. Similar to the herbs packed into the plague doctors beaks. Sadly, this story is more myth than history as it belongs to the medival plague

  20. Firstly, I am a huge fan and I find your work very inspiring.

    My name suggestion is Waldemar Haffkine, the first doctor to invent and test a plague vaccine against bubonic plague in 1897. This also conveniently places him within the Victorian Era just after the Industrial Revolution (which is of course, where most steampunk gets its inspiration).

  21. "Ring a Ring o' Rivets"


    "Noir Atishoo"

    Per Wikipedia: "A popular folk etymology holds that the children's game of "Ring Around the Rosy" (or Ring a Ring o' Roses) is derived from the appearance of the bubonic plague. Proponents claim that "Ring around the rosy" refers to the rosy-red, rash-like ring that appeared as a symptom of the plague. "Pocket full of posy" referred to carrying flower petals as at the time it was believed the disease was spread through the ether of unhygene and that scent stopped the spread. "Ashes, ashes" referred to the burning of infected corpses (in the UK the words of the rhyme are "atishoo, atishoo" mimicking sneezing), and "we all fall down" referred to the virulent deaths attributed to the plague."

  22. Schnabel von Rom meaning "beak of Rome" just thought it'd fit and it sounds pritty cool!

  23. Krankheit - Sickness/disease

    Mort - Death and all its associated (mortuary and such)

    Breoite - Irish for sick

  24. Dr. Tweed, Dr. Ribble, or Severn.

    The word 'rivet' comes from the word 'river' or 'riverbank', and these are all rivers in England.

    Deverell, Devereau, Devereaux, Deverick.

    Names meaning 'riverbank'.

  25. For the Dever- names, maybe a professor title?
    "Professor Devereaux"

  26. I love the plague doctor, and I love Día de Muertos so I'm going to suggest something that I don't even speak a word of (except tot ell people I have a cat in my pants)

    Grulla means bird


    bubónica means bubonic plague

    I guess these words goes a bit with the all ready existing once

    Of course I would also suggest Lorme, a famous medical doctor from 1584–1678 (full name Charles de Lorme)

    wikipedia info about the Venetian plague doctor mask:

    "The striking design has a macabre history originating from 17th century French physician Charles de Lorme who adopted the mask together with other sanitary precautions while treating plague victims."

  27. "masque de la mort" death mask

  28. Count Cagliostro: rumored that he sold his soul to the devil in return for the secrets of Alchemy.

    Fulcanelli: a legendary twentieth century adept, either a genuine individual master or a name used by a group of Parisian occultists. (the name, meaning "Little Vulcan", is a reference to the Roman smith-god Vulcan, one of the mythical early alchemists.

    Rough and Ready

  29. I kind of felt inspired by Dante's "Divine Comedy" to come up with a few names for this mask. Here are my suggestions:


  30. Greetings! I've been a HUGE fan of your work for some time now.

    Draugr - Norse zombie. "one who walks after death" They were known for their super human strength. Draugr are known to drive living people insane.

    Papa XYSTUS Quartus - "Pope Sixtus IV" Pope from August 1471 to August 1484

    Doktor Vrach - Literally "Doctor" in Russian.

  31. Going off the scientific name for Hemlock, a poisonous herb, I'd say "The Conium Crane" or "Copius Conium" perhaps playing off the deadly nightsade's scientific name (atropa belladonna), something along the lines of "Atropius" or just straight up "Atropa"

  32. Correction: deadly nightshade, not nightsade XDDD

  33. Preston - a play on words for the construction being "pressed on".

  34. Also, I kind of like the title "Septon" as a name, from the Game of Thrones. Septons are high priests who also had healing duty in the castle through prayers.

    And if we are talking fantasy here, I might as well just mention "Metalbeak", a character from 'Legend of the Guardians'.

  35. The color of this mask, and the protective function of the original, makes me think of the smog of early London. My entry is "Fumifugium" after a pamphlet published in London in 1661 by John Evelyn. The subtitle ("The inconveniencie of the aer and smoak of London dissipated together with some remedies humbly proposed by J.E. esq. to His Sacred Majestie, and to the Parliament") may be somewhat too long.

  36. Rasputin!
    The name just fits the mask so great!

  37. Zoono,or Zoonose a reference to the pathogen which describes Bubonic plague, Zoonosis or Zoonotic disease. I prefer Zoono which trips off the tongue more easily and elegantly.Mark Green.

  38. Since you built this one out of a burning need for a new version, I suggest PHOENIX, the bird that rose from the ashes.

  39. Another, just Pestis, which causes the infection of Zoonosis.MG.

  40. There are some possibilities for naming this piece of art:
    - Yersinia (after bacteria that causes the plague)
    - Hieronymus ( after the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch, renowned for his "Garden of Earthly Delights")
    - Albrecht (after the German Painter Albrecht Duerer)

    The last two could be used with a "Doctor" in front of them.

  41. Alright, I have a few for you. I also would like to say that I have been a fan of your work, and been looking on your Etsy/deviantart account as well. I wish I could leatherwork T.T
    Lescura (Or Le Scura)- (Italian for "The Dark One")
    Acanthus- (Greek for "Thorn" or "thorned one")
    Prometheus (The one that was tortured by the birds)
    Lazarus (The sore-covered lepur in Christ's parable, or the patron saint of Leprosy)
    Rethel (Or "Des Rethel", the last name of a painter during an outbreak of cholera)
    Schnabel Von Rom (or "Doktor Schnabel Von Rom, a name on an engraving of the Plague Doctor by Paul Furst, who lived during the Plague.)
    Adrastea- (Greek for "The inescapable one.")

    I'll always be a fan of your work!
    Hope you like them!

  42. I saw the first comment & wanted to say that "schnabel" not only means beak, but is also slang for penis in German, so it could be a good idea to check which foreign words have other meanings too.

    My contribution: Rigor mortis (Latin meaning "stiffness of death"). Leather is stiff and still soft, which bodies also are when deceased (I've worked in a mortuary). As the mask is a plague doctor mask I want to see some kind of meaning with "death" or "plague" in the word, but not in English as it's a bit to harsh. Rigor mortis sounds so lovely, even though it's a bit macabre.

  43. Defoe as a name would give tribute to that author's Journal of the Plague Year.

    However, for some reason, I have always associated the plague doctor's mask with the name Scaramouche - the swashbuckler who hides behind a clown's mask. Even though that particular mask isn't used in the film, I think Scaramouche would be an interesting choice for a mask name.

  44. I love your work.
    I was thinking of Iatro, Paracelsus and Sylvius.

    Iatric is anything relating to a physician or medicine in general. Paracelsus and Sylvius are famous members of a school of medicine called Iatrochemistry.

  45. "The Bird of Hermes is my name,
    Eating my wings to make me tame. . ."

    From the Ripley Scrowle, included in Elias Ashmole's Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, 1652.

    So, The Bird of Hermes, perhaps.

    Beautiful work. I think the name fits beautifully as well. :)

  46. The Oliban.

    "Oliban" is the French word for frankincense. Fumigations were believed to avert the plague.

  47. I would so love to own one of your pieces! I've been eying them for quite some time now. Here are a few ideas:

    Grajo - Rook (Spanish)
    Miasma - Miasma Theory, belief that plague was caused by "bad air"
    Lorme - Charles de Lorme (17th century French physician who created the doctor uniform)
    Camphor - Used in the beaks to ward off the "bad smells"
    Remache - Rivet (Spanish)
    Krähe - Crow (German)
    Amsel - Blackbird (German)
    Dampf - Steam (German)
    Schwarz - Black (German)
    Sensenmann - Grim Reaper (German)
    DellaPeste - "medico della peste", doctor of the plague

  48. Your work is so amazing! I'd love to own something (especially one of these plague doctor's masks) but I simply don't have the money for it, thank you so much for holding this contest! :)

    Here are my ideas:
    - L'orologio corvo (Italian for "The clockwork raven")
    - Il corvo rivettati (Italian for "The riveted crow")
    - faccia becco (Italian for "Beaked face")
    - morte nera (Italian for "Black Death")
    - Angelo (Named for the plague doctor Matteo fu Angelo who was hired by the city of Orvieto in 1348 for 4 times the normal rate of a doctor.)
    - Camphor (one of the many aromatic substances that were put into the beak of a plague doctor's mask to protect them from miasmatic "bad air")
    - Laudanum (Another of the possible aromatic substances put into a plague doctor's beaked mask)
    - Myrrh (Another aromatic substance put into the mask of a plague doctor)
    - Storax (Yet another aromatic substance)
    - Maschera del medico (Italian for "Doctor's mask")
    - Maschera della morte (Italian for "Death's Mask")
    - morte commerciante (Italian for "Death dealer")
    - Il dottor morte (Italian for "Doctor death"
    - Cuoio e sanguisughe (Italian for "Leather and leeches", leather because it's what the mask is made of [obviously] & leeches because plague doctor's commonly practiced bloodletting on their patients although it was eventually recommended by one of the most famous of the plague doctor's, Nostradamus, to NOT bleed the patient.)
    - Nostradamus (I'm pretty sure someone's probably already said this one, but it's an obvious one. Nostradamus is, as I said, one of the most famous of the plague doctor's. He gave medical advice about preventative measures which could be taken against the plague.)
    - Desiderio da Venezia (This is the name of a character of mine who wears a riveted plague doctor's mask which I actually based off of one of your masks, his face underneath is nothing but bones, so he never removes the mask). His name has no special meaning as far as the mask is concerned but I wanted to include it all the same since this mask reminds me very much of him. The 'da Venezia', of course, simply means 'of Venice' which is where he's from).

    I....can't think of any more ideas at the moment, but I hope that you like at least one of my ideas and take them under consideration. I know that you have a lot of great contest entry ideas already so it'll probably be really hard to decide between them, good luck! :)

    Also, I chose to do my translations into Italian because I associate it most with the plague doctor's and these sorts of masks.

  49. I dont know if you've seen the movie 'the Dark Crystal' but these masks always reminds me of some of my favorite looking creatures: The Skeksis. So there as you guessed it is my 2 cents for a name for you and your beautiful masks

    Name : Skeksis

  50. Thank you so much for sharing! Your blog has inspired me to create so many new things! I can't wait to get started.

    I think your mask should be called "The Nigma". The way the pieces fit together with the rivet edges, reminds me of a puzzle. "Enigma" would work also, but "The Nigma" is what I first thought when I looked at it.

    Thanks for inspiring a newbee...

  51. Fantastic work you do! Oh, that reads a bit Yodaeque!
    Of the already posted name I really like Corvus and would have gone for that myself if it had not already been suggested. I've also enjoyed many other name suggestions and I think you naming box will be full to overflowing with spare name for a considerable time! Like many of your other respondents I could never afford to buy one of you beautiful creations and have to satisfy myself with being creatively inspired by your work to create my own pieces.
    Back to the names. I'm going down a different route for my suggestions...
    "The Alien" - because the forward pointing nature of the mask reminds me of Geiger's concept.
    "The Ripley" - for the obvious connection and also for "Ripley's believe it or not" - Who would have believed some one would be making plague masks as oject'd'art in the 21st century!
    And (I expect you can see this coming...) "The Nostromo" Just because it's Italiano and cool sounding.

  52. The mask reminds me of the fictional character from Hellboy, Karl Ruprecht Kroenen: part SS scientist; part assassin. I'd suggest calling the mask "Ruprecht" or "Kroenen".

  53. I think Riveting Crow/Raven would suit it, I assume for obvious reasons, haha. Which can also be translated to Nieten Krähe for crow or Nieten Rabe for rayven (German) or Cuervo Fascinante (Spanish).

  54. Raptor
    Muninn: Old Norse for Memory. One of Odin's ravens (Huginn : Thought being the other one)

    Great solution to the cost issue.

  55. "Doktor Mændrel" is my suggestion. Love your work Tom.

  56. I was thinking about "Pandemia" the Spanish noun for pandemic, from the Greek "pandêmon nosêma" (pan-all) (demos-people) (nosêma-disease)

    Great and inspiring work ^^

  57. Schutz vor Krankheiten- to protect from disease (german)
    Dauger or Marchioly- names used for "The Man in The Iron Mask"
    Praga- Galic for plague
    The Morrigan- Galic goddess of death

  58. Here to throw a couple more at you!

    "Amaltheus" (Meaning 'truth' or 'to heal'.)
    "Zoroaster" (Half-Persian prophet)

    Thought those both sounded cool.

  59. Since it's not exactly a plague doctor, with all the rivets, it makes me think more of another kind of doctor... A Jackknife Barber.
    Maybe too simple....

    Good luck to everyone. Tons of great names here. :)

  60. Paskhein - greek for "to suffer"

    Despolia - latin, if my highschool latin book was right it's actually an order to strip off clothes in this form rather than to despoil. It's kind of cheeky, and doctors do need you to take off your clothes to examine you.

    Gomfodetos - Greek for "nail bound" a reference to the rivets

    Onuxiaios - Greek for "a nail's breadth" both in reference to the rivets and as in a nail's breadth from sickness

    Iatra - Greek for a doctor's fee

    Anosia - seems to translate from Greek as both "unholy or profane" or as "freedom from sickness"

    Umbros - Latin for shadow

    Or a combination of these such as

    Dr. Anosia Umbros
    Dr. Iatra Paskhein

  61. Here's one that's longer than most, but what the hell.

    "Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Beak No Evil"

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful work.

  62. My suggestion would be Doktor Seelenheil (Dr. Salvation in German) or Doktor Eisenschnabel (Dr. Ironbeak).

  63. avesoptics (from the classification for birds aond optics of course)

    archaeoptics (from the fossil archaeopteryx)

    archaeophysic (from archaeopteryx and dr. of physic)

  64. Miasmas- Greek word for pollution or "bad air"
    Doctor Beak
    Tod- German word for Death
    Pasteurella- infection that caused the plague

  65. My (seemingly innocuous) suggestion is 'The Attischo'. . .

    (Why? Because that was the sound that heralded the onset/one of the symptoms of the disease - and if you heard it, chances are the Plague Doctor would soon be calling!)

    Ring-a-ring of roses,
    A pocketful of posies,
    Attischo, Attischo,
    We all fall down.

  66. Autolysis - The body's natural breakdown after death.
    Atra Mors - Latin for Terrible. One theory is that its mistranslation lead to the name "Black Death".
    Schwarzer Tod - German for Black Death
    With the prominence of the rivets, something as simple as "Bubos" might make a good name. I'm partial to "Las Manchas" for "the blemishes" or "the stains". The way the lenses are done seems evocative of old spectacles, and for that reason I'm also very fond of the name "Anteojos".
    "Coronis" dates back to the Greek myth explaining why crows and ravens have black feathers, and also invokes the imagery of a corona or crown.
    "Burke" of Burke and Hare refers to one of a pair of serial killers whose acts took place in the Edinburgh catacombs immediately prior to the Victorian Era. The Edinburgh catacombs are still a fantastic sight, and reportedly very haunted.
    "Lambeth". This one would take a while to explain, so I'll be brief. Dr. Thomas Neill Cream, also known as the Lambeth Poisoner, was one of the first prolific serial killers, and his murders took place during the Victorian Era.
    "Amelia" or "Dyer" for Amelia Dyer, responsible for the murder of a several children. Again, Victorian Era.
    Lastly, there's the possibility of using "Lusk", "Whitechapel", or "Jack" for Jack the Ripper. Curiously, Lewis Carroll was also a suspect, so his name might make for an interesting title.
    Hope this helps!

  67. Miles, miles to later but I thought of an additional option, probably far too much Team Fortressy perhaps but...
    "The Studded Stymphalian"

  68. Hungarian word for doctor is "Orvos" so I guess that's my next suggestion.

  69. Medicinal murder
    Jim Crow
    ARTEMUS – after Artemus Gordon, secret agent partner to Jim West
    JETER – a name honoring science fiction author K.W. Jeter, who coined the term “steampunk.”
    PHILEAS – from Phileas Fogg, the main character in Jules Verne‘s novel, Around the World in Eighty days
    McCoy- "The Real McCoy"

  70. Thank you everyone for your great entries. I will study them all and make a decision in the next day or two. I will make a new blog post to announce the winner.

    Best, Tom

  71. In the for what it's worth category ... My suggestion is POVEGLIA.

    Isola di Poveglia is the tiny island between Venice and LIdo in the Venetian Lagoon. Starting with the Romans, Poveglia was used as a dumping ground for plague victims. At one point, living souls who showed any kind of plague symptoms were taken to Poveglia and thrown into the plague pits with the corpses while still living or simply dropped on the island and left there to die. The place is considered haunted (no surprise) and some estimates say more than 150,000 plague victims were dumped or died there. I'd say that makes POVEGLIA the quintessential name for a plague mask used by a "dottore".

    With that said, some of the other suggestions are simply brilliant, so good luck everyone!

    And, Tom, thank you so much for your stunning work. It really is beautiful.

  72. Alrighty, Tom! Can't wait to hear the wonderful name you chose :)