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Crime Pays

An HLS collection illustrates the history of crime and capital punishment in 19th-century England.

1832 English crime broadside
An 1832 English crime broadside from the library's collection

For 19th century printers, crime was good business. Brutal murders and other horrific crimes translated into profit when they became the subjects of single-page printings.

Today close to 400 of these broadsides, most printed in England from 1820 to 1860, are preserved in an HLS library collection. They highlight acts of wrongdoing, purported confessions from the accused (often set in verse), and accounts of trials and public executions. Many are illustrated with woodcuts.

As the collection is digitized through a grant from the Peck Stacpoole Foundation in memory of S. Allyn Peck '28-'29, the stories of crime and punishment, once hawked in the streets of England, will be available to a much wider audience.


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