Monday, January 07, 2008

Dying Speeches and Bloody Murders: Crime Broadsides Collected by the Harvard Law School Library

The Harvard Law School Library announces the launch of a new digital collection highlighting its extensive holdings of crime broadsides. It can be viewed here.

Just as programs are sold at sporting events today, broadsides--styled at the time as "Last Dying Speeches" or "Bloody Murders"--were sold to the audience that gathered to witness public executions in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. The Library's collection of more than 500 of these broadsides is one of the largest recorded and, to our knowledge, the first to be digitized in its entirety. The examples digitized span the years 1707 to 1891 and include accounts of executions for such crimes as arson, assault, counterfeiting, horse theft, murder, rape, robbery, and treason. Many of the broadsides vividly describe the results of sentences handed down at London's central criminal court, the Old Bailey, the proceedings of which are now available online, here.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Peck Stacpoole Foundation, the collection has been expertly conserved by the Harvard University Library's Weissman Preservation Center and imaged by the Harvard College Library's Digital Imaging Services.