This report begins: 'Full copy of the Curious Papers which were found under a flag stone at the General Cleaning of the City, near Burke's house, where you have the names of those who were murdered, and sold by him. Together with the prices, and the sums received for each subject.' This sheet was published by Forbes and Co., Printers, Edinburgh.
Despite the alternative spelling of Burk in the headline, this sensational broadside purports to be a chilling list detailing the list of victims of the notorious murderers William Burke and William Hare. In 1827, these two underworld characters started murdering people for profit. Although the dates and names of the victims are genuine enough, there is no way of knowing if these 'Curious Papers' did in fact belong to Burke, or whether it was just a case of a market-aware printer looking for a subject that would sell numerous broadsides.
Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.
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