This broadside begins: '[OLD TOWN ZOOLOLOG]ICAL / GRAND Zoological Entertainment IN THE ROYAL CIVIC ARENA, ROYAL EXCHANGE, EDINBURGH, On TUESDAY FIRST, the 29th instant, Will be performed here for the First time, on a Grand Scale, the new and interesting DRAMA of THE WILD BEASTS ATTACKING THEIR KEEPER.' No publication details have been included on this sheet.
On the surface this fable-like tale appears to detail the power struggle between a group of wild beasts and their keeper, whilst, at the same time, charting the events which eventually lead to a revolt by the 'whole Menagerie'. In reality, it offers a commentary on the legal and political wrangles that were taking place in Edinburgh and the rest of the country at this time - most probably the mid-nineteenth century. Whilst the subject matter may appear a little inaccessible to a modern-day audience, contemporary readers would have had no problem identifying the different 'animals' and their 'keeper'. The National Library of Scotland's broadside collection also includes details of a 'second attack'. The Royal Edinburgh Zoological Gardens first opened in 1839, but closed in 1857 after running into difficulties.
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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