This crime report begins: 'Account of one of the most Shocking Murders ever read of, committed by John M Wil[l]iams, at Midgeville, on the Body of his own Wife, by Stabbing her in several parts of the Body, and cutting her Throat from Ear to Ear; also an acccount of his Murdering his own Infant only Eight days old, by dashing it to the ground, and throwing it over the window, on Tuesday the 8th of January, 1824; likewise an account of the gallant manner in which he was seized by a servant Girl.' This was sourced from the Examiner newspaper and printed in Edinburgh in January 1823 or 1824, priced at one penny.
The case described here is among the most brutal of any in the broadsides held by the National Library of Scotland. The shocking impact it must have had is reflected in the language used in the report, where the scene of the crime is described as 'perhaps without a parallel since the first organization of civil society.' There is doubt over the date of the crime: at the start of the report the year is named as 1824, but at the foot of the page it is named as 1823.
Reports recounting dark and salacious deeds were popular with the public, and, like today's sensationalist tabloids, sold in large numbers. Crimes could generate sequences of sheets covering descriptive accounts, court proceedings, last words, lamentations and executions as they occurred. As competition was fierce, immediacy was paramount, and these occasions provided an opportunity for printers and patterers to maximise sales.
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Probable date published:
1824 shelfmark: F.3.a.14(10)
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