The Word on the Street
home | background | illustrations | distribution | highlights | search & browse | resources | contact us

Broadside entitled 'Trial and Sentence'


This crime report begins: ' An account of the Trial and Sentence of John Wilson and Duncan Fraser, two young men belonging to Edinburgh, who are to be Executed at Edinburgh, on Wednesday the 28th, day of January, 1824. for breaking into the Shop of James Smyth Taylor, St. Mary's Wynd Edinburgh.' The report was published in December 1823, probably in Edinburgh, and priced at one penny.

The report implies that the two convicts were somewhat taken aback by their sentence. We are told that both were repeat offenders who confessed to the crime, and 'appeared very confident' in court, but who paid 'more serious attention' as the case progressed. When the sentence of death was announced, the two young men 'shed tears plentifully'. It is possible that having stood trial before, the two did not expect such a dreadful sentence. It is also likely that their previous crimes counted against them in the judge's eyes.

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.

previous pageprevious          
Date of publication: 1824   shelfmark: F.3.a.14(7)
Broadside entitled 'Trial and Sentence'
View larger image

NLS home page   |   Digital gallery   |   Credits

National Library of Scotland © 2004

National Library of Scotland