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Broadside entitled 'Life and Transactions of the Murderer Burke, and his Associates'


This crime report begins: 'The following columns will be found to contain the substance of all the horrid atrocities committed by Burke and his associates, and of all the circumstances connected with that tragical affair.' The broadside also contains four captioned woodcuts, depicting Burke, Hare, Burke's common-law wife Helen McDougal, and one of their victims, 'Daft Jamie'. The sheet cost threepence to buy, and was published by Glass of 9 South Niddry Street, Edinburgh.

Broadsides were generally priced at one penny. The higher charge for this sheet was probably justified by the considerable length of its text and the fact that its woodcut portraits appear to have been custom-made. This attention to detail, and the apparent willingness of people to pay more for it, also reflects the huge interest there was in the case of Burke and Hare. Anatomical dissection was regarded by many as an unnatural, ungodly practice, and when it was discovered that Burke and Hare had been inspired to multiple murder by the demands of anatomists for bodies, the outcry in Edinburgh was great.

Burke and Hare were Irish bodysnatchers and murderers, who worked around Edinburgh's Canongate area, eventually becoming local legends. They hit upon the idea of murdering solitary or vulnerable people (in an attempt not to get caught) so that they could sell the bodies for dissection. Hare turned King's Evidence and so was acquitted, but this secured the conviction of Burke, who was hanged on the 28th January 1829.

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Date of publication: 1829   shelfmark: Ry.III.a.6(026)
Broadside entitled 'Life and Transactions of the Murderer Burke, and his Associates'
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