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Broadside entitled 'Trial and Sentence'


This crime report begins: 'Account of the Trial and Sentence of John Wright and James Nichol, for breaking into Merchiston Castle, for which Wright is sentenced to be executed at Edinburgh, on Wednes the 16th day of April next, and Nichol banished.' This sheet cost one penny to buy when it was published.

The process of hanging was universal in Great Britain until 1850, when more scientific and 'humane' ways were introduced. Prisoners were hung by the 'short fall' method. This is when the prisoners' support is removed from under them. Bodies were usually left hanging for at least an hour to ensure they were dead. The Grassmarket area was most commonly used for Edinburgh executions.

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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Date of publication: 1823   shelfmark: Ry.III.a.2(33)
Broadside entitled 'Trial and Sentence'
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