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

Broadside concerning the execution of Christopher Layer


This execution notice begins: 'A True and Exact / COPY / OF THE / PAPER / Delivered by / CHRISTOPHER LAYER, / At the Place of EXECUTION, &c./ Inclosed in a Cover superscrib'd, / To Mr. Walter Price, Under-Sheriff, at this House in Castle-Yard, in / Holburn.'

It was normal for some sort of 'last speech' from the sentenced prisoner to be reported by broadside publishers. Whether they actually happened or not and whether all the reporting was accurate is, however, another matter. These last speeches were often used as a forum for philosophising and moralising on anti-social behaviour. This document, however authentic, does not even mention anti-social behaviour, rather it is a list of persons who have received a copy of the letter. It is in fact a rather odd document to leave as one's last comment on earth! Layer was executed on 17 May 1723.

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          
Probable date published: 1723-   shelfmark: Ry.III.c.36(033)
Broadside concerning the execution of Christopher Layer
View larger image

NLS home page   |   Digital gallery   |   Credits

National Library of Scotland © 2004

National Library of Scotland