This execution notice begins: 'The last Words and Declaration of Jannet Shank, / Who was Execute in the Grass mercat of E- / dinburgh, upon the 7 day of February, 1711 / for the Crime of / Child-Murder. / According to Sentence of Justice, her Right Hand was cut off by the Common Hangman; and was drawn up the Gibbet by a Pilly, and Hang till she was Dead. Her Hand is to be set up at Dumfriece.'
There are many broadsides contained in the National Library of Scotland's collection recounting the execution of women for child-murder - indeed it is the crime predominantly committed by women sentenced to execution. The heinousness of the action lay in the taking of an innocent life rather than the murder itself. There are, however, very few cases where the woman's right-hand is focused on: this is quite an usual occurrence. Perhaps it is the hand with which Shank committed the crime.
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:
1711 shelfmark: 6.314(28)
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