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Broadside entitled 'Life and Behaviour of Samuel Bell'


Following on from the title, this crime report continues: 'Late residenter at the Spittal, in the County of Durham. Who was executed on Wednesday, 3d of September, 1800, at the West End of the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, for the crime of issuing forged Notes.' The sheet was originally published in 1800 by J. Morrison of East Campbell's Close in Edinburgh's Cowgate, and republished in Glasgow by J. Galbraith.

This crime broadside describes the tragic fate that befell Samuel Bell, after he was found guilty of forging banknotes. The writer focuses attention on the social dimension of Bell's tragedy, by considering the effects that his death will have on his pregnant wife and parents. It seems that Bell conducted himself with the utmost dignity during his period in the condemned cell. However, it also seems that Bell's model behaviour was related to his hope of having his sentence mitigated. Bell was attended to by the Rev. Dickson, who heard his confession and helped him in his prayer to God for mercy in the next world.

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: 1800   shelfmark: APS.3.84.20
Broadside entitled 'Life and Behaviour of Samuel Bell'
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