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Broadside entitled 'Trial and Sentence of John Counterfeit'


This mock crime report begins: 'A Full and Particular Account of the Trial & Sentence of JOHN COUNTERFEIT, who was sentenced to be Pilloried at the Cross of Edinburgh, on Wednesday, 14th March, 1821, for Willful Imposition, &c.' It was published by William Cameron, probably in Edinburgh, and priced at one penny.

William Cameron, known as 'Hawkie', (c.1790-1851) was a well-known speech crier who published broadsides in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Paisley in the first half of the nineteenth century. The broadside shown here is one of several mock crime reports, apparently composed by Cameron, which feature a diarist named 'Janet Clinker'. Others also feature 'Humphrey Clinker', a character Cameron seems to have borrowed from the eighteenth century Scottish novelist Tobias Smollett (1721-71). Like Smollett, Cameron gives his characters typifying names, such as 'Lord Justice Reason' or 'Mr Common Sense', which alert the reader to the fact that these are pieces of fictional writing, intended for comic or satirical purposes.

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: 1821   shelfmark: APS.5.96.1
Broadside entitled 'Trial and Sentence of John Counterfeit'
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