Bringing a Murderer to Life
Look at a criminal broadside from the 19th century. There are the drawings – generic depictions of people hanging, of gaols, of crowds, together with more personalised portraits of the murderer, or the victim.
There is the text – the melodramatic, overly detailed, story of the crime, the penitence of the murderer before he or she is dropped into oblivion.
These are the forerunner of the tabloid newspaper; designed to be bought, read, thrown away.
But now they are in museums, sold in auctions, a historical artefact. The individuals that are written about in these broadsides are somehow lost to us in the present. They are abstract, viewed from a historical distance, fictionalised by their broadside-producing contemporaries.
I own a broadside – and admit to being fascinated by the stories they tell and how they tell them. But can I build a picture of real…
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