I have mentioned this in person and on Twitter before, but not, I think, here. We live in an age of great blessings for the historian of the ephemeral. Consider if you will the broadsheet ballad. These things were the cheap entertainment of the 18th and 19th centuries, sold by itinerant ballad-sellers, street hawkers and low-rent merchants. They covered topics from war to politics to making fun of people from Somerset. And of course the covered murder.
Well, now there are scads of them scanned and posted online. Scads, I say, courtesy of the Bodleian Library and the University of California at Santa Barbara. Just click on either of those links and get browsing. I searched for “murder” on the Bodleian site and got dozens of hits, but honestly my search for “cannibalism” was more focused and equally entertaining.
This one is genius!
I will not save her life, said he, Nor make my pies of thee
And the crude illustration of an oval-faced homunculus gesturing at a man with an artificial nose and then someone getting burned at the stake.
God, there’s thousands of them.
I guess what I’m saying is I won’t be doing anything else for a little while.