Michael Sappol--friend of Morbid Anatomy and historian in the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine--has just alerted me to the launching of a new website based on his recent exhibition documenting the rich and quirky collection of murder pamphlets in the collection of the National Library of Medicine.
From the press release:
A new website, "Most Horrible & Shocking Murders: Murder pamphlets in the collection of the National Library of Medicine," has been launched by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world's largest medical library. The site features a selection of murder pamphlets from the late 1600s to the late 1800s-from a treasure trove of several hundred owned by the Library.You can visit the website--which I designed, in fact!--by clicking here. All of the above images are drawn from the "pamphlets" section of the website, which contains these images along with a wealth of others; click here to peruse that section. Mr. Sappol is also the author of perhaps my favorite book about anatomical illustration, the incomparable "Dream Anatomy," which you can find out more about--and order!--by clicking here.
Ever since the invention of movable type in the mid-1400s, public appetite for tales of shocking murders-"true crime"-has been one of the most durable facts of the market for printed material. For more than five centuries, murder pamphlets have been hawked on street corners, town squares, taverns, coffeehouses, news stands, and bookshops.
These pamphlets have been a rich source for historians of medicine, crime novelists, and cultural historians, who mine them for evidence to illuminate the history of class, gender, race, the law, the city, crime, religion and other topics. The murder pamphlets in the NLM's collection address cases connected to forensic medicine, especially cases in which doctors were accused of committing-or were the victims of-murder.
Thanks, Mike, for doing such wonderful work, and for alerting me to its launch!