The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 13, April 1, 2007, Article 7


Katie Jaeger writes: "I just finished a great article in the current 
issue of Smithsonian magazine about a full-text searchable manuscript 
archive that went online beginning in 2003. Of course I had to rush 
to my computer to check out the Proceedings of the Old Bailey:

"This periodical publication was the record of London's criminal court 
- regularly sold on the streets between 1674 and 1834 for the edification 
and entertainment of the populace. You can search 101,102 trials by 
surname, keyword, place, and crime, among others. I decided to 
browse crimes of "coining." This search by itself produced 1,856 
cases, but when I narrowed it by verdict ("guilty") it still came to 
1,060 cases. An example from October 1678:

'A Shoomaker was Convicted for Clipping the Kings Coin ; the manner 
of his being discovered and apprehended, was thus: The Landlord coming 
to take Possession of the house wherein the Prisoner and a woman that 
has often been suspected to be concern'd in such Practices lodged, 
she being abroad and her Chamber-door lock'd, seeing them resolv'd to 
go in, told them he would try to open it; and so pulling out a Key, 
did open the said door, and went directly and hastily to a Closet, 
where he was observ'd with both his hands to sweep down certain 
Instruments and fling them into a private corner, and then cast a 
Cushion over them to conceal them: Whereupon the said Landlord seeming 
to take no notice thereof, went down and acquainted the Tenant, who 
knew nothing thereof; but together they sent for a Constable, seized 
the Prisoner, and in his Trunk found a File, but in the other Chamber 
under the said Cushion, several Clippings and Filings of Silver, a 
Sixpence newly clipp'd, a pair of Shears, two or three Crucibles for 
melting down, and a quantity of Silver ready melted, &c. which were 
now produced in Court. He peremptorily denied any concernment in the 
Fact; but his having a Key to her Room; his running to the Closet and 
endeavouring to conceal the things, &c. caused him to be brought in 
guilty of the Treason; and was condemn'd to be Drawn and Hang'd .'

"I put the term "engraver" in a keyword search, and got 233 cases 
involving these fellows. Forgers constitute an even larger group. 
Whatever the research interest, or even without a particular research 
quest, this archive is fascinating and helpful. But can 
be addictive!"

To access Old Bailey Online, see:   Old Bailey Online

[There are many cases involving the theft of coin as well. At least 
one case involved the theft of books (September 7, 1768). It's included 
here for the bibliophiles among us. -Editor]

"William Vickers was indicted for stealing eight printed books, bound 
in leather, the works of Dr. Jonathan Swift , value 20 s. seven printed 
books, bound in leather, of Collins's Peerage of England, value 40 s. 
six printed books, bound in leather, intiated, the Dramatic Works of 
John Dryden , Esq; and three printed books, bound in leather, by Thomas 
Sherlock , D. D. value 10 s. the property of George Booth Tindal , 
Esq; Aug. 15. ++

"George Booth Tindal , Esq; When I went out of town my books were 
safe, on Thursday the 28th of July; after I was gone I received a 
letter, informing me a man was detected in stealing my books; I came 
to town this day se'nnight, then I missed the books laid in the 
indictment, from out of my chambers (he produced a letter wrote by 
the prisoner, whose hand-writing he knew exceeding well; it was read, 
wherein he acknowledged the taking the said books, and had pledged 
them to three different pawnbrokers, and begs mercy, &c."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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