Broadsheets were a common form of ‘mass media’ in the early 1800s: large single sheets of paper, sold cheaply in the streets, carrying a magazine-like mix of illustrations and text on a wide variety of subjects.
This example was published by one of the most prolific, and profitable, broadsheet publishers of the time: James Catnach (1792–1841), who worked on an ancient wooden press out of his family home in Seven Dials, London.
It lists 12 stages of human (that is, male) life, consisting of birth, death, and 10 decades in between in a notional lifespan of a century. Each is morbidly characterised by its distance from the inevitability of death.
Mortality was a popular topic amongst the general public; centenarians were virtually non-existent. Life expectancy was at its lowest since the Black Death: nationally, barely 40, and in the slums of new cities such as Manchester and Liverpool, under 30.
- Full title:
- The stages of life: The various ages and degrees of human life explained by these twelve different stages from our birth to our graves
- estimated 1830, London
- Broadside / Ephemera / Illustration / Image
- Usage terms
- Public Domain
- Held by
- British Library
- Article by:
- Ruth Richardson
- Reading and print culture, Popular culture
From public notes and broadsides to catchpennies and printed songs, Dr Ruth Richardson examines the variety of street literature which informed and entertained the public before newspapers were readily available.