Lives of the most notorious highwaymen, footpads and murderers


Lives of the Most Notorious Highwaymen is a collection of biographical articles about the careers of Britain’s most famous criminals past and present. Compiled with a fine eye for scandal and a somewhat less scrupulous approach to factual accuracy, its instant success obliged the publisher, Edward Lloyd (1815–1890), to rush out a companion work, History of the Pirates of All Nations.

The success of these lurid books attests to a developing appetite in the British public for tales of ‘true life’ crime; but the means of their publication (and the sheer size of their success) speaks to a perhaps even greater social change: the arrival of cheap printing. Both Highwaymen and Pirates were produced serially, in large volume, on cheap paper – allowing each 8-16 page instalment to be sold for a penny. This fact, along with the violent content of the books, led to such publications being called ‘penny bloods’ and eventually ‘penny dreadfuls’.

Edward Lloyd would later go on to found Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper and The People’s Periodical, making many innovations in printing as he did so. Indeed, it was in The People’s Periodical that he made perhaps his most famous contribution to literary history by publishing The String of Pearls – the novel that introduced the world to Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Full title:
Lives of the most notorious highwaymen, footpads and murderers
1836, London
Penny dreadful / Serial / Illustration / Image
Thomas Peckett Prest
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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