The Plymouth tragedy was printed in London in around 1778. Its subtitle tells us that is ‘a full and particular account of the strange and wonderful appearing of the ghost of Madam E. Johnson’. This is a chapbook, a cheap form of literature available in the 18th and 19th centuries; chapbooks were bought in bulk, usually as un-made up sheets by pedlars who walked round the country selling them, binding and sometimes colouring them on their journeys between fairs and villages. This chapbook is more extensive, and contains poems, riddles, charms, stories, codes and word-games. The standard of illustration, made with relief woodblocks, is high.
The pages shown here contain hieroglyphic poems and texts, in which images are substituted for words or phrases. There are also codes, a love-charm and knot poems – these were designed so that the reader could enter and leave the poem at any point, thus altering the conclusion.
- Full title:
- The Plymouth tragedy. Being a full and particular account of the strange and wonderful appearing of the ghost of Madam E. Johnson
- estimated 1778, London
- Chapbook / Games and toys / Illustration / Image
- Usage terms
- Public Domain
- Held by
- British Library
- Article by:
- Ruth Richardson
- Reading and print culture, Popular culture
Chapbooks were small, affordable forms of literature for children and adults that were sold on the streets, and covered a range of subjects from fairy tales and ghost stories to news of politics, crime or disaster. Dr Ruth Richardson explains what this literature looked like, its subject matter and the ways in which it was produced.
- Article by:
- Roger Luckhurst
- The Gothic
Roger Luckhurst challenges the idea of the 19th century as one of secularisation, exploring the popularity of mesmerism, spiritualism and 'true' ghost stories in the period.