Mysticism and fortune-telling were popular subjects for the publishing industry in the early 1800s.
The ancient German legend of Dr Faust – the scholar who sells his soul to the devil in return for unlimited earthly knowledge – was popularised in England by Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593). Its occult topic and lurid nature made it a frequent subject for early 19th-century ‘chapbooks’: cheaply produced booklets often sold on the streets.
This 24-page version of the Faust story was published in 1838 by Thomas Richardson of Derby, a prolific producer of cheap reading matter. It came complete with a colour illustration of Lucifer confronting Faust to collect his side of the bargain. The list of attention-grabbing keywords on the title page (‘remarkable life ... raise the devil ... magical powers ... horrible death’) shows that marketing aggression is not solely a modern phenomenon.