Elizabethan thieves


  • Intro

    This book is an Elizabethan guide to the secrets of urban criminals. Books of this kind were popular in the period, warning city dwellers of the cunning tricks and coded languages of rogues and thieves. Much of this slang is evident on the frontispiece shown here – words such as ‘shifter’ (trickster) and ‘priggers’ (thieves). ‘Conny-catching’ is another word for thieving by trickery. It comes from the word ‘coney’, meaning rabbit.


    Pick pocketing and thievery were rife in London and constables and watchmen were appointed to patrol the streets, calling out at intervals that - if it was the case- ‘All’s well’. While they were considered notoriously inefficient, constables were also entitled to whip criminals ‘till the back be bloody’. Along with fines, and public shaming, this was a typical punishment for a minor crime in Elizabethan England.


    Shelfmark: C.27.b.21

  • Transcript

    The groundworke of conny-catching, the manner of their pedlers-French, and the meanes to vnderstand the same: with the cunning slights of the counterfeit cranke : therein are handled the practises of the visiter, the fetches of the shifter and rufflar, the deceits of their doxes, the deuises of priggers, the names of the base loytering losels, and the meanes of euery blacke-art-mans shifts, with the reproofe of all the diuellish practises

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