gruesome stories at the Guildhall

December 10th 2017

‘Bloods’ and ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ are the subject of a talk at Guildhall Library on 14th December (6-8pm) by Dr Peter Ross (Principal Librarian).

The terms describe sensational penny fiction written principally for the working classes between 1830 and around 1910. The often gruesome stories concerned criminals, particularly highwaymen, pirates, ghosts, and sensational historical stories. Nearly all would have been produced in penny parts, issued weekly, with each part of four or eight pages featuring a lurid illustration.

The ‘moral panic’ amongst certain sections of society brought about by these publications can be related to the similar modern condemnation of ‘video nasties’ and ultra-violent computer games. However, the ephemeral nature of the penny dreadful means that many are now exceptionally rare and highly prized.

The talk will include a rare opportunity to view some of Guildhall Library’s own dastardly and morally reprehensible collection.