The Newgate Calendar

Bibliographical Note

History and Early editions

There is no single book called The Newgate Calendar. The first readily available accounts of crimes and criminals in England were broadsheets and chapbooks, produced in significant numbers from the beginning of the eighteenth century. A broadsheet was a single sheet of paper with typically four pages printed on each side in such a way that the buyer could fold, stitch and cut it to form a booklet; a chapbook was one of these sold ready made up. Both were very cheap -- a penny or so -- and were sold at fairs, by itinerant pedlars, and particularly, at executions. Many of these included accounts of the execution itself, including the last words of the condemned man before he had even spoken them.

The first "Newgate Calendars" were collections of these accounts, and as the eighteenth century progressed, more and more crimes were added; the various collections plagiarized their predecessors shamelessly. Some of them added prosy morals to the stories. It was because of these that they were considered uplifting reading and few literate homes would have been without one; often the only book apart from a bible.

The name "Newgate Calendar" can refer to all or any of the following:

  • The Tyburn Calendar, or Malefactors Bloody Register, published by G. Swindell (c. 1705)
  • A Compleat History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, Foot-Pads, Shop-Lifts and Cheats of both sexes, in and about London and Westminster, and all parts of Great Britain, for above an hundred years past, continued to the present time by Captain Alexander Smith (1719)
  • The Chronicle of Tyburn, or Villainy Display'd in all its Branches (1720)
  • A General and True History of the Lives and Adventures of the Most Famous Highwaymen, Murderers, Street-Robbers etc. To which is added a genuine Account of the Voyages and Plunders of the Most Noted Pirates, Interspersed with several remarkable Tryals of the most Notorious Malefactors, at the Sessions-House in the Old Bailey, London by Captain Charles Johnson (1734)
  • Lives of the nost remarkable criminals condemned and executed for Murder, Highway Robberies, Housebreaking, Street Robberies and other Offences by John Osborn (1735)
  • The Tyburn Chronicle (1768)
  • The Newgate Calendar or or MALEFACTORS' BLOODY REGISTER containing: Genuine and Circumstantial Narrative of the lives and transactions, various exploits and Dying Speeches of the Most Notorious Criminals of both sexes who suffered Death Punishment in Gt. Britain and Ireland for High Treason Petty Treason Murder Piracy Felony Thieving Highway Robberies Forgery Rapes Bigamy Burglaries Riots and various other horrid crimes and misdemeanours on a plan entirely new, wherein will be fully displayed the regular progress from virtue to vice interspersed with striking reflexions on the conduct of those unhappy wretches who have fallen a sacrifice to the laws of their country. (3 vols., 1774-1778) - the first to bear this title.
  • THE MALEFACTOR’S REGISTER; OR, New NEWGATE and TYBURN CALENDAR. CONTAINING THE AUTHENTIC LIVES, TRIALS, ACCOUNTS OF EXECUTIONS, DYING SPEECHES, AND OTHER CURIOUS PARTICULARS, Relating to ALL the most notorious VIOLATERS OF THE LAWS OF THEIR COUNTRY; WHO HAVE Suffered DEATH, and other exemplary PUNISHMENTS, in England, Scotland, and Ireland, from the commencement of the Year 1700, to the MIDSUMMER SESSIONS of next Year. Together with NUMEROUS TRIALS in EXTRAORDINARY CASES, where the Parties have been ACQUITTED. This Work also comprehends all the most material Passages in the SESSIONS-PAPERS for a long Series of Years, and complete NARRATIVES of all the Capital TRIALS for BIGAMY, HIGH-TREASON, RIOTS, BURGLARY, HORSE-STEALING, STREET-ROBBERY, FELONY, MURDER, UNNATURAL CRIMES, FORGERY, PETIT-TREASON, FOOTPAD-ROBBERY, PIRACY, HIGHWAY-ROBBERY, RAPES, And various other OFFENCES, and MISDEMEANORS. To which is added, A correct List of all the Capital Convictions at the Old Bailey, &c. &c. &c. since the Commencement of the present Century; which will be of the highest Use to refer to on many Occasions. The Whole tending, by a general Display of the Progress and Consequence of Vice, to impress on the Mind proper Ideas of the Happiness resulting from a Life of strict Honor and Integrity: and to convince Individuals of the superior Excellence of those Laws framed for the Protection of our Lives and Properties. Offered not only as an Object of Curiosity and Entertainment, but as a Work of real and substantial Use. Dedicated to Sir JOHN FIELDING, Knight. (1780)
  • The Criminal Recorder (1804)
  • The New and Complete Newgate Calendar or Malefactor's Universal Register, Comprising INTERESTING MEMOIRS of the MOST NOTORIOUS CHARACTERS who have been convicted of outrages on the LAWS OF ENGLAND, with SPEECHES, CONFESSIONS, and LAST EXCLAMATIONS of SUFFERERS by William Jackson (1818)
  • The Newgate Calendar Improved; Being interesting memoirs of notorious characters who have been convicted of Offence against the laws of England, During the seventeenth century; and continued to the present time, chronologically arranged; comprising Traitors, Murderers, Incendiaries, Ravishers, Pirates, Mutineers, Coiners, Highwaymen, Footpads, Housebreakers, Rioters, Extortioners, Sharpers, Forgers, Pickpockets, Fraudulent Bankrupts, Money droppers, Impostors, and Thieves of every Description. And Containing a number of interesting cases never before published: with Occasional remarks on Crimes and Punishments, Original Anecdotes, Moral reflections and Observations on particular Cases; Explanations of the Criminal Laws, the Speeches, Confessions and Last Exclamations of Sufferers. To which is added a Correct Account of the Various Modes of Punishment of criminals in Different Parts of the World by George Theodore Wilkinson, esq. (1822)
  • Celebrated Trials, and remarkable cases of Criminal Jurisprudence from the earliest Records to the Year 1825 by George Borrow (1825)
  • The Newgate Calendar by Andrew Knapp and William Baldwin (1826)
  • The Chronicles of Crime or the New Newgate Calendar, being a series of memoirs and anecdotes of notorious characters who have outraged the laws of Great Britain from the earliest period to 1841 by Camden Pelham. (1841, reprinted 1886)

Taken together, these contain considerably over one thousand cases. Every editor of the many subsequent collections and abridgements has chosen those he regarded as most interesting or important, discarding the rest, so there is no complete edition. This Ex-Classics edition is based chiefly on the Navarre Society 1926 edition (see below) supplemented with other material collated from various sources, and contains 868 cases.

20th and 21st Century editions of the Newgate Calendar

  • Trials from The Newgate Calendar. Edited by Charles Tibbits. London, Sisley Books. Undated, but apparently early 20th century. No Illustrations. Contains 15 cases, from an unidentified source -- possibly Camden Pelham's 1841/1886 edition.
  • The Complete Newgate Calendar. Edited by J.L. Rayner and G.T Crook. London, Navarre Society, 5 vols., 1926. Illustrated. Despite its name, it is not at all complete; about half the cases have been omitted, and many of the ones included have been abridged, some very heavily. However it contains 512 cases collated from various editions, an index and appendices.
  • The Newgate Calendar, Comprising INTERESTING MEMOIRS of the MOST NOTORIOUS CHARACTERS who have been convicted of outrages on the LAWS OF ENGLAND, with SPEECHES, CONFESSIONS, and LAST EXCLAMATIONS of SUFFERERS. Edited by Edwin Valentine Mitchell. London, John Lane The Bodley Head, 1928. Illustrated. Introduction by Henry Savage. Contains 43 cases, taken from Knapp and Baldwin's 1826 edition.
  • The Newgate Calendar, or Malefactors' Bloody Register. Edited by B. Laurie. London, T. Werner Laurie, 1933. Illustrated. No editorial details. Contains 151 cases, all from the 18th Century, taken from Knapp and Baldwin's 1826 edition. The best 20th century edition.
  • The Newgate Calendar and
  • The New Newgate Calendar. London, Folio Society, 1951 & 1960 respectively; also republished as a two-volume set in 1992. Edited by Sir Norman Birkett / Lord Birkett (he evidently got promoted in between the two editions). Illustrated. The first contains 28 cases taken from The Malefactors Register of 1780. The second has 23 cases from Camden Pelham's 1841 edition. Introduction and afterwords to each case by the editor.
  • The Newgate Calendar, or Malefactor's Bloody Register. New York, Capricorn Books, 1962. Ilustrated. Edited by Sandra Lee Kerman. Contains 36 cases, taken from the 1774 edition.
  • The Newgate Calendar, London, Panther Books. 3 vols, 1962-1963. Contains 95 cases from Wilkinson's 1822 edition. No illustrations, but lurid and inauthentic cover pictures -- one shows a man being racked, a form of torture not used in Britain during the period covered by the Calendars.
  • Tales from the Newgate Calendar by Rayner Heppenstal. London, Constable, 1981. A retelling of about 25 cases, mostly from Jackson's 1818 edition.
    Also interesting is a work by the same author --
  • Reflections on the Newgate Calendar by Rayner Heppenstal. London, W. H. Allen, 1975. A series of essays on various aspects of 18th Century crime and punishment, including extensive quotations from the calendar. Very good illustrations.
  • The Newgate Calendar. London, Cardinal/Sphere books, 1991. Introduction by Christopher Hibbert. Illustrated, but the reproductions are very poor quality. Contains 42 cases from Wilkinson's 1822 edition. The worst 20th Century edition.
  • The Newgate Calendar. London, Wordsworth Classics, 1997. Introduction by Clive Emsley. No editorial details. Contains 49 cases. Still in print in 2001, at the bargain price of 2.99 pounds sterling.

 

Electronic Editions

 

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