Duck Duck Book

20 – word on the street
06.26.2005, 12:01 am
Filed under: literature, websites

The word on the street : how ordinary Scots in bygone days found out what was happening.
National Library of Scotland, 2004.

A delightful web-based exhibition of broadsides, a sort of poster that was one of the major media for disseminating public information in European (and also American) cities during the 18th and early 19th centuries.  Technological advances made printing fairly inexpensive by the early 1700s, literacy was on the rise, and because people like to know what’s going on, broadsides became a popular method for getting your word out.  In general, 18th century broadsides are are pretty low-brow, since they were supposed to be read by regular people who might see them on the street.  Many are satirical, and some offer some pretty pissed-off political and social commentary.  International politics, public morals, the goings-on of people in power, lurid murders, and great tragedies such as shipwrecks are examples of the subjects broadside publishers covered.

The Word on the Street has brief sections on the history of broadsides, on their illustration and distribution, and an index and search tool that allows you to browse by title and subject, and to search for words or by date.  The site also includes a nice bibliography of both paper and web-based resources on broadsides, both in Scotland and generally.

You may remember that I reviewed a book on this subject in booklist number 13.  Those of you who are fascinated by this subject might like to examine it too.


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