“Most Horrible and Shocking Murders!” Exhibition Features True Crime Pamphlets

Heads are certain to turn and people stop in their tracks at the National Library of Medicine’s Most Horrible and Shocking Murders! exhibition of true crime murder pamphlets from the NLM archives.

Published between 1692 and 1881, the pamphlets depict the emerging field of forensic medicine and its role in solving crimes. Some describe cases in which doctors were either accused or were the victims of heinous crimes. Such “true crime” murder pamphlets go back to the mid-1400s and served the public’s appetite for information on shocking, depraved crimes. They were hawked on the streets, and in taverns, coffee houses and bookshops. Today, they are a rich source for historians and crime novelists, who mine them to study the history of medicine, class, gender, the law, the city, religion and other topics.

Curated by Michael Sappol, PhD, Most Horrible and Shocking Murders! is displayed in cases in the HMD Reading Room, first floor, National Library of Medicine, Building 38, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.