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Knot what it should be!
on 26 February 2011
I may be cheating but I have just looked at the cover of this book and thought - NO. I do not trust this book. Hopefully, the author has no contol over the illustrations on the front, but I have been doing some original research on Tyburn recently and I do not approve of this cover. OK. The lower illustration - Hogarth's "Idle Apprentice going to be Hanged" (or some such title) IS appropriate but the gallows on the upper half of the cover is PLAIN WRONG. Vexingly, I know of several other illustrations, all well out of copyright, which would have been far more accurate.
The Tyburn Gallows (in its classic manifestation pre 1759) was a TRIANGULAR structure. Among its cant nicknames was "The Three-Legged Horse", the "Triple Tree". This illustration shows a straight bar! This is only appropriate to the temporary removable gallows at Tyburn after 1760 and before about 1783. It is not the Classic, Iconic image of Tyburn Tree.
Secondly, there are two nooses hanging from this bar. To begin with they have the wrong kind of knot. The classic Tyburn halter had a plain slip knot. This heavy knot (designed to give the neck a massive disabling if not lethal blow) was a much later (19th Century ?) invention. But most of all, nooses were never dangling from the Triple Tree before a Hanging Match (as it was called.) The ciminals hanged at Tyburn travelled to the gallows in open carts already wearing their nooses ("halters") roung their necks and with the slack coiled round their waists. They had been "prepared" in Newgate Prison either in the Stone Hall (pre 1727) or in the Press Yard Room (after 1728) by the aptly named Yeoman of the Halter. Additionally, their hands were tied in front of them so that they could still say their prayers before they died - an important concession. This meant that when the condemned arrived at Tyburn, the hangman did not have to struggle to put the condemned's head into the noose, it was already in place. All the hangman had to do was uncoil the rope and throw it up to a colleague who was sitting on the cross beam overhead who then tied it securely. Then (at an appropriate moment) the cart was driven away, and the condemned were left dangling.
I agree you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, BUT in what is hopefully a serious history, it is the duty of the publishers not to provide misleading images.
If a new addition comes out with an accuate cover, I might just buy it!