First Printing of the Act that Introduced Anatomization [Great Britain]. [Murder Act of 1751]. An Act for Better Preventing the Horrid Crime of Murder [Drop-Head Title]. At head: Anno Vicesimo Quinto Georgii II. Regis. London: Printed by Thomas Baskett and by the Assigns of Robert Baskett, 1752. [ii], 739-742 pp. Folio (12-1/2" x 7-3/4"). Stab-stitched pamphlet, disbound and recently stapled. Light toning, slight adhesive residue to top-edge of final page not affecting text. $450. * The first printing of the Murder Act of 1751, which mandated anatomization or hanging in chains for the bodies of executed murderers. Though post-execution dissection had a long history as an ad-hoc practice, the Murder Act was the first to formalize the practice and ushered in a new wave of anatomizations. Between 1752 and the Act's repeal in 1832, approximately 1,000 convicted murderers were hanged and anatomized. The practice of anatomization functioned both as a deterrent to future criminals, as the title of the Act makes clear, and as a way to meet the growing need of medical institutions like the recently-incorporated Company of Surgeons for corpses to study. The Murder Act gave the Company of Surgeons full regulatory power over anatomizations in London and Middlesex, codifying the role of medical professionals in the justice system. Acts such as these were compiled over the course of a session and bound afterwards. They were issued with general title pages, which were often discarded; the title page is present in the issue offered here. Ward, A Global History of Execution and the Criminal Corpse 9-14. English Short-Title Catalogue N52610.
Book number 73695