News tabloid-style across 300 years

Although 'broadside' may be unfamiliar term to most people these days, for around 300 years it was the main printed source of news and entertainment for the man and woman in the street. Broadsides were cheaply produced single sheets that carried news, official notices, speeches and songs. Often pinned on the walls of buildings, they were designed to be read aloud to the general public, some of whom were illiterate. These early 'tabloids' fed the Scots' enduring appetite for the latest word (and ballad) about everything from murders to marvels, from scandals to superstitions, from proclamations to politics.

Detail from 'Birks of Aberfeldy' broadside
Detail from 'The Showman' broadside

In a new online feature, the National Library of Scotland has selected almost 1,800 broadsides from its collections and made them available to remote users for the first time.

The Word on the Street provides a commentary for each broadside, together with a digital image of the original sheet and a downloadable PDF fascimile, while general information pages feature some of the highlights to be found on the site. Within the coming weeks, work will be completed on the transcriptions, giving users a fully searchable transcription for every text.

Broadsides also feature in the Library's summer exhibition, READ ALL ABOUT IT!, opening on 5 June (see press release).

31 May 2004

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