In Chapter VIII, The Slang of Criminals, (because German slang would be meaningless to a London Investigating officer) the translator lists homegrown books including Rookwood , Jack Sheppard and James Greenwood’s Seven Curses of London. Ainsworth himself said his flash words came from the Memoirs of James Hardy Vaux -- a returned transport.
There are sections on the wandering tribes (Gypsies), superstitions of criminals, poisoning, theft, treating wounds, arson, fraud, serious accidents and boiler explosions. Included are instructions on ciphers, pickpockets, cleaning up the sights of murders, an almost how-to manual on house-breaking and pickpocketing with illustrations. Many subjects have not been fully entered into because it may “perhaps prove profitable to the criminal classes and harmful to the public.” Enough illustrated instruction is included to make that a valid concern.
The book is filled with hundreds of interesting anecdotes. “-- a rough (who had already undergone 18 year's hard labour for murder) had relieved himself near the body of his victim at the scene of the crime. This latter circumstance it may be said in passing, served, in a roundabout way it is true, to discover the criminal; the doctor of the district noted that the excrement must have belonged to a man of herculean build; and in fact the murderer was the most robust man the author has ever seen.” He also says that in North Germany murderers believe they will never be discovered if they leave excrement at the scene of the crime. “It is therefore often found carefully covered up with a cloth or a hat in order that it may retain its heat the longer and so put off the discovery of the crime.”
Some index entries show the wide range of knowledge in this fascinating book. The use of toes in crime; thimble rigging, Gypsies as spies, tattooing on a corpse, blood on plants, murder prayer and masses, cigarette papers used in forgery, insane persons as witnesses, Gipsy child stealing, and blood in superstition. Included are sections on hobo and gipsy signs, drawing of maps for officers, and packing of murder weapons for evidence. Six different copies of the book are available as an e-book, or can be read online at Open Library HERE.
Top images from “Heroes of the Police” by W. Binnie, from The Royal Magazine Vol. 1 Nov 1898 to April 1899.