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The series of books, which were eventually destined to form an unparalleled library of criminal trials actually began as a hobby for Mr. Harry Hodge, a court reporter of the law publishers firm of William Hodge & Company of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Many publishers, before and since, have attempted to emulate the standards and achievements of William Hodge & Company, but without such comparable success.

To quote William Hodge & Co., "A Notable British Trial is neither a 'camouflaged thriller' nor a legal text-book. The book's value to the lawyer, historian, and medical man is beyond dispute, and sensation and human interest certainly abound, but its greatest attribute lies undoubtedly in its interest for the ordinary member of the community, that wide range of society commonly called the General Public.

James Hodge once recalled, "My father thought that the public got little chance of knowing what actually went on in the Courts, and thus the idea of publishing trials germinated; my grandfather, who founded the family firm of publishers of Scot's Law in 1874, and who like my father was a shorthand writer in his day, thought little of the idea, but he was in Glasgow, and the scheme went ahead.[i]

Notable Scottish Trials


The first two volumes to appear, in the now familiar format, were 'The Trial of Madeleine Smith' and 'The Trial of the Glasgow Bank Directors' which were published in 1905 and 1906 priced at 5/- (25p). The books established a form of presentation that was to remain largely unchanged until the last volume, 'The Trial of August Sangret' appeared as the 83rd and final trial in 1959. [A revised edition of an earlier volume, 'The Trial of Roger Casement' was issued in 1960]. The complete series encompassed historical and criminal trials between 1586 and 1953 (Mary Queen of Scots to Christopher Craig and Derek Bentley).

Notable English and British Trials


By 1911 a further nine 'Notable Scottish Trials' had been published and thoughts turned to expanding the range with 'Notable English Trials'. Between 1911 and 1920 a total of thirteen additional volumes, in the now familiar red cloth and gilt bindings, were published. Finally, from 1921 onwards, the series was unified into the 'Notable British Trials Series', and remained thus until its final demise.

From the time of the 'Notable English Trials Series', copies appeared around the world as 'Commonwealth Editions'. These were published, normally in blue cloth with gilt titles and decoration, with the imprint of Sweet & Maxwell, Butterworths of The Canadian Lawbook Company. It should be noted that the contents of these volumes are made up of original printed gatherings supplied by William Hodge & Company and are identical to the Scottish/English editions.

Notable Editors


During the course of publishing the series Hodge managed to attract some of the finest crime and criminology writers of the day to present the various trials. Friniwyd Tennyson Jesse prepared her first volume, a revised edition of 'The Trial of Madeleine Smith' in 1927 and completed her task six trials and thirty years later with 'The Trials of Timothy John Evans and Reginald Halliday Christie' in 1957. Amongst these is a masterpiece of intellect and emotion in her introductory essay in 'The Trial of Rattenbury and Stoner'.

Perhaps the finest editor was William Roughead, who began his work with 'The Trial of Dr. Pritchard' and the 'The Trial of Deacon Brodie' in 1906 and went on to complete a further eight volumes culminating with 'The Trial of John Watson Laurie (The Arran Murder)' in 1932. In the words of the eminent criminologist Richard Whittington-Egan [ii],

"If you have never heard of him, never read him, I envy You. There is a great treat in store for you."

Other choice Roughead volumes include 'The Trial of John Donald Merrett', 'The Trial of Mary Blandy' and 'The Trial of Burke and Hare', the latter appearing firstly in the only Limited Edition volume ever published.



The 'Tribulations' in the title of this essay refers to the task of collecting together in excess of eighty volumes that have never been all available to purchase at any single time during their 54-year history.

Writer Jonathan Goodman is quoted,[iii]

"My own experience in collecting a complete set is that I found the greatest difficulty in tracing copies of the three titles that appeared only as 'Notable Scottish Trials', 'The Douglas Cause', 'The Trial of the City of Glasgow Bank Directors' and 'The Trial of Captain Porteous'.

Our own experience in thiry years as specialist booksellers is that 'The Douglas Cause', and the Limited Edition 'The Trial of Burke and Hare' are by far the scarcest. Other volumes which are much in demand by 'non-series' collectors include 'The Trial of Evans and Christie' and 'The Trial of Craig and Bentley'.

Another rarity, which supplements any collection, is the 48pp booklet 'Notable British Trials and War Crimes Trials'. This is an illustrated catalogue of the complete series detailing volumes both in and out of print at the time of its publication in 1954. Interestingly, it lists the 'The Trial of Evans and Christie' as 'In Preparation' but as two separate volumes and not the single volume that finally appeared. Also, 'The Trial of the Merrifields' edited by K.B. Edwards, was likewise listed but this was destined never to be published.

Variations on a Theme


Whilst eighty-three trials were actually published it is worth looking out for a few variations that occur. Three editions of 'Burke and Hare' exist - 1st Edition 1921, Limited Edition 1921 (see above) and a 3rd Edition in 1948 that copied the earlier Limited Edition. 'The Trial of Roger Casement' appeared in 1917 as a Notable English Trial edited by George H. Knott. A 2nd Edition with revisions by W.Teignmouth Shore replaced this in 1927. Finally a completely revised edition by H. Montgomery Hyde was published in 1960. George H. Knott's edition of 'The Trial of William Palmer' was revised and added to by Eric R. Watson and published in 1923, [another example of a Notable English Trial being revised when published as a Notable British Trial. Finally, we come full circle, the very first volume, 'The Trial of Madeleine Smith' by A. Duncan Smith was re-presented by F. Tennyson Jesse in 1927 and 1952 with a completely new introductory essay.

Even in the days of the internet it is still quite a challenge to amass a complete collection in very good condition, especially in dust-jackets. However, I am sure those who have done so are left with few regrets and a great deal of satisfaction.

Clifford Elmer - With much appreciation to Richard Whittington-Egan and the late Jonathan Goodman, two criminologists and crime writers who have done so much to encourage recognition of the 'Trials Series' and, not least, for their bringing to the attention of general readers the skills of William Roughead and F. Tennyson Jesse.



[i] See; Medicine, Science, and the Law, The Official Journal of the British Academy of Forensic Sciences, Vol. 13, No:1, January 1973.

[ii] See: 'William Roughead's Chronicles of Murder' by Richard Whittington-Egan, published by Lochar Publishing, Moffat, Scotland 1991.

[iii] See: [i] above.



The Annesley Case
Trial of Eugene Aram
Trial of H.R.Armstrong
The Baccarat Case
Trial of Peter Barnes & Others
Trial of Adelaide Bartlett
Trial of Adolph Beck
Trial of Mary Blandy
The Bloody Assizes
Trial of the Bounty Mutineers
Trial of Deacon Brodie
Trial of Browne & Kennedy
Trial of Burke & Hare
Trial of Bywaters & Thompson
Trial of James Camb
Trial of Patrick Carraher
Trial of Sir Roger Casement
Trial of Eugene Marie Chantrelle
Trial of George Chapman
Trial of King Charles I
Trial of Craig & Bentley
Trial of Thomas Neill Cream
Trial of H.H.Crippen
Trial of J.A.Dickman
Trial of Jeanne Donald
Trial of S.Herbert Dougal
The Douglas Cause
Trial of Evans & Christie
Trial of Henry Fauntleroy
Trial of Guy Fawkes
Trial of Field & Gray
Trial of Sidney Fox
Trial of William Gardiner
Trial of the Glasgow Bank Directors
Trial of Harold Greenwood
Trial of Peter Griffiths
Trial of J.G.Haigh
Trial of Neville Heath
Trial of William Joyce
Trial of Captain Kidd
Trial of the Duchess of Kingston
Trial of Benjamin Knowles
Trial of Ley & Smith
Trial of Dr. Lamson
Trial of J.W.Laurie
Trial of Lord Lovat
Trial of Mrs. McLachlan
Trial of Mary Queen of Scots
Trial of Mrs. Maybrick
Trial of John Donald Merrett
Trial of A.J.Monson
Trial of Steinie Morrison
Trial of Franz Muller
Trial of Katherine Nairn
Trials of Frederick Nodder
Trial of William Palmer
Trial of Charles Peace
Trial of Captain Porteous
Trioal of Dr. Pritchard
Trial of Rattenbury & Stoner
Trial of Alfred Arthur Rouse
The Royal Mail Case
Trial of J.Blomfield Rush
Trial of Dr. Buck Ruxton
Trial of August Sangret
Trial of the Seddons
Trial of Jack Sheppard
Trial of Oscar Slater
Trial of Dr. Smethurst
Trial of George Joseph Smith
Trial of Madeleine Smith
Trial of the Stauntons
Trial of James Stewart
Trial of J.T.Straffen
Trial of Abraham Thornton
Trial of Thurtell & Hunt
Trial of Ronald True
Trial of Jean Pierre Vacquier
Trial of the 'Veronica' Mutineers
Trial of the Wainwrights
Trial of Kate Webster
Trials of Oscar Wilde
Trial of Robert Wood


The Belsen Trial
The 'Double Tenth' Trial
The Dulug Luft Trial
The von Falkenhorst Trial
The Gozawa Trial
The Hadamar Trial
The Natzweiler Trial
The 'Peleus' Trial
The Velpke Trial

Check out our store listings of volumes in the Notable Trials Series. We always aim to offer a comprehensive stock, with particular emphasis on offering volumes in excellent collectable condition.

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