The Detective

Sp Coll Bh11-y.12 : Title Page, May 1885



I recently discovered a curious bound volume of a short-lived 19th Century journal in the Wylie Collection. Beginning in April, 1885, The Detective, Or Criminal and Historical Gazette, provided weekly representations of crime and police in Glasgow and criminal trials in the UK and abroad.

Sp Coll Bh11-y.12 : Title Page, April 1885

Some of the more sensational cases the journal covered under the “Remarkable Trials” section were the 1885 trial of Dr. Edward Pritchard, the last person to be publicly executed in Glasgow, for the poisoning of his wife and mother-in-law; and the notorious case of the Sandyford murders in 1862. These cases are serialised over several issues of the journal.

The historical crimes section covered such cases as Burke and Hare.

Also included in the journal are stories of fiction (detective and otherwise) and regular features such as reviews of new theatrical productions and a legal advice column for readers. These are side-by-side with book reviews, puzzles, poems and gossipy anecdotes on any number of subjects.

Sp Coll Bh11-y.12 , Title page, July 1885

One of the regular contributors known only as “The Tramp” provides scandalous undercover stories of life in Glasgow & surrounding areas during the mid-1880s such as “Queen’s Park: Is it a Nursery of Vice on Sunday Evenings?”; “Fast Life at Rothesay: Or, the Sodom of Buteshire”; and “A Night Among Glasgow Thieves”.

Sp Coll Bh11-y.12, Pocket-Picking in the Trongate, June 1885



The Detective cost one penny for 16 action-packed pages!

On 17th September 1885, the journal changed its name to The Thistle or The Detective  The reason for the name change was explained on the front page as this:  “Many thousands of readers have advised us to change its title, their argument being that it was so ambiguous that it did not fairly represent the objects of the Journal, or correctly set forth its programme”. Given the odd mix of stories and articles, this was quite true. After the first issue of The Thistle, the Detective name was dropped altogether and the main emphasis of the original publication as “a journal for the exposure and suppression of crime” was lost.

Sp Coll Bh11-y.12, Title page of first issue under The Thistle name, September 17th, 1885.


The newly branded Thistle was designed to be a more household style of journal and contained none of the excitement or sensational aspects of its predecessor which may explain its short lifespan. The final issue was published on 5th November 1885.


Bh11-y.12: detail of title page, August 20th 1885








Categories: Archives and Special Collections

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1 reply

  1. This article disappoints me because it leaves open questions that any interested reader might ask:
    1. Who was responsible for it (publisher and editor) and why did it close?
    2. Where does it stand in relation to other, similar, ventures (and was it spawned in response to the Sherlock Holmes stories in ‘The Strand’).

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