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Prisoners being photographed for "the Rogues' Gallery"
Published in "Police!" by Charles Tempest Clarkson and J. Hall Richardson (London: Field and Tuer, The Leadenhall Press, New York: Scribner and Welford, 1889), , p.359.
Somewhere at the top of the Home Office, in long dark and dusty corridors, there are kept the habitual criminals' registers; but they are seldom visited by the police, who find the information they desire readier to hand in the less voluminous records of the Convict Office. These records are contained in albums, and they comprise a collection of upwards of 38,000 photographs of criminals, taken at the time of their discharge. They date back to 1862, some eighteen years earlier than the formation of the department, but it is only since then that they have been so accessible. Each album, properly classified, contains 6,000, and, for the purposes of speedy reference, duplicates are pasted in smaller volumes of 500 portraits each, and these give also the written particulars of each case, and the bodily peculiarities and " marks" as ascertained by the processes already described. Photographs are printed for circulation amongst all police forces of the United Kingdom.
A student of character may direct profitable study to the photographs. They represent the criminals in their ordinary dress, with the face in half profile, so that the shape of the nose may appear. The police also pay particular attention to the person's hands, as betraying character and individuality. Consequently, the convicts are required to hold their hands up, and it is amusing to observe how, in some cases, men have been at the pains to disregard this injunction by hiding as much of their fists as possible in their cuffs, or by other expedients. Generally this is done to conceal a malformation, or the fact that a finger is missing.
Before the days of instantaneous photography it was frequently difficult to obtain a good likeness, for the unwilling criminal would, at the critical moment, violently distort his features in the hope of defying future recognition. He would, occasionally, struggle fiercely with his gaolers, who, by the exercise of sheer muscular strength, would overpower him. The Rogues' Gallery, which provides us with our illustration, is a terror to the evil doer. At Scotland Yard, the collection of photographs is becoming so large that perhaps the French plan of classifying the heads into types will have to be adopted, for the purpose of facilitating ready reference.
One may often see detectives poring over the "black books " with a view to the identification of suspected persons, or re-convicted criminals. A person twice convicted of crime is liable to be placed under supervision for seven years, in addition to his sentence.
[A high quality scan of this book plate is requested.]