William Dugdale

From Spanking Art
Illustration for The Convent School (c. 1876).

William Dugdale (29 March 1800 – 11 November 1868) was a publisher, printer, and bookseller of politically subversive publications and pornographic literature (including flagellation novels) in England during the 19th century. By the 1850s he had become "the principal source of such publications in the country". Despite the numerous police raids on his shops and spending many years in prison he remained in the book trade for over forty years.


Illustration from The Romance of Chastisement.

William Dugdale was the first son born to Quaker John Dugdale, son of John and Jennet Dugdale (also Quakers), and Ann Platt, daughter of William and Elizabeth Platt.

At the age of 18 Dugdale moved to London where he was employed by William Benbow, a radical publisher of obscene books. Two years later he was implicated (though not prosecuted) in the Cato Street Conspiracy. In 1822 he started his own publishing and book-selling business, initially of a general nature but specializing over time in pornography. Henry Spencer Ashbee described him as "one of the most prolific publishers of filthy books". Although Dugdale published some original works many were translations done by James Campbell Reddie and reprints of previously published erotica. Eventually, William's two brothers, Thomas and John, as well as William's son, became booksellers and joined the family trade.

William was incarcerated numerous times on obscenity charges. He was one of the main targets of the Obscene Publications Act 1857, being one of the first people arrested under the act. His first known run-in with the law concerning the sale of an obscene book occurred in May of 1830. Subsequent arrests for publishing obscenity occurred in 1845, 1851 (2 years), 1861 (2 years), and 1868. The latter landed him 18 months in the Clerkenwell prison, where he died a few months after incarceration.

Flagellant publications[edit]

Dugdale published works of Victorian flagellant fiction such as:

See also[edit]


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