“Guy Fawkes or the Gunpowder Treason” is the November Book of the Month


Guy Fawkes : or, The gunpowder treason by William Harrison Ainsworth. London : G. Routledge and sons, limited, [18–?].

Call number:  PR4002 .A1 1876 v.6 Rare Book Collection.

This book is housed in the Special Collections department of the Binghamton University Libraries, and available to be viewed by all.  The department is open to the public,   Monday – Friday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, and by appointment.


It’s Guy Fawkes Day–here’s his signature before and after he was tortured  by Adam Taylor the Business Insider

On this day, the UK celebrates the foiling of a plot to kill King James I in 1605 by lighting fireworks and, in a morbid twist, burning an effigy of poor Guy.

It’s easy to forget that this celebration has grim roots. Guy Fawkes was part of a Catholic plot to kill a Protestant king and his English lords.

The plot failed, which was particularly unfortunate for Fawkes. He was the one guy in the plot unlucky enough to be discovered late on November 4 with dozens of barrels of gunpowder hidden under where the king would sit the next day. The discovery came after a tip-off to a Catholic politician led to an inspection of the cellars under parliament.

Fawkes was swiftly taken into custody at the Tower of London and interrogated until he eventually gave up his coconspirators.

While we’ll never know precisely what happened to Fawkes during that period, it seems pretty likely it was bad. There is speculation that Fawkes was tortured using a rack during his stay in the Tower of London.

For a visual on the effects of torture, look at the document below. You can see Fawkes’ signature, before the interrogation (he signs as Guido Fawkes, a name he had taken on later in life):

Guido Fawkes signature

(National Archives)

Now contrast that with his signature on a later confession, made after eight days of interrogation. As you can see, Fawkes’ signature is a barely legible scrawl:


Guido Fawkes signature

(National Archives)

“His signature on his confession was that of a shattered and broken man, the ill-formed letters telling the story of a someone who was barely able to hold a quill,” the BBC writes.

Even once the torture was over, Fawkes still had to meet a grisly end.

After his confession, he was to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. However, Fawkes leapt from the gallows before he could be hanged. The fall broke his neck and, according to the BBC, saved him from being disemboweled while still alive.

His remains were cut up and sent to the four corners of the kingdom as a warning to future plotters.