The Elizabethan age was one of unbounded vitality and exuberance; nowhere is the color and action of life more vividly revealed than in the rogue books and cony-catching (confidence game) pamphlets of the sixteenth century. This book presents seven of the age's liveliest works: Walker's Manifest Detection of Dice Play; Awdeley's Fraternity of Vagabonds; Harman's Caveat for Common Cursitors Vulgarly Called Vagabonds; Greene's Notable Discovery of Cozenage and Black Book's Messenger; Dekker's Lantern and Candle-light; and Rid's Art of Juggling. From these pages spring the denizens of the Elizabethan underworld: cutpurses, hookers, palliards, jarkmen, doxies, counterfeit cranks, bawdy-baskets, walking morts, and priggers of prancers.
In his introduction, Arthur F. Kinney discusses the significance of these works as protonovels and their influence on such writers as Shakespeare. He also explores the social, political, and economic conditions of a time that spawned a community of renegades who conned their way to fame, fortune, and, occasionally, the rope at Tyburn.