Thumbscrew, steel, probably French, 1601-1850
Thumbscrews were torture instruments. They made prisoners reveal information or ‘confess’ to crimes. The thumb was placed between the screw and the metal plate at the bottom. The screw was then tightened. The thumb could be reduced to a bloody pulp if enough pressure was applied. Prisoners were also hoisted up by their thumbs. The prisoner was often subjected to the thumbscrews before even more painful forms of torture were used. These included the rack, where limbs were stretched and broken.