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- noun Plural form of
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It was next resolved to try the "thumbkins" on him, and, indeed, Spence seems to have been one of the first regular prisoners to suffer this new Muscovy torture,  for the Act of Council authorising the use of "the new invention and engine called the thumbkins" was passed only a fortnight before; but the sanguine expectations of the Lords were not fulfilled in the present case, for though he sank under the agonising torment, he would not yield.
Chronicles of Strathearn John Hunter 1883
Peden assured his fellow-passengers that their fears were groundless, for, said he, neither thumbkins nor bodkins would hurt them.
Uneasiness was felt on board the ship, in consequence of a report being spread among the prisoners that thumbkins and other instruments of torture were to be used to them as implements of punishment.
When, in the language of those times, he was examined "before torture, in torture, between torture, and after torture" -- the torture of the rack and the thumbkins and the boot -- he added to his former testimony that the queen was a "Babylonish woman, a Potiphar, a Jezebel, a--"
The Council had naturally enough expected that the descent of these plaided barbarians would be the signal for a general insurrection, which would relieve them of their troubles as certainly and much more conveniently than Dalziel's dragoons and Perth's thumbkins.
Claverhouse Mowbray Morris 1879
The reports of the committee were varied by statements of atrocious cruelties committed on the prisoners, by their committal, whenever the prison-officers thought fit, to damp and loathsome dungeons full of filth, by heavy irons being forced on them, and even by the application of the thumbkins, and other such tortures as were applied in the previous century to the Covenanters.
He went above deck and said, Why are ye so discouraged; you need not fear, there will neither thumbkins nor bootkins come here; lift up your hearts, for the day of your redemption draweth near: If we were once at London, we will all be let at liberty,
-- At and after Bothwel, boots, thumbkins and cutting off of ears came in fashion.
When they were on ship-board in the road of Leith, there was a report that the enemies were to send down thumbkins to keep them in order; on which they were much discouraged.
Lords ordain that when any person shall by their order be put to the torture, the said boots and thumbkins be applied to them, as it shall be found fit and convenient. "
Hunted and Harried 1859