The guillotine was a device used for carrying out executions by decapitation. It consists of a tall upright frame from which a heavy blade is suspended. This blade is raised with a rope and then allowed to drop, severing the victim's head from his or her body. The device is noted for long being the main method of execution in France and, more particularly, for its use during the French Revolution. The guillotine also "became a part of popular culture, celebrated as the people's avenger by supporters of the Revolution and vilified as the preeminent symbol of the Terror by opponents.
William Swinton Outlines of the Worlds History, Ancient Mediabal and Mondern, with special relation to the history of civilization and the progress of mankind (New York, NY: Ivison, Blakeman and Company, 1874)