By statute 5 Eliz. C.14 forge or make, or knowingly to publish or give in evidence, any forged deed, court roll, or will, with intent to affect the right of real property, either freehold or copyhold, is punished by a forfeiture to the party grieved of double costs and damages; by standing in the pillory, and having both his ears cut off, and his nostrils slit, and seared; by forfeiture to the crown of the profits of his lands, and by perpetual imprisonment. For any forgery relating to a term of years, or annuity, bond, obligation, acquittance, release, or discharge of any debt or demand of any personal chattels, the same forfeiture is given to the party grieved; and on the offender is inflicted the pillory, loss of one of his ears, and half a year’s imprisonment: the second offense in both cases being felony without benefit of clergy. – Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book 4, Chapter 17, Of Offenses Against Private Property
Of course, for the rare theft above the value of twelvepence, the miscreant would be hanged, and there were no second offenses. For that reason the thieves of old, as still they do today, generally kept a low profile. It was understood that their clerical enablers, who generally made public appearance, were generally inveigled at some length and sometimes not fully cognizant of their key roles in the charade, so they were not necessarily hanged with the thief. It was however considered prudent to mark them for easy identification in future, and forfeiture of gain was of naturally required. My, how times have changed. There were no wolves of Wall Street, and it was a peaceable kingdom. Let him with ears, hear!