Monday, February 22, 2016

London Cries

The title of this article refers not to the collective populace of the City of London weeping, but rather to the title of a most interesting book in the Glessners’ library.  The term “cries” is a reference to the short lyrical calls of street merchants hawking their products and services.  Vendors would create unique melodic phrases so as to be easily identified.  As was the case with folk songs, these charming cries were widely collected and incorporated into larger musical works, or simply documented to preserve them from oblivion.

As noted in a review of the book, published in December 1883:
There is a considerable literature of "street cries," going back to the seventeenth century. Into this Mr. Tuer has made diligent inquiry, and has now given the results to the public in this handsome volume. Not a little information about the social and economic side of history may be picked out from these quaint records of the city life of the past. Our ancestors were accustomed to have their streets made much more musical with these announcements than are the streets of the present. Some things are still sold in this way, though the chief commerce is of a kind that has sprung up in this generation, the sale of penny and halfpenny newspapers. But the cries have, for the most part, been silenced; in the main thoroughfares they have ceased entirely, and in the back streets they are less frequent, The disappearance of some of these articles of sale speaks of an improvement; for one of the cries was a cry of scurvy- grass, for instance, which was still prized at the end of the last century, and another was of "New-Diver water," which it is not now necessary to buy in the street.”


London Cries: with Six Charming Children, & c. was published by Abraham Field and Andrew White Tuer in 1883 under their imprint, the Leadenhall Press, with Tuer authoring the text.  Tuer was born on Christmas Day in 1838 in Sunderland, England and was orphaned at an early age.  Entering the wholesale stationery business, he formed a partnership in 1862 with Field, an established producer of ledgers.  They developed a popular vegetable-based paste trademarked as “Stickphast,” and introduced the “Author’s Paper Pad,” generally acknowledged as the first writing block with detachable sheets.

Tuer was deeply interested in the printing industry and in 1872 began publishing a quarterly publication entitled the “Paper & Printing Trades Journal.”  In 1877, he served on the committee of the Caxton Celebration, which commemorated the 400th anniversary of the introduction of printing in England.

In 1879, the Leadenhall Press (so named for the address of the firm at 50 Leadenhall Street) published its first book entitled Luxurious Bathing, “a treatise on the joys of hygiene” with text by Tuer and etchings by Sutton Sharpe.  Tuer became a major collector of engravings and etchings, and in 1881 published his two-volume Bartolozzi and his Works.

The Leadenhall Press went on to issue more than 450 publications by many of the leading authors and illustrators of the times.  Tuer was known as a leader in his field, producing books which were considered far ahead of their time in terms of design and printing.  A good example was his collection of printers’ jokes entitled Quads within Quads, described as “a book and a box, or rather two books and a box, and yet after all not a box at all, but a book and only one book.”  That rather confusing description describing a “midget folio” housed within a block of extra pages at the back of the “enlarged edition.”

Tuer’s other interests included London history and early children’s books.  The Dictionary of National Biography referred to him as an “omnivorous collector” whose home at Notting Hill was filled with “books, engravings, clocks, china, silver and bric-a-brac of the most varied description.”  He died on February 24, 1900.


The Glessners’ copy of the book was one of 250 “large paper signed proofs” produced for which Field & Tuer charged two guineas, a considerable sum in 1883.  The volume is bound in polished deep burgundy leather and cloth with a gilt embossed spine and elegant marbleized end papers.  An interesting feature of the book is that it is printed on the rectos (right-hand pages) only “for the convenience of those who may wish to transfer some of the smaller illustrations to scrap books.”  

Tuer signed the title page, adding that it was “Proof No. 117.”  The volume contains twelve engraved plates (six subjects, each printed in both sanguine (blood red) and bistre (dark brown)) with tissue guards, as well as fifteen hand-colored illustrations.  The book contains only 48 pages, but due to the heavy quality of the paper, the text block is well over one-half inch in thickness.

As noted at the beginning of the text, “It can be taken for granted that most persons who may buy a copy of this book will do so chiefly for the sake of the plates, which, after framing, they will proceed to add to their of course already tastefully decorated walls.”  If the Glessners did originally by the book with that intention, it is interesting to note that the book is fully intact; no plates were removed.

The text then proceeds to give a detailed history of the London cries, noting that they were first mentioned in a ballad dating to the mid-fifteenth century.  The last three pages of the book give a detailed history of the illustrations which are reproduced, and form the true heart of the book. 

The principal illustrations, the “Six Charming Children,” are reproduced in both red and brown as noted above and were first published in 1812 by S. and J. Fuller, Printsellers, at the Temple of Fancy, Rathbone Place.  The six plates are entitled:
Fresh Strawberries!
All a Blowin’!
Chairs to Mend!
Fine Rabbits!
Potatoes, Full Weight!
Milk ‘O!
The original engraver of these plates is unknown, but Tuer noted that it was the Prince Consort who reintroduced them to the “art-loving public” and that “an original set will now readily bring ten or twelve guineas at Christie’s or Sotheby’s.”

Ten illustrations by Thomas Rowlandson are copied in facsimile, including the original coloring, taken from a set of 54 published in 1820 entitled Characteristic Sketches of the Lower Orders.  

Two illustrations were reproduced from Plates Representing the Itinerant Traders of London in their ordinary Costume printed in 1805.

A series of four oval cuts are facsimiled from a small book entitled The Moving Market; or, Cries of London, for the amusement of good children published in 1815 by J. Lumsden and Son, of Glasgow. 

Three new illustrations were produced by Joseph Crawhall of Newcastle-on-Tyne who achieved widespread fame for his woodcuts using “his cutting tools direct on the wood without any copy.”  

The volume, luxuriously produced, is a fascinating record of the long-lost cries of the street merchants, which were already largely gone by the time of its publication.  Combined with the exquisitely reproduced illustrations, it no doubt gave the Glessners hours of pleasure as they sat in their library carefully examining each page. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...