Curator’s Choice: A Moving Panorama of London Cries

A few weeks ago when reading The Easter Gift published by John Newbery, I ran across the term “shews in boxes.”  Context made it clear that they were nice toys that might be given as a reward to boys or girls for being on their best behavior.   My hunch was that the phrase was a synonym for “peep-shows.”   Certainly that’s the object referred to in Lydia Maria Child’s “The Magician’s Show Box” and Nathaniel’s “Fancy’s Show Box,” both of which were published in the early nineteenth century.  But during the eighteenth century, the term comprised another kind of novelty format–the moving panorama.

The Oxford English Dictionary records the earliest use of “show box” in a newsy letter of September 5, 1748 from Lady Henrietta Luxborough to her good friend William Shenstone the poet.  She wrote, “As to your thought about improving the Show-box, I do not despise it for believing you took it from the thing called London Cries, which children play with.”  Might she have had in mind a toy like the one shown below, where a long engraved strip is wound around rollers inside a box, so that the pictures could be made to scroll past the viewer?  This show box of London street criers been halted at the picture of an itinerant peep-show operator, with his equipment strapped on his back.


Cotsen 12683

These  toys were sold by James Kirk, an engraver who was one of the three sons of the medal and gem engraver John Kirk (1701-1761). Newspaper advertisements in the early 1750s indicate that pere Kirk, whose shop was located on the north side of St. Paul’s Church yard, went in with his son James, the proprietor of a toyshop a stone’s throw away, to sell sets of money weights.  James was an enterprising entrepreneur in his own right, issuing tokens with pictures of the shop’s interior one side to promote the premises, which boasted a grotto and waterworks to enhance the shopping experience.  Like many eighteenth-century booksellers, or engravers, Kirk stocked sundries like Woodcock’s sticking plaster, an early type of Bandaid; this elaborate engraved advertisement is pasted down on the rear wrapper of one of his pamphlets of London cries.


Cotsen 153707

Kirk does not seem to have produced many juveniles, but he had a strategy to keep them fresh over the years.  His London cries has quite a complicated history, which I was able to pull together from a passel of newspaper advertisements, the three Kirk London cries show boxes, and one Kirk pamphlet of London cries in the Cotsen collection.  What it all shows is that James Kirk liked to repackage the same content in three or more formats.

It  began in February 13, 1755 with an advertisement for four engraved prints, each with twelve different street criers redrawn from the celebrated prints of Marcellus Laroon.  The set of prints could be purchased for a shilling or in little three-penny pamphlets, each consisting of one sheet of  criers.  Below are the title page, the criers of green peas, writing ink and pens, and pins from one of the pamphlets in Cotsen.


Cotsen 153707


Cotsen 153707, leaf [2].


Cotsen 153707, leaf [10].


Cotsen 153707, leaf [11].

By February 7, 1756, Kirk was advertising the London cries in a new format: “made up in boxes, on Rollers. Very fit to amuse Children and help them forward their learning.”  Notice that he doesn’t call them show boxes or give a price.  In an advertisement the next week, a second show box repackaging a set of illustrated Aesop’s fables pamphlets was offered for sale at eight pence, which is not, relatively speaking, all that dear for what it was.

As detailed as the advertisements are, they don’t tell the whole story.  Examining individual copies reveals some variants the ads don’t mention. Two of Cotsen’s show boxes, 12683 and 30501, have the same sequence of street peddlers, but differ in  small details. The panoramas are printed on two paper stocks:  30501 is printed on faded blue paper, while 12683 is on the more usual ivory.  The illustrations in 12683 are hand-colored.  Booksellers and engravers normally advertise when a title is available in  plain and colored versions, so I wonder if 12683’s missing glass may have been removed at some point (and never replaced) so that  that the strip could be watercolored one image at a time without having to take it out of the box and off the rollers.  The watercolorist was almost certainly no professional.


The various pigs the man is selling are not alive, but made of pastry. Cotsen 12683.

I couldn’t find any newspaper advertisements for Cotsen’s third specimen of a Kirk cries moving panorama. It’s hard to tell if it originally had a title page, but there is no doubt that it was produced from another plate, because it is an alphabet illustrated with a completely different set of criers printed on bluish paper.  It’s not in original condition: clumsy repairs on the box cover up the original Dutch gilt paper and flimsy little handles have been substituted for the round knobs on the bottom.  An old manuscript with calculations has been cut up to reattach the left hand edge of the strip to the roller.


Moving panorama of an alphabet of London cries. Cotsen 425.

If only an antiquarian bookseller would quote Cotsen the fourth manifestation of Kirk’s London cries–the “pastime cards”  advertised March 26 1757 nicely colored for  5 shillings a deck, a good deal more than the show boxes…  I’ve not succeeded in finding any reproductions of cards in the cries set, but they would have looked something like the Aesop cards below.


Surely Kirk had to engrave new plates in order to insert the symbols differentiating the court and pips cards, but forty-eight of the fifty-two street criers could have been redrawn from the original set of cries plates.  If the alphabet moving panorama was published by 1757, then there was no need to drawn any new figures (see the addenda at the end for all the peddlers found in the Kirks in Cotsen).

It’s unlikely that James Kirk invented the miniature moving panorama, but the format has had a long life: Cotsen has almost two dozen later examples of this novelty format.  Kirk’s modest little animations of the “moving market” on the streets of London appeared decades before the advent of huge ones that were among the most popular public entertainments of  the  nineteenth century.

Who knows if the inventors of these more elaborate examples were inspired by toys like these?  There’s room for just two favorite examples from the 1800s.  Here’s S. and J. Fuller’s The Grimacer (ca. 1820?) The top strip  moves across the box vertically and the bottom strip horizontally, so that the heads and torsos of the figures can be amusingly mismatched.  You can see the rollers’ knobs on the bottom and the right hand side of the box.


Cotsen 811


Cotsen 811.

The second example shows the animals entering Noah’s ark, which the publisher Betts manufactured in a small and a large version (this is the large one).  The strip is contained in a wooden box attached to the underside of the panel and passes through slots on the left and right of the background on its upper side.  To advance the strip, someone must stand behind the entire apparatus and turn the concealed handles.


Addenda: The Peddlers Represented in the Kirk London Cries

The contents of three of the four plates can be reconstructed from the surviving examples.  To save space, only the product, not the cry has been transcribed.

Plate A (Cryes of London pamphlet: Cotsen 153707)

1. green peas, 2. white-heart onions 3. small coal 4. Seville oranges and lemons, 5. ballads, 6. cherries, 7. song birds, 8. eels, 9. ink and writing pens, 10. pins, 11. herrings, 12. almanacs

Plate B (Cryes of London pamphlet: Lilly Library, Indiana University at Bloomington)

1.Waltho Van Clutterbanck 2.potatoes 3.cotton laces 4. Past twelve o’clock 5. brooms 6. matches 7. sweetheart cakes 8. shrimps 9. bellows 10. periwinkles 11. crab 12.???

Plate C (Moving panorama: Cotsen 30501 and 12683)

1.Mutton or eel pie 2. hot gray peas 3. lines 4. raree show 5. gudgeons 6. long tail pig pastries 7. whiting 8. Holloway cheese cake 9. Scotch cloth 10. gingerbread 11. poor prisoner 12. mops

Peddlers in the alphabet moving panorama (Cotsen 425)

  1. AB walnuts 2. CD old clothes 3. EF Italian flowers 4. GH rabbits 5. IJ milk curds and whey 6. KL door mats 7. MN fresh salad 8. OP pickling cucumbers 9. QR Yorkshire lemon cakes 10. ST strawberries 11. UV kitchen stuff 12. YWZX [sic] chairs to mend

In preparing this post, I drew on Sheila O’Connell’s London 1753, British Map Engravers by Laurence Worms and Ashley Bayton-Williams, Karen Beall’s Kaufrufe und Strassenhandler, and Sean Shesgreen’s Images of the Outcast: The Urban Poor in the Cries of London.

An Olympic Tribute to Builders of Strong Bodies in the Stacks


Nadia Comaneci on the uneven parallel bars at Montreal.

Collecting illustrated books on sports has never been a priority at Cotsen, but the research collection contains a wealth of material about the history of physical culture since the late 18th century.  But I had no idea how many treasures there were until I started poking around for things to feature in this post, which describes a sample of books and prints from Europe and the Far East.  They reveal a great deal about what kinds of activities were considered beneficial for young people and why, expectations for boys versus those for girls, attitudes towards display of individual bodies and collective identity, and the different conventions for representing athletic prowess.

One discovery was Children Love Sports, which appeared in 1977 when China was emerging from the long shadow of the Cultural Revolution (thank you Minjie!). This picture book’s celebration of Chinese children unified by a love of sports perfectly reflects the Olympic ideal.  The collection has the original Chinese edition and the more finely produced English translation for overseas readers.  Its full-color illustrations show children of different Chinese ethnic minority groups participating in all kinds of sports–some mainstays of international athletic competition, such as running, high jump, and basketball, others closely associated with particular cultures, such as wrestling with Inner Mongolia or shooting on horseback with Tibet.  Children in their gorgeous traditional costumes mingle in the spirit of friendly competition, reflecting pride in a unified, diverse Chinese citizenry, while also reminding us of the Games’ opening spectacular.  Another remarkable thing about the book is that girls are portrayed prominently as active participants. In a foot and a horse race, a slender Kam (侗族) girl and a daring Kazakh girl rider have both sprinted ahead of boy competitors.


Upper left hand corner: Hu Zhenhua, Nursery Rhymes of Chinese Ethnic Sports. Illustrated by Liu Bingjiang. Beijing: Ren min ti yu chu ban she, 1977 (Cotsen 93620). The other five illustrations are from the English translation, Children Love Sports. Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1978 (Cotsen 71696).

Celebrating sports is hardly confined to the twentieth century.  The beautiful Japanese print from the  Meiji era below documents the introduction of all kinds of competitive games and group sports from the West.  In the late nineteenth century, lawn tennis, croquet, cricket, field athletics, football, and baseball, were all integrated into the Japanese school curriculum.  Notice that the boys are working out in a mixture of traditional Japanese and modern European garments.  The ones in the first two rows are using various sorts of equipment, while the ones in the back seem to be stretching  (with a few sprinting in the upper left-hand corner).


Kinitoshi Baiju, Gakko taiso undo no zu [Illustrated picture of school gymnastic exercises]. Illustrated by Kiyoshuke Yamamura. Tokyo: Tsutsumi Kinchibei, 1886 (cotsen 101304). This print consists of three panels, each 36 x 25 cm.

 J. C. F. Guts Muth laid out a system of purposeful physical activity n Gymnastic fuer die Jugend (1793) and it is widely credited as one of foundational works of modern European physical culture. (It was came to Cotsen with the en bloc purchase of Kurt Szfranski’s  remarkable children’s book collection in the late 1990s.)  Guts Muth, who was a teacher at the famous progressive school Christian Gotthilf Salzmann founded in Schneptenthal, is also considered to be one of the fathers of modern gymnastics, along with his fellow countryman Friedrich Ludwig Jahn.  Guts Muth categorized gymnastic exercises as either natural, or those designed to keep the body healthy and strong and the artificial, the non-utilitarian physical activities that evolved into modern artistic gymnastics.


J. C. H. Guts Muth, Gymnastic fuer die Jugend. Schnepfental: Buchhandlung der Erziehungsanstalt, 1793 (Cotsen 40334). The frontispiece designed by Lips, shows naked adherents of Hygeia, or Health, circling around her statue.

Within a decade A. Amar Durivier and L. F. Jauffret,  an author of highly innovative children’s books during the revolutionary period, brought out a free French translation of Guts Muth.


J. C. F. Guts Muth, La gymnastique de la jeunesse. Adapted by A. Amar Durivier et L. F. Jauffret. Paris: A. G. Debray, 1803 (Cotsen 703). The fully clothed French lads look frivolous compared to the serious, naked boys in the German original.

Three years before that, Joseph Johnson, the radical London publisher issued an English-language translation, which is is sometimes attributed to Wollstonecraft, who translated Salzmann’s Elements of Morality.  The Hygeia frontispiece has been replaced with a copy of folding plate that appears at the very end of the 1793 German edition.


J. C. F. Guts Muth. Gymnastics for Youth. London: J. Johnson, 1800 (Cotsen 291). On the title page, the work is incorrectly attributed Salzmann, the headmaster of the school where Guts Muth taught and the error still persists. This copy came from the collection of the great children’s book collector Edgar Oppenheimer.

While Johnson’s engraver (thought by some to be William Blake) copied Lips’ engravings faithfully, the same cannot be said of the French engraver. Overall the quality of his work is much more schematic.  In certain plates, he combined the subjects of two of Lips’ plates into one new composition, reducing the number of figures and making little attempt to retain all the fine details.


The plate facing p. 510 in the 1793 edition of Guts Muth (Cotsen 40334). Are the boys wearing some kind of padding in the seat of their pants to break any falls?


Plate II from the adaptation of Guts Muth by Amar Durivier and L. F. Jauffret (Cotsen 703).

I was delighted to find a copy of the 1804 improved third edition of Guts Muth in the collection.  At 20 cm. high, it is 3.5 centimeters taller than the first edition.  All the plates by Lips are gone and twelve plates in a radically different style by Guts Muth himself inserted.  Where Lips artfully arranged groups of boys into compositions of boys, Guts Muths drew schematic diagrams of individual boys practicing specific exercises.


Lips’ plate illustrating activities to improve balance facing p. 401 in the 1793 edition of Guts Muth (Cotsen 40334).


The author’s illustration of boys climbing ropes facing page 312. J. C. F. Guts Muth, Gymnastick fuer die Jugend. Zweyte vermerhte Ausgabe. Schnepfenthal: der Buchhandlung der Erziehungsanstalt, 1804 (Cotsen 33248).

A few plates do illustrate multiple activities, such as this one on pommel horse exercises.


Guts Muth’s illustration of moves on the pommel horse (with tail) facing page 229 in the 3rd edition of 1804 (Cotsen 33248).

As the century progressed, illustrators did not necessarily copy the master.   In the first plate below, complicated moves on the pommel horse are demonstrated by stick figures, while the second in the style of a slate drawing shows boys working on the bar and the rings.


Peter Parley’s Book of Gymnastics. London: Darton and Clark, ca. 1840 (Cotsen 83636). This work is dedicated to the boys of Great Britain “the future sinews of the state.”


Plate III by N. W. Taylor Root for School Amusements: or How to Make the School Interesting. New York: A. S. Barnes & Burr, 1860 (Cotsen 30641).

All this manly activity gives the impression that the early proponents of physical culture excluded girls from the pursuit of strong, healthy bodies, but this was not so!  But determining who was responsible for which manual addressing the needs of young ladies is a bibliographic puzzle, which someone else will have to solve.   From what I can tell, Phokion Friedrich Clias resided in England between 1822 and 1825 and through his inspired teaching established the Guts Muth system.  Both a Signor Voarino and Gustavus Hamilton, a self-styled “Professor of Gymnastics,” claimed to have  been employed by Clias, and in 1827 both of them published works on gymnastic exercise for ladies.  Voarino was accused of having lifted his material without significant alteration from Clias’ work on gymnastics for males.  The plates in the young ladies section of  Hamilton’s treatise look exactly like the ones in Calisthenie, ou Gymnastique des jeunes filles published 1828 in Paris, which may be a translation of a work by Clias originally written in German.   It’s enough to make your head spin, so now let’s see what these authors thought girls were capable of.

The frontispiece of Calisthenie ou Gymnastique des jeunes filles shows girls performing a popular activity that went by the name of flying or giant steps.  It was also recommended for boys and would have provided quite an upper body workout.  The second plate shows wand exercises, which if less strenuous that running around the pole, would have helped to keep shoulders flexible and limber.  The third plate shows a young lady taking a little hop to mount the horizontal bar.


“Pas volant ou l’enjambee du geants” from Calisthenie ou Gymnastique des jeunes filles. Paris: Audot, 1828 (Cotsen 33230).


Plate XXXVII from Gustavus Hamilton, The Elements of Gymnastics for Boys and of Calisthenics for Young Ladies. New edition. London: A. K. Newman and Co., 1839 (Cotsen 15347). The Science and Art Department of the Educational Library deaccessioned this copy at some point.


Plate XXXIX in Gustavus Hamilton’s The Elements of Gymnastics (Cotsen 15347).

What would those bold young ladies of the 1820s made of their counterparts today?  Would they have been embarrassed? Or amazed?


Simone Biles on the balance beam at the Rio Olympics.