In the early years of the nineteenth-century, John Thomas Smith was the Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum as well as a professional illustrator. He lived on Chandos Street near Covent Garden, a rather seedy part of London, where he liked to sketch portraits of his neighbors.
Smith’s 1833 obituary printed in The Gentleman’s Magazine noted “Mr. Smith had much pleasure in tracing out and examining the peculiar manners and costumes of the inhabitants and visitors of this district of the metropolis. The procuring of information from various sources occupied many years of his life; and he meditated the publication of this interesting mass in two volumes, which we regret he never completed… but in 1817 he published a work on which he had been some time employed, entitled Vagabondiana”. For more information, read Smith’s autobiography: A Book for a Rainy Day (London: Richard Bentley, 1845). Firestone Library (F) 1459.863.1845