“The Beginning, Progress and End of Man:” Rare Harlequinades of Emblems Acquired

The title page of the J. Deacon edition, a recent purchase by Cotsen, is printed parallel to the folds of the harlequinade. Adam is wearing a fig leaf. (Cotsen unprocessed)

Among the earliest moveable books are harlequinades, whose illustrations metamorphose when the flaps at the upper and lower edges are opened up and down.  The most familiar examples illustrated key scenes in popular pantomimes staged in the late 1760s and early 1770s and a list of these “turn-ups” appeared in the 1775 catalogue issued by print seller Bennett and Sayers, where they were described as “moral and instructive Emblems for the Entertainment of Children” rather than promoting them as the novelties they were.

Calling them “emblems” might have been a tactic to reassure prospective customers that turn-ups  extracted morals from plays regarded as less than improving. This language may also alludes to their sober ancestor that had no connection with the stage, The Beginning, Progress and End of Man, a small illustrated collection of  emblems or “speaking pictures” from the 1650s.  The license of May 30 1650 called it  “a small tract of several foulded pictures…in verse.” Probably written to fit the panels and flaps, neither the illustrations or verse was polished enough to get the attention of print curators or literary critics.  Nevertheless, it has  survived (see below), while the Sayers edition,  “Adam and Eve,” the title presumably taken from the first panel’s subject has not.

Cotsen has acquired another early edition of The Beginning, Progress and End of Man at the  Justin G. Schiller Ltd. Sale at Heritage Book Auctions in Dallas, Texas  December 16 2020.   It is the stated third edition of the text in five panels and the only one with contemporary hand-coloring.   The five  metamorphosing subjects are Adam (to Eve, to mermaid), Abel (to Abel, to Cain killing Abel), the lion (to griffin, to eagle and child) the youth (to heart, to money bags), and man (skeleton).  The block of the rampant lion faces right and has the face of a man that could be Charles I..  Below  is the back of sheet with all the flaps open, followed by a shot of the other side with center five images visible.Dating the Cotsen copy more precisely than between 1671 and 1704 is not possible, given the available information about the publisher.  Two J. Deacons traded from the Angel in Gilt spur street.  The publisher could be either  Jonah Deacon, a broadside ballad monger, who teamed up with P. Brooksby,  J. Blare, and and J. Back to undercut the five Ballad Partners, or John Deacon who also dealt in cheap print from the Angel as well as the “Rainbow, Holborn, a little above St. Andrews Church.”  For now not possible to assign priority to this or the J. Deacon edition at the Bodleian Library

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The Beginning, Progress and End of Man has only begun to attract attention within the last fifteen years.  Malcolm Jones reproduced the British Library’s 1650 edition with flaps closed and a transcription of the text in The Print in Early Modern England: An Historical Oversight (2010) as an early example of “lift-the-flap” pictures.  He correctly connected it to the better known genre of anatomical sheets, but passed over its ties with emblem literature for children.  It seems to have been unknown to the authors of  classic studies on  17th-century English children’s books like William Sloane’s 1955 bibliography, Warren W. Wooden’s Children’s Literature of the English Renaissance (1986), and  C. John Sommerville’s The Discovery of Childhood in Puritan England (1992).

Jacqueline Reid-Walsh’s articles and monograph Interactive Books: Playful Media Before Pop-ups (2018) on the long history of genres like the harlequinade which are hybrids of books, toys, and games, has put Beginning, Progress, and End of Man on the map. The union catalogue on her website Learning as Play: An Animated, Interactive Archive of 17th– to 19th-Century Narrative Media by and for Children has the most complete census of surviving copies: the one in four panels published by B. Alsop and T. Dunster (1650) at the British Library in the Thomason Tracts and at Pennsylvania State University Library; the five-panel E. Alsop and T. Dunster edition of 1654 at Harvard; and  the five-panel J. Deacon edition ca. 1688  purchased by antiquarian Anthony à Wood at the Bodleian Library.   The details of the Cotsen copy will be sent along shortly.

Reid Walsh’s research also shows that The Beginning, Progress, and End is an intriguing but little understood text that must have been wider circulation than the census of printed editions can possibly would indicate. We know this because of the survival of manuscript copies made by boys and girls in England, North America, and Scotland, none of them labored copies, all of them individual as their creators, who might be considered outsider artists…

Elizabeth Winspear’s four-panel version with a polka-dotted lion (Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, Duke University Library).

A Scottish boy’s handiwork from the 1820s.   His lion’s eyes seem to glow.  The bouquet is entirely his.   The baby in the eagle’s claws in the detail below is particularly well-dressed. (Cotsen unprocessed manuscripts)

Boys at Play: New Evidence in Francis Willughby’s Book of Games

Francis Willughby (1635-1672), the gentleman naturalist and member of the Royal Society, left a manuscript about games, sports, and pastimes among his papers when he died at age 36 (University of Nottingham NUL Mi LM 14).  The unfinished work was intended for his fellow scientists rather than gamblers, even though much of the contents were devoted to games of chance.   Possibly the first taxonomy of its kind, the Book of Games lay largely neglected until the modern edition prepared by David Cram, Jeffrey L. Forgeng and Dorothy Johnston was published by Ashgate in 2003.

The section on “Children’s Plays” shows what a comprehensive view of the subject Willughby had at a time when children’s culture and folklore was beneath the contempt of a gentleman scientist.  The description of the game “Hide & Seeke” preserves a wonderful verse for  “it” to yell before rushing out to discover his playmates’ hiding places.  It is an improvement over the more prosaic modern formula, “Ready or not, here I come,” which doesn’t even rhyme.

One stands at a gaole or barre, hoodwinked [i.e. eyes covered by a piece of cloth] & is to count aloud so manie, as 100, 40 &c., all the while the rest hide themselves.  When he has done counting he saies:

                A Dish Full of Pins to Prick my Shins,

                A Loafe of Bread to Breake my Head,

                Bo Peep I come.

If they get all to the barre, he winkes againe, but if he catch one, he that is catched must wink.

This is the “running-home” variation of the game, described on page 154 of the Opies’ Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (1959) in which hiders can try dashing back to the starting place without being caught.  Neither Willughby or the Opies specify that if the successful hider makes it home, he should yell a rhyme telling the rest of the hiders that they can show themselves and signaling another round of the game.   Americans from different regions of the country are accustomed to calling out “Olly, olly, oxen, free, free, free.”

“Drolery or for the Exercising the Wit & Making Sport” is a selection of word games, which were a more important category of amusements than now.   Beyond an agile brain, they require no equipment or dedicated ground.  They are ideal for passing the time hanging out wherever.    A relatively easy game called “Riming” takes two people, who take turns calling out a word which the other must match with another that rhymes.

A: Able.  B: Stable. A: Fable. B: Cable, &c.

Apparently a rhyming couplet could be supplied, as in this example where A tries to stump B with a polysyllabic word, “porringer” or a dish for holding porridge.Mr Booker was put to rime to Porringer, who presently answered

                The King had a Daughter & hee Gave the Prince of Orange her.

The subjects were Mary II and William III of England. An excellent example of a groaner from the 1600s that has been preserved in a modern nursery rhyme siteAn unnamed juvenile informant, who wrote out five pages in the manuscript, recording the rules of this game of one-upmanship

“Selling of Bargaines” is when one askes the other a question who answers him simply and pertinently, thinking hee meant honestly.  The first replys againe & catching hold of his answer Sels him a Bargaine.  A wishes he had as manie dogs as there are stares.  B asks what hee would doe with them.  A replys, Hold up their Teales while you Kiss their Arses….

When B can sel A another bargaine, A saies, A Bargaine Bought &^ a Bargain Sold, A Turd in your Mouthe a Twelmonth old.,

When B prevents A & gets his bargaine before him, A saies, You say my Word, you may Eat a Dogs Turd,

They strive to sel one another most bargaines as they doe in aping verses who shall capt his antagonist.

A askes B if he can say, A Long Pole over a Gutter.  If B repeat the words, A saies,  A short Turd to your Supper….

A bids B repeat Oxe Ball so manie times in a breath.  B. repeating fast saies, Ballox.

The juvenile informant comments at the end that “All bargaines are either obscene or nastie.”

A good example of the “self-incrimination trap,” in which one person asks another a trick question that sets up a smutty retort, “Selling of Bargains” seems a logical addition to the chapter on “Guile” in the Opies’ Lore and Language –or somewhere else in their corpus on children’s culture and games.   The Opies may have decided that it was not an authentic children’s game because “selling bargains” was a synonym for low prurient humor in the early eighteenth century.  In Peri Bathos (1735) co-authors Dr. Arbuthnot, Jonathan Swift, and Alexander Pope averred that elegant ladies were not ashamed to sell bargains (i.e. talk dirty) in polite drawing rooms or in court.   The juvenile informant and Willughby clearly thought otherwise.

While not exactly innocent, these few survivals are precious in their way.  Willughby deserves wider credit for being ahead of his time as a collector of children’s oral culture—nearly forty years ahead of John Aubrey, whose unfinished manuscript The Remains of Gentilism and Judaism (British Museum Landsdowne MSS 231) is among the most important early antiquarian sources for beliefs, customs, and stories of the common people.