Cries of London Playing Cards 1754
- First Published: 1754
- Size: 3.9" x 2.5"
Out of print
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The theme of street cries is one that has been popular with writers, composers, artists, and the public at large for close on 500 years. Criers earned their living by walking the streets, selling their wares, or providing services to the community, and drawing attention to their presence by bawling characteristic songs or playing on musical instruments. The practice was universal, declining only in recent times and then not in all places.
In the mid-eighteenth century John Bowles at the Black Horse in Cornhill issued a series of 60 small plates based on those of Marcellus Laroon which were published in 1688. John Kirk’s pack of’ 52 playing cards was published in circa 1754, and, despite its claim to be “after nature”, exploited Laroon’s prints and the Cries of Paris by Abraham Bosse. The background scenes in some of the cards for this reason appear distinctly Continental.
Other cards are emphatically London: the view from the doorway of Kirk’s Grotto Toy Shop in St. Paul’s Churchyard, Noble Street where Kirk till 1746 had his premises, the interior of the Royal Exchange, “Tiddy Doll”, a gingerbread salesman who features in Hogarth’s “Idle ‘Prentice Executed at Tyburn”, for example.
The pack of cards reproduced here is from the Print Collection in Guildhall Library, London. The Introductory Note has been prepared by Ralph Hyde, Keeper of Prints and Maps.