More Of Samuel Pepys’ Cries Of London
It was a startling delight when I discovered that Samuel Pepys shared my own interest in the Cries of London and made a collection of these prints which still exist in his library, preserved at Cambridge. These three thousand volumes in total, which Pepys had bound and catalogued according to his own system, can be seen as both an extension of and a complement to his personal writings – gathering together significant texts and images just as his diary recorded every detail of the life he knew.
The oldest set of Cries in Pepys’ collection – which I published here a month ago – dated from the sixteenth century and was a hundred years old when he acquired it, whereas those published today are believed to date from around 1640. Pepys described them as “A later Sett, in Wood – with the Words also then in use.”
Did Pepys look at these prints from his grandparents’ generation with nostalgia, imagining the hawkers that once populated the streets of the city before he was born, and wondering at how the world had changed? Spanning over a century and three different cities, Pepys’ collection of ephemeral prints are the only visual record of the street life of these places at these times to have survived.
By comparison with Pepys’ earliest sixteenth century set of crude woodcuts, these figures from 1640 possess a more complex humanity – though close examination reveals that the same models recur, posing in a variety of guises as different street vendors. Yet, in spite of this sense of enacted tableaux, there exists a convincing presence of personalities here, enough to permit me to imagine the street life of mid-seventeenth London, thanks to Samuel Pepys – my most esteemed predecessor in collecting the Cries of London.
Samuel Pepys’ book plate
Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute
You may also like to take a look at the sixteenth century Cries of London from Samuel Pepys’ collection
and these other sets down through the ages