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Samuel Pepys’ Cries Of London

February 21, 2013
by the gentle author

What a man’s mind is, that is what he is

For a while now, I have been collecting sets of Cries of London down through the ages and I am fascinated by the diverse permutations of these cheaply-produced prints which, even at their most stylised or sentimental, always reveal something of the reality of those who earned their living by street trading.

Recently, I was curious to discover that more than three hundred years ago, Samuel Pepys (coincidentally, also a regular at The George in Commercial Rd) was equally in thrall to these popular images of street vendors and hawkers. Among more than ten thousand engravings and eighteen hundred printed ballads he amassed in his library was a folio entitled “Cryes consisting of Several Setts thereof, Antient & Moderne: with the differ Stiles us’d therein by the Cryers.” In this binder, Pepys kept three sets of the Cries of London, plus two Cries of Bologna, and single sets each of the Cries of Rome and Paris.

Published below are the anonymously produced Cries of the earliest set in Pepys’ collection which was already a century old when he acquired it – described thus “A very antient Sett thereof, in Wood, with the Words then used by the Cryers.” Printed in the late sixteenth century, this set of twenty-four illustrates the Cries that would have been familiar constituents of the street life of Shakespeare’s London.

The Cries genre itself originated with a woodcut produced in Paris around 1500, beginning a tradition that lasted into the twentieth century, spreading to major cities across the globe and spawning an infinite variety of portrayals of pedlars. By the time the series illustrated here was created, the Cries were already available throughout Europe, bringing images of the urban poor into common currency for the first time.

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at these other sets of the Cries of London

London Characters

Geoffrey Fletcher’s Pavement Pounders

Faulkner’s Street Cries

William Craig Marshall’s Itinerant Traders

London Melodies

Henry Mayhew’s Street Traders

H.W.Petherick’s London Characters

John Thomson’s Street Life in London

Aunt Busy Bee’s New London Cries

Marcellus Laroon’s Cries of London

John Player’s Cries of London

More John Player’s Cries of London

William Nicholson’s London Types

John Leighton’s London Cries

Francis Wheatley’s Cries of London

John Thomas Smith’s Vagabondiana of 1817

John Thomas Smith’s Vagabondiana II

John Thomas Smith’s Vagabondiana III

Thomas Rowlandson’s Lower Orders

More of Thomas Rowlandson’s Lower Orders

Victorian Tradesmen Scraps

Cries of London Scraps

New Cries of London 1803

Cries of London Snap Cards

Adam Dant’s  New Cries of Spittlefields

11 Responses leave one →
  1. Libby Hall permalink
    February 21, 2013

    A beautiful sense of continuity – from the 16th century to Spitalfields fly-pitchers in the 21st century.

    Finding. interpreting and sharing these ‘cries’ – yet another sparkling facet of the Gentle Author’s sympathetic perspective.

  2. gary permalink
    February 21, 2013

    another brilliant post, thanks, this blog should be used in schools

  3. Peter Holford permalink
    February 21, 2013

    The further you go back the harder it is to see what life was like. These are an important resource – thank you for sharing.

  4. February 21, 2013

    These are wonderful. The ragged sweep, the posh-looking gold and silver man, the rosemary woman with a bundle on her head… what a find.

  5. February 21, 2013

    These are great!

  6. Teresa Stokes permalink
    February 21, 2013

    The cry for Seville oranges is very timely as they are in season right now.
    Can anyone tell me what Hot Codlings are – a quick search on google produced only music and songs about them but no clues otherwise and I haven’t time to keep looking!

  7. Hilary permalink
    February 21, 2013

    Codlings can be small apples or small fish- looks like apples in the basket!

  8. Liz St.John permalink
    February 21, 2013

    Lovely – all the very specific cries, and then the lady who just has “Kitchen Stuff” – which sounds normal to our ears!

  9. Andrea permalink
    February 21, 2013

    “Maids in Your Smocks
    Look to Your Locks”

    (when Samuel Pepys passes by…)

  10. February 23, 2013

    Once again, you delight. Thanks indeed.

  11. March 22, 2013

    These are brilliant! Had never heard of them before, thanks for sharing!

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