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Kirby’s Eccentric Museum, 1820

July 19, 2015
by the gentle author

Each time I visit collector Mike Henbrey, he shows me something extraordinary from his collections and he certainly did not disappoint yesterday when he pulled two volumes of Kirby’s Eccentric Museum from the shelf for me to take a look

John Biggs was born in 1629 and lived in Denton in the county of Bucks in a cave

This wonderful boy, who in early age outstripped all former calculators, was born in Morton Hampstead on 14th June 1806

In Mme Lefort the sexes are so equally blended that it is impossible to say which has predominance

This gentleman was a bookseller in Upper Marylebone St, remembered today as Shelley’s bookseller

The parachute here represented was used by Monsieur Garnerin at his ascension in London

Thomas Cooke was born in 1726 at Clewer near Windsor as the son of an itinerant fiddler

Robert Coates Esq, commonly called ‘The Amateur of Fashion’

The giant Basilio Huaylas came in May 1792 from the town of Joa to Lima and publicly exhibited himself

Mr James Toller and Mr Simon Paap are presumed to be the tallest shortest men in the kingdom

Miss McAvoy, who distinguished colours by the touch, was born in Liverpool on 28th June 1800

Mr Hermans Bras, designated the gigantic Prussian Youth, was born at Tecklenbourg in 1801

Thomas Laugher, aged 111 years, and known by the name of Old Tommy

Petratsch Zortan in the 185th year of his age, he died on 5th January 1724

John Rovin in the 172nd & Sarah his wife in the 164th year of their respective ages

The turnip represented in the plate grew in 1628

The parsnip here represented grew in 1742

The radish here represented was  found in 1557 in Haarlem

You may also like to take a look at

Mike Henbrey, Collector of Books, Epherema & Tools

Vinegar Valentines

Vinegar Valentines for Bad Tradesmen

Mike Henbrey’s Collection of Dividers

Dicky Lumskull’s Ramble Through London

2 Responses leave one →
  1. July 19, 2015

    I wonder if you’re aware that George Bidder, the Amazing Calculating Boy above, has a more direct local connection?

    After his showbiz career as a mathematical prodigy – during which he performed for British royalty – ended he became involved in engineering, forming a friendship with George Stephenson’s son Robert. Among other things (including railway building in Belgium, Norway and India), from 1837 they built the Fenchurch Street to Blackwall railway.

    Later, Bidder was heavily involved in constructing the line across what was then just an expanse of boggy marshland to North Woolwich, leading to the industrial development of what became Silvertown, among other things.

    His other major contribution to the eastern side of London is that he designed the Royal Victoria Dock.

    Quite a guy, when all’s said and done.

  2. July 19, 2015

    This interest in what we would think as grotesque was also pursued by printmaker James Caulfield (1764–1826), who spent much of his career publishing illustrated books about ‘remarkable persons’. A collection of his prints, with a commentary by Henry Wilson, was reissued in 1869: the introduction explains that the renewed interest in these characters comes from the fact that ‘we have nearly lost all, and are daily losing what little remains of, our individuality’. The vignettes, accompanied by engravings of each individual, describe a wide-ranging group – from the man who died aged 152 to a ‘remarkable glutton’ to a woman who lived on the smell of flowers – their only common factor being that they were in some way ‘wonderful’. See

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