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At Kirby’s Eccentric Museum

May 25, 2020
by the gentle author

Whenever I used to visit collector Mike Henbrey, he always showed me something extraordinary from his collection and he certainly did not disappoint 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

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Annie S permalink
    May 25, 2020

    These engravings are so wonderful – thank you for sharing them with us GA!

  2. Pauline Taylor permalink
    May 25, 2020

    What a wonderful collection, most to be taken with a pinch of salt obviously, and one wonders how many readers were actually taken in, but it is a great insight into the age in which they were produced. Thank you.

  3. May 25, 2020

    Love the inexplicable eccentricity of this series. The hand/radish combination would make an ideal logo or trades sign for some enterprising, history-loving garden expert. Methinks.

    Thank you for including the title page of the book………I am wondering if it had a fascinating
    cover, spine, and fore edge. Hmmmmmm. Perhaps end papers in a mysterious marbled

    Stay safe, GA, and all your readers.

  4. Linda Granfield permalink
    May 25, 2020

    Fascinating. And today we have medical explanations for many of these conditions.

    Makes me wonder if P.T. Barnum had seen this book before he opened his museum in New York City?

    Thank you, and continued good health to you, GA.

  5. May 25, 2020

    I Really Love these Paintings So Much!! Thank You So Much.???????

  6. May 26, 2020

    Super engravings! I just wanted to add a little to the first image. John Bigg, known as the Dinton Hermit, lived in the latter years of his life in Dinton, Buckinghamshire, a few miles outside Aylesbury. The local story goes that he was the executioners of Charles 1. It is unknown still who WAS the executioner, as the man was disguised and masked, but it is known that John was employed as a clerk of Simon Mayne, a magistrate who lived at Dinton Hall and was the Judge at Charles 1’s trial.
    Following the restoration of Charles 11, Mayne was executed himself and John Bigg went into hiding in a cave at Dinton. This is a bit of a mystery and nobody seems to know the location of the cave now, but Bigg, fearing for his life and some say plagued by guilt, became the hermit he is known for.
    He begged only for scraps of leather, never accepting money, and repaired his clothes and shoes with these scraps. His shoes were repaired over and over again with more and more layers of leather until they took on the appearance in the engraving shown.
    When Bigg died, his shoes were kept as curios in Dinton Hall, but now one of then can be seen in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Well with a visit to see. It is currently in the lower ground floor gallery which also holds several items from the civil war and also Guy Fawkes latern! This gallery is at the left of the stairs down.
    I live not far from Dinton and my children go to school there. There is also a pub called the Dinton Hermit in the nearby village of Ford.

  7. David Miller permalink
    May 26, 2020

    Robert Coates! I recognised the engraving straight away! He was widely regarded as the worst actor ever to have lived, yet somehow did not seem to have realised this himself, and doggedly persisted in his attempts to become a leading light of the Regency stage.

  8. Linda Granfield permalink
    May 27, 2020

    Steve Hanscomb–you made me look! Here’s the hermit’s shoe:

    GA, your blog leads us to so many other venues. A delightful sidebar is so often given by your readers. Thank you, Steve and Thank you, GA!

  9. Roger GAESS permalink
    May 28, 2020

    Hello Gentle Author: Among the engravings from AT KIRBY’S ECCENTRIC MUSEUM is one depicting two men “who are presumed to be the tallest [and] shortest men in the kingdom” around the time of the book’s publication. I don’t know anything about the taller of the two, but I referred to Simon Paap in WHATEVER COMES MY WAY, a book I self-published in Oct. 2019 via Amazon under the Aurora Editions imprint. (Aurora is a stuffed-animal hippo I have in my apartment!). In WHATEVER I’m quite attracted to curiosities, and on p. 23 there I mention Mr. Paap. Simon Paap (1789-1828) was in fact a dwarf from Zandvoort, The Netherlands. There is a pillar in the Grote Kerk in Haarlem that bears height markers for both him and the Finnish “giant” Daniel Cajanus. According to the church’s marker for Paap, he was 84 centimeters (33 inches) tall. Paap was buried in his native Zandvoort, and his grave there ended up being looted (and his bones may have been eventually sold off to a museum, as were those of Cajanus).
    Cheers, Roger Gaess, in Brussels, Belgium

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