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Samuel Pepys’ Cries Of London

September 14, 2023
by the gentle author


Click here to book for my tour through September and October


As part of this year’s Bartholomew Fair in Smithfield, I shall be giving an illustrated lecture in St Bartholomew’s Church at 7pm, tomorrow Friday 15th September about my love for the CRIES OF LONDON, showing my favourite images of four hundred years of street life in the capital.




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


Click here to discover more about this autumn’s blog course

4 Responses leave one →
  1. September 14, 2023

    This set of London Cries very much needs to be rendered as a suite of delft tiles! Maybe for the C17th room at Museum of the Home?

  2. the gentle author permalink*
    September 14, 2023

    Yesss, indeed!

  3. September 14, 2023

    These are fabulous — I feel transported to 16th-century London. It was probably a trial to be Mrs Pepys and I’m glad I wasn’t, but what a wealth of history Samuel Pepys left us!

  4. October 11, 2023

    I was fascinated by this article, and have just posted a blog of my own on the significance of St Thomas’s onions: Many thanks for the inspiration!

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