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Stories Before 1850. 0196: Anon., Peter Prim's Pride

Author: Anon.
Title: Peter Prim's Pride, Or Proverbs, That will Suit the Young, or the Old
Cat. Number: 0196
Date: 1810 (26 December)
1st Edition: 1810
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: J. Harris, Corner St. Paul's Church Yard
Price: 1s
Pages: 1 vol., 16pp.
Size: 13 x 9 cm
Illustrations: 14 coloured engravings
Note: Label on outside front cover records that this formed part of 'Harris's Cabinet'

Images of all pages of this book

Page 003 of item 0196

Introductory essay

The Hockliffe copy of Peter Prim's Pride is comprised only of a title-page and fifteen very carefully coloured engravings, each accompanied by a text caption. This contrasts with other copies, such as that in the British Library for instance, which alternate the engravings with full pages of text. The text provides a sarcastic or purportedly amusing comment on the images. Thus, for instance, the final print in the Hockliffe copy - 'One mans meal is another mans poison' [sic] - is explained thus:

Dinner was brought in by the servant, and a beautiful loin of pork placed on the table, when Sir George pressed Levi, a travelling Jew, with whom he had been conversing, to sit down and partake of the repast, 'Here,' said he, holding up the dish, 'the weather is extremely cold, you appear hungry, and the very smell of this joint is inviting.' - The Israelite, however, seemed struck with horror, knit his brows, held up his hands in token of abhorrence, and retired exclaiming, 'If it vash veal I vood eat it; but it is de forbidden food: I no touch it.'

It seems equally possible either that Harris re-issued the work without the text or that the text pages of the Hockliffe copy have been removed at some point since the book was purchased.

In any case, the principal attraction of Peter Prim's Pride is its coloured engravings, the text serving as little more than a series of captions to the pictures. Even the letters which form the title are decorated so as to maximise the visual attractiveness of the book. This was typical of many of the works published by John Harris in the years from c.1806-1820. As Harris's bibliographer, Marjorie Moon, points out, The Butterfly's Ball (0835-0836), which first appeared in 1806, had almost revolutionised children's literature. The secret of its success its combination of short, witty verses with attractive and high quality illustrations. Harris's firm has profited hugely from the book, and he was determined to follow up on the success. Therefore, as Moon puts it in her bibliography of John Harris's Books for Youth 1801-1843, 'pretty little square books ... poured out helter-skelter from the presses to supply the demand for a new kind of nursery book - funny, imaginative and altogether different from the pious moralisings that up till now, with a few honourable exceptions, were the literature of childhood' (Moon 1987: 153). Most of these books formed part of Harris's Cabinet of Amusement and Instruction, and a label showing that Peter Prim's Pride belonged to this loose series is attached to the outside front cover.

The British Library copy of Peter Prim's Pride contains a foreword, purporting to be written by the author, which does not appear in the Hockliffe copy and which explains the book's title:

The praises bestowed by all ranks of my juvenile friends on those pretty pictures, with which I formerly decorated by 'Profitable Present,' and the Alphabet of 'Goody Two-Shoes,' have induced me to publish a fresh collection which as far exceeds its predecessors, as a peach exceeds a sugar plum, or as a silver medal surpasses a whipping top! It will, of course, draw many young customers to the Corner of St Paul's Church Yard; and, whilst they are gazing with rapture at the different plates, I, peeping over my publisher's shoulder, shall have the gratification of exclaiming, in a whisper, 'This is the pride of

In addition, one additional proverb appears in the British Library copy - 'The man who has no hair, may lawfully wear a Wig'.

For a bibliographic description of the full version of Peter Prim's Pride see Moon 1987: 97.

Moon, Marjorie, John Harris's books for youth, 1801-1843, revised edition, Winchester, 1987

Moon, Marjorie, John Harris's books for youth, 1801-1843, revised edition, Winchester, 1987