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Books of Instruction. 0489: Anon., [A Battledore] 'Playing the Harpsichord'

Author: Anon.
Title: [A Battledore] 'Playing the Harpsichord'
Cat. Number: 0489
Date: No date but c.1835?
1st Edition:
Pub. Place: Banbury?
Publisher: J. G. Rusher?
Pages: 1 sheet, folded three times
Size: 14 x 7 cm
Illustrations: 4 wood-cuts

Images of all pages of this book

Page 001 of item 0489

Introductory essay

The final image in this battledore, showing a man leaning over a woman who is playing the harpsichord, is also to be found in a version of Cinderella in the Hockliffe Collection, published by J. G. Rusher of Banbury (see 0012: outside back cover). Edwin Pearson, who has surveyed Rusher's work, suggests that the illustrations in the Rusher Cinderella were designed by Cruikshank and engraved by Branston (Pearson 1890: 42). Allen Robert Branston (1778-1827) was a well-known London engraver in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Isaac Cruikshank (1756?-1811?) designed several frontispieces in the late eighteenth century, but his son George (1792-1878) was much better known for his book illustrations. He began to design engravings in about 1810, but he made his name with the designs for the first English translation of the Grimms' fairy tales in 1823. It is certainly possible that George Cruikshank produced work for Rusher in c.1814, before he had fully established himself. It is also possible that Cruikshank and Branston produced their engravings in London and then sold copies of the wood blocks to one or more provincial publishers, such as Rusher. It is also possible that these engravings were not by Cruikshank and Branstone themselves, but that they were either pirated or have been erroneously attributed to them. It is with reservations, then, that we can suggest that this battledore (and the very similar 0489) was published by Rusher.

In the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, battledores had generally taken the form of small wooden bats, like those used now for table-tennis, with the alphabet printed on one side. By the nineteenth century, though, they were almost always produced in the form we see here: a piece of card folded into two, printed on both sides, and with a flap attached to the leading edge. Benjamin Collins, a Salisbury bookseller active in the mid-eighteenth century claimed responsibility for inventing this format, but this is rather doubtful (Carpenter 1984: 49-50). The main purpose of such battledores was still to teach children the alphabet, but, as here, short stories, small cuts, and other instructional or entertaining material generally accompanied the ABC.

Pearson, Edwin, Banbury chap books and nursery toy book literature [of 18th and 19th C.], London, 1890

Carpenter, Humphrey & Pritchard, Mari, The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature, Oxford: OUP, 1984