CTS logo
Hockliffe logo
Fables and Fairy Tales Stories Before 1850 Stories After 1850 Periodicals and Annuals Religious Books, Bibles, Hymns, etc Books of Instruction Nursery Rhymes and Alphabets
Movable and Toy Books; Myths and Heroes Poetry, Verse and Rhymes; Games Games and Pastimes Natural Science Geography and Travel History and Biography Mathematics
Previous Next

Nursery Rhymes and Alphabets. 0702: Anon., The Silver Penny

Author: Anon.
Title: The silver penny, for the amusement and instruction of good children
Cat. Number: 0702
Date: No date but c.1820?
1st Edition:
Pub. Place: York
Publisher: J. Kendrew
Pages: 1 vol., 30pp.
Size: 9.5 x 6 cm
Illustrations: Vignettes on outside front and back covers, frontipiece plus 24 further wood-cuts and decorated Kendrew imprint (on p.30)

Images of all pages of this book

Page 002 of item 0702

Introductory essay

The Silver Penny is essentially an alphabet book, each letter being accompanied by a wood-cut depicting something which begins with that letter, and a short verse providing a commentary. 'G' stands for 'Gold', for instance, and the wood-cut depicts a wealthy man handing over money to a poor widow and her children. 'Gold, when to virtuous hands 'tis given,' the verse informs the reader, 'Blesses like the dew of Heaven' (p.10). Although one or two of the letters afford simple moral lessons like this (or even political lessons - 'Happy the people whose good King / Is judg'd and judges by the law', we learn when we reach 'K': p.13), most of the entries, from 'Apple' to 'Zany', are simply descriptive. Perhaps the most remarkable inclusion is 'U' for 'Up-and-Down', a fair-ground ride similar to a Big Wheel (p.23). 'I' and 'V' are not included in the alphabet. An additional wood-cut illustrating 'Q' with a Quaker appears on the outside back cover.

'B' for 'Bull' and 'D' for 'Dog' refer to the poem that comes at the end of the short volume, 'Of the Fatal Effects of a bad Education' (p.28). This describes an attack of a mastiff on a bull, which eventually kills the dog. Before the fight, though, the bull had asked why the dog was so aggressive. It was purely the result of its training at the hands of a butcher, the dog had replied. It is this which provides the moral, manifestly aimed at parents rather than children. 'Seek you to train your favourite boy / Each caution, ev'ry care employ', the parent is counselled, 'And 'ere you venture to confide, / Let his preceptor's heart by try'd' (p.30). The frontispiece, on the other hand, was aimed squarely at children, retailing the Newbery's old 'rewards-for-learning' formula:

This man doth wander round the town
With fruit, both fresh and sweet,
For those, who do attend their book,
And go both clean and neat.

It is impossible to determine with any certainty the date of Kendrew's edition of The Silver Penny. James Kendrew started printing in York sometime between 1801 and 1803 according to his bibliographer, Roger Davis (Davis 1988: 12). Though Davis has been able, using watermarks and other internal evidence, to establish the publication dates of some of Kendrew's books for children, he can only conclude that the rest, including The Silver Penny, were published sometime between c.1815 and James Kendrew's death in January 1841 (Davis 1988: 43). When Kendrew died he was a fairly rich man. In his will he left £765 in addition to the business, which suggests that provincial printing was reasonably remunerative (Davis 1988: 15). Diversification was necessary to survive, though. When Kendrew's son took over the firm, he listed book-selling, provision of stationery and book-binding as equal or greater parts of the operation.

However, cheap chapbooks for children were what the firm was famous for. As Davis' bibliography shows, Kendrew senior specialised in half-penny books of 16 pages, penny books of 24 pages, and 32-page books, also sold for a penny, such as those in the Hockliffe Collection (as listed on the outside back cover). For these, a single sheet was printed in one impression, with the wood-engravings set alongside the text. It was then folded to make a 32 page book which was stitched together in one gathering. The outside pages were left unprinted because a cover was then pasted on to the outside of the book. This was made of 'sugar paper' (so-called because it was often used by grocers to hold sugar), and could be any one of a variety of colours. Not only would this cover be more decorative and durable, but it would conceal and protect the stitching used in the book-binding. Also, new outside covers could later be printed and pasted onto unsold stock so as make it appear a new edition (which is doubtlessly also why publication dates were not listed on these books). The two versions of Kendrew's Little Red Riding Hood in the Hockliffe Collection, for example, have very different outside covers. One set acts as a title-page and an advertisement for Kendrew's series of penny books (0028: front and back)); the other bears some apparently miscellaneous verses and vignettes (0029: front and back). As Davis points out, this was standard practice for Kendrew, as was the format of the chapbooks. As in the Hockliffe Collection editions, the inside front cover was always a frontispiece accompanied by a few lines of verse, not always germane to the particular book, and sometimes clearly directed at adults rather than children. The opposite page was always the title-page, and its verso generally displayed alphabets. Then the main narrative began, and if it did not fill the remaining 27 pages of the book, additional material of various sorts was added, often with little or no connection to what had gone before.

Kendrew also used his wood-engraving blocks fairly promiscuously, using illustrations to one narrative in many other publications. Davis suggests that Kendrew had a stock of about 500 wood blocks available to him at the time of his death (Davis 1988: 72). Many of these, Davis suspects, were plagiarised from other books, sometimes so well that it is difficult to be absolutely certain that the original blocks themselves were not sold on to Kendrew and used by him. Most often copied was the work of Thomas Bewick, the foremost wood-engraver of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (see pp.7-8 for example). His images of animals and birds which first appeared in the famous A General History of Quadrupeds (1790) and A History of British Birds (1797-1804) were especially targeted, probably because they could be pressed into service to illustrate almost any story.

For other books in the Hockliffe Collection published by Kendrew of York see, amongst others, The History of Giles Gingerbread, A Little Boy, Who lived upon Learning (0240) and Mrs. Lovechild's Golden Present for all good little boys and girls (0685).

Davis, Roger, Kendrew of York and his chapbooks for children with a checklist, London : The Elmete Press, 1988

Davis, Roger, Kendrew of York and his chapbooks for children with a checklist, London : The Elmete Press, 1988

Davis, Roger, Kendrew of York and his chapbooks for children with a checklist, London : The Elmete Press, 1988

Davis, Roger, Kendrew of York and his chapbooks for children with a checklist, London : The Elmete Press, 1988