Gillray’s Sale of English Beauties and Books

Picture11When the London book and print dealer William Holland announced the sale of a new print by James Gillray entitled The Sale of English Beauties in the East Indies, he also listed the books available for sale in his shop. This is interesting because within Gillray’s print is a box of books that has been shipped to India along with a group of prostitutes. Since Holland’s partner, George Peacock, was a dealer in adult books such as Fanny Hill, this may have been an early example of product placement.

The copy of this print in the Graphic Arts collection is unfortunately damaged in the bottom left corner, obscuring the text on the box by the auctioneer. Happily, the British Museum’s print is complete, and we can read the titles of the books included in this shipment. The box is inscribed: For the Amusement of Military Gentlemen. Crazy Tales; Pucelle; Birchini’s Dance; Elements of Nature; Female Flagellants Fanny Hill; Sopha; and Moral Tales.

princeton            box of books

Princeton University on the left and British Museum on the right.

Here are a few of the titles that Gillray imagined would have been included ‘for the amusement of military gentlemen.’
crazy tales gillray
fanny hill gillray

moral tales         sophia
pucelle gillray

After nearly 25 years, another print/book dealer Thomas Tegg commissioned a new edition of Gillray’s print by Thomas Rowlandson. The great British caricature historian Dorothy George

tegg's shop2notes in her Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires that a decision was made to include only the first, second, and fourth book titles given in Gillray’s print; that is, Birchini’s Dance, the Female Flagellants Fanny Hill, Sopha, and Moral Tales are no longer being shipped. Perhaps the books were out-of-print?

box 2

hordernRowlandson’s version above. This is the beginning of a longer paper. Any comments are welcome.