Friday, November 19, 2021

London to Glasgow and back again: BEFORE THE CARTOON –

by John Adcock


Pub May 30th, 1829 by T McLean, 26 Haymarket, Sole publisher of P. Pry Comicalities

Forty years ago, a wild author, of no school at all, wrote a book called Tom and Jerry, or Life in London, and Robert and George Cruikshank illustrated it. There was “Corinthian” Tom,” and such lovely and unlovely specimens of humanity. They went behind the scenes, and saw fast life in its coarsest way… The illustrations were worthy of the text: gross exaggerations, twisted and contorted forms, not caricatures but ugly monstrosities… – ‘Bell’s Life’, The Sphinx, August 7, 1859

The first monthly part of Pierce Egan’s Life in London; or, the Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorne, Esq., and his elegant Friend Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in their Rambles and Sprees through the Metropolis, was published July 15, 1821, with illustrations by the brothers Isaac Robert Cruikshank and George Cruikshank.

Life in London; or, the Sprees of Tom and Jerry, attempted in cuts and verse [c.1821]

Pierce Egan railed at the “Mob of Literary Pirates” who stole his idea and ran with it. One of these pirates was Jemmy Catnatch who published on March 23, 1822 a broadsheet Life in London; or, the Sprees of Tom and Jerry, attempted in cuts and verse for street sale at two pence featuring twelve cuts. The illustrations were rough woodcut copies of the Cruikshank illustrations. Denis Gifford mentioned two sequels in The Evolution of the British Comic: Green in France; or, Tom and Jerry's Rambles through Paris (Dec 26, 1822) and The Charlies Holiday; or, The Tears of London at the Funeral of Tom and Jerry (Mar 25, 1823).

George Cruikshank, Tom & Jerry's Funeral, aquatint, 1823

“Paul Pry” (signature of William Heath)

Before Punch published John Leech’s Cartoon, No. I — Substance and Shadow on July 15, 1843, cartoons were known as “comicalities,” “cuts,” or “comic cuts.” “Comicalities” had many meanings. Mostly it referred to the “funny business” of the stage, both high and low, and from a very early date. From there it came to describe purely textual jokes; single or sequential comic cuts, dumb, or with the text or verse placed under the image or in word balloons.

The first thirty years of the new century were a time when the coloured print was in its decline. The best of the caricaturists turned to book illustration as well as producing comic cuts for a variety of comic annuals. William Heath (1795-1840) was one of the most prolific print artists between 1821 and 1829, the majority produced for the Haymarket print-seller and publisher Thomas McLean. Heath signed much of his work with a little figure of Paul Pry, a famous comic character of the stage.

“Lord how this world improves as we grow older,” The March of Intellect, William Heath, Thos. McLean, 1829

Heath traveled to Glasgow in 1825 where he illustrated the Glasgow Looking Glass, whose printing is usually attributed to John Watson. John Strang noted in Glasgow Clubs, 1856 that William Heath and the lithographic printer “Mr. Hopkirk” came up with the idea of the Glasgow Looking Glass in a Glasgow club christened the Cheap-and-Nasty by its enemies.

Mr. Heath came to Glasgow, from London, to paint two or three large panoramas, and while here amused himself occasionally in caricaturing the leading follies of the day, as he had previously done in the Metropolis. At that period lithography was in its infancy in Glasgow – the only press being that belonging to Mr. Hopkirk in George-street, and which was successfully employed in printing the “Northern Looking Glass.” Mr. Hopkirk was the representative of an old and most respectable family, with rather a shattered fortune. He was endowed with an excellent heart and rare natural talents. He possessed a highly cultivated mind and considerable scientific acquirements. He was extensively acquainted with natural history, particularly botany, and was one of the earliest promoters of the Glasgow Botanical Gardens. He spent the latter years of his life in Ireland, and died there on the 23 of August, 1841.  Glasgow and its Clubs, 1856

William Heath (courtesy University of Glasgow HERE)

The Glasgow Looking Glass consisted of lithographed broadsheets issued every fortnight beginning with Vol. 1 No. 1 dated June 11, 1825. The title changed to Northern Looking Glass with issue No. 5 until April 3, 1826. A further ‘new series’ lasted two issues and was printed by Richard Griffin & Co until June 1826. That same year Heath issued The Edinburgh Spy. No 1 sold for 1s 6d. As seen by the McClean caricature opening this post (The man wots got the whip hand...) Heath was back in London by 1829.

Masthead: Glasgow Looking Glass, Vol. 1 No. 1, June 11, 1825
More details and illustrations HERE

The Looking Glass, Vol 1 No.1, Jan 1, 1830
Drawn and Etched by William Heath, Author of The Northern Looking Glass,
Paul Pry Caricatures, and various Humorous Works

The Looking Glass was a large sized lithographed four-page monthly magazine composed entirely of comicalities. The first seven issues were drawn by William Heath and published by the print seller and publisher Thomas McLean of 26 Haymarket. Heath departed and the eighth issue was drawn by Robert Seymour from Aug 1, 1830 to  April 1836. McLean retitled it McLean’s Monthly Sheet of Caricatures or the Looking Glass. The price was 3s plain, 6s coloured (hand-coloured), very expensive for the times. The first volume was collected in 49 pages as The Looking Glass; or, Caricature Annual, published by Thomas McLean, 26 Haymarket (HERE).

William Heath, The Looking Glass No. 5 (courtesy National Library of Australia)

Robert Seymour, Monthly Sheet of Caricatures No. 62; or, The Looking Glass, Feb 2, 1835

Robert Seymour, The March of Intellect, Thomas McLean, 26 Haymarket, 1829

George Cruikshank’s first comical newspaper wood-engravings were drawn for Pierce Egan’s Life in London and Sporting Guide, but these were simple humorous drawings sans captions. He granted permission to Vincent Dowling, editor of Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, to reproduce in issue 289, September 9, 1828 half-a-dozen cuts from his collection of “scraps” (originating in Illustrations of Time, 1827) which appeared one at a time as Gallery of Comicalities on the front page of Bell’s newspaper with captions or verse added, presumably by the editorial staff.

George Cruikshank cut, Mornings at Bow Street, John Wight,1824 (see HERE)

 Circulation went up and Bell’s began raiding Cruikshank’s Phrenological Illustrations and Mornings at Bow Street (without the artist’s permission) in order to keep up with the demand. Large broadsheet collections were issued separately from the newspaper cuts as Gallery of Comicalities and Comic Album. Complaints and threats of a lawsuit led to Bell’s discontinuing the piracy of Cruikshank’s engravings in 1828 and substituting “scraps” by Robert Seymour, John Leech, and Kenny Meadows. Twenty-seven of Bell’s Cruikshank (and other artists) “comicalities” were pirated by The Observer newspaper on 21 July 1828.

Advertisement, Figaro in London, Sept 21, 1833

By 1832 there were numerous broadsheet galleries being published in London with unsigned work, some pirated, some commissioned, by the brothers Cruikshank, Robert Seymour, John Leech, Hablot Knight Brown, and Charles Jameson Grant (mostly signed CJG.)

George Cruikshank, Gallery of Comicalities; embracing humorous sketches by the Brothers Robert and George Cruikshank, Robert Seymour and Others, London: Charles Hindley, 1880

Since this post is running longer than expected I will finish here (there will be a Part Two of Before the Cartoon). But I have saved (perhaps) the best for last. This strange and wondrous comicality, a broadsheet sequential story, which seems to have originated in Germany in 1814, which precedes the Glasgow Looking Glass by eleven years, was found in the online Wellcome Collection, and shows (if the dating is correct) that there is still much comic history yet to be unraveled. Note also in panel 5 lower left are the engraved initials LB.

Doctor Zirkel

July 1814, Coloured wood engraving.


Guy Lawley has pointed out that the artist of Doctor Zirkel was Ludwig Bechstein (1843-1914) and the cartoon was Munchener Bilderbogen no. 461, see HERE. The book collection of Bilderbogen in which it is listed is  dated to 1867-1868.

Thanks to Guy Lawley


Eckart Sackmann


The Evolution of the British Comic, Denis Gifford, History Today, Vol XXI, No. 5, May 1971

Glasgow and its clubs; or, Glimpses of the condition, manners, characters, & oddities of the city, during the past & present centuries, John Stang, London & Glasgow: Richard Griffin & Co.1856

English caricaturists and graphic humourists of the nineteenth century :how they illustrated and interpreted their times, Graham Everitt, London: Swan Sonnenschein, Le Bas & Lowry, Paternoster Square, 1886

The Draughtsman’s Contacts: Robert Seymour and the Humorous Periodical Press in the 1830s, Brian Maidment, Journal of European Periodical Studies, 1.1, Summer 2016

Between Broadsheet Caricature and “Punch”: Cheap Newspaper Cuts for the Lower Classes in the 1830s, David Kunzle, Art Journal, Vol. 43, No. 4, The Issue of Caricature, Winter, 1983

Most of the prints pictured, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy Wellcome Collection


  1. Dear John, when I saw this morning that there should be a German broadsheet of 1814, I was stunned. Yet it was quite easy (google!) to find out about your source. I tried to post to platinum but the mail bounced back. I asked Michel Kempeneers for help – same to him. Then I sent a mail to Leo, no effect. Now I see that Guy Lawley cleared the situation. Let me add that it is not Doktor Zirtel but Zirkel. A Zirkel is a pair of compasses, an instrument.
    Best, Eckart Sackmann from Germany

  2. For your interest regarding Dr. Zirkel and the Munchener Bilderbogen no. 461, the University of Heidelberg's online digitized periodicals includes a complete run of the Bilderbogen from 1848 through 1897. Their online holdings include a great variety of early illustrated periodicals from several countries,and and navigation (but not all articles) in English. Links:

  3. One more link to Heidelberg's international art periodical holdings: