These notes on the Bodleian’s collection of harlequinades, by Sarah Wheale (Bodleian Rare Books), were first posted in 2008-9, and are presented again in anticipation of the conference taking place in Oxford, Sept. 2014, ‘Forms and formats: experimenting with print, 1695-1815’ See the event posting to register: http://bit.ly/1lWPgxO
A harlequinade (known also as a metamorphosis, flap-book or turn-up book) is composed of two single engraved sheets. The first sheet is folded perpendicularly into four sections. A second sheet is cut in half and hinged at the top and bottom edges of the first so that each flap could be lifted separately. The sheets are folded into four, like an accordion, and then roughly stitched with a paper cover. A verse on each section of the flap tells a simple story usually concluding with instructions to turn a flap to continue. When the flap is turned either up or down the viewer sees that half of the new picture fits onto the half of the un-raised flap, so the act of lifting one flap after another creates a surprise unfolding of the story.
The Library has recently (in 2009) acquired an album of 89 coloured prints dating from the early 1820s. It may have been issued by William Darton Jr. (1781-1854) and his firm at Holborn Hill during the mid-1820s as a sample album to show potential customers examples of his work. It contains a small number of sheets originally issued in 1800 by William Darton Sr. (1755-1819); 11 harlequinades in unfolded sheets with the imprint of B. Tabart & Co., and some sheets bearing Darton Jr’s imprint with dates ranging from 1821 to 1824. This mix of imprints suggests that Darton Jr. inherited some of his father’s old stock upon his death, including some of Benjamin Tabart’s publications which William Sr. possibly acquired in 1811 when financial difficulties may have forced Tabart to sell off some of his stock.
The harlequinades are especially interesting as very few examples survive generally, and four of the eleven Tabart examples in this album are currently untraced elsewhere. There are certainly difficulties locating harlequinades in library and museum catalogues around the world as they can be treated equally as toys, books, ephemera or prints, but as some titles were not located by Marjory Moon in her bibliography of Tabart’s Juvenile Library it seems likely that some of the Bodleian copies may be unique survivals. It is also possible that these eleven titles represent Tabart’s entire output of harlequinades, but that is pure speculation.
Blue Beard. Sold by B. Tabart & Co., June 1st. 1809.
Robinson Crusoe. Sold by B. Tabart & Co. June 1. 1809.
Veroni or the novice of St. Marks. Published by B. Tabart & Co, June 1. 1809.
Mother Goose. Published by B. Tabart & Co., July 1st 1809.
Hop o’ my thumb. Published by B. Tabart & Co., Jany. 1st. 1810..
Black Beard the pirate. Published, by B. Tabart & Co., July 1st. 1809.
Parnell’s hermit. Published, by Tabart & Co., Jany. 31st. 1810.
Exile, as performed at the royal theatres. Published by B. Tabart & Co., June 1st. 1809.
Robin Hood. Published by B. Tabart & Co., June 1st. 1809.
Polish tyrant. Published, by B. Tabart & Co., Aug. 1st. 1809.
A tale of mystery. Published by B. Tabart & Co., Jany. 25th, 1810.
Shelfmark: Vet. A6 c.118
See the records of the pictured harlequinades here:
The Sister-Witches, or mirth and magic
Dr Last, or the Devil on two sticks