Ann Taylor: City Scenes, or a Peep into London for Children. London: Darton, Harvey & Darton, 1818. WPRP 261.
City Scenes is 16 cm tall and was manufactured with paper covered boards and a leather covered spine. Instead of gluing the text block to the cover by way of a super, the bookbinders sewed the text block into the cover. Close inspection of the spine will reveal wear over the threads within the red leather. During the eighteenth century, printing progressed such that images, for the first time, could be printed simultaneously with the text of a book. Before that time, printing text along with images involved running the signatures through the press twice. Thus, one special detail about City Scenes is the way the images within the book are part of the quires and not tipped in, as had been one manner in which printers and bookbinders interspersed illustrations and text.
Jane and her sister, Ann, who was by one year her senior, became collaborators in the genre of children’s literature. They were no strangers to the literary arts or the printing industry; their father, the Reverend Isaac Taylor, was a writer, engraver, and nonconformist minister. He taught Ann and Jane the craft of engraving after he released his engravers during financial stress. The Taylor children were home schooled and, when they were teenagers, Jane and Ann formed their own literary circle called the Umbelliferous Society. Ann’s premier publication appeared in Minor’s Pocket Book when she was sixteen years old and she wrote for that periodical for many years following. Jane’s poem “The Beggar Boy” (1804) was her first publication. Darton and Harvey, the publishers of City Scenes, invited Jane and Ann to contribute to Original Poems, which was translated into four other languages because of its popularity. City Scenes begins with an invitation to the reader to:
Come, peep at London’s famous town,
Nor need you travel there;
But view the things of most renown
Whilst sitting in your chair.
At home, an hundred miles away,
‘Tis easy now to look
At City Scenes, and London gay,
In this my little book.
Yes, there in quiet you may sit,
Beside the winter’s fire,
And see and hear as much of it,
As ever you desire.
Or underneath the oak so grey,
That stands upon the green,
May pass the summer’s eve away,
And view each City Scene.
There’s great St. Paul’s, so wondrous wide,
The monument so tall,
And may curious things beside
The Giants in the Guildhall.
The post-boy galloping away,
With letter-bag you’ll find:
The wharf, the ship, the lady gay,
The beggar lame and blind.
The boatman playing at his oar,
The gard’ner and his greens,
The knife-grinder, with many more
Of London’s City Scenes.
City Scenes reads nearly like a modern travel guide to London, although it is a primer for arm-chair travelling children with “visits” to the custom house, the Tower Bridge, a wharf, and the Bank of England. Jane did not overlook jobs a child might have seen, either: the two-penny post boy, the flying pieman, and the watercress girl. Fashion and amusements receive attention, too: nosegays, sedan chairs, and dancing bears. Events particular to London might inspire a child’s imagination: a boy who drowned, the “taking of Guy Fawkes,” and a fire started at a wharf that displaced four hundred families. The pages displayed are from the vignette about the Lamplighter.
The National Portrait Gallery has a painting of the poets as children painted by their father, circa 1792.