Occasional posts on subjects including field recording, London history and literature, other websites worth looking at, articles in the press, and news of sound-related events.

27 June 2020

Early street cries from London and Rome

THERE ARE two new additions to Street Cries of the World (there’s not much else to do right now), both distinguished by being among the earliest printed depictions in Europe.

One is an originally untitled broadsheet from London which belonged to Samuel Pepys, who may have been responsible for cutting it up into sections. It has been dated by the scholar Sean Shesgreen to around 1620, making it possibily the oldest surviving printed pictorial representation of English street criers.

Two street sellers from the Pepys Collection

The second dates to 1582 and was printed by the Milanese engraver and cartographer Ambrogio Brambilla. Here the street sellers of Rome and what seem to be very brief renderings of their cries feature as 189 tiny portraits, all marching in unison from left to right. Although early, there is an even older series of portraits titled Cris de Paris dating to around the beginning of the 16th century.

Street seller portraits by Brambilla

While the English broadsheet shows equal numbers of male and female sellers, the Brambilla portraits are all of men, made inscrutable by their smallness and lack of detail. It might be worthwhile to note the numbers of men and women in all the street cries publications and see whether the sex ratios depicted change over time, or differ between countries. My impression is that older publications show women pursuing a greater range of street trades than those from the latter part of the 19th century.