Thursday, October 31, 2013


Tim Bobbin 5.75 in. creamware plate, ca. 1820
I purchased a child's plate during the show and sale at the Transferware Collectors Club annual meeting in Boston.  Its odd print and rhyme intrigued me.  I had never heard of Tim Bobbin before, so I saw an opportunity to do some research.

Tim or Timothy Bobbin was the pseudonym of John Collier (December 18, 1708 - July 14, 1786).  He was an English caricaturist and satirical poet who made fun of both the upper and lower classes.  His etchings were widely reproduced and some were featured on ceramics such as the plate above.  The text and illustrations are from The Human Passions Delineated, a series of illustrated verses satirizing the contrasts between rich townies and poor country people which was first published in 1773.   Although the size of the plate and the molded border were most often used for children's patterns, the Tim Bobbin subject matter appears intended for adults.  The text is as follows: "But here old merry Kate, and Nan, and Bess,/Find nearer ways to climb to happiness./Gin, punch, and flip, are all there (sic) sole delight./They laugh at th' world and swear they're only right."

Tim Bobbin print, 1773
One of my favorite books is Gifts For Good Children - The History Of Children's China 1790-1890 by Noel Riley (1991).  Riley shows four patterns that feature Tim Bobbin in the chapter titled Caricature And Humour.  Riley also feels that the patterns and verses are "not very childish."

Tim Bobbin close-up/Notice how faithful the copper plate engraver was to the original source print
Do you think a pattern making fun of gin (so cheap, a penny for a large quantity, that it was feared  the English population would collapse from drunkenness), punch (alcoholic to be sure) and flip (flip was made by mixing ale with sugar, adding eggs and a spice such as nutmeg or cinnamon and then a liberal portion of rum or whiskey) was intended for a child?   Or, is this just another inappropriate pattern for children?


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