London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of Street Book-auctioneers.


THE sale of books by auction, in the streets, is now inconsiderable and irregular. The "auctioning" of books—I mean of new books—some of which were published principally with a view to their sale by auction, was, to years ago, systematic and extensive. It was not strictly a street-sale. The auctioneer offered his books to the public, cases out of , in town, in an apartment (now commonly known as a "mock-auction room"), which was so far a portion of the street that access was rendered easier by the removal of the door and window of any room on a ground-floor, and some of the bidders could and did stand in the street and take part in the proceedings. In the suburbs— which at that period were not so integral a portion of the metropolis as at present—the book-auction sales were carried on strictly in the open air, generally in front of a public-house, and either on a platform erected for the purpose, or from a covered cart; the books then being deposited in the vehicle, and the auctioneer standing on a sort of stage placed on the propped--up shafts. In the country, however, the auction was often carried on in an inn.

The works thus sold were generally standard works. The poems were those of Pope, Young, Thomson, Goldsmith, Falconer, Cowper, &c. The prose writings were such works as "The Pilgrim's Progress," "The Travels of Mr. Lemuel Gulliver," "Johnson's Lives of the Poets," "The Vicar of Wakefield," the most popular of the works of Defoe, Fielding, and Smollett, and "Hervey's Meditations among the Tombs" (at time highly popular). These books were not correctly printed, they were printed, too, on inferior paper, and the frontispiece—when there a frontispiece—was often ridiculous. But they certainly gave to the public what is called an "impetus" for reading. Some were published in London (chiefly by the late Mr. Tegg, who at time, I am told, himself "offered to public competition," by auction, the works he published); others were printed in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Ipswich, Bungay, &c.

of my informants remembered being present at a street-sale, about or years ago; he perfectly remembered, however, the oratory of the auctioneer, of whom he purchased some books. The sale was in of the streets in Stoke , a door or from a thoroughfare. My informant was there—as he called it—"accidentally," and knew little of the neighbourhood. The auctioneer stood at the door of what appeared to have been a coachhouse, and sold his books, which were arranged within, very rapidly: "Byron," he exclaimed; "Lord Byron's latest and best po'ms. Sixpence! Sixpence! Eightpence! I take penny bids under a shilling. Eightpence for the poems written by a lord—Gone! Yours, sir" (to my informant). The auctioneer, I was told, "spoke very rapidly, and clipped many of his words." The work thus sold consisted of some of Byron's minor poems. It was in the pamphlet form, and published, I have no doubt, surreptitiously; for there was, in those days, a bold and frequent piracy of any work which was thought distasteful to the Government, or to which the Court of Chancery might be likely to refuse the protection of the law of copyright.

The auctioneer went on: "Coop'r—Coop'r! Published at , as printed on the back. Superior to Byron—Coop'r's 'Task.' No bidders? Thank you, sir. -and-,— your's, sir. Young—'Young's Night Thoughts. Life, Death, and Immortality,'—great subjects. London edition, marked Going!—last bidder——gone!" The purchaser then complained that the frontispiece—a man seated on a tombstone—was exactly the same as to a copy he had of "Hervey's Meditations," but the auctioneer said it was impossible.

I have thus shown what the style and nature of the address of the street bookauc- tioneer, formerly, to the public. If it were not strictly "patter," or "pompous oration," it certainly partook of some of the characteristics of patter. At present, however, the street bookauctioneer may be described as a true patterer.

It will be seen from the account I have


given, that the books were then really "sold by auction"—knocked down to the highest bidder. This however was, and is not always the case. Legally to sell by auction, necessitates the obtaining of a licence, at an annual cost of ; and if the bookseller conveys his stock of books from place to place, a hawker's licence is required as well,—which entails an additional expenditure of The itinerant bookseller evades, or endeavours to evade, the payment for an auctioneer's licence, by "putting-up" his books at a high price, and decreasing the terms, instead of offering them at a low price, and allowing to make a series of "advances." Thus, a book may be offered by a street-auctioneer at half-a-crown——eighteenpence—a shilling—tenpence, and the moment any assents to a specified sum, the volume handed to him; so that there is no competition—no bidding by the public in advance of another. Auction, however, is resorted to as often as the bookseller dares.

experienced man in the book-stall trade calculated that years ago there might be book-auctioneers in the streets of London, or rather, of its suburbs. of these was a frequenter of the Old Kent-road; another, " way;" and a resorted to "any likely pitch in Pimlico"—all selling from a sort of van. Of these , however, my informant thought that there were never more than in London at time, as they were all itinerant; and they have gradually dwindled down to , who are now not half their time in town. These traders are brothers, and sell their books from a sort of platform erected on a piece of waste-ground, or from a barrow. The works they sell are generally announced as new, and are often uncut. They are all recommended as explanatory of every topic of the day, and are often set forth as "spicy." or years ago, a gentleman told me how greatly he was amused with the patter of of these men, who was selling books at the entrance of a yard full of caravans, not far from the School for the Blind, . work the street-auctioneer announced at the top of his voice, in the following terms, as far as a good memory could retain them: "'The Rambler!' Now you rambling boys—now you young devils, that's been staring those pretty girls out of countenance—here's the very book for you, and more shame for you, and perhaps for me too; but I must sell—I must do business. If any lady or gen'lman 'll stand treat to a glass of brandy and water, 'warm with,' I'll tell more about this 'Rambler'—I'm too bashful, as it is. Who bids? — thank'ee, sir. Sold again!" The "Rambler" was Dr. Johnson's!

The last time of my informants heard the "patter" of the smartest of the brothers, it was to the following effect: "Here is the 'History of the Real Flying Dutchman,' and mistake; no fiction, I assure you, upon my honour. Published at —who bids halfa-crown? Sixpence; thank you, sir. Ninepence; going—going! Any more?—gone!"

A book-stall-keeper, who had sold goods to a book-auctioneer, and attended the sales, told me he was astonished to hear how his own books—"old new books," he called them, were set off by the auctioneer: "Why, there was a vol. lettered 'Pamphlets,' and I think there something about Jack Sheppard in it, but it was all odds and ends of other things, I know. 'Here's the Jack Sheppard,' sings out the man, 'and no gammon!' The real edition—no spooniness here, but set off with other interesting histories, valuable for the rising generation and all generations. This is the real Jack. This will

put you up to the time o' day,

Nix, my dolly pals, bid away.

Then he went on: 'Goldsmith's History of England. Continued by the first writers of the day—to the very last rumpus in the palace, and no mistake. Here it is; genuine.' Well, sir," the stall-keeper continued, "the man didn't do well; perhaps he cleared 1s. 6d. or a little more that evening on books. People laughed more than they bought. But it's no wonder the trade's going to the dogs — they're not allowed to have a pitch now; I shouldn't be surprised if they was not all driven out of London next year. It's contrary to Act of Parliament to get an honest living in the streets now-a-days.

A man connected with the street book-trade considered that if of these auctioneers earned a guinea in London streets in the days it was a "good week." Half-a-guinea was nearer the average, he thought, "looking at the weather and everything." What amount is expended to enable this street-dealer to earn his guinea or half-guinea, is so uncertain, from the very nature of an auction, that I can obtain no data to rely upon.

The itinerant book-auctioneer is now confined chiefly to the provincial towns, and especially the country markets. The reason for this is correctly given in the statement above cited. The street-auction requires the gathering of so large a crowd that the metropolitan police consider the obstruction to the public thoroughfares warrants their interference. The remaining book--auctioneers in London generally restrict their operations to the outskirts—the small space which fronts "the George Inn" in the Commercial-road, and which lays a few yards behind the main thoroughfare, and similar suburban "retreats" being favourite "pitches." The trade is, as regards profits, far from bad—the books sold consisting chiefly of those picked up in cheap "lots" at the regular auctions; so that what fetches in the streets has generally been purchased for less than a penny. The average rate of profit may be taken at per cent. at the least. Exorbitant however as this return may appear, still it should be remembered


that the avocation is that can be pursued only occasionally, and that solely in fine weather. Books are now more frequently sold in the London streets from barrows. This change of traffic has been forced upon the streetsellers by the commands of the police—that the men should "keep moving." Hence the well-known light form of street conveyance is now fast superseding not only the bookauc- tioneer, but the book--stall in the London streets. Of these book-barrowmen there is now about trading regularly in the metropolis, and taking on an average from to a day.

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 Title Page
 The Street-Folk: Of Wandering Tribes in General
 Of the Wandering Tribes of this Country
 Of the London Street-Folk
Of the Number of Costermongers and Other Street-Folk
Of the Number of Costermongers and Other Street-Folk
Of the Varieties of Street-Folk in General, and Costermongers in Particular
Of Costermongering Mechanics
Ancient Calling of Costermongers
Of the Obsolete Cries of the Costermongers
Of the Costermongers 'Economically' Considered
The London Street Markets on a Saturday Night
The Sunday Morning Markets
Habits and amusements of Costermongers
Gambling of Costermongers
'Vic Gallery'
The Politics of Costermongers.-- Policemen
Marriage and Concubinage of Costermongers
Religion of Costermongers
Of the Uneducated State of Costermongers
Language of Costermongers
Of the Nicknames of Costermongers
Of the Education of Costermongers' Children
The Literature of Costermongers
Of the Honesty of Costermongers
Of the Conveyances of the Costermongers and Other Street-Sellers
Of the 'Smithfield Races'
Of the Donkeys of the Costermongers
Of the Costermongers' Capital
Of the 'Slang' Weights and Measures
Of Half Profits
Of the Boys of the Costermongers, and their Bunts
Of the Juvenile Trading of the Costermongers
Of the Education of the 'Coster-Lads'
The Life of a Coster-Lad
Of the 'Penny Gaff'
Of the Coster-Girls
The Life of a Coster Girl
Of Costermongers and Thieves
Of the More Provident Costermongers
Of the Homes of the Costermongers
Of the Dress of the Costermongers
Once Try You'll Come Again
Of the Diet and Drink of Costermongers
Of the Cries, Rounds, and Days of Costermongers
Of the Costermongers on their Country Rounds
Of the Earnings of Costermongers
Of the Capital and Income of the Costermongers
Of the Providence and Improvidence of Costermongers
Of the Costermongers in Bad Weather and During the Cholera
Of the Costermongers' Raffles
Of the Markets and Trade Rights of the Costerongers, and of the Laws Affecting Them
Of the Removals of Costermongers From the Streets
Of the Tricks of Costermongers
Of the Street-Sellers of Fish
Of Sprat-Selling in the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Fruit and Vegetables
Of the Stationary Street-Sellers of Fish, Fruit, and Vegetables
Of the Street-Irish
Of the Street-Sellers of Game, Poultry (Live and Dead), Rabbits, Butter, Cheese, and Eggs
Of the Sellers of Trees, Shrubs, Flowers (Cut and In Pots), Roots, Seeds, and Branches
Street-Sellers of Green Stuff
Of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Pea-Soup and Hot Eels
Of the Experience of a Hot-Eel and Pea-Soup Man
Of the Street-Sellers of Pickled Whelks
Of the Customers, Etc., of Pickled Whelk-Sellers
Of the Street Sellers, and of the Preparation of Fried Fish
Of the Experience of a Fried Fish- Seller, and of the Class of Customers
Of the Preparation and Quantity of Sheep's Trotters, and of the Street-Sellers
Statements of Sheep's Trotter Women
Of the Street Trade in Baked Potatoes
Of 'Trotting,' or 'Hawking' Butchers
Of the Experience of a Hawking Butcher
Of the Street-Sellers of Ham-Sandwiches
Of the Experience of a Ham Sandwich- Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Bread
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot Green Peas
Of the Experience of a Hot Green Pea Seller
Of Cats' and Dogs'--Meat Dealers
Of the Street-Sale of Drinkables
Of Coffee-Stall Keepers
Of the Street Sale of Ginger-Beer, Sherbet, Lemonade, &c
Of the Experience and Customers of A Ginger-Beer Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot Elder Wine
Of the Street Sale of Peppermint-Water
Of Milk Selling in St. James's Park
Of the Street Sale of Milk
Of the Street-Sale of Curds and Whey
Of the Street-Sellers of Rice-Milk
Of Water-Carriers
Of the Street-Sellers of Pastry and Confectionary
Of Street Piemen
Of the Street-Sellers of Boiled Puddings
Of the Street-Sellers of Plum 'Duff' or Dough
Of the Street-Sellers of Cakes, Tarts, &c.
Of Other Cake-Sellers in the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Gingerbread- Nuts, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot-Cross Buns, and of Chelsea Buns
Of Muffin and Crumpet-Selling in the Streets
Of the Street Sale of Sweet-Stuff
Of the Customers of the Sweet-Stuff Street-Sellers
Of the Street-Sellers of Cough Drops and of Medical Confectionary
'Lohoch de farfara,' the Lohoch of Coltsfoot
Of the Street-Sellers of Ices and of Ice Creams
Of the Capital and Income of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Capital, or Stock in Trade, of the Street- Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Income, or 'Takings,' of Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, &c.
Of the Former and Present Street- Patterers
Of the Habits, Opinions, Morals, and Religion of Patterers Generally
Of the Publishers and authors of Street-Literature
Of Long Song-Sellers
Of Running Patterers
Experience of a Running Patterer
Of the Recent Experience of a Running Patterer
Of the Chaunters
Of the Experience of a Chaunter
Of the Death and Fire Hunters
Of the Sellers of Second Editions
Of the Standing Patterers
Experience of a Standing Patterer
Of Political Litanies, Dialogues, etc.
Of 'Cocks,' Etc.
Of 'Strawing'
Of the Sham indecent Street-Trade
Of Religious Tract Sellers
Of a Benefit Society of Patterers
Of the Abodes, Tricks, Marriage, Character, and Characteristics of the Different Grades of Patterers
Of the Low Lodging-Houses of London
Of the Filth, Dishonesty, and Immorality of Low Lodging-Houses
Of the Children in Low Lodging- Houses
Of the Low Lodging-Houses Throughout the Country
Of the Street Stationers, and the Street Card-Sellers
Of the Seller of the Penny Short-Hand Cards
The Lecture
'I perish with hunger'
Of the Sellers of Race Cards and Lists
Of the Street-Sellers of Gelatine, of Engraved, and of Playing Cards, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery
Of the Experience of a Street- Stationer
Of a 'Reduced' Gentlewoman, and a 'Reduced' Tradesman, as Street-Sellers of Stationery
Of the Street-Sale of Memorandum- Books and Almanacks
Of the Street-Sale of Pocket-Books and Diaries
Of the Street-Sellers of Songs
Of the Street 'Pinners-up,' or Wall Song-Sellers
Of Ancient and Modern Street Ballad Minstrelsy
Of Street 'Ballads on a Subject'
Of the Street Poets and Authors
Of the Experience of a Street Author, or Poet
Of the Street-Sellers of Broad-Sheets
Of the 'Gallows' Literature of the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Conundrums
Of the Street-Sellers of Comic Exhibitions, Magical Delusions, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Play-Bills
Of the Street-Sellers of Periodicals, Pamphlets, Tracts, Books, Etc.
Of the Street-Sale of Back Numbers
Of the Sale of Waste Newspapers at Billingsgate
Of the Sale of Periodicals on the Steam- Boats and Steam-Boat Piers
Of the Sale of Newspapers, Books, &c., at the Railway Stations
Of the Street Booksellers
Of the Character of Books of the Street-Sale
Of the Experience of a Street Book- Seller
Of Street Book-Auctioneers
Of the Street-Sale of Song-Books, and of Children's Books
Of the Street-Sellers of Account-Books
Of the Street-Sellers of Guide-Books, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Fine Arts
Of Street Art
Of the Street-Sellers of Engravings, Etc., in Umbrellas, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Pictures in Frames
Of the Street-Sellers of Manuscript and Other Music
Of the Capital and Income of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
Capital or Value of the Stock-in-Trade of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature and the Fine Arts
Income, or Average Annual 'Takings,' of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
An Epitome of the Pattering Class
Of the 'Screevers,' or Writers of Begging-Letters and Petitions
'God Save the Queen'
Of the Probable Means of Reformation
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles in Metal
Of the Cheap Johns, or Street Han- Sellers
'The Original Cheap John'
The Crippled Street-Seller of Nut- Meg-Graters
Of the Swag-Shops of the Metropolis
Shopkeepers and Dealers Supplied with the Following Articles --
Of the Life of a Cheap-John
The Street-Sellers of Cutlery
Of the Blind Street-Sellers of Tailors' Needles, etc.
The Public-House Hawkers of Metal Spoons, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Jewellery
Of the Pedlar-Jewellers
Of the Street-Sellers of Card-Counters, Medals, Etc.
The Construction is of Iron and of Glass, 1848 Feet Long. about Half is 456 Wide. the Remainder 408 Feet Wide, and 66 Feet High; Site, Upwards of 20 acres. Josh. Paxton, archt.
Of the Street-Sellers of Rings and Sovereigns For Wagers
Of the Street-Sellers of Children's Gilt Watches
Of the Street-Sellers of Tinware
Of the Life of a Tin-Ware Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Dog-Collars
Of the Life of a Street-Seller of Dog- Collars
Of the Street-Sellers of Tools
Of the Beggar Street-Sellers
Pike's Patent Cotton. 120 Yards
'The Lace-Makers' Appeal'
'ALLEN, Printer, Long-row, Nottingham'
Of the 'House of Lords,' a Street-Seller's Defunct Club
Of the Street-Sellers of Crockery and Glass-Wares
Of the 'Swag,' Crockery, and Glass Shops
Of the Street-Sellers of Spar and China Ornaments, and of Stone Fruit
Of the Street-Sellers of Textile Fabrics
Of the Haberdashery Swag-Shops
Of Hawkers, Pedlars, and Petty Chapmen
Of the Packmen, or Hawkers of Soft Wares
Statement of a Packman
Of the Tally Packman
Of the 'Duffers' or Hawkers of Pretended Smuggled Goods
Of the Street-Sellers of 'Small-Ware,' or Tape, Cotton, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Lace
Of the Street-Sellers of Japanned Table- Covers
Of the Street-Sellers of Braces, Belts, Hose, Trowser-Straps, and Waistcoats
Of the Street-Sellers of Boot and Stay- Laces, &c.
Of a Blind Female Seller of 'Small-Wares'
The Blind Street-Seller of Boot-Laces
Of the Life of a Blind Boot-Lace Seller
Of the Low Lodging-Houses
Statement of a Young Pickpocket
Statement of a Prostitute
Statement of a Beggar
Meeting of Thieves
Of the Country Lodging-Houses
Of the Street-Sellers of Chemical Articles of Manufacture
Of the Street-Sellers of Blacking, Black Lead, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of French Polish
Of the Street-Sellers of Grease-Removing Compositions
Of the Street-Sellers of Corn-Salve
Of the Street-Sellers of Glass and China Cement, and of Razor Paste
Of the Street-Seller of Crackers and Detonating Balls
Of the Street-Sellers of Lucifer-Matches
Of the Street-Sellers of Cigar Lights, or Fuzees
Of the Street-Sellers of Gutta-Percha Heads
Of the Street-Sellers of Fly-Papers and Beetle-Wafers
Of the Street-Sellers of Miscellaneous Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Walking-Sticks
Of the Street-Sellers of Whips, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Pipes, and of Snuff and Tobacco Boxes
Of the Street-Sellers of Cigars
Of the Street-Sellers of Sponge
Of the Street-Sellers of Wash-Leathers
Of the Street-Sellers of Spectacles and Eye-Glasses
Of the Street-Sellers of Dolls
Of the 'Swag-Barrowmen,' and 'Lot- Sellers'
Of the Street-Sellers of Roulette Boxes
Of the Street-Sellers of Poison For Rats
Of the Street-Sellers of Rhubarb and Spice
Of the Hawking of Tea
Of the Women Street-Sellers
Of the Children Street-Sellers of London