A Field Glass.
TRANS-ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH ; WOODS Nicholas Augustus &; PARKINSON Joseph Charles (1866.)
Being a Cableistic and Eastern Extravaganza by... showing the Inexplicable and Vitrified Adventures of a Gurnet, (h)A Milton Oyster, a Barbel, and other Queer Fish being an Unvarleys'd Tale of a Tank, after the Manner of Thomson's Seasonable Aid to Daniel's Profits on Elliot and Barclay's Entire. By Permission of Amphitrite And-'er-Son James! Can-Inglishmen do more??????????. Steamship "Great Eastern" - July 1866. Foolscap 4to. Lithographed title page, in blue, with decorated border containing caricatures and headed by the Red Ensign and the Stars and Stripes. Lithographed facsimile handwritten text, 11pp. on 6 leaves. [Bound together with;] DEANE (J[ohn] C[onnellan]) & POORE (G[eorge] V[ivian]) Great Atlantic Haul, September 17th 1866. Contentina, or the Rope!!, the Grapnel!!!! and the Yankee-Doodle!!!!!!!!, being a Great Eastern Mystery typifying the Instructive Story of Cyrus in Search of his Love. 4to. Lithographed title page with decoratice cartoon roundel showing Neptune enthroned with shield of the Union Flag and Stars and Stripes beside him, surrounded by mermaids and other mythical figures. Lithographed facsimile hand-written text, dramatis personae on recto of a single leaf, , 10pp on purple paper, text on five leaves. Very good in contemporary full brown morocco decorated in blind with "cable" panel with stylised compass rose corner devices, slightly rubbed with some mild stripping from the upper edge, a.e.g.
Genuinely scarce ephemeral items produced on the lithographic press on board the Great Eastern during the successful Transatlantic Telegraphic Cable haul of 1866. The authors of these skits are an interesting cross section of Victorian Society, Parkinson was the author, in 1870, of The Ocean Telegraph to India; A Narrative and a Diary; Woods was a correspondent for the Times; Deane a submarine engineer and Poore, just qualified as a doctor at the age of 23 and in his first medical employment as ship's surgeon, was to go onto to become a noted lecturer on medical matters and a leading proponent of sanitary reform.
Typical of the facetious and punning humour of the period these playlets were performed by various members of the ship's company, the theatrically-minded Crimean War veteran Col. de Bathe played Neptune in the first, Who was Who records his recreations as membership of the "Windsor Strollers, the Old Stagers, and the Wandering Minstrels"; Mr. [Robert] Dudley, recorded as the lithographer of these pieces, impersonated "Glass - a young man from the country" - Sir Richard Atwood Glass, Superintendant for the manufacture of the cable, Dudley was on board as Artist-Correspondent for the Illustrated London News and made the drawings on the 1865 cable-laying voyage which were lithographed as illustrations for W.H. Russell's published account of the expedition; Poore, one of the co-authors of these pieces, featured as "1st Mermaid (Poor though Virtuous)". He seems to have specialised in rôles en travesti as in the second production he took the part of the eponymous Contentina "Nep's Daughter".
A pencilled note to the verso of the front free endpaper of this copy suggests that this copy was from Glass's collection. Mounted on a leaf between the two is a clipped illustration from the ILN showing a rather idealised view of a performance of the first play. Rare survivals, these two items represent a remarkable ship-board souvenir of an endeavour that Arthur C. Clarke described as the Victorian equivalent of the Apollo project in terms of its complexity and technological impact.
We locate two copies at the BL only.
Stock Code: 83152