The Merry Cobler and His Musical Alphabet (ca. 1800)

This is a charming alphabet book, dating from around 1800, published by the Glasgow-based publishers J. Lumsden and Son. Established in 1783 by James Lumsden, the publishers were best known for their high quality printings of books for children and juveniles. This particular specimen follows a simple enough format: a little couplet for each letter with accompanying picture, though things do get a little strange come those troublesome letters "X" and "Z" (this is before the days of X-rays...). What the ancient Persian King known as Xerxes has to do with chickens, we are not entirely sure; and for "Z", instead of opting, perhaps, for a simple zebra, the book doesn't bother at all, offering us rather a somewhat sinister image of a dog taking "the Bull by the nose". Oddities arise even with more common letters, for example: "R is Romp,/ To swing, very willing", and "Y" is bizarrely represented by a "Ewe".

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