The British Museum collection contains seventeen satirical prints that were produced by a publisher identified as I.B. Brookes between 1830 and 1837. The collection catalogue records that Brookes’ shop was located at an unspecified address on Old Bond Street in 1830 and at No. 9 New Bond Street thereafter. The catalogue also notes Brookes published prints under a variety of different names, including I.B. Brookes, J.B. Brookes, J. Brookes, J.B., I.B., I.B.B. and reversed forms of the initials J.B. and H.B.
Further research carried out using contemporary newspapers sources and other online archives now allows us to piece together a more comprehensive and accurate history of Brookes’ career in the London publishing trade during the 1820s and 1830s.
I.B. Brookes’ correct name was John Benjamin Brookes and we know little or nothing of his early life or entry into the London book trade . It’s possible that he was the Benjamin John Brookes who was baptised at the church of St. Mary’s, Ealing, on 18th September 1803 . He may also have been the John B. Brookes who married to Elizabeth Castle on the 12th August 1821 at Christ Church Greyfriars, a venue was located a few hundred yards away from the historic heart of London’s book trade in St Paul’s Churchyard and Paternoster Row, but all of this is mere speculation .
The earliest definite reference we have for Brookes comes from a newspaper advertisement of August 1826, identifying him as the owner of a bookshop located at No. 4 Royal Arcade, Pall Mall . This address had previously been occupied by the bookseller W.J. Partridge and it is evident that it passed into Brookes’ ownership sometime after the following advertisement appeared in the Times on 31st January 1824
To Booksellers, Stationers, and Printsellers – Wanted to purchase, a small but respectable business, in either of the above branches, with or without a circulating library, or to take a share in a well established concern. Also to rent a small house, or the whole or part of a shop in a good thoroughfare, with a short distance of the opera-house. Apply by letter, post paid, to A.Z. care of Mr Partridge, 4 Royal Arcade, Pall Mall.
The request for correspondence to be submitted ‘post-paid’ was a constant feature of Brookes’ own later trade advertisements, and it points to the possibility of him being behind the ‘A.Z.’ advertisement and this precipitated his takeover of Partridge’s shop at No. 4 Royal Arcade.
Brookes remained in the Royal Arcade for at least two years before moving to occupy new premises at No. 9 New Bond Street. The move was announced with the following advertisement:
To be let, No. 4, Royal Arcade, Pall-mall, a shop and other conveniences, lately occupied by J. Brookes, bookseller, who has removed to No. 9 New Bond-street, opposite the Clarendon Hotel. The rent is £30, taxes about £3 per annum. Coming in £35. Inquire at New Bond-street. Letters must be post paid .
Another advertisement, published a few years after Brookes appears to have ceased trading, provides us with some insight into the layout of the shop on New Bond Street, which was illustrated by John Tallis around the same time (right):
…comprising on the upper floor, two sleeping rooms, second floor two bed chambers, principle floor drawing room, ground floor a shop, the front glazed with plate glass, basement kitchen, with dressed and sink, water closet, and coal cellar .
Brookes’ trade advertisements confirm that he moved from No. 4 Royal Arcade to No. 9New Bond Street in 1829 and that he would remain there until at least 1838. The British Museum catalogue entry which puts Brookes in Old Bond Street prior to 1830 is therefore incorrect and presumably based on an error in the publication line of the print The Bulletin, or old Douro and his aid’s in a consternation (1830).
Brookes was primarily a bookseller by trade but he also dabbled in publication. His activities as a publisher can be divided into two distinct areas; the first of these was a number of medical reference books that were published in conjunction with Sherwood & Co of Paternoster Row and John Wilson at the Royal Exchange . The location of his business partners hinting at the further possibility of Brookes’ origins laying in the City book-trade, rather than the West End of London. The most successful title produced by this consortium being:
The Green Book; a Popular Commentary on syphilitic affections, (adapted to the waistcoat pocket, and illustrated by coloured plates,) wherein every possible variety is fully and familiarly considered, and their treatment clearly laid down; intended as a guide to the invalid .
Which was popular enough to sell through ten new editions between 1834 and 1838, including an extended edition containing “200 extra pages and 7 coloured drawings” .
The subject matter of The Green Book hints at the other area of Brookes’ publishing activities, namely his involvement in the production of printed erotica and illicit pornography. Although the illegal nature of this trade meant that it was often carried out behind closed doors and it is therefore difficult to determine the nature and extent of a particular publisher’s involvement, we do know that Brookes was directly responsible for publishing at least two pornographic novels – The Lustful Turk (1828) and The Amorous Intrigues of Don Ferdinand and Donna Maria (n.d.) – and possibly also issued a number of indecent prints.
His involvement in the illicit trade in printed smut was certainly substantial enough to bring him to the attention of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, who had him arrested sometime in the autumn of 1830. I have been unable to locate a record of the trial and it is possible that Brookes’ cut some sort of deal with the Society in order to escape formal prosecution, as the following notice appeared in a number of national newspapers shortly after his arrest:
Society for the Suppression of Vice, 61 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The Society having consented to drop a prosecution commenced against me, in the Court of King’s Bench, for the sale of certain obscene publications, on condition that I plead guilty to the indictment, enter into recognizances to appear for judgement when called upon, and also that I delivery up to the Society, for destruction, all publication of the same description remaining in my possession; and I having agreed to these terms, do hereby publicly express my obligations to the Society for its merciful consideration towards me and my family, and do hereby undertake that in future I will neither directly nor indirectly engage in the sale of such publications. And finally, I do hereby consent to the insertion of this my acknowledgement and undertaking in such of the public papers as the Society may thing proper, as witness my hand hereto, this 21st day of October, 1830.
– J.B. Brookes, 9 New Bond-street .
If the Society’s aim was to shame Brookes into giving up an otherwise profitable line of business then its tactics evidently failed, as he was apprehended once again a few years later:
John Benjamin Brookes, printseller, of Bond-Street, was on the 28th ult. apprehended, on the prosecution of the Society of the Suppression of Vice for the sale and exposure of indecent and obscene prints and books. Bail, we hear, was on Tuesday last refused, by a Judge at chambers, for his appearance to receive the judgement of the court next term, and he consequently stands committed until that time .
The outcome of the case is not known but given that Brookes’ remained in business, it seems likely that he was either acquitted or fined and released on good behaviour.
In addition to the sale of books and prints, Brookes’ business activities are known to have included the provision of a poste restante address for personal advertisements and the operation of a circulating library from 1836 . The latter was advertised as follows:
To the Nobility and Gentry, the United Services, and the Public – J.B. Brookes, of 9 New Bond-street, opposite the Clarendon Hotel, Circulating Library, respectfully announced to persons making a short stay in London, that he continues his system of accommodation in furnishing all the new works for perusal without demanding a subscription. Subscribers may rely upon being immediately supplied with the new publications. Subscriptions: – £1 16s per quarter; £3 3s. half year; £5 5s annual. The country trade furnished with turn-outs cheap, but communications must be post paid .
The project evidently met with some initial success, as Brookes took out another advertisement four months later to announce the launch of his new “ultimate subscription” to the library which was priced at £7 7s a year .
The publication of satirical prints was another peripheral element to Brookes’ business activities. He is known to have published at least 22 lithograph-engraved satires between 1830 and 1837, typically publishing a couple of new titles each year . Production on such a small scale means that it is unlikely that he would have invested in the skills or equipment necessary to publish prints in-house, and the publication lines of a number of his satire confirm that some (if not all) of this work was undertaken by other tradesmen . The appearance of the phrase “J.B Del.” in the prints Bow Street, The Pick-Pockets Examined (c.1830) and The Petition (c.1831) indicating that they were probably working from ideas supplied by Brookes himself. The only named artist known to have associated with Brookes was Henry Heath, who produced the plates Union Characters No. 17 (n.d. possibly part of a larger series) and It’s most hinfamous to let these here steamers out on a Sunday (1834) for the bookseller.
The prints themselves are almost entirely concerned with political subjects and are heavily indebted in both style and content to the popular Political Sketches of HB series by John Doyle. They mainly deal with the turmoil surrounding the passage of the Reform Act of 1832, and reflect Brookes’ views as an avowed supporter of the moderate wing of the Whig party. Thus Daniel O’Connell and those pushing for a more radical reform of the constitution are often treated with equal disdain to the Duke of Wellington, the Duke of Cumberland and other ultra-Tories.
The “I.B” signature which begins to appear on Brookes’ prints from 1834 onwards was presumably intended to serve as both a method of marketing and a deliberate attempt to emulate the success of the satires that John Doyle had published under his “H.B.” moniker. We do not know why Brookes began using it instead of his correct initials, or what the letter stood for (perhaps the declarative – ‘I, Brookes’), but the following advertisement suggests it may have been deployed to distinguish Brookes from a prominent stationer of the same name:
To the Editor of the Times
Sir – Can you find a corner in your valuable journal for this explanation? In a late prosecution against Carlile, of Fleet-street, one of his bail was a John Brooks, a stationer, and now the same John Brooks is attempting, with others, to dictate to Sir F. Burdett what his political course ought to be in his place in the House of Commons. On both these occasions, from the similarity of names and trade, I assure you I have experienced much annoyance from various customers, believing me to be the party. At the time of Carlile’s prosecution, the remark was – “So, you are bail for Carlile!” And no less than eight time to-day I have been addressed nearly as follows: – “A pretty figure you and your letter are cutting the Times of to-day and yesterday!”
Without any wish to intrude myself or opinions into public notice, I cannot conclude without stating, that Sir F. Burdett’s late refusal to submit to dictation would induce me to give him my support, had I not always before done so.
Singed John Brookes .
John Benjamin Brookes died in late July 1838. His final trade advertisement was published in the Morning Post on 25th July and he drew up his last will and testament two days later, suggesting that his death occurred suddenly . In all probability he was one of the thousands of Londoners who succumbed to the epidemics of influenza, typhus and cholera that simultaneously swept across the city every summer during the late 1830s and early 40s. These pandemics would eventually force the government to launch a massive renewal of London’s crumbling infrastructure and initiate the first widespread public health programme. His business may have continued trading under the same name for a few years after his death, as No. 9 Old Bond Street is still given as the address for “Brookes, Book and print publisher” in John Tallis’ illustrated London street directory of 1840. However it seems likely that the property may have been sold by the time Tallis’ book was published or shortly thereafter .
- Brookes Christian and middle names can be confirmed by reference to his will PROB 11/1897/322
- London Metropolitan Archives, St Mary, Ealing, Register of baptisms, Jan 1802-Dec 1812, DRO/037/A/01/011
- Select Marriages, 1538–1973[database on-line].
- Times 14th August 1826. I. McCalman, Radical Underworld…, p. 204 states that Brookes was publishing pro-Caroline pamphlets from premises in Hanover Square in 1820 and had accepted bribes from Carlton House to desist. McCalman references KB 28/512/19 in support of this. I have been unable to check this document to verify the claim.
- Ibid 16th February 1829.
- Ibid 18th May 1840.
- Other titles published by Brookes and his associates include Hints to the Nervous and Dyspeptic (1836) and Medical Hints – Cases and Prescriptions, illustrative of a speedy and successful method of curing morbid discharges of the Urethra (1837).
- Times 20th September 1834.
- Ibid 4th July 1836.
- Copies of the notice can be found in Times 1st November 1830 and Morning Chronicle 4th November 1830.
- Times 5th July 1833.
- For example the Times 28th September 1831 contains a notice from a music teacher who is willing to offer his services free of charge to anyone who may be able to offer his sister a place at a finishing school.
- Times22nd October 1836.
- Ibid 26th January 1837.
- All titles part of the British Museum collection unless otherwise stated:
The Bulletin, or old Douro and his aid’s in a consternation, April 1830
Bow Street, The Pick-Pockets Examined, 1830 (London Met. Archives)
The bubble blowers or a picture of the times, 1831
Lex talionis or hit the first [June] 1831
The petition, 1831
The royal Jonah, 1831
The evil counsellor, 1831
Which way would you prefer to get in, 1831
The Tipperary janus, or both sides of the question, 1831 (Library of Congress)
The Discovery, 1831
The Charles St gang sent to quod for burking poor Reform Bill, 1832
There’s no denying it !!!, January 1832 (Library of Congress)
Prend moi tel que je suis, 1834
It’s most hinfamous to let these here steamers out on a Sunday…, 1834 (London Met. Archives)
Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis, c. 1834 (private collection)
A Prophetic Alegorical Sketch. The Frankenstiens destroyed by the Monster of their own Creation, 1834
Declining the Honor, 1836
The Lamb-eth Street Lament, a new song to an old tune, 1836
A Prime Laundress, or the head of the new washing concern in South Street, 1836
An Irish Howl!, 1837
The Irish Ducrow, or A private rehearsal of the wonderful performances intended to be exhibited this season, 1837
Amilcar Plumpit swearing the ten young Hannibals, [n.d] (Bodleian Library)
Union-character No. 17, N.D.
- William & John Clerk of 51 Dean Street Soho published prints for Brookes’ until at least 1832 and from 1834 onwards this work was undertaken by Lefevre & Kohler, lithographic printers, 52 Newman Street.
- Times 14th March 1835.
- PROB 11/1897/322
- We must assume that Tallis completed his survey of Old Bond Street before May 1840, as the notice of the sale of the lease on No. 9 Old Bond Street appeared in the Times on the 18th May 1840.
Erik Von Norden said:
Interesting blog. I find it ironic, the modern complaints that today’s political ads could not possibly be more sarcastic or negative, when in fact cartoons and speeches – some from the most respected figures of the eighteenth century – were far more so. Keep up the good work from Erik at theoryofirony.
I quite agree and thank you.
I feel my family owe an apology to John Benjamin Brooks. It was our John Brooks (stationer, 421 Oxford Street) that caused JBB to write to the Times.
I look forward to exploring your blog…
Ha! How interesting. Looking forward to finding out more about him on your blog.