small print

Whilst I find the subject of eighteenth-century caricature to be an endlessly fascinating one, I have to confess that I don’t always find the prints themselves to be that funny. Admittedly this may say more about me than it does about the caricatures, but it’s not exactly surprising that the humor of many satirical prints has lost some of its impact over the course of the intervening two centuries. Tastes change and you only have to watch a re-run of an old comedy show to realise that what seemed funny 20 or 30 years ago, let along 200 years ago, can often seem passé to a contemporary viewer.

That’s why it’s always nice to come across a print which still has a genuine capacity to make me laugh. This image of Isaac Cruikshank’s Small Print definitely falls into that category. It was sent to me by a reader who, quite appropriately, has it hanging on his bathroom wall; prompting a slightly bizarre exchange of emails in which we compared our respective choice of lavatorial decoration (mine being a copy of John Bull caught at his Last Luxury).

The print was engraved by Isaac Cruikshank and published by Thomas Williamson of No. 20 Strand in 1803. Williamson is known to have published around 50 satirical plates between 1803 and 1805, almost all of which were the work of Isaac Cruikshank. Enjoy.