Academic journal article Folklore

The Peace Egg Book: An Anglo-Irish Chapbook Connection Discovered. (Research Article: Focus on Traditional Drama)

Academic journal article Folklore

The Peace Egg Book: An Anglo-Irish Chapbook Connection Discovered. (Research Article: Focus on Traditional Drama)

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article reports on the discovery of a copy of The Peace Egg Book, a previously unknown chapbook printed in Manchester, UK. The chapbook, which has an Irish text, is set within the contexts of printing and of the Irish community in mid-nineteenth-century Manchester. The textual links between The Peace Egg Book and the Belfast Christmas Rhime Books are analysed, as are the parallels to an Irish-influenced oral tradition set out in a manuscript of 1842. The article establishes the importance of the chapbook in linking together Irish and Lancashire traditional play chapbooks.

Introduction

Since the publication of Alex Helm's The Chapbook Mummers' Play in 1969, those studying commercially produced chapbooks containing traditional play texts have, if for no other reason than convenience, sub-divided them by title into a number of major groups--Alexander and the King of Egypt, Christmas Rhyme Books, The Peace Egg, Mumming Books, and so on (Helm 1969, 3; Preston et al. 1976a, 6). Each title mostly represents a unified group of variant texts and, conveniently, each group more or less equates with a region of the British Isles and a specific time period. Although overall these groups of chapbooks have, to a degree, common plot structures, little attention has been given to any textual relationships that may be found across the groups and, as a result, regions. [1] In October 2000, a copy of The Peace Egg Book "Printed for R. Carr, 9, Cotton-st, Ancoats, Manchester" was anonymously donated to the Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books at Toronto Public Library, [2] and is reproduced here (see Appendix 1). This edition has caused us to consider the issue of textual inter-relationships because it clearly links the Peace Egg chapbooks of Lancashire and Yorkshire with the Christmas Rhyme chapbooks of Belfast, both of which were previously seen as distinct textual traditions, and so it inevitably raises a number of questions that this paper seeks to address.

Robert Carr

Robert Carr's appearance as a publisher of chapbooks in the Ancoats district of Manchester seems to have been brief, from 1835 until 1843, but during that time he was responsible for producing at least two important traditional drama chapbooks, The Peace Egg Book and an edition of The Peace Egg, or Saint George's Annual Play for the Amusement of Youth "Printed and published by R. Carr. 56, Hanover-Street, Manchester". [3] The Poor Rate Books for Ancoats shows that Carr first appears in the area in 1835, living at 9 Cotton Street in what seems to be a multi-tenanted lodging-house owned by "Jackson, Greengrocer" (Manchester Rate Books M9/40/2/114, 63). Carr remained at this address in Cotton Street until 1839 when the rate books show him as one of the tenants of John Tarr at 49 Hanover Street, Ancoats (Manchester Rate Books M9/40/2/125, 67-8; M9/40/2/126, 14). During 1840, Carr moved from 49 Hanover Street to 56 Hanover Street as a tenant in a house owned by John Drinkwater (Manchester Rate Books M9/40/2/129, 16). He remained at this address until 1843 when he left part way through the year (Manchester Rate Books M9/40/2/138, 16). We have not, so far, been able to locate Carr in Manchester after 1843.

The Poor Rate Books appear to paint a picture of a typical Ancoats resident living in a series of multi-tenanted houses, but Ancoats also had its share of small-business people, and the directories of the time place Carr in this category. The directories first list him in 1836 when he is described as "Robert Carr, juvenile bookseller, 9 Cotton Street" (Pigot 1836, 73). There is a similar entry for 1838, but here Carr is described merely as "bookseller" (Pigot 1838, 73). In the directory of 1841, Carr is listed as a bookseller but now at 49 Hanover Street (Pigot and Slater 1841, 58), and the final directory entry for him is in 1843 where he appears in the Booksellers and Stationers section as "Robert Carr (juvenile) 49 Hanover St" (Slater 1843, 11). …

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