London: S.W. Fores, August 4, 1817. Engraved print, measuring 10 x 14 inches, cropped within plate mark. Signed “G. Cruikshank” in the plate. Pinhole to lower left corner. Traces of blue paper on verso, from previous album mount. A few tiny stray marks.
An early print by English caricaturist George Cruikshank (1792-1878), who produced a series of popular engravings featuring these whimsical animated “pinmen,” promoting them as “striking effects produced by LINES & DOTS.” Publisher Samuel Fores specialized in caricature prints, maintaining a Caricature Museum in London, where visitors could view an encyclopedic collection and rent portfolios of caricatures for home amusement. While the inspiration for Cruikshank’s pinmen is generally agreed to be George Woodward’s earlier print “Multum in Parvo, or Lilliputian Sketches,” also published by Fores, Cruikshank took the conceit to new creative heights in the late 1810s. This early example features four rows of comically expressive stick figures. The top row depicts figures fighting, with swords and fists; the second depicts social dancing. The bottom two rows cover a number of subjects: pastimes such as hunting, riding, shooting, diving, and playing music, alongside more ominous depictions of a hanging and a steamboat explosion. Douglas, The Works of George Cruikshank, 1195. A very good example.