Valentine Vaux woodcut with elephant

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Valentine Vaux title page

The Adventures of Valentine Vaux, or, The Tricks of a Ventriloquist / by Timothy Portwine

Valentine Vaux woodcut on part no 3

This is another “penny dreadful” (you can read an earlier post about others in our collection). “Timothy Portwine” was actually the prolific Thomas Peckett Prest, who also wrote many parodies (or plagiarisms!) of Dickens’ works under the pseudonym “Bos.” Prest or his contemporary James Malcolm Rymer are usually credited with the authorship of The String of Pearls, or, The Barber of Fleet Street, in which the character Sweeney Todd had his first appearance. Valentine Vaux is a parody/plagiarism/lampoon of Henry Cockton’s The Life and Adventures of Valentine Vox, the Ventriloquist.

In my earlier post I referenced the Barry Ono Collection of Penny Dreadfuls held by the British Library. Since that time, a new resource has become available: researchers at Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Smith, or UMass Amherst now have access to a digitized version of that same collection via Nineteenth Century Collections Online (Amherst College log-in required).

Our copy of Valentine Vaux happens to have a great ownership inscription, in this case a kind of “borrower beware” statement:

ownership inscription of Frederick Smith 1840
This belongs to Frederick Smith, 1840
If thou art borrowed by a friend
Right welcome shall he be
To read to study not to Lend
But to return to me
Not that imparted Knowledge doth
Diminish learnings store
But books I find if often lent
Return to me no more

This same rhyme has been noted in many nineteenth century books, both inscribed and as printed bookplates. For those interested, there is a good overview of this practice in “Traditional Flyleaf Rhymes” (in Folklore and Book Culture by Kevin J. Hayes). Other examples have been blogged about by the Bodleian Libraries Department of Special Collections and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. This is the first one I have encountered, and I’ll certainly keep an eye out for more.

Valentine Vaux woodcut with elephant

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