Popular in the nineteenth century as a means of cheaply distributing popular culture in print was the chapbook. Small in size, thus suitable for pocket or purse, frequently printed on a single folded sheet of paper.
Launched in September 2011 there is, for London in the twenty-first century, a new superior hybrid of chapbook and map in the form of CurioCity.
Edited by Henry Eliot & Matt Lloyd, CurioCity comprises beautifully executed vignettes of an eclectic mixture of London ephemera, contemporary and historical, also printed on a single sheet, presented duodecimo in a convenient and clever origami package befitting of the sub title London Unfolded.
Delighted to be furnished with Issue B to peruse, it may be useful to note that the card casing was sufficiently sturdy to withstand the chaotic disorder of that unruly item of luggage which doubles as boz’s handbag.
Do not be fooled into thinking that the compact size of this tiny publication is indicative of insubstantial, flimsy content. To the contrary it is packed full of miscellaneous snippets of informative; factual; entertaining; whimsical and occasionally weird insights into little known gems of London minutiae.
Contributions to Issue B include an article on the delightful Seven Stars public house and a list of risqué Tube Station sobriquet from Matt Brown at http://londonist.com/ along with tales of St. James’s Park and London’s oldest street art by Peter Berthoud http://www.peterberthoud.co.uk/ Additionally, such diverse subjects as a Book Barge, secret entry to see trading at the London Metal Exchange and the Crossbones Graveyard in Southwark.
The latter is a pertinent subject as the site is being marketed for redevelopment. Should any reader wish to sign the petition that is part of the campaign to protect Crossbones you can do so here: http://www.crossbones.org.uk/ and for further reading on this and other At Risk heritage sites in London, boz can do no better than recommend the excellent articles to be found at http://thelondonphile.com/
The inside of Curiocity is given over to a specific theme illustrated in mapping format, which for the current issue is London the Zoo: drawing the reader through a labyrinth of creature related curios to be found for the looking within the metropolis.
Also included therein, is a Mythical Beast Safari taking a tour of lesser spotted dragons and gargoyles lurking in the capital. At number thirteen in this entry boz was most entertained to discover old friends Gog and Magog, having just undertaken illustration of said giants in miniature for the Guildhall Art Gallery.
A regular visitor at the Guildhall and coincidentally avid collector of chapbooks was Samuel Pepys. The greater part of Pepys’s chapbook collection he acquired in the 1680s and had bound into genres. The collection of bound volumes is now kept at Magdalene College, Cambridge.
Part map; part book; part curio; should you wish to obtain a copy of this highly entertaining publication it is readily available at these well reputed London stockists: http://www.curiocity.org.uk/stockists/ including one eminent purveyor of maps Established 1827, or can be ordered online at http://www.curiocity.org.uk/
Having enjoyed the second issue, boz will en route to Covent Garden, secure a copy of CurioCity London Unfolded A, as in the event a collection might end up in an illustrious archive, it had better be complete.