London und Paris

London und Paris, €13,000 (£11,200) at Antiquariat Peter Kiefer book auctions.

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Instead, for the single contemporary source on ‘the father of the modern political cartoon’, we must turn to the series of commentaries printed in the German Napoleonic-era journal London und Paris.

Published in Weimar by Friedrich Justin Bertuch (1747-1822), London und Paris reported on cultural and political events in Europe’s two largest cities at the turn of the 19th century. Reportage on travel, fashion, music, politics and curiosities made it a popular read and the most successful title in the Bartuch stable.

Around 1805 it reached a circulation of 1300 copies with a year’s subscription (two volumes of four booklets) costing six thalers and eight groschen.

London und Paris

A detail from London und Paris, €13,000 (£11,200) at Antiquariat Peter Kiefer book auctions.

A particular draw for readers were the numerous pirated reprints of English and French costume studies and political caricatures. These often appeared soon after their initial publication date, secured for the magazine by a series of ‘foreign correspondents’ who provided commentaries so they could be better understood by a German-speaking audience.

London und Paris’ man in London was Johann Christian Huttner, one of perhaps 30,000 Germans living in the city at the time.

There is some evidence to suggest he knew Gillray personally as he demonstrated a remarkable understanding of the subject matter: his observations have been used by scholars to identify some of the more obscure references in Gillray’s prints that appeared in the magazine between 1798 and 1806.

Huttner identified four key characteristics that he believed made Gillray the best of his era: his use of literary references; his allegorical knowledge; his skills as a portraitist and his ‘constant regard for the true essence of caricature’. In 1999, a full translation of these German commentaries on Gillray was published by Christine Banerji and Diana Donald in Gillray Observed.

The journal ran from 1798-1811 under the title London und Paris and later as London, Paris and Vienna until it was discontinued in 1815.

Odd single issues are not hard to come by. However, “complete copies of the entire series are almost impossible to find”, said the cataloguer at Antiquariat Peter Kiefer book auctions in Pforzheim.

The near-complete run offered on May 2 numbered 24 volumes from 1798-1810 with a total of 265 copper plates (many of them a larger format and folded). It came for sale with a provenance to the Schönborn- Buchheim library (much of it sold by Reiss & Sohn in 1993-94). Estimated at up to €1800, it hammered at €13,000 (£11,200), plus 25% buyer’s premium inc tax.