‘Cries’ or ‘street cries’ are the phrases called out by street sellers to advertise their wares.
The Cries of London was a popular subject for books, music and engravings, designed both for adults and children. Their appeal is slightly mysterious. Polite adult audiences seem to have found them pleasingly vulgar or even indecent. But as part of children’s culture, they were perhaps meant to serve a more didactic purpose, educating upper- and middle-class children about a less refined part of the world than they might usually encounter, or about ‘otherness’. The image of ‘A Jew’ on the outside back cover here was perhaps meant to seem exotic to young readers who would not necessarily meet a wide range of people in their day-to-day lives. Indeed, a chief attraction of the entire book may have been the introduction to London cosmopolitanism that it provided to provincial readers (it was printed by Houlston of Wellington in Shropshire).
The Moving Market, or Cries of London (1820) provides a selection of London street cries, each accompanied by a woodcut of the vendor. The street sellers, men and women, are depicted offering foods such as gingerbread, oysters and strawberries, household goods such as coal or mousetraps, or services as diverse as mending chairs and polishing shoes. The ‘cry’ was printed beneath a woodcut of each seller and, as the subtitle of this book explains, this provides both ‘Amusement and Instruction’. Although a lot of the cries were probably universal, publishers produced books which were particular to other places both in Britain and abroad. The Cries of York for the Amusement of Young Children published by J Kendrew (c. 1826) was recognisably set in York, and The Cries of Philadelphia (1810) and The Cries of New York (1820) show that their popularity was international.