The Paignion, a book with movable figures


This might look like a book from the outside, but it’s more like a game or toy theatre, made nearly 200 years ago. When you peek inside, there are 65 tiny cardboard people. They range from babies and parents to bus-drivers and shop-assistants. These can be slotted into 12 scenes from 19th-century London. There’s a zoo, a horsedrawn omnibus, a church and a stylish townhouse. You create your own story to bring the scenes to life.

What would you do with The Paignion?

You could follow the maker’s suggestions to act out ‘familiar’ scenes such as eating dinner and going to parties. Or you might upset the order, and make people climb in the bearpit or perch on the church bannisters.

Find out more about the history of The Paignion

The title, The Paignion, comes from the Greek word meaning ‘playful’, and this book was meant to be played with by middle-class children. It was printed by FC Westley in the 1830s, then painted by hand. This copy is very rare – one of only three known to survive.

The Paignon is a type of ‘slot-book’. Earlier examples include Fullers’ paper-doll books (c. 1810), which had cut-out heads that slotted into different costumed figures. Here, there are many diifferent slots scattered across each picture, giving children an ‘infinite variety’ of possibilities.

Life in Regency London

Each scene is drawn in perspective, with delightful detail, as if inviting us to come inside. The pictures give us a glimpse of middle-class life in Regency London, with treats and outings as well as church on Sundays. At that time, it was a new thrill to ride on a horse-drawn omnibus, which first appeared in London in 1829. Shopping was also an important part of everyday life, and there were new shops aimed at children.

Full title:
The Paignion: with sixty-five figures, which can be placed in any of the twelve views to form an infinite variety of domestic scenes.
c. 1830, London
F C Westley
Printed book / Movable book / Illustration / Image
Usage terms

Public Domain. Image © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Held by
Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
Arch. AA. f. 78.

Full catalogue details

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