Punch Scholar

Punch & Judy a Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy

The most significant book in the history of Punch and Judy is undoubtedly:

Punch and Judy a Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy
written by John Payne Collier
with illustrations by George Cruikshank
Prowett, London 1828
Reproduced in many editions afterwards.

The script is based on the performance of Giovanni Piccini. This book was put together to record what may have been the last the performance of Picinni in 1827. The book was released to the public in the new year of 1828. It was very popular, and second and further editions soon followed.

The published script has, to a degree, standardised the play of Punch and Judy. While the actual performances have varied and evolved, continuous publication of this script in all sorts of different contexts has cemented it in the minds of the public, particularly during the 19th century. The importance of the book is both in its documentation of the script and George Cruikshank's visual record.

Giovanni Piccini, along with his brother, came from Piacenza in Italy to London in about 1779 (Felix, 2016) . Most likely he toured the various fairs up and down the country from Spring to Autumn and around the streets of London in Winter. Eventually, from about 1885 until around 1827 he remained mostly in London, giving him a very familar presence, especially for those growing up in London during that time [ see this article from 1821].

In that time Piccini became quite renown and did well for himself.

"Porsini (Picinni) was the first original street Punch, and Pike was his apprentice - their names is handed down to prosperity among the noblemen and footmen of the land."
- The Punch showman interviewed by Henry Mayhew in 1850.

Piccini taught the show to other Punch performers and soon after this book was published sold his puppets and booth (Mayhew 1850). Although he had achieved considerable success and earned a good income while he was able to perform, as he grew old and infirm he ended up quite desititute. At the time his show was recorded for the book he was living in the somewhat squalid Coal Yard off Dury Lane (see illustration) . It is thought he continued to perform for a few years as a gallanty (shadow) showman (Felix 2016) before ending up in the St. Giles Workhouse in 1831. He died in the workhouse at the age of 91 in 1835. (Stead, 1950; Felix, 2016).

The first pages of the book with Cruikshank's well known portrait of Punch.

The Kings Arms Drury Lane in the 19th Century.
Click on the image to enlarge.

A notable publication of this book is the one below which includes reproductions of the original sketches by George Cruikshank in colour.

Punch and Judy
Collier/ Piccini script edited and introduced by Paul McPharlin
The Limited Editions Club, New York 1937

Online version of the 7th Edition.
This includes a description by Cruikshank of the day they set about recording the show, the history written (anonymously at first) by John Payne Collier and the illustrated script.

If you just want to read the script with the illustrations then you could download this pdf [ Click here to open]

Felix, G.(2016) Inside the Booth. published by G. Felix.
Stead P.J.(1950). Mr. Punch. Evans Brothers.

As published by the Limited Editions Club.