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

Punch and Judy a Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy
John Payne Collier with illustrations by George Cruikshank
Prowett, London 1828
Reproduced in many editions afterwards.
Script based on the performance of Giovanni Piccini.

This book was put together to record what may have been the last the performance of Giovanni 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) and performed around the streets until around 1827, 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 a number of Punch performers (Mayhew 1850) and soon after the book was published sold his puppets and booth. 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 (pictured below) . 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).

 

 

Below is an illustration by Isaac Cruikshank (father of George) from 1895. It is thought this may be Piccini, with his brother playing the organ.


[ Click to enlarge image. ]

 



Illustration of the Kings Arms inn in the Coal Yard off Drury Lane near what is now High Holborn, North of Covent Garden.

As you can see it is typical galleried inn with a courtyard. It would have been convenient for Piccini, as he could have stored his booth frame under the balcony. For the performance the booth was lifted up onto the balcony and a window frame temporarily removed so it could be taken inside.

 

 

 

 


 

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.

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89004227641;view=1up;seq=5

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. G. Felix.

Stead P.J.(1950). Mr. Punch. Evans Brothers.