IT is not odd that signs should be odd. The oddity is that they should not be odder. The first object of a sign, in the present day the sole object, is to attract attention, to give the house over which it hangs distinctiveness, not only in the eye of the passenger, but in the memory of all who have seen or heard of it. The more strange the picture the more certain is this result, and with all nature to choose from it would have been no wonder if there had been no two signs alike, and every sign had expressed some bizarre thought or unusual combination. Something of that kind is still seen in Paris, where, although signboards are slowly dying out, sign-names, if we may use the expression, remain, and you may find a tobacconist's shop called the "Father Eternal," and a vintner's exulting in the name of "Bacchus' Toe." The limits on fancy imposed by circumstances have, however, greatly reduced the • Matt:try of Signboards. By J. Ierwood and J. 0. Rotten. London: J. 0. Rotten. scope of sign-painters' originality. In England, as a rule, only inns put up signs, the pawnbroker's being the only trade in which the exception may be said to be universal, and all pawnbrokers using one sign, taken from the arms of the Medici. The host, or anciently the shopkeeper, though he wanted to attract attention, wanted also a sign which "told its own story" without troubling people to think, and which therefore represented something ordinary folk who could not read were familiar with. Then he wanted a name which unlearned people could easily pronounce and remember, and very often wished to compliment his locale either by putting up the town arms or the landlord's arms, or some picture referring to the trade or the special boast or the old celebrities of the place. Sometimes, too, he expressed his political feeling, or that of his customers, sometimes tried to praise someone article he soldrand sometimes, being entirely without an idea, borrowed one from his neighbours. The uninventiveness of the average man comes out wonderfully in signs. In London, for example, there are now 12 "Adam and Eves," 13 " Albions,"
13 "Anchor and Hopes," 16 "Black Bulls," 29 "Black Horses," 19 "Blue Anchors," 14 "Blue Peters," 27 "Bricklayer's Arms," 22 "Britannias," 15 "Brown Bears," 17 "Bulls," 22 "Bull's Heads,"
14 "Carpenter's Arms," 52 "Coach and Horses," 12 "Cocks," 61 "Crowns," 34 "Dukes of Wellington," 32 "Dukes of York," 24 "Fountains," 52 "Georges," 56 "Grapes," 15 "Green Dragons," 21 "Horses and Grooms," 12 "Kings of Prussia," 89 "King's Arms," 63 "King's Heads," 23 "Lord Nelsons," 18 "Marquis of Granbys," 15 "Nag's Heads," 15 "Ploughs," 19 "Prince Alberta," 43 "Princes of Wales," 17 "Queen Victories," 23 "Queen's Arms," 26 "Royal Oaks," 53 "Ships," 17 "Star and Garters," 19 "Suns," 19 "Swans," 21 "Three Compasses," 28 "Two Brewers," 20 "Wheat Sheaves," 15 "White Bears," 63 "White Harts," 44 "White Horses," 25 White Lions," 35 "White Swans," and 12 "Yorkshire Greys," the only odd repe- tition being the sign we have italicized. Indeed, in the whole of the list, which occupies nearly three pages of Mr. liotten's octavo, there is scarcely a singular or unintelligible sign, though 4 "North Poles," 2 "Hercules' Pillars," 3 "Nell Gwynnes," 5 "Pewter Platters," 6 "Blue Lasts," 3 " Antigallicans," and a few others, show that at some time or other there have been innkeepers in London not so strictly bound in conventional fetters.
At present almost all innkeepers employ names already often employed, and the main object of the antiquarian who attends to the subject is to discover the origin of a long but still limited list of titles. In this search he will be materially aided by Mr. Lar- wood and Mr. Hotten's compilation, divided as it is into chapters according to the motive of each series ot signs. Thus there are historic and commemorative signs, heraldic signs, signs taken from animals and monsters, birds and fowls, fishes and insects, flowers and trees, from saints and martyrs, trades and professions, a few which Mr. Hotten describes as topographi- cal—no pun—and a few more humorous or satirical. Some of the historical signs tell their own story, as, for example, the "Kings of Prusi3ia " which were put up all over England while Voltairiau Frederick was supposed to be fighting the battle of English Protestantism, but some require explana- tion. The Sultans were once favourite signs, Murath and Soliman being common, chiefly, we imagine, because the owners of houses with those signboards sold coffee and tobacco. Kouli Khan was celebrated on a sign in Newcastle, he having given Englishmen a right to trade with Persia, from which our great grandfathers expected immense advantages, and might, had the permission been used, have gained some. There are two "Grave Maurices " still in London, Grave Maurice being the Graf Maurice of Nassau, who was popular for his resistance to Spain in the Netherlands. Most English signs of the kind, however, have English heads on them, kings, generals, admirals, or politicians, but one physician has a place, Dr. Butler, who invented a medicated ale, and who is the original of the "Butler's Head" sign, usually supposed to be derived from the name of that kind of manservant. One or two poets have been thus celebrated. " Jonson's Head" was the name of a tavern in the Strand in 1655, and "Shakespeare's Head" is still one of the com- monest of signs, but of modern poets Lord Byron is the "only one who has been exalted to the signboard." An actor or two have been painted as signs, the " Garrick's Head," for example, having been put up in Garrick's lifetime, but Joe Grimaldi seems to have been the last thus honoured. It is scarcely the fashion now to record eminence in this style, and though there may be a "Lord Clyde" here and there, it will be long before we see a " Ten- nyson's Head" or a "Gladstone Arms." In the North the heroes of popular songs were sometimes promoted to signs,
"Robin Adair," for example, being frequent, but in the South only one such hero has been found, and he is "Jim Crow," a curious evidence of the innate vulgarity of a people without traditions or old ballad literature. "Toby Philpott," however, a well known sign, was taken from a song on a man named Paul Parnell, a Yorkshire farmer, who drank in his lifetime 2,000/. worth of Yorkshire sting° at twopence a pint from a single silver cap, and who was praised by O'Keefe in a roaring " ditty " under the characteristic nickname. Celebrity of this kind is usually fleeting. "From the perusal of this catalogue, we can draw one conclusion, namely, that only a few of what we have termed historical signs' outlive the century which gave them birth. If the term of their duration extends over this period, there is some chance that they will remain in popular favour for a long time. Thus, in the case of most heroes of the last century, few publicans certainly will know anything about the Marquis of Granby, Admiral Rodney, or the Duke of Cumberland, yet their names are almost as familiar as the Red Lion' or the Green Dragon,' and have indeed become public-household words. Once that stage past, they have a last chance of continuing another century or two, namely, when those heroes are so completely forgotten that the very mystery of their names becomes their recommendation, such as the Grave Morris,' the Will Sommers,' the Jack of Newbury,' &c." "Jack of Newbury" is still a sign in Finsbury, though the world has forgotten that he was once the greatest clothier in England, and led a hundred men equipped at his own expense into battle at Flodden.
Heraldic and emblematic signs are almost all taken from the arms of great families now forgotten, and many quaint signs have this origin, the "Blue Boar," for example, now so common, being a Yorkist sign, the blue boar having been a badge of Richard, father of Edward IV. Richard Ill's was a white boar, and after his death all the ." White Boars" were painted blue, to avoid annoyance from the successful pretender. The " Hawthorn " was probably adopted as Henry VIL's badge, the " Gun " or " Cannon " was the emblem of the later Tudors, the "Rising Sun," the "'White Lion," the" Red Lion," the" Port- cullis," the "Feathers," the "Rose," the "Dolphin," and many others were all originally badges. So were the "Cross Keys," the old Papal emblem, and the "Globe and Compasses," taken from the Joiners' arms, the "Three Tuns," from the Vintners' arms, the "Golden Cup," or the "Cup," from the Goldsmiths' arms, the "Hammer and Crown," from the Blacksmiths', "the Wheatsheaf," from those of the Cecils, the "Greyhound," from the Clintons', the "White Horse," from the Howards', and so on.
The choice of beasts seems to have been limited, very few occurring which, like the tiger, do not occur on arms. Leopards do, and there are therefore leopards. Not one uncommon animal is recorded in Mr. Hotten's list, and the infinite majority of animal signs are derived from dogs, horses, cows, sheep, cats, hares, foxes, badgers, and other well known beasts. An obvious reason for this limitation is the difficulty felt by artists in copying what they had not seen, but as the Zoological Gardens are now accessible, we may recommend vintners in want of a sign to the animal kingdom. Among birds the eagle has been the most common sign, but we have also the phoenix, the swan, the duck, the hen, the raven, the stork, the crane, the cock, —though the cock and bottle meant originally the bottle and spigot,—the falcon, the magpie, the owl, and indeed every bird well known in England. The fishes thus used are few, the " Dolphin " being the most frequent, and originally a punning compliment to the Dauphin. We have, however, the "Salmon," the "Eel," the "Mackerel," and the "Mermaid," which Mr. Rotten classes among fishes, and in which one-half of England believes devoutly to this day, so devoutly that almost any absurd figure will take in the country-folk. Of insects only the "Bee" and "Grasshopper "are known to be used, and of flowers the " Rose " alone has been extensively patronized, the "Blue Bell," a common sign in the East of England, being, we believe, though Mr. Hotten doubts it, a bell painted blue, and not a flower. Among fruits the "Pear Tree," "Cherry Tree," and "Apple Tree" are the only signs of frequent recurrence, but the "Peach Tree" is found, and in Lancashire the "Cotton Tree" is becoming quite a favourite sign in Manchester. There, too, is the only curious vegetable sign, the " Oxnoble," from the local name of a much liked kind of potato.
Biblical signs were once very common, but they are, we believe, dying out. We have, however, many "Adam and Eves" and "Noah's Arks," and the "Flaming Sword," while the "Dove and Rainbow," "Jacob's Well," the "Brazen Serpent," the "Two Spies," "Samson," " Goliah," "King David," the "Salutation," the
"Angel," and the "Baptist's Head" are still found in old towns, and even in London. The " Angel " indeed is one of the com- monest signs in England, the angel commemorated being, it is supposed, the one who appeared to Mary, though usually repre- sented nowadays by a figure taken from the Mercury on some Roman coin. We may add in this connection that Bacchus, Juno, and Hercules seem to be the only heathen deities still wor- shipped in inns, though " Vulcan " was once a very favourite Dutch sign. There is little to be said of signs with quasi-sacred names on them. There are few of them in England, though an inn still exists at Dawdley called "St. Peter's Finger," and one "Devil's Head" is known to be left at Royston, Herts. The "Lamb and Flag" is still common, but its original meaning has been happily forgotten, and very few persons who frequent the "Man in the Moon" are aware that he is suppose'! to be the person who gathered sticks on the Sabbath day, who was stonel to death for so doing, and who was then pat up in the moon as a warning to all persons, a little legend we recommenl to the careful credulity of Scotchmen.
We must pass over the signs which owe their origin to trades and professions, the house, the table, and dress, merely remarking that there is still one of the old Cavalier signs, the "Hat and Feathers" in existence, though feathers have ceased to be worn by civilians so entirely that to wear one would be evidence in a suit de lunatic° inquirendo, and that there is still a " Boot and Slipper," and pass on to humorous signs, of which a few are still extant.
Mr. Hotten inclines, we see, to think the Pig and Whistle," one of these, "a freak of a meclimval artist," but this is a little doubtful, though the sign would have been a fair sar- casm on the bear and ragged staff of the Nevilles. The "Cat and Fiddle" certainly is comic, even if the sign was originally "Cafes Fidele," alluding to a great Protestant of Queen Mary's reign, and so is the "Hog in Armour," of which there is no explanation. The "Puss in Boots" is an inn near Derby, and the "Gaping Goose" is common in Yorkshire. The comic side of the relation between man and the animals has, however, never been worked out in England, and innkeepers seem a little afraid of grotesque signs. They were common once, but at present the only bizarre sign very frequently Been is that of a man struggling through a globe, the name being usually the "Struggling Man." The "Good Woman " occurs, however, in one or two places, the goodness consisting in silence, and the silence shown by the absence of a head. This at least is the popular version, but it is more than possible that the figure may not have had a jocular origin. It was once very common over oil shops, and it is suggested that our worthy ancestors intended to depict the headless, i. e., heed- less virgins who bought no oil, a somewhat far-fetched, but still possible theory. Another well known comic sign is the "Mischief, or Man Loaded with Mischief," and originally painted by Hogarth as a man carrying a woman on his shoul- ders. There is an inn still in the Borough called the "Moon- rakers," from a story of which there are many versions, the most popular being one which Mr. Hotten does not give, that the people of Coggeshall, in Essex, =mired their steeple to make it grow, and raked in their river for the moon, lest it should be drowned. The sign of the " Cripples " is also supposed to be a joke against drunkenness, but the modern sign-painters' efforts at wit have not been many, and when made have usually been fail- ures. Modern signs, like modern epitaphs, are usually conven- tional to the last degree, and in their decorous propriety attract neither rebuke nor notice. Perhaps the only unintelligible one still universal all over England, on new houses as well as old, is the "Chequers," a sign of extraordinary antiquity, and with Mr. Hotten's explanation of this we close our notice of a book which, though chiefly a compilation, will delight all who like to study the byways of thought and literature.
"Perhaps the most patriarchal of all signs is the 'Chequers,' which may be seen even on houses in exhumed Pompeii. On that of Hercules, for instance, at the corner of the Strada Fullonica, they are painted lozenge-wise, red, white, and yellow, and on various other houses in that ancient city, similar decorations may still be observed. Originally it is said to have indicated that draughts and backgammon were played within. Brand, in his Popular Antiquities, ignorant of any existence of the sign in BO remote a period as that mentioned, says that it repre- sented the coat of arms of the Earls of Warenne and Surrey, who bore checqui or and azure, and in the reign of Edward N. possessed the privilege of licensing ale-houses. A more plausible explanation, and one which is not set aside by the existence of the sign in Pompeii, is
that given by Dr. Lardner During the middle ages, it was usual for merchants, accountants, and judges, who arranged matters of revenue, to appear on a covered bane, so called from an old Saxon word, meaning a seat (hence our Bank). Before them was placed a flat surface, divided by parallel white lines into perpendicular columns ; these again divided transversely by lines crossing the former, so as to separate each column into squares. This table was called an Exchequer, from its
resemblance to a chess-board, and the calculations were made by coun- ters placed on its several divisions (something after the manner of the Roman abacus). A money-changer's office was generally indicated by a sign of the chequered board suspended. This sign afterwards came to in- dicate an inn or house of entertainment, probably from the circumstance of the innkeeper also following the trade of money-changer—a coinci- dence still very common in seaport towns.' Chaucer's Merry Pilgrims put up in Canterbury, at the sign of the Checker of the Hope' (i. e., the Chequers on the Hoop).
'They took their in and loggit them at mydmorowe, I trowe, Atte ekeker of the Hope that many a man doth knowe.' —Ludgate's Continuation of the Canterbury Tales. This inn (says Mr. Wright, in his edition of the above work) is still pointed out in Canterbury, at the corner of High Street and Mercery Lane, and is often mentioned in the Corporation Reports under the title of the Chequer. It is situated in the immediate vicinity of the Cathedral, and was therefore appropriate for the reception of the pil- grims."