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Early Colonial Woodcut Printing Block of "Tom Thumbe, the Little",
c. 1730s-1750s, Woodcut Printing Plate from "The History of Tom Thumbe", Popular English Folktale, Choice Extremely Fine.
This is an original 2" x 3" x 1" thick Hand-engraved woodcut printing plate, with an incised image of a large bird carrying a tiny man in its beak, flying over the grass towards a building. This image is a variant of the title page from one of the earliest and most popular of all English folktales of the 17th century. Tom Thumbe is the name of the tiny folk hero who was no bigger than his father's thumb. This woodcut printing block image is very similar to the illustration found on the title page of an early chapbook: "The History of Tom Thumbe, the Little, for his small stature surnamed, King Arthurs Dwarfe: Whose Life and adventures, containe many strange and wonderful accidents, published for the merry time-spenders" (Imprinted at London for Thomas Langley, 1621). The story was originally written by Richard Johnson (1573-1659?), and, though we are not able to identify the printer or the engraver of this image, the chapbook was credited to Thomas Langley. A very interesting and valuable collectible from the 18th century. Extremely rare and unusual, likely unique as such.
The earliest known prose version of "Tom Thumbe," published in English, appears in a seventeenth-century chapbook titled "The History..." written by Richard Johnson (listed only as R.I. on the title page). While King Arthur is a central figure in the tale, Johnson adds his own twist to the plot by including magical gifts given to Tom by his godmother, the Fairy Queen, his encounter with the giant, Gargantua, and his captivity in the giant's castle.

A later adaptation of Johnson's version is found in the chapbook, "Tom Thumbe, His Life and Death: Wherein is declared many Maruailous Acts of Manhood, full of wonder, and strange merriments: Which little Knight lived in King Arthur's time, and famous in the Court of Great-Brittaine" (1630). Written in verse, this adaptation includes Tom's parentage and the magic surrounding his birth when Merlin grants the wish of the ploughman's wife for a son even if he were no bigger than the ploughman's thumb. This version also includes Tom's popularity and noble deeds in King Arthur's court, but omits Johnson's embellishments. One hundred years later, playwright Henry Fielding would rely on the popularity and general knowledge of Tom Thumb's story in writing his own version, ushering in a new phase in its evolution. The woodcut printing block above would correspond to a later edition of the Tom Thumb folklore, most likely in the mid-1700s.

Richard Johnson (1573"1659?), an English romance writer, produced "The Famous Historie of the Seaven Champions of Christendom" (1596?). The success of this book was so great that the author added a second and a third part in 1608 and 1616. He updated the Tom Thumbe story in the 1620s.
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Item #72577Price: $1,295.00Add to Cart
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