Browns Green, Handsworth Wood, Birmingham, England: Privately Printed, circa 1850.
Wraps. This rare dramatic retelling of Beauty & the Beast takes place between Baghdad and Cairo, where an Iraqi merchant in dire straits steals a rose from a bear and must send his favorite daughter (Beauty/Fatima) to live with the beast and his titmouse companion. Of particular interest are the many references to Railway Mania, a period of speculative frenzy in England during the 1840s. The merchant, Beauty's father, loses his fortune at the opening of this play due to a poor investment in railway construction ("Ill fares the land, to railway ills a prey,/ Where railways are got up which will not pay;/ Shares they may rise or they again may fall,/ A goose-quill makes them with a single scrawl."). The beast, a prince turned into a bear by a magician, possesses a magic railway as well. Also of note are allusions to postal reformer Rowland Hill (1795–1879) and several songs to the tune of popular Scottish and Irish ballads. This play is written in rhymed iambic pentameter and boasts quite a few puns and several songs. Rare; no record in WorldCat at time of posting, and seemingly no reference online whatsoever. A truly unique item, particularly of interest to collectors of fairy tales, Victoriana, Orientalism, the Middle East, trains and railways, and economic history.
6" X 3 3/4". 41pp. No date of publication, circa 1850s. Presumed English authorship. Red cloth over sewn paper wraps, with title stamped in gilt to upper wrap. What appears to be inkstains to cloth, with "Beauty" penned to upper wrap. Cloth peeling from paper wrap, particularly at corners of rear wrap. All edges gilt. Some leaves coming loose from binding, which is in a delicate state. Soiling to endpapers, with name to front free endpaper. Surface tear to verso of front free endpaper. Occasional smudges to pages and inked and pencilled notes to character list, else unmarked. Good. Item #2688