This Sixpenny Toy Book, published by George Routledge & Sons circa 1870, has been in the Knowles-Ireland family since late Victorian times, and has been avidly read by so many generations that it has disintegrated. Only the back cover and about half the pages remain, to give us a glimpse of the kind of literature — often of a cruel, racist or cautionary nature — that children delighted in before psychologists and earnest educators ruled that it was offensive and harmful. At the time of writing, the creator of the bizarre pictures remains a mystery. He identifies himself only as "CHR", and does not appear in the results of internet searches. Likewise, I do not know who wrote the rhymes. One of the latter, now lost, went as follows, if I remember correctly after the passage of more than 50 years:
His name was Jack,
He was off in a crack
And he never came back.
Two knights did once resolve to fight
Upon an open plain,
And 'twas agreed no peace should be
Till one of them was slain,
'Twas hard to say which of the two
The best man should be reckoned,
For both their heads, most strange to view,
Flew off at the selfsame second.
Now, some maintain this one was best,
And some assert 'twas t'other;
It lay between them, and I think,
If not one, 'twas the other.