Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book

Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book is the earliest extant printed collection of English language nursery rhymes, published in London in 1744. It was a sequel to the lost Tommy Thumb's Song Book and contains the oldest version of many well-known and popular rhymes, as well as several that have been largely forgotten.


With the full title: Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book Voll. [sic] II, this was a sequel to the now lost Tommy Thumb's Song Book, published in London by Mary Cooper in 1744.[1] For many years, it was thought that there was only a single copy in existence, now in the British Library,[2] but in 2001 another copy appeared and was sold for £45,000.[3] An alleged earlier collection, Songs for the Nursery, or Mother Goose's Melodies, was supposedly published in Boston in 1719. However, the location has been disputed,[4] and no record of such work exists. Henry Carey's 1725 satire on Ambrose Philips, Namby Pamby, quotes or alludes to some half-dozen or so nursery rhymes. As a result, this is the oldest printed collection of English language nursery rhymes that is available.[5] The book seems to have been printed entirely from copperplates, which contained words and illustrations. It is 3x1¾ inches and it is printed with alternating red and black pages.[5]


The book contains forty nursery rhymes, many of which are still popular, including;

There are also a number of less familiar rhymes, some of which were probably unsuitable for later sensibilities, including:

Piss a Bed,
Piss a Bed,
Barley Butt,
Your Bum is so heavy,
You can't get up.

Some nursery rhymes turn up in disguise:

The Moon shines Bright,
The Stars give a light,
And you may kiss
A pretty girl
At ten a clock at night.

This is an earlier version of:

When I was a little boy
My mammy kept me in,
Now I am a great boy,
I'm fit to serve the king.
I can handle a musket,
And I can smoke a pipe.
And I can kiss a pretty girl
At twelve o'clock at night.[6]


See also

  • , p. 7
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