Illustrated broadsheet of the lyrics to the Anacreontic Song, the theme song of the Anacreontic Society, whose tune was the inspiration for the U.S. national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. The Society, whose name was derived from the ancient Greek poet Anacreon, was an 18th-century London gentlemen’s social club for amateur musicians. On the broadsheet, the verses are printed below a droll portrayal of a jester and a lyre player presenting the “Anacreontic Petition” referred to in the lyrics to members of the Greek pantheon: an imperious Zeus in the foreground, Hermes with his winged helmet and caduceus, Artemis with a crescent moon atop her head, Bacchus with a cup of wine, Athena dressed as a warrior, etc. Pegasus appears ready to leap from a mountain in the background. These references to Greek mythology, while playful in intent, are typical of the period, the height of neoclassicism and classical enlightenment in Great Britain.
The lyrics begin, “To Anacreon in Heav’n where he sat in full Glee/ a few Sons of Harmony sent a Petition/ That he their Inspirer and Patron wou’d be.” They have been credited to Society president Ralph Tomlinson, although some historians think it was probably a collective effort by members. The tune was probably written by John Stafford Smith (1750-1836), a court musician and member of the Society who was also composer of God Save the Queen. The melody soon thereafter appeared in American newspapers with various lyrics, and was later adapted by Francis Scott Key for the melody of the Star Spangled Banner. A recording of the Anacreontic Song is on the web site of the Smithsonian Museum of American History (see References below).
Three generations of the Bowles family were printsellers and publishers in 18th-century London. John Bowles (1701-1779) traded under his own name, mainly in Black Horse, Cornhill, c. 1724-1754 and 1764-1779. His brother Thomas Bowles (1712-1767) had a similar business in St. Paul’s Churchyard. John trained his son Carington Bowles (1724-1793) and they traded together as John Bowles and Son from 1754 to 1764. When Thomas retired in 1764, Carington took over his uncle’s business and began trading under his own name, publishing maps and prints, while John continued trading as John Bowles. Between 1765 and 1791 he produced numerous guides, traveling maps, pocket maps and atlases, especially for cities and countries in the British Isles. He frequently worked in collaboration with Robert Sayer, including the republication of plates acquired from John Rocque. He also was known for humorous and satirical prints, writing books and other subjects; there are over 85 portraits published by Bowles in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London. Carington was succeeded by his son Henry Carington Bowles (1763-1852), who published under the name Bowles and Carver. John Bowles was succeeded by Robert Wilkinson.
Full publication information: “Printed for & Sold by Carington Bowles, No. 69 St. Paul’s Church Yard, London. Published as the Act directs, 1 Feb. 1791. 603.”
Condition: Generally very good, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, with some minor remaining toning, wear, soiling, soft creases.
“Anacreontic Society.” Wikipedia. 16 September 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anacreontic_Society (6 October 2014).
Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. U.K.: Devon Library and Information Services. 20 June 2001. http://www.devon.gov.uk/library/locstudy/bookhist/lonb.html (20 May 2005).
“The Star Spangled Banner: The Melody.” Smithsonian Museum of American History. http://amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/the-melody.aspx (6 October 2014).
Worms, Laurence and Ashley Baynton-Williams. British Map Engravers : A Dictionary of Engravers, Lithographers and Their Principal Employers to 1850. London : Rare Book Society, 2011. pp. 101-102.