Lottery handbill or puff. Circa 1815. 11.5 x 18 cm.
Published by Joseph Bish and his agent S.Jolliffe, Druggist, Crewkerne [Somerset].
Called a rebus owing to its puzzle pictures, word puzzles, or hieroglyphics. This rebus has the answer provided three-quarters of the way down the bill. Mainly because of his popular and ingenious lottery handbills, Thomas Bish of Cornhill and Charing Cross, London, was one of the best known lottery-office keepers of his time, c.1790-1826 (when lotteries were banned). In fact there appear to have been two characters with this name, Thomas Bish the son having taken over the business quite seamlessly from his father. Certainly they were both shrewd and successful entrepreneurs who built up a network of agents all over the country, creating jingles and verses and always eye catching images. Every opportunity was taken to promote the name of Bish and their lucky lottery offices. It’s not surprising that lotteries were made illegal. The sums of money on these ads are extraordinary. £25,000 in 1806 is the equivalent of about £20 million now. The total prize money of £250,000 is therefore equivalent to £200 million. There had been Jolliffes in Crewkerne since at least the mid-eighteenth century: a William Jolliffe is listed in the 1784 Bailey’s Directory as a “grocer” of the town. In 1794 Samuel Jolliffe is named as printer, and he continued to trade as such in Sheepmarket Street, as well as being a bookseller, druggist and lottery agent well into the next century. A copy of this particular rebus can be found in the British Library (Shelf mark: L.R.26.b.1(30) ) & in the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera in the Bodleian Library, Oxford and was selected to be published in a selection of lottery handbills in John Ashton’s ‘History of English Lotteries’ published by the Leadenhall Press in 1893.