Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book

Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book

Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book is the oldest extant printed collection of English nursery rhymes, published by Mary Cooper around 1744. At least two volumes came out, but only volume 2 survives, and that in a single copy now in the British Museum. Earlier collections are said to have existed, the best known being "Songs for the Nursery, or Mother Goose's Melodies," supposed to have been published in Boston in 1719. No copies of such earlier publications, if they ever existed, have come down to us. Henry Carey's 1725 satire on Ambrose Philips, Namby Pamby, quotes or alludes to some half-dozen or so nursery rhymes.


Familiar nursery rhymes, such as Ladybird Ladybird, Sing a Song of Sixpence, and Baa Baa Black Sheep, sit side by side with others more obscure. One example of a suppressed nursery rhyme:

: 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. [William S. Baring-Gould and Ceil Baring-Gould, "The Annotated Mother Goose", pp. 24-43.]

The Lost First Volume

"Tommy Thumb's Song Book for All Little Masters and Misses" [1788] reprinted a number of rhymes from the second volume along with others that did not appear there. It is suspected that those "extra" rhymes may have come from the lost first volume. ["The Annotated Mother Goose", p. 101.]


ee also

* [ Lina Eckstein, "Comparative Studies in Nursery Rhymes", p. 7]
* [ Tommy Thumb's Song Book For All Little Masters and Misses (1815 reprint at]

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