Exteriors (Case 7, nos. 154-172)
Depictions of the exteriors of shops are of the greatest interest to the local historian, documenting changes to buildings or, in many cases, illustrating buildings which no longer exist. Before photography especially, engravings were vital in recording the social scene. It fell to the jobbing engraver to depict shops and other commercial buildings through the trade card, as such subjects rarely formed the subject of fine art engraving, unless incidentally. The problem for the local historian is that of the accuracy of the engraving. Although engravers would rarely wantonly falsify the appearance of a building entirely, convention allowed for the proportions to be changed slightly to make it more elegant. Another problem was that the engraver might be working from sketches of the building rather than at the location. Allowance has to be made therefore for some inaccuracy in representation. Occasionally, tradesmen had the surrounding buildings depicted as well, perhaps including a church or monument (as in the case of Hitchcock & Rogers, no. 171). Others considered the view of the town more attractive than their own part of it (as in John Lye of Hastings, no. 172). Again, this is primary documentation for the local historian.
Window displays inevitably feature in engravings of shops and are often sufficiently detailed for packaging of merchandise to be clearly seen. Window displays tended to take advantage of the presence of glazing bars, using them as frames for products throughout the height of the window. The impression that shop interiors must have been very dark (unless there was a skylight, as at Ackermann’s, no. 174, or Messrs. Harding Howell & Co., no. 176) is borne out by tradesmen showing their wares by the door.
Trade cards of shop exteriors often include incidental depictions of street furniture, transport and fashion.
Interiors (Case 7, nos. 173-190)
While prints of the exteriors of shops are relatively scarce, there was a vogue for documenting the interiors, of either specific or generic shops. Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) was particularly prolific, producing beautiful aquatints. A selection is shown here, of which the most delicate is that of Ackermann’s own premises by Pugin and Rowlandson.
In many trade cards and prints of interiors there is a certain degree of idealisation: a concern to create a balance between depicting trade in progress and avoiding any sense of overcrowding. With the exception of the Boot and Shoe shop, the overall impression is one of elegance, of attentiveness and comfort.