The first of the ‘Petticoat Amblers’ to be promoted on this broadside (one of four sold for £14,000) is described as, in mock racing terms: “Miss Diana G---y is arrived at this meeting for the diversion of those gentlemen who are strong in hand, and capable of managing a filley who is rather unruly than otherwise. She has an agreeable face, and is genteely made; has been in the keeping of a gentleman of note and was esteemed rather accomplished than lewd; but of late has thrown off her mask, swears like a trooper, eats like a horse and drinks like a fish, --- yet she is humane.”

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In the Dominic Winter (20% buyer’s premium) sale of June 26 bidding reached £14,000 for these broadsides.

They bear such titles as ‘The only True List, of those celebrated Sporting Ladies, or Petticoat Amblers, who afford the Bucks and Bloods an amorous Felicity every Evening during the Races’.

Unrecorded rarities

A few other such broadsides are recorded, but this group is not among them. All but one incorporate a woodcut illustration at the head of the satirical text that describes the attributes of the ladies, and two actually cite rates or prices – “…for a flying stroke, 6d., all night 2s”.

‘Advertisements’ for prostitutes attending unspecified race meetings, they were extracted by Orsky from a volume of chapbooks published in Lichfield in the 1770s and describe in ribald prose the various attributes and skills of ladies whose working names include Jenny Foreyard, Cleopatra Tickleback, Polly Trim, Jenny Spruce and Lucy Pleasant.

These sporting ladies trying their fortunes in the jockeying trade, we are told, come from diverse places in England and Scotland: those formerly “preparing Fruit to make Wooden drink in Cyder-Land”. Another “From the other side of the Tweed are likewise come a numerous string of brimstones who may be heard of at the Oatmeal Grinder’s in Water-Gruel Square … They are all now warranted clear of the Scrub, having been well fumigated since their arrival in England.”

Beautiful designs


Embroidery design from a collection by Margaretha Helmin, or Helm – £15,000 at Dominic Winter.

Moving on to more mundane pleasures in the Orsky sale, Margaretha Helmin, or Helm (1659-1742) was a German embroiderer, teacher and skilled engraver of Nuremburg who in c.1725 had published in that city a collection of 156 copper-engraved plates of her many embroidery designs, 59 of which are folding.

The many beautiful designs it contains were intended to be worked in varying techniques on household linen and clothing: fans, shoes and slippers, gloves, stomachers, borders, night caps, jackets, neckerchiefs, muffs, neck linen, gown hems, hats, bags, aprons, tassels, saddle cloths, and even book covers.

Sold at £15,000, the rebound copy in Orsky’s collection, purchased at Sotheby’s in 1968, showed some minor toning, spotting and edge creasing as well as numerous tears and repairs, and some plates had been trimmed and re-guarded, but with exception of an example in the V&A, no other is recorded.

Also see the Hansons sale in ATG No 2390.