The Universal Shuttlecock. Containing the Play of the Gaping-Wide-Mouthed- Wadling Frog… was published in London c.1790 by John Marshall, an early specialist in children’s literature whose catalogue of May 1793 listed 113 children’s books, two magazines and various teaching aids.
It features a woodcut frontispiece of the ‘The Tree of Learning’ and 49 other text illustrations but, along with the title work, also includes ‘The Art of Talking with the Fingers…’, as practised in Britain’s schools and universities, and ‘The History of Tommy Goodwill & Jacky Idle’.
The compiler’s sense of humour is revealed in his description of the latter work as “Very necessary for all those who would become great Men and Women, ride in a Lord Mayor’s Gilt Coach, and make everybody love them”.
Only half-a-dozen copies are known, it seems, although two have sold at auction in recent times: one at Christie’s in 2001 for £2600 and another at Sotheby’s New York for $1800 in 2014. The Bodiam copy was in good condition but lacked its Dutch paper wrappers.