Quoted from Susan Hack-Lane (2011): 'While early writings used no such title, in 1923 the term Cornish Litany was used in a crafts community in Polperro, a small town in Cornwall. According to a publication in 1926 (F T Nettleinghame, Polperro Proverbs and Others) tourism was thriving there. Young women were taught the craft of poker work (burnt wood designs) and a cottage industry expanded based upon mottoes for all occasions. The Cornish Litany is referred to as one of their first and best selling items. The publication boasted of the artwork of Arthur WRAGG in their souvenir line of pokerwork and postcards.'
To qualify as an item or artefact in the Cornish Litany series the following legend must appear somewhere within the design: A Cornish Litany/From Ghoulies & Ghosties & Long Leggetty Beasties/ And Things That go Bump in the Night/ Good Lord Deliver Us. There are alternative versions of this 'prayer' incorporating other terms for ghoulies & ghosties, such as the witches and wizards of the Devonshire Litany. It has also been adapted (or perhaps originated?) for Scotland and even Somerset, and as the historian Debra Meister has projected for the West Country (Countrie) in general.
The designs are intricate, often lovely in a gruesome and comic sort of way, with flames and would be spectres frightening their observers with masks and grotesque images as appearing to them in dreams and nightmares. Others are cartoonish, and still others in the Beardsley style, which was the age in which they appeared. Meister, through her deep interest in the cultural artefacts connected to Halloween and its traditions, developed an interest in these commercial graphic art works, and has published (now in third edition) a history with illustrations from historic and contemporary design collections.
Known artists with specific connection to Cornwall include Arthur WRAGG, Alice C BUTLER, and possibly the following who may or might not have a direct connection to Cornwall, though they have illustrated the Litany: Stanley Thomas Chaplin, A T Cooper, R J Dymond, Kittie Roberts, Elliot, W J Madley, Victor Jones, Davidge, Stil, Alison McKenzie (1907-1982). A card has recently (2013) been found by Meister with the signature V M HARVEY, and there are traces in auction catalogues, without visual reference, to oil paintings by this artist depicting a harbour with fishing vessels, and one entitled 'Porth Leven Harbour'. As yet, no further information is available.
Graphic design, pen & ink, engraving, pokework, pottery inscription, etc. motifs on tourist memorabilia
works and access
misc further info
Hack-Lane, Susan (2011) 'A New Look at the Old Cornish Litany' in Postcard World Magazine (Nov-Dec issue)
Meister, Debra (2012, 3rd ed) A Litany...Cornish and Otherwise