Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Bachelor's Fare" Revisited, 1777

Back in January I featured this post addressing the clothing of sailors in the 1777 John Collet print "Bachelor's Fare."

Recently I revisited the online collections of the British Museum and found colorized versions of some of the images I've featured on this blog in the past. I was particularly intrigued by the versions of Bachelor's Fare that were available partly because I love the print, but also because they present two sides of the same coin.

The above is the original I examined, from the collection of the National Maritime Museum.

Two separate colorized versions are in the collection of the British Museum. What makes them valuable to our examination is the stark difference in their coloration.

In this first copy, the sailor in the foreground wears a blue jacket with brass buttons, a yellow neckcloth, blue checked shirt, a gold or yellow trimmed hat with matching cockade, and a pair of trousers with a slight blue hue. His mate in the background has a brown jacket with cloth covered buttons, a white neckcloth, and a yellow waistcoat with brown or black stripes.

The second copy is entirely different. The tarpawlin in the center wears a red jacket with white metal buttons, a black or brown checked shirt, a blue neckcloth dotted with white and yellow. His cocked hat is trimmed in white and fitted with a blue bow. The jack sticking his head through the doorway now wears a blue jacket with brass buttons, a red neckcloth, and a yellow waistcoat with horizontal red stripes.

I have also turned up a third copy that you can buy for yourself over at

Bachelors Fare, or Bread and Cheese with Kisses, John Collet, printed by Carrington Bowles, 1777,

The Jack in the doorway wears a blue coat with white metal buttons over a white waistcoat with horizontal stripes. His black hat is untrimmed like the others. The seated fellow wears a red jacket with white metal buttons, a blue check shirt, and red striped waistcoat.

Let this be a warning to us! As much as I nitpick at the details, these prints are not photographs. They are completely subject to the artists', engravers', and colorists' interpretations and choices. It is impossible to know what these subjects really looked like, if indeed they are even based on actual individuals. The best we can hope for through this examination is to come to an idea of what the general appearance of a sailor in the time was.


  1. Hey, I have a question if you don't mind. I was trying to find a way to contact you via the blog and didn't see it so I'm responding to this post.

    In this picture of the execution of Admiral Byng, there's a board placed behind the Admiral.

    Do you have any idea as to why that's there? It doesn't seem thick enough to stop bullets. Is it there to make for easier cleanup after? Is it a part of the ship's existing infrastructure? (such a strange word to use with a ship but I guess it's as good a word as any)

    Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Your first guess was right, it was to stop the bullets.

      Practically speaking, the board as it appears in the print probably wouldn't have stopped a bullet at that range. Even with the lower velocity blackpowder cartridges of the time, there's a good chance they'd have punched right through.

      Most likely the printer made it a thinner piece to save space in his image. He also omitted the sawdust that was spread on the quarterdeck before the execution was to take place.