front-coverI recently finished putting together a new edition of Frostiana, a book published in 1814 to commemorate the last frost fair held on the Thames in London.

Frost fairs were held in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when the river got cold enough to allow people to set up booths and generally be active without worrying about falling through the ice. People bought things, skated, and had a lot of fun despite the cold weather.

Frostiana is interesting for its content, which includes a detailed description of the 1814 frost fair and a chapter on skating with many clever and funny anecdotes interspersed, and famous for supposedly having been printed on the Thames. I say “supposedly” because I don’t believe it.

The title page includes the claim “Printed and published on the Ice on the River Thames,” but later in the book, the publisher includes the note “As an additional object of curiosity, it may be proper to mention, that a large impression of the Title page of this work, was actually printed on the Ice on the River Thames!!” (Thurber 2018, 30).

This says that actually, only the title page was printed on the ice. I visited the copy in the Newberry Library in Chicago and had a look. It did indeed seem that the title page was not part of any quire; it had been glued in separately. So the claim that this book was printed on the ice is hyperbole. The printers’ heroic efforts extended only to the title page.

More details can be found in my edition of Frostiana.


B. A. Thurber, ed. 2018. Frostiana: Or a History of the River Thames in a Frozen State. Evanston, IL: Skating History Press.

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