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George Cannon

A Brief Biography of
Copyright © 2006 Sheryl Straight

George Cannon was born in 1789 and began his involvement in the book trade in c.1815. Being part of the radical, freethinking circles of the time he edited and contributed to many libertine journals and periodicals {i.e. The Theological Enquirer and Rambler's Magazine [1822-1825] beginning in c.1815.

Cannon entered into the pornographic book trade after 1821 and was a major driving force in the field as author, translator, editor and publisher (particularly flagellation texts). Having no desire to play the martyr in the name of free press he published these works clandestinely under various pseudonyms and press marks.

Advertising this "hard-core" porn was obviously out of the question so he had to revert to creative substitutions. He accomplished this in one instance by hiring agents (perhaps posing a laundry women) to throw obscene books over the walls of girls' boarding schools; an enticement he hoped for a later sale.

Cannon was able to evade the police until December 10, 1830 when he was convicted and fined 20 pounds for publishing "The Festival of the Passions". The following year Cannon was again arrested and found guilty of obscene libel. He spent his next 12 months of life in Tothill Fields prison.

In October of 1853 Cannon was again raided by the police; who confiscated 2115 obscene prints, 9 copper plates and 81 obscene books. He died a five months later in March 1854. His wife, however, continued with the business until 1864, when she was accidentally burnt to death.

Pseudonyms and Imprints: Erasmus Perkins, Abdul Mustapha, Mary Wilson, Philosemus, Paphian Press


To find out more about George Cannon see Iain McCalman's "Radical Underworld. Prophets, revolutionaries and pornographers in London, 1795-1840". London: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Line drawing by Boris




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