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The Fitzwilliam Museum's collection of trade bills

This online exhibition looks at some of the purchases made by a wealthy family living in London during the second half of the eighteenth century. The Fitzwilliam Museum is home to a small collection of tradesmen's bills, sent to members of one family - the Blathwayts - who lived on Golden Square, London, from 1767-87. The selection of bills highlighted on these pages offers an insight into the extraordinary range of goods and services available in London, then the largest city in Europe. These transient documents of everyday life, covered in contemporary handwriting and elaborate flourishes, tell us something about what the Blathwayt household wore, used and consumed, but they also reveal facts about the men and women running the businesses, how they advertised themselves to attract custom in late eighteenth century consumer society.

The exhibition is divided into two main sections:

Selling
Looks at a selection of the businesses trading at this time in London, how they advertised and identified themselves, and what they were offering.

Buying
Takes a closer look at what the Blathwayts purchased and the prices they paid, and is illustrated with comparative objects from the Fitzwilliam Museum, the other University of Cambridge Museums and beyond.

The Gallery section shows all the trade bills on the Museum's online catalogue. Select an individual image to view the complete record for each bill, where you can view larger images and read the inscriptions.