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Publications by Philip Astley

Philip Astley (1742-1814) is often deemed illiterate and several circus historians have echoed this so much that this has become common knowledge about him. However, Astley's literary production puts to rest such a priori. Indeed,  Philip Astley published 10 works ranging from pamphlets to riding manuals and military maps which according to their contents really come out of his experiences. If Astley did not write these books and texts, he at least had the idea, the plot and the articulate purpose of it all making his production part of his showmanship publicity.

Sometimes published on the author's own account, sometimes published by established publishers, several works have undergone numerous reissues, denoting an obvious - although unquantifiable - success (we do not know how many copies were printed each time).

Plus, considering that horse treatises and manuals are not very common in England at the turn of the 18th century, this tends to make Astley not only fully aware of marketing technics to enhance the echo of his shows, but also aware of the technics and means to anchor his own respectability as a credible equestrian, mastering and teaching horsemanship.

His ten productions are divided into:

. 3 riding manuals and treatises

. 2 works dealing with specificities programmed in his show (music and magic)

. 4 military remarks (maps and studies)

. 1 pamphlet (in French, very probably written under his leadership more than by himself).

If the whole of his production may seem diversified and even dealing with themes disconnected from each other, Philip Astley, in reality, does not publish anything that is not used or usable on stage and in the circle of Astley's Amphitheatre or his Olympic Pavilion. His writings always support his shows, or, conversely, his shows are always a space for the resonance of his stories, studies and comments, whether they feed his military career and performances, his equestrian expertise or his taste for technical and spectacular innovations. 


ASTLEY (Philip),  The Modern Riding Master, or a key to the knowledge of the horse and horsemanship; with several necessary rules for young horsemen , Londres, Printed for and fold by the Author at his Riding-School.


ASTLEY (Philip),  The Favorite airs for the violin, German flute, harp, or harpsichord, with a bass; together with the scene of the broken-bridge in the Ombres chinoises , London, Printed for the Author.


ASTLEY (Philip),  Natural Magic or, physical amusements revealed, by Philip Astley, Riding-master, Westminster Bridge, London, great part of which are intended to be added to the several entertainments of the above place for the year 1785 only , London, Printed for the Author.


[ASTLEY (Philip)],  Escape from the Palace, or General Jaquot lost , Astley to the Parisians.


ASTLEY (Philip),  Remarks on the profession and duty of a soldier; with other observations relative to the army, at this time in actual service on the continent, London, Printed for the Author.


ASTLEY (Philip),  A Description and historical account of the places now the theater of war in the Low Countries , London, Printed for the Author by H. Pace.


ASTLEY (Philip),  Astley's new, improved and correct Map…of the Empire of Germany, Holland, etc…This map from the observations (topographical) it embraces and the utility and amusements it presents may be considered as a key to newspapers, magazines…It is, therefore, more respectfully submitted to general inspection on an authority of 40 years personal knowledge of the post and other roads of those countries it minutely describes , London, Hercules Hall, Lambeth.


ASTLEY (Philip),  Astley's system of equestrian education, exhibiting the beauties and defects of the horse ; with serious and important advice, on its general excellence, preserving it in health, grooming, etc., London, Printed by Tibson, 1801.



ASTLEY (Philip),  A stley's project in his management of the horse; rendering it calm on the road, in harness, etc. Such acquisitions may prevent dreadful accidents. Being an abriedgment of his popular and most valuable book of equestrian education. For which is prefixed many excellent remedies for the diseases in horses, etc. , London, Printed by T. Burton, 1804.


ASTLEY (Philip),  A New map of Europe, corrected by Philip Astley senior, London, Philip Astley, Hercules Hall, Lambeth.

Philip Astley Portrait Frontispice 1801.

Phillip Astley. Frontispiece. Atsley's System of Equestrian Education, 1801.

Astley's Remarks on the Profession and Duty of a Soldier, 1794

Philip Astley Remarks on the profession
Philip Astley Remarks on the profession
Philip Astley Remarks on the profession

At the end of the book Remarks on the profession and duty of a soldier (1794), illustration of the Siege of Valenciennes (1793) showing the techniques of the French enemy. This sketch is represented the following year on stage and in the circle at the reopening of Astley's Amphitheatre on Easter Monday 1795 (see from the Equestrian Theater to the Circus , pp.93-95). Astley announces that he is displaying a "real" enemy cannon during his show, the spectacle offering the opportunity of a remake of events that occured for real and of which Astley himself was an active witness.

Astley's System of Equestrian Education, 1801

Astley's System of Equestrian Education,
Philip Astley Frontispice Astley's Syste
Astley's System Sketch.png

Airs of the horse at the Riding school

Astley's System of Equestrian Education

Astley's System of Equestrian Education is re-edited seven times in one year. This riding manual borrows from all styles of equestrian literature. Both a learning guide for any rider wishing to improve his style as well as his understanding and his relationship with the horse, Philip Astley presents advice in the first person, based on his experience, along with a discourse and a dialogue in the most propedeutic tradition. Several pages are dedicated to horse diseases and veterinary advice before the book returns to airs de manège, illustrated by several "sketches". Finally, a last engraving presents all the dressage equipment Astley recommends. This engraving  alone represents the syncretism of Astley's approach: preparing the rider and his mount for all situations whether in the manège, outdoors, or on the battlefield . He advises in fact to secure the dressage with different stages of accustoming the horse to the sound of the drum, the trumpet... and fireworks.

Astley's System Sketch of General Apparatus.png
Astley's System Apparatus 1.png
Astley's System Apparatus 2.png

See also about Philip Astley and horse shows...

Astley's Amphitheater
Astley's Olympic Pavilion
Equestrian show posters of late 18th century  
Project of a British Riding Academy
c. 1620
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