The Old People Mill


This 1852 single-sheet satirical print depicting “the old people mill” is part of a collection of 850 such broadsides printed in various Swedish cities and now preserved in the National Library of Sweden. These prints were often pasted inside the lids of chests in which people stored their belongings. The print on the left and the accompanying verses below are devoted to “the mill for old men," those on the right to “the mill for old women,” magical mills from which they return young and beautiful. In the era before the major technical innovations that led to industrial-scale production of other printed media, hand-colored woodcuts such as this were widely circulated and played the same role that supermarket tabloids do today. With their use of superlatives, eye-catching typefaces, and decoratively embellished borders, each leaf tells a particular story in a graphically appealing manner. Quickly composed and not pretending to deep meaning, these popular prints were intended to jolt, to caricature, to display moral indignation, and to present didactic lessons—with an immediacy that was lacking in regular newspapers and that reflected popular attitudes as did few other sources. These single sheets also remain an invaluable source for studying language and how it adapted to new societal contexts.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

P.A. Huldberg, Stockholm


Title in Original Language

Gubbqwarnen - Käringqwarnen


Type of Item

Physical Description

2 prints on one page : woodcut, handcolored ; 42 x 35 centimeters

Last updated: February 12, 2016