Edward Lear did not invent the limerick, at least four books were published in the early 1820s, and it is by these that he was inspired to compose his first “nonsenses” in the early 1830s. You can read all of these extremely rare books here at nonsenselit.org:
- The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women. Illustrated with as many engravings; exhibiting their principal eccentricities and amusements. After what he went through in his disease (link to blog post) much credit is due to our artist, I ween; For such pictures as these can seldom be seen. London: J. Harris and Son, 1822. First edition 1820. [B/W images from the Hockliffe Collection. Colour scans at the Edward Lear Home Page.]
- Anecdotes and Adventures of Fifteen Gentlemen. London: John Marshall, c 1821. [Colour scans at the Edward Lear Home Page.]
- Anecdotes and Adventures of Fifteen Young Ladies. By the Author of “Anecdotes and Adventures of Fifteen Gentlemen.” London: E. Marshall, c1822. [B/W images from Hockliffe Collection.]
- A Peep at the Geography of Europe. Illustrated by Comic Figures of the Several Nations. London: E. Marshall, c1824. [B/W images from photocopies in Arthur Deex’s collection.]
Little Rhymes for Little Folks: or, Poetry for Fanny’s Library. London: John Harris, 1823, only contains two limericks.