Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The First Piracy. Part 1. Overview and Structure

(Portions of this essay appeared in a previous post.)
I've said a lot about the first piracy of Hoyle's A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist in this blog, in a published article, and in a talk I have given two or three times. There remains much to say about the physical book. There are variants among the surviving copies that reveal much about its printing history and challenge the bibliographical concepts of edition, issue, and state. It will take me several essays to discuss the variants and their implications. A theme throughout is the bibliographer's mantra: examine as many copies of a book as possible

First some background. 

Hoyle published A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist in November 1742. He sold it privately to his whist students for the high price of one guinea. After selling out the first edition, Hoyle sold the copyright to bookseller Francis Cogan for 100 guineas on February 3, 1743. Cogan must have expected to sell the book for the same guinea that Hoyle charged and took a slightly marked-up copy of the book to printer James Mechell. Before Mechell printed the second edition for Cogan, he printed copies, lots of copies, to sell for his own profit.1

The "Webster" piracy

The piracy, pictured at left, omits Hoyle's name from the title page, attributing the book to "a Gentleman." The imprint "Bath printed, and London reprinted for W. Webster near St. Paul's" is fictitious. The book was never printed in Bath and Webster is a name invented to disguise Mechell's identity. The piracy was advertised in the General Evening Post of February 19 at a price of two shillings, less than a tenth of the one guinea that Cogan intended to charge.

It was not until the first week of March that Cogan published a second edition, matching the pirate's price of two shillings. In April, Cogan obtained an injunction against Mechell, James Watson, a second printer who pirated Whist, and seven booksellers who sold copies of the piracies.

I was not kidding when I sad that Mechell printed lots of copies. No records survive indicating the size of the print run, but I know of 43 surviving copies, by far the most of any early Hoyle. With only four known copies of the first edition, the piracy is the earliest Hoyle obtainable. Other Cogan editions of Whist survive in small numbers: eight copies of the second edition, seven of the third, ten of the fourth and seven of the fifth.

Let us start by looking at the physical book. The most important element of a book description is the collation statement which describes the structure of the book. The piracy collates 8°: [A]4 χ2 B–M4. The formula means that the book was printed as an octavo (eight leaves or sixteen pages to the printed sheet) and assembled in gatherings of four leaves or eight pages. Gathering A is unsigned (as indicated by the brackets); B through M (omitting J, as is typical for books of the period) are signed. The symbol "χ" is used for an unsigned gathering in the middle of the book and the superscript "2" indicates that there are two conjugate leaves, that is a single piece of paper folded to make two leaves or four pages.

A stab-sewn copy, never bound

When I wrote the "Pirates" article, all the copies I had seen were tightly bound and I couldn't tell whether the two leaves between gatherings A and B were conjugate. I gave the more conservative collation formula 8°: [A]4 (A4+2) B–M4 indicating that the two inserted leaves were singletons, that is separate pieces of paper. In 2012, I got the copy pictured above. It is in completely original condition, unbound with the original stab sewing. Even though the pages are a bit curled, it is a delightful survival that reveals the book's structure.

The photograph of the bottom of the spine below, makes it clear that the two leaves between the A and B gatherings are a single folded sheet rather than two single leaves.

χ2 not A4+2

One would expect the printer to begin setting the type with gathering B where the text begins, and proceed through the end of the book. Gathering A, and here χ would be printed last. The first leaf A1r is the half-title pictured above, and A2r is the title page, also picutred. χ1 and χ2 contain the table of contents, obviously printed last.
Leaves A3 and A4 contain a curious "Advertisement" in the form of a "Letter from a Gentleman at Bath" which purports to describe the publishing history. The author describes losing "a considerable sum of money one night at [whist]." He concluded that he was beat by superior skill and found that there was "a treatise on the game of whist lately dispersed among a few hands at a guinea price." He obtained a copy "with no small difficulty" and learned he "had heretofore been but a bungler at this game." He "applied to a stationer who offered to make [him] a present of half a hundred of them, provided I would allow him to print a few more for his own use."

Well, that's not quite what happened!

The next essay will begin to look at variants.


1A fuller account is in my article "Pirates, Autographs, and a Bankruptcy: A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist by Edmond Hoyle, Gentleman" in Script & Print, 34 no. 3 (2010): 133-61

Friday, December 20, 2019

2019: The Year in Collecting

2019 was a good year for me as a collector. Since my Hoyle collecting is far along, when I find something I don't have, it must be rare. I'll look first at the best of the new non-Hoyles, then the Hoyles, but first a story.

In the summer of 2017, I took David Pearson's class in Provenance research at the Rare Book School in Charlottesville. We learned about forms of evidence to understand book ownership: inscriptions, bookplates, bindings, heraldry, catalogues, and more. At a break, I told David that I had never marked my books in any way. As I described my collection, he said, "You have some really good books, but most of your books are interesting only because they're part of your collection. If you don't identify your books, that interest will be forever lost." His comment resonated--for example, I have a lot of uninteresting $25 whist books, but I do have 300 of them that together tell the story of the game. He convinced me that I should identify my books.

I contacted some friends who are letterpress printers and came up with the bookplate pictured below. The woodblock ornament is taken from the first edition of Hoyle's Backgammon. Add a border and my monogram (which David described as a mangled Roman numeral), and voila! My friends had a polymer plate made with many instances of the book plate in three different sizes.They printed and cut out lots of plates.
Levy bookplate
Polymer plate on the press

It has been a huge project attaching the plates. In addition to pasting them in the books, I've used the opportunity to make sure that my electronic and paper records are in sync with the physical books. Disclosure: they weren't! I've also added location detail so I can print a shelf list. Finally, I've also had to decide which books are part of the collection and which are not (such as modern books on contract bridge or backgammon).

I have plates in roughly 800 of the 1200 book collection so far. Work continues! I am using a rice paste that is soluble in water, so the process is reversible. If my books are important as a part of collection, they are now mostly identified.

On to the new acquisitions.

I have a weakness for books in manuscript. We tend to think that once moveable type was introduced, all books were printed. In fact manuscripts overlapped with printed books for a long, long time. For an extraordinary example with a great story, see my essay "The Left Hand of Bougy..." The manuscript on Quadrille from 1725 is, like the Bougy manuscript, copied from an edition of the Académie des Jeux, the French gaming anthology that appeared in one form or another for generations.

1732 Quadrille

Another weakness. And another book on Quadrille. I've written many times how I love books in original unsophisticated bindings. See, for example here, here, here (second from the top), and here. The book on Quadrille at left predates Hoyle; I mention it in the essay "Piquet and Quadrille Literature." I acquired the copy at left at auction this year. It is a pamphlet that has never been bound and retains the original stab sewing. Lovely!

And now the Hoyles.

Whist, Lisbon (1752)

This year brought a copy of the first Portuguese translation of Hoyle's Whist, Lisbon, 1752. When I wrote the essay "The First Translation of Hoyle," everyone thought that this was the earliest translation. Since then, a 1751 translation turned up, as I wrote in the essay "A French Discovery." So Do Jogo do Whist is the second translation of Hoyle. Mine is one of two known surviving copies.

What is remarkable about the book is that it is the first I know to illustrate the use of tokens for keeping score at whist. In the essay "Hoyle's Scoring Method and Whist Counters," I discuss whist scoring tokens. I suggest in that essay that the first mention of scoring with tokens was in the 1791 chapbook Short Rules for Short Memories at Whist by "Bob Short" (Robert Withy).  I still believe that to be the case in English, but I've since found scoring discussed in three 18c Portuguese editions (1752, 1768, 1784), and a Russian edition published in St. Petersburg (1769). The Russian edition purports to be a translation from a French edition, but the tokens are not illustrated in any French version I have seen.

Whist scoring tokens (1752)

The two new Hoyles in English are both reissues of books I have already, but with cancel titles. The first is discussed in "Reissues of Mr. Hoyle's Treatises (1748-1755). With this 1755 reissue, I have four of the five different issues.
Mr. Hoyle's Treatises (1755)

The final example is a Dublin reissue of the Polite Gamester from 1783. It was originally published by Thomas Ewing in 1772. Ewing died in 1775 or 1776 and James Hoey took over his stock. Hoey reissued the book with a cancel title in 1776. See the essay "Every Cancel Tells a Story, Don't It (part 1)" for pictures and more detail.

I can't say why Hoey put a new title page on the book in 1783. The imprint is the same as is his address, 19 Parliament Street. Probably, he wanted to make the book look more current with a new date.

The Polite Gamester (1783)

It's a bit beaten up, but the only other recorded copy is in the John White collection at Cleveland Public Library (discussed here), so I have no complaints. 

Best wishes for 2020!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

250 years

The terms semiquincentennary or bicenquinquagenary are not terribly felicitous, but please note that today marks the 250 anniversary of the death of Edmond Hoyle. The notice in the London Chronicle read:

A moment of silence, please!

And now onto some interesting biographical news.Seven years ago, I wrote:
Hoyle was born in 1672 and published his first book in 1742 at the age of 69 or 70. There is absolutely no evidence about any aspect of his life before that time...
Earlier this year, I was shocked and delighted to learn that Hoyle was active in maritime insurance in Rotterdam in the 1720s! This was apparently known to economic historians, particularly those who study bubbles, but had never been noted by gaming historians. 

The story is found primarily in Dutch books on the history of economics, but there are some sources in English, the most available of which is Goetzman, Money Changes Everything, Princeton University Press, 2016. The highlights of the story are briefly as follows:
  • In June 1720, Hoyle and Dutch national Gerard Roeters approached the Amsterdam city council with the thought of setting up a maritime insurance company much like Lloyds of London. 
  • Amsterdam refused, and in July they carried the offer to Rotterdam who allowed them to set up the company. 
  • They established Stad Rotterdam as a joint stock company and subscriptions were traded on the Rotterdam exchange. Speculative fever ensued and the shares quickly increased in value.
  • Within two weeks Hoyle sold his share to Englishman Thomas Lombe at a large profit. 
  • Later, Lombe convinced Roeters to invest further money with Stad Rotterdam. 
  • In late 1721, Roeters brought an action in the London Chancery Courts against Lombe, complaining that Lombe failed to operate the business as promised. The litigation continued for years and generated a lot of paper now at the National Archives in Kew. From the bits I've looked at, perhaps only ten per cent of the total, there is no mention of Hoyle in the pleadings.
Hoyle's involvement in Stad Rotterdam was short-lived and I don't know how much more there is to learn about his involvement. But this rabbit hole looks to be worth some more of my time.

It is reasonable to ask whether we are sure it is OUR Edmond Hoyle who was involved in these events. Both forename and surname were fairly common at the time. The answer is unequivocally yes, it is OUR Hoyle. There are a number of documents that have survived notary archives in Rotterdam and the archives of Stad Rotterdam with a Hoyle signature. Here is a sample, taken from the Goetzman book mentioned earlier: 

Share transfer from Hoyle to Lombe
July 16, 1720
Goetzman, p70

This signature and others I have seen from the Rotterdam archives clearly match the signatures in his books (see a sample here) published more than two decades later.

I don't find it surprising that Hoyle was involved in the insurance industry. In 1754 he wrote An Essay towards making the Doctrine of Chances easy to those who understand Vulgar Arithmetick only, discussed elsewhere on this blog. The book includes tables of annuities on lives, the basis for life insurance. He was aware of the mathematics of risk.

There is one other hint about Hoyle is some of the notarized documents--he is identified as a London merchant. This suggests that we may be able to find more information about Hoyle in London by looking at city directories, banking records, and so on.

So Hoyle had a life before writing about games. And an interesting one at that!

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018: The Year in Collecting (second addendum)

Another book sneaked its way here just before year-end. It's one of the charming "Bob Short" chapbooks on whist. "Short" is the pseudonym for Robert Withy as discussed here, here, and here.

There are many editions, often with provincial imprints. In the aggregate, these booklets are quite common, but any particular one is scarce. This 1819 edition, printed by John Stacy in Norwich for Reynolds in London and Stacy is a good example. The British Library copy was lost in World War II, as is indicated by the "D-" in the shelfmark D-7913.a.70. There is a copy in private hands in the UK. This one makes three. Err...two.

There are two things I particularly like about it. First are the marbled wrappers. Original bindings are the best!

Second is the advertisement for The British Melodist, a book that may not have survived exactly as advertised--there is a single copy of an 1822 edition at the University of Aberdeen, but how would that be advertised in an 1819 book? 

Anyway, 2018 is a wrap. What will 2019 bring?

Monday, December 17, 2018

2018: The Year in Collecting (addendum)

The ink wasn't even dry on my essay "2018: The Year in Collecting" when an extraordinary item turned up on eBay of all places. The book is the first American book on card games, or more accurately, one of three "firsts," all published at the same time. It is a 1796 reprint Hoyle's Games Improved by James Beaufort. It was originally printed in London in 1775 and again in London in 1788.

1796 Beaufort Hoyle, Philadelphia
Three issues of the book appeared in America in 1796, one with a Boston imprint, another New York, and this one, Philadelphia and Baltimore. When I wrote about these books in the essay "More Hoyle Collectibles," I expected the latter two books to have cancel titles. Having seen more copies, I now see that titles are not cancels, but are all the same setting of type except for the imprint. They were all printed in Boston, but distributed by booksellers in multiples cities.

1796 Beaufort Hoyle, Boston

Perhaps you can compare the type with the Boston issue, pictured at right.

The binding, pictured below, is contemporary and in remarkably good condition other than a slight loss in the red label.

1796 Beaufort Hoyle, Philadelphia

Now I have two of three issues. Does anyone know where I can pick up the one sold in New York?

Monday, December 10, 2018

2018: The Year in Collecting

A dozen books found their way to my library this year. Some are inexpensive 19c Hoyles that filled gaps in the collection. Others are gaming items unrelated to Hoyle or the games he treated. I want to highlight four of the books in detail here.

I purchased the first book, a duplicate, because of the binding, paper pasted over boards. The book, The New Hoyle printed for the George Walker (1817) is common, but the cover, though a bit tattered, shows how the book would have been offered for sale. I am a huge fan of books in their original binding.

wrapper for The New Hoyle
engraved frontispiece and title

I also like the engraved frontispiece and extra engraved title page. The frontispiece is far from fine art, but I believe it plays an important role in marketing the book. With Hoyle's writing not in copyright in 1817, a publisher needed to do something to distinguish his Hoyle from the others on the market. The engraving is more difficult and expensive to copy than the text. This edition is also distinguished by its small format and price of 3s., less than half that of the market-leading Charles Jones Hoyle published in 1814 at 7s.6d. 

Companion (1820)

Second is Hoyle's Games Improved and Selected as a Companion to the Card Table, revised and corrected by Charles Jones, 1820. The title suggests that the contents are extracted from a larger work; indeed it consists of the first 192 pages, the card games only, from Hoyle's Games Improved, a later edition of the market leader mentioned above. The full book (502 pages) includes board games, billiards, and outdoor activities such as golf and horse racing.

What is most interesting is that the extract is from the same setting of type as the complete work, allowing the typesetting costs to be shared between the two publications. The publishers extended the practice by separately issuing a work on the first two card games, whist and quadrille, again the same type, but the first 106 pages only. 

From the Longman Archive, we know that the publishers printed 4000 copies of Hoyle's Games Improved and 1000 copies each of Companion and Whist and Quadrille. The books were quite profitable: total costs were £325 and the retail price of the books totaled £1475. Hoyle's Games Improved was reprinted in 1826, so we can be sure it sold out. The others were not reprinted, but were not advertised in newspapers after the initial flurry in 1820, and likely sold out as well.

front wrapper bound in

Interestingly, Companion was sold in two different bindings, in boards for 3s. 6d. or in a paper case with gilt edges for 4s. 6d. My copy has been rebound in three-quarter leather, but the original cover with a price of 3s. 6d. is bound in; it was one of the copies sold in boards. A copy at the Bodleian shows that the paper cover was originally pasted onto boards, so the binder of my copy had to do extra work to preserve the paper wrapper.

The last two books I want to talk about were included in a 19c French gaming box. First, the box:

French Gaming Box...
..with scoring markers and books

Inside are four chenille-trimmed baskets with scoring tokens for card games such as Whist or Boston. Two books, both English, fit neatly in the near-right compartment. They must have been added later. Both of the books are unique copies.

two books in wrappers from the gaming box

On the left is Companion to the Whist Table, dated 1835. It is not a Hoyle, but an extract of articles that appeared in Bell's Life in London, a weekly sporting periodical. Bibliographer Frederic Jessel had seen Bell's Life, and noted that the April 1842 issue recommended two books, The Companion to the Whist Table and The Modern Whist-Table. He had never seen either work and no copies are recorded. Jessel wrongly speculated that Companion may be the same as the Charles Jones Companion to the Card Table, discussed above.

Next is a Hoyle, a small (10.2 x 6.5 cm) book in yellow wrappers. The book has an engraved frontispiece dated 1824, but I suspect that the engraving was recycled from an earlier edition from the same publishers. There is an advertisement on the rear cover for a book on swimming that dates to 1827.

Miniature edition of Hoyle, 1827c.

This edition of Hoyle competes at a third price point, 6d., much less than either the Jones or Walker editions discussed above. The publishers appeal to different classes of readers. Again, note the engraving to distinguish this work from other comparable cheap editions then for sale.

It is a treat to have these two books, both "singletons," in original wrappers in remarkable condition. Did I mention how much I like original bindings? How did these two rarities come to be in a French gaming box?

Friday, June 8, 2018

Kicking and Screaming into the 19th Century

I have stated a number of times on this blog that my research would be limited to the 18th century. For example "The proliferation of 19c variants convinces me to stop my research at 1800" from"Bob Short's Short Rules for Short Memories" or "My Hoyle research focuses on the 18th century and so I will stop with the Jones edition of 1800" in "Hoyle's Games Improved, Charles Jones (1800)."

It's been about five years since I first realized how naive that was. As I wrote in "Second Anniversary: Continuities and Disruptions," the Hoyle story continues into the 1860s. I'll not retrace the argument here, but instead, talk about one of the difficulties I am having in moving into the 19th century.

One of the popular 19th century Hoyles was Hoyle Made Familiar, by "Eidrah Trebor" (Robert Hardie), a book first published in 1830. It is both an abridgement of Hoyle, condensing his writing substantially, but also an enlargement--it adds new games not treated in any previous edition of Hoyle (Catch the Ten, Commit, Earl of Coventry, Five and Ten, Lift Smoke, and Snip Snap Snorem).

The book stayed in print through the 1860s. There is an undated "ninth" edition published jointly by Stirling, Kenney, & Co. in Edinburgh and Wm. S. Orr & Co., London. It must have been published no later than 1847 when Stirling & Co. ceased operations. Ward & Lock in London published an undated "eleventh" edition, which was advertised in 1855. The "tenth" edition, published by Orr alone, should be from about 1850.

There are three surviving copies of the "tenth" edition:

Courtesy of the Public Library of
Cincinnati & Hamilton County
Vanderbilt University
USPCC/Clulow Collection

Levy Collection
How very odd! Look at the three imprints:
  • Cincinnati: WILLIAM S. ORR AND CO.
  • Vanderbilt: WM. S. ORR & CO.
  • Levy: WILLIAM S. ORR & CO. 
Two "WILLIAMS" and one "WM." One "AND" and two ampersands. Three different imprints. In the only three surviving copies. This is certainly annoying to a bibliographer. What is going on?

Well, one important fact is that the book was stereotyped. Briefly that means that after the type was set, the printer made a plaster or paper mâché mold of the type. The original printer (or perhaps another) could pour molten metal into the mold to make a new plates from which to reprint the book. The printer could make changes or corrections by cutting or punching out faulty text and soldering new type in its place. The process was much less expensive than resetting type or leaving type standing. (Gaskell 201-4)

The bibliographical concept of edition interacts strangely with stereotyped books. An edition is "all the copies of a book printed at any time (or times) from substantially the same setting of type." So, " if a book is reprinted from an old set of plates, the result is...part of the original edition." (Gaskell 313)

It looks to me as though the fourteen (or so) different versions of Hoyle Made Familiar were all printed from the original set of type. Therefore they are all the same edition.

What do the edition statements on the title page mean? The term edition has been used in the trade not only to mean edition in the bibliographical sense, but what bibliographers would call impression ("all the copies of an edition printed at any one time") or issue ("all the copies of that part of an edition which is identifiable as a consciously planned printed unit" distinct in either form or in time). Gaskell cites an article by J. R. Payne to give a modern example (of electro-, rather than stereotyping):
Methuen ordered two sets of electrotype plates of A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh, and had twenty-seven impressions printed from them in the period 1926-41. Although all twenty-seven impressions, deriving from a single setting of type, were part of a single edition, the publishers advertised each one as another edition, so that, when a new set of electros was made in 1942 from a new setting of type, what was then issued as the 'twenty-eighth edition' of Winnie -the-Pooh was in fact the first impression of the second edition.Gaskell (314-7)
So the "tenth" edition is not an edition at all, but an impression--multiple impressions, in fact, because of the slight change on the title page. They must have been printed at different points in time.

Payne was able to determine impression and edition because the Methuen Stock Ledgers are at the Lilly Library. So far as I know, no publisher's records survive for Stirling and Kenney or William S. Orr and Co., so I'm not going to be able to sort out these books the way Payne could Winnie-the-Pooh. Oh bother!

Levy collection
Title Page Verso

There is one more mystery in my copy. Pictured at left is the verso of the title page. Note the colophon "THOS. HARRILD, PRINTER..." And if you click to enlarge, you may notice the stub of a removed page in the gutter. This looks to me to be a cancel title. The other two copies have nothing printed below the line "Entered in Stationers Hall". A cancel title generally indicates a different issue as defined above.

Usually when a book is reissued with a cancel title, it's because the publisher has changed. See the discussion of the Polite Gamester in "Every Cancel Tells a Story. Don't It? (part 1)." The reason is that the imprint gives a publisher's address telling people where the book is sold. I've never seen a cancel for the purpose of identifying the printer and can't imagine why anyone would go to the trouble. But that's what seems to be going on here.

I'm left with a very unsatisfied feeling. Fredson Bowers, citing W. W. Greg (two giants of bibliography), notes that a primary responsibility of a bibliographer is to sort out the various editions of a book and their relationship to one another. Within the edition, the bibliographer must be aware of the various issues, states, and variants of all sorts. (page 9).

I don't feel I can meet that responsibility with Hoyle Made Familiar. It's one big edition that stayed in print for three decades via stereotyping. I can see many different title pages with different stated editions (suggesting different impressions), different imprints, and often, as here, different printers (stereotypers), but how all these relate to one another is opaque to me.

I've listed all the variants in my online bibliography (and have more work to do), but don't feel as if I know the story of Hoyle Made Familiar.


  • Fredson Bowers, Principles of Bibliographical Description (Princeton University Press, 1949)
  • Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (Oxford Clarendon, 1979)
  • R. J. Payne, "Four Children's Books by A. A. Milne" in Studies in Bibliography, 23, 1970, 127-39.