Friday, April 3, 2015

Le Grand Trictrac

Long before I started my Hoyle research, I studied the game of trictrac and its literature. Trictrac is a French game played on a backgammon board, but unlike backgammon it is not a racing game. Points are scored for various plays and positions and, as we shall see, the scoring can be quite arcane. I created the Trictrac Home Page, developed and sold a neural-net based Windows program to play the game (still available!), and published an enumerative bibliography of trictrac literature.

I named my software Soumille after the author of the most useful and accessible book about the game. In Le Grand Trictrac, Soumille teaches trictrac through the device of games played between the characters Damon and Cloris. There are some 270 woodblock prints illustrating the games move-by-move, making it quite easy to learn the rules and, to some extent, strategy. For those interested, I have published English language rules here, and reproduced Soumille's first game, here.

Le Grand Trictrac was first published in Avignon in 1738; further Avignon imprints appeared in 1739 and 1756. The book was published in Paris in 1756, 1766, 1790, and 1801 (the links are to full-text copies available for download from Google). I have several copies of this book including the Avignon edition of 1739. I had always wondered why a second Avignon version appeared just one year after the first. It seemed unlikely that the book had sold out and needed to be reprinted. And my copy of the 1739 version had five cancelled leaves, suggesting that it was a reissue of the 1738 edition with a new title page and other changes.Why did the book reappear so quickly?

Until this week, I had never seen the first edition of 1738, but I was able to buy a copy at the spectacular auction of the Messager collection of gaming literature and equipment from the auction house Alde in Paris. When it arrived, after making sure it was complete, I began to compare it with the my 1739 version. With the two books side by side, it quickly became clear that they are the same setting of type, and hence by definition both first editions, but different issues.

Avignon (1738)

 
The first issue, pictured at right, has an unsophisticated but charming frontispiece of Damon and Cloris playing trictrac.





Avignon (1739)


The second issue lacks the frontispiece and other preliminary material, but from page one of the text, the type is the same as that of 1738 except for the cancels.






I have written about cancels many times--they are great fun for bibliographers. To correct some sort of problem, the printer would print a new page; the binder would cut out the incorrect leaf, leaving a stub, and paste the replacement on the stub. As I wrote in the essay "Every Cancel Tells A Story, Don't It (part 1)", what I find most interesting is not the fact of the cancel, but the reason for it. With both the 1738 and 1739 issues of Le Grand Trictrac, I could compare the original and replacement pages side by side and learn the reasons for the cancels.

In the first cancel below, the woodblock of the trictrac board is wrong in the page on the left from 1738. Note the upper right quadrant where two black checkers belong on the point marked "H" but are actually shown one point to the right. The diagram does not match the textual description of the game. On the right is the corrected diagram of 1739. If you look closely (as always, you can click to enlarge it) at the 1739 page, you will be able to see the stub from the excised leaf. A close look will also show that the type has been reset for the page. 

leaf E2v page 36

leaf Ll1r page 265



Another incorrect diagram appears on page 265...






leaf Oo2v page 292


 ...and a third on page 292, where again the stub is prominent.






I'll skip one cancel where there was a minor textual change, but my favorite cancel is this:

leaf Y4v page 176

The diagram is unchanged. Well mostly unchanged. More about that in a moment. What is new is the addition of text below the diagram. Cloris rolls 22 and scores 4 points for being able to "hit" Damon's blot on the point marked P with a checker on the point marked L (see the rules describing "battre sur une demi-case"). Not mentioned is that Cloris can also score six points for "battre le coin" and that omission must have vexed an attentive reader.

When Cloris fails to score the points, as she often did in the sample games, Damon could claim them, scoring "écoles" or sending Cloris to school. But no mention is made of écoles here. In the cancel, neither player could be given the points without changing the flow of the game, so Soumille wrote that Cloris hit the "coin" but didn't notice, and neither did Damon! Of course it was Soumille who at first didn't notice. An amusing omission and an unusual reason for a cancel.

There is one more point to notice about these side-by-side pages with the unchanged diagram. Notice that the dice have moved although they display the same roll. And the figure number seems to have drifted off to the right. That suggests that the piece of wood used to print the diagram did not contain the dice or the figure number. The dice were likely separate pieces of wood placed on the diagram and the figure numbers were pieces of type place in the woodblock.

I've looked quickly at later editions. The 1756 Avignon edition had new, smaller woodblocks. while the Pairs editions of 1756 and 1766 had a third set of woodblocks. What a lot of work for the woodcarver!

I've often noted that Hoyle wrote the first book of strategy on any card game, whist in 1742. He also wrote the first book of backgammon strategy in 1743. But, as we see from Soumille, there was an instructional book on trictrac four years earlier. And like the early Hoyles, the early versions of Soumille reveal much about their publishing history.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Missing Book; A Trail of Breadcrumbs

Recently, I ran across some intriguing newspaper advertisements for a book I've never heard of. Here's a sample:
  • General Advertiser, November 26, 1748: "In a few days will be publish'd...Compleatest Card Player...by J. Millan."

  • General Evening Post, December 12, 1748: "...Compleat Card Player, containing about 30 games. 2s...by J. Millan."

  • General Advertiser, September 9, 1752: "Printed for J. Millan, near Whitehall...Complete Card-player, on the size of a card, 2s..."

  •  Public Advertiser, July 7, 1753: "...also this day published...Complete Card Player, 20 new Games, 1s...

  •  Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, November 23, 1767: "In the press, and soon will be published, The Complete Card-Player: containing many games not in Hoyle, all his greatly improved, and many of his trifling cases, corrected, price 2s. neatly bound."
The advertisements are not limited to newspapers. Google books turned up some as well:
And look at the oddball title page pictured at right (1752). Click to enlarge the image and note that the advertisement for the Compleat Card Player four lines up from the bottom. I don't recall ever seeing an advertisement on a title page.

ECCO discloses other advertisements in books, one of which provides some new new information:
  • In A Familiar Epistle (1751): "Compleat Card Player, containing several games never printed before on 12 plates, 9s...engraved most beautifully"
I really don't have much to add to what the advertisements say. There are enough advertisements with enough specifics for me to believe the book or books were actually published. The title is unclear as is the physical book ("size of a card", "12 plates", "engraved"). It is unclear whether Millan is merely the publisher or also the author--he wrote a number of other books which he published.

This appears to be the first anthology of gaming literature to compete with Hoyle. It would be fascinating to read the text and learn how much was original and how much was copied from Hoyle or perhaps from continental anthologies. The Compleat Card Player appears to have stayed in print for nearly twenty years, with a new edition contemplated in 1767.

I would love to find a copy, but none is noted in library catalogues, bookseller's catalogues or auction records.We are left with but breadcrumbs...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Who is "Bob Short"? (part 3)


This is the final installment of my "Bob Short" trilogy. Parts one and two conclude that "Bob Short" is stockbroker Robert Withy and not poet Anna Latetia Barbauld. I present a last bit of evidence here, evidence that also answers a second mystery hinted at it my prequel "Bob Short's Short Rules for Short Memories". This essay also adds a final note for the Barbauld collector or scholar.

In the prequel, I note:
Eighteenth century copies of Withy's works are scarce. According to ESTC, Whist survives in but two copies of the 1791 edition, and one each of 1792, 1793, 1794, and 1795. The University of Nevada Las Vegas has a copy of a 1793 German translation. Two copies of the 1793 edition of Quadrille are extant. 
A couple of years ago, I acquired a copy of Quadrille, so now three copies are known.

In the prequel, I cited a number of newspaper advertisements that predated the 1791 edition of Whist. The earliest, from 1781, offers only "twelve short standing rules" for whist.

Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, January 31, 1781

This advertisement is likely for Robert Withy's trade card which describes his business on one side and has twelve rules for whist on the verso. Beginning in 1782, we see advertisements for a different book:

Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, January 26, 1782

There are two differences from the previous advertisement indicating that it is not for a mere trade card. First, the price is increased from 2d. or 1s. a dozen to 3d. or 2s. a dozen. Second, the book offers "the laws of the game as played at White's, and all public places". Is this merely an earlier edition of the 1791 Whist or is this a different book? I would have guessed the former, but...

The 1791 Whist indicates that it was "entered at Stationers' Hall", so as part of my effort to identify Bob Short, I used inter-library loan to request the microfilm of the Stationers' records. Then a couple of long, tedious days at the microfilm reader. Here is what I found:

Entry in the Stationers' Register of Books February 14, 1785

The entry, dated February 14, 1786,  indicates that Rt Withy registered the copyright for "A present for grown masters & misses, Hoyle Abridged or short standing rules for short memories at the game of whist with the laws of the game by Bob Short". Withy deposited nine copies of the book and the record was entered by stationer John Wilkie, himself an owner of a share of the main Hoyle copyright (see the essay "The Hoyle Copyright in Hoyle's lifetime").

And a second entry nearly six years later:

Entry in the Stationers' Register of Books December 14, 1790

The title is "Hoyle Abridged, or short rules for short memories, at the game of whist, with the laws of the game, &c adapted for the head or pocket, by Bob Short." Again nine copies were deposited and now stationer Robert Horsfield prepared the entry.

There are two conclusions to be reached from these records. First, that Withy wrote two different books on whist, only one of which has survived. The "present for grown masters & misses" seems to have been advertised from 1782 but entered in the registry only in 1785. I have found advertisements for it as late as 1788.

The second book on whist survives and the chronology is clear. It was entered in the Stationers' register on December 14, 1790, advertised from December 24 (see below), and printed with a date of 1791.

World, December 24, 1790

Note the new price, 6d., the warning against piracies, and the entry of the book at Stationers' Hall.

Second, the Stationers' registry proves it: Robert Withy is "Bob Short." If there were any doubters after the two previous essays, let them doubt no more!

There is, however, no entry in the registry for Withy's Quadrille, nor for Barbauld's Religion of Nature under any of its various titles. 

One last comment for fans of Anna Letitia Barbauld. In part 2, I noted many printings of her letter The Patriotic Clergyman, most of them published by J. Mitchell in Newcastle on Tyne. The first of these, a 36 page chapbook called The Charms of Literature was illustrated by Thomas Bewick. In 2011, Nigel Tattersfield wrote the monumental catalogue of Thomas Bewick, The Complete Illustrative Work. Tattersfield lists Charms as TB 2.71A (volume 2 p139) and identifies many more editions. The Barbauld collector or bibliographer should consult that entry!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Who is "Bob Short"? (part 2)

In part 1 of this essay, I presented a puzzle. The London Morning Post of January 3, 1794 contains an advertisement for three books by the pseudonymous "Bob Short", a strong suggestion that all three were written by one person. Yet, the books on whist and quadrille are reliably by Robert Withy, while the third, The Religion of Nature, is attributed to the dissident poetess Anna Letitia Barbauld (née Aikin). As a result the gaming books are sometimes attributed to Barbauld as well. Let us try to sort this out.

I got a digital copy of The Religion of Nature and learned that the text was first published anonymously as a letter to the editor of the Morning Chronicle of November 29, 1793:


It was reprinted with an introduction (about which more later) as The Religion of Nature, A Short Discourse, Delivered before the National Convention at Paris by Mons. le Curé of ———, still without attribution to Barbaud. This is the book that was advertised with Whist and Quadrille by Bob Short.

What is the basis for the attribution to Barbauld? I borrowed some of the many texts on Barbauld from the library and consulted a number of reference works on pseudonyms, but did not learn why Barbauld is given as the author. I then posted a query to the rare book listservs, Exlibris-L and SHARP-L and got a number of useful pointers. Professor William McCarthy pointed me to his biography Anna Letitia Barbauld, Voice of the Enlightenment, Baltimore Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

There I learned that the text of The Religion of Nature was reprinted under two more titles. First, it appeared as The Patriotic Clergyman in the early 19th century in a number of chapbooks and miscellanies. I checked WorldCat and Google Books and located many editions:
  • The Charms of Literature, Newcastle on Tyne: J. Mitchell, 1800. A 36 page chapbook with illustrations by Bewick containing The Patriotic Clergyman.
  • The death of Rousseau, an interesting story ... : to which is added, the patriotic clergyman. Newcastle on Tyne : Printed and sold by J. Mitchell, nd. 
  •  The Charms of Literature, Newcastle on Tyne: J. Mitchell, 1805. A 434 page miscellany available from Google.
  • The interesting story of Montford, or, the generous man: Together with the death of Rousseau; The military mendicant ... by ... C.I. Pitt ; The victim of dishonour ; and The patriotic clergyman, by Mrs. Barbauld. Newcastle on Tyne: Printed. by J. Mitchell, 1806.
  • Interesting stories : containing, The military mendicant. Female heroism. The patriotic clergyman. Edinburgh : Printed for the booksellers in town and country, 1815. 
  • The Intelligent Reader: Designed as a sequel to The Child's Guide. Springfield: Merriam, 1847. A 252 page children's reader available from Google and containing Clergyman.
Undoubtedly, many, many more reprints exist.

Some of the reprints attribute the piece to Barbauld—the section title of the first is pictured below. The text is the same letter originally published in the Morning Chronicle with a new first paragraph. It is "attributed" to Mrs. Barbauld; in the 1806 edition the title page indicates the piece to be hers. These are not, however, convincing attributions. How did the publisher identify Barbauld as the author?


It is the two-volume set The Works of Anna Laetitia Barbauld, London: Richard Taylor, 1825 (available from Google, volumes one and two) that makes the attribution certain. It was compiled by Barbauld's niece Lucy Aikin who had access to a great deal of private material about her aunt. The letter appears in volume two, pages 260-7, under yet another title, The Curé of the Banks of the Rhone, with the notation that it was written in 1791. The text matches that of the letter to the Morning Chronicle.


With the appearance of the letter in her niece's collection of Barbauld's works, I accept the attribution and am left with the need to explain the advertisement consisting of Withy's gaming books along with Barbauld's letter.

The explanation is, I'm afraid, rather prosaic. Let us return to The Religion of Nature, the work causing all the confusion. Pictured below are the title page and introduction for the copy at the University of London Goldsmiths' Library. What I am not showing is a handwritten annotation on the front fly leaf "by Anna Letitia Barbauld", another attribution without evidence.

Religion, title page
Religion, Introduction


















The title page indicates that the "short discourse" was delivered by "Mons. le Curé of ———" and it is "the short address to the jurymen of Great Britain", that is the introduction, that is by "Bob Short". The former is Barbauld and the latter must be Withy. Note the annotation "Withy" next to the name Bob Short on the title page. I am not the first to reach this conclusion, although I hope mine is better documented.

Quadrille, introduction
The introduction is signed Bob Short at Baker's Coffee-house, December 22, 1793. This is just as he signed the introduction to Quadrille, pictured at right: Baker's Coffee-house, January 1, 1793. I wish I could see a physical copy of The Religion of Nature. From the reproduction, it appears quite similar to the contemporary copies of Whist and Quadrille I have seen. All have an oblong format and the type and layout appear similar.

Indeed, Withy carried on his trade at the coffee house:
...Robert Withy...transacts as usual, all the branches of this business, and attends at Baker's Coffee-house, Change-alley, every day from one to three. (Morning Herald, October 23, 1799)
The conclusion is that Withy wrote the introduction to Religion as "Bob Short" while Barbauld wrote the text. My strong suspicion is that Withy, a former seller of books and prints, published all three pamphlets, explaining the advertisement linking all three books. We can say with certainty that Robert Withy and not Anna Letitia Barbauld was the author of Whist and Quadrille. Establishing that fact was my primary goal although I greatly enjoyed the detour provided by Barbauld. She was a remarkable woman—dissident, poet, educator and more. 

Professor McCarthy left me with some interesting questions about Withy and The Religion of Nature:
Did Barbauld know Robert Withy? Why did he reprint this piece from the [Morning Chronicle]? Did he know who wrote it, or did he reprint it because he agreed with it? Or did he reprint it because he cared about the plight of the Spitalfields silk-weavers?
I cannot answer these questions, but perhaps some readers can help?

If you're still not convinced about Withy's authorship of Whist and Quadrille, stay tuned for a brief part 3 coming shortly!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Who is "Bob Short"? (part 1)

In this essay, I return to Hoyle Abridged: or Short Rules for Short Memories at the Game of Whist. I find the chapbook annoying (see the discussion here) because there are so many editions and because they survive in such small numbers. The whist book and a similar title on quadrille (never reprinted) were written under the pseudonym Bob Short. The purpose of this essay is to resolve a lingering question—who is behind the pseudonym?

The whist book has been attributed to two different writers, Anna Letitia Barbauld (née Aikin) and Robert Withy. I had never investigated the case for Barbauld and thought the case for Withy convincing. Yet a recent discovery forced me to investigate further.

The earliest attirubtion to Barbauld is likely The Whist Table, A Treasury of Notes on the Royal Game, edited by "Portland" (London: James Hogg). Oh dear, another pseudonym! And an undated work! Not wishing to multiply my researches indefinitely, I am going to accept the assurance of a secondary source, Jessel (from whom more below), that "Portland" is a pseudonym for the publisher James Hogg and that the book was published in 1894. Hogg reprints most of Bob Short's rules, noting first in square brackets (suggesting an editorial voice):
It is an interesting fact, and one but little known, that these celebrated Rules were actually written by a distinguished lady—the authoress of the famous "Evenings at Home" and "early Lessons for Children," &c.
Anne (sic) Laetitia Aikin, afterwards Mrs. Barbauld, was a versatile and high-toned writer..."Bob Short" appeared about 1792, and enjoyed immediately great popularity, many editions being rapidly disposed of. The rules are substantially based upon "Hoyle": indeed, "Bob Short" only professed to be "Hoyle Abridged." (p212)
Hogg provides no evidence for the attribution. William Mill Butler repeats it, including the misspelling of Barbauld's forename, in the article "Books on Whist" in The Whist Reference Book (Philadelphia: John C. Yorston, 1899):
"Hoyle Abridged: or Short Rules for Short memories at Whist," by "Bob Short" (Anne Laetitia Aikin). Bath, 1792. Many editions. Over 7000 copies sold during the first year. (pp57-58)
The argument in favor of Robert Withy was made by William Prideaux Courtney in English Whist and English Whist Players (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1894):
At the beginning of 1793, there came out a little tract called 'Short Rules for Whist, by Bob Short,' which was so popular among card-players that 7,000 copies were sold in twelve months. (p361)
This was likely Butler's source for the sales figure in The Whist Reference Book, but Butler did not go on to read the next page:
A satirical poem by John Gale Jones, the democratic orator, bearing the fantastic title of 'An Invocation to Edward Quin, as delivered at a Society called the Eccentrics,' and discussing the peculiarities of a social set at a tavern near Charing Cross, discloses the author's name. It was written by Robert Withy, a respectable stockbroker, and 'a facetious and pleasant companion, but very irascible,' the last years of whose life were harassed by pecuniary troubles. This statement finds corroboration in an advertisement of Robert Withy, stockbroker, which is appended to the brochure on quadrille, when his house is given as 13, George Street, York Buildings, and he is said to frequent Baker's Coffee-house. He died at West Square, Surrey, on September 19, 1803, aged seventy-two. Before trying his fortune on the Exchange, he had been for many years a book and print seller1 in Cornhill. (p362).
I would have thought this evidence dispositive. The citation from Invocation (London: printed for the author, 1803) includes two lines of verse:
Did W*thy tell the with his parting breath,
That all must share the fatal stroke of death?
with commentary below:
The late Robert W*thy, a respectable stock-broker, and an honorary member of this society. This gentleman was author of a little tract well known among card players, intituled, "Ten Minutes Advice to those who play at Whist," signed "Bob Short." (pp37-8)
Jones gives a title that does not match any surviving copies, but Hoyle Abridged is the only possible candidate. Courtney notes the advertisement of Robert Withy, stockbroker, in Hoyle Abridged, part II. Or, Short Rules for Playing the Game of Quadrille by Bob Short (pictured below). Similar advertisements appear in the 1791 and 1792 editions of Bob Short's Whist, editions not known to Courtney.
 
1793 Quadrille
Withy advertisement











 
To this, I would add that a Robert Withy trade card survives in the John Johnson Collection of printed ephemera at the Bodleian Library and, on the back of the card, are twelve short rules for whist by "Bob Short".

Given Courtney's research, I always accepted the conclusion of Frederic Jessel in his Bibliography of Works in English on Playing Cards and Gaming (London: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1905):
Mr W. P. Courtney has proved conclusively that Robert Withy was the author of the above treatises. (page 303)
He comments elsewhere about a related later work:
These rules, evidently an imitation of the better-known 'Bob Short's' rules by Robert Withy, have been attributed to Mrs. Barbauld, apparently because she adopted the pseudonym for a tract unconnected with cards. (p265)
Jessel must be referring to Barbauld's Religion of Nature, With a Short Address to the Jurymen of Great Britain. By Bob Short. There is a note on the ESTC record that "Bob Short = Anna Letitia Barbauld".

Two recent happenings caused me to reassess the evidence. First, I read the charming new book by Julian Laderman, Bumblepuppy Days, The Evolution from Whist to Bridge (Toronto: Master Point Press 2014) which repeats the Barbauld (Aikin) attribution. Second, I began to work on the "Bob Short" items for my online bibliography of Hoyle. I reviewed all my notes on copies I have seen, copies in my collection, and contemporary newspaper advertisements. One advertisement leapt out at me:

1794-01-03 London Morning Post
Here was an advertisement for The Religion of Nature, attributed to Anna Letitia Barbauld AND for Bob Short's Short Rules for Whist and Quadrille!  Could Barbauld be the author of the gaming books all along?

I then began to find more similarities among the three titles. The imprints all show a connection to Baker's Coffee-House and involved many of the same booksellers:
  • Whist: Printed for the benefit of families, to prevent scolding: and sold by the author, at Baker’s Coffee-House, Exchange Alley; Nicol, St. Paul’s Church Yard; Ryall, Lombard Street; Bell, Strand; Fourdrinier, Charing Cross; and Debrett, Piccadilly, [1791]
  • Quadrille: Printed for, and sold by the author, at Baker’s Coffee-House, Exchange Alley ; Ryall, Lombard Street ; Newbery, St. Paul’s Church Yard ; Bell, in the Strand ; Fourdrinier, Charing Cross ; and Debrett, Piccadilly, [1793]
  • Religion of Nature: Printed for the benefit of the distressed spital-field-weavers, and sold at Baker’s Coffee-house, and by Richardson, Cornhill; Ryal, Lombard-street; Newberry, St. Paul’s Church-Yard; Bell, in the Strand; Foundrinier, Charing-Cross; and Debrett, Piccadilly, [1793]
The common language "printed for the benefit of..." is suggestive, as is the pricing "3d. or 2s. a dozen to give away". The same prices appeared in early advertisements for Whist. It felt to me that all three books might be written by the same person—would that be Robert Withy or Anna Letitia Barbaud?

My next step was to investigate the attribution of Religion to Anna Letitia Barbauld.

To be continued...

 Notes:

1Withy left the print- and book-selling trade in 1766. He auctioned off some of his stock on August 10, 1766 (see ESTC T150858, available on ECCO) and the remainder plus his copyrights at a trade sale on May 21, 1767 (see ESTC T130031).

Friday, December 19, 2014

2014: The Year in Collecting

Last year, I published a similarly titled essay. I commented there that it was difficult to find new Hoyle material and that a dozen items a year was a good target. In 2013, I found eight books only. In 2014, the number was ten. Before discussing the highlights, let me comment on work in progress.

As I wrote last month, I started the online Hoyle bibliography in early September. I have drafted 99 book descriptions, with the hundredth likely to be uploaded today or tomorrow. This is not to say that the work is is 100% complete. There are aspects of style that I need to standardize among the descriptions. I need to proofread the quasi-facsimile transcriptions. Most importantly, there is a lot of text to be written discussing each book and how it fits into the canon. But I do have credible technical descriptions of many Hoyles. I expect the number to double by the time I am finished.

With all the work on book descriptions, I have been neglecting this blog. Some planned but unwritten essays include the first recorded hand at whist, discussed by Julian Laderman is his recent book Bumblepuppy Days: The Evolution from Whist to Bridge. I also want to write about a fantastic whist fan I saw at the Greenwich Fan Museum, a gem of a London destination. You may recall my earlier fan-related essays "The Fans of Hoyle" and "Unusual Bibliographical Evidence." And that is just the top of my long list...

So what is new in 2014? I'll discuss the best of the newcomers in the order they were published.

1745 Quadrille
The earliest was the Osborne's 1745 reissue of Quadrille, first published by Francis Cogan in 1744. See its description and an earlier essay. What is odd about the copy is that it is not autographed by Hoyle, as he was under contract to do. One will find this book unautographed as part of an Osborne collection, but this copy shows no signs of having once been part of a larger volume. A minor mystery.


The next two books were published just a week apart, judging from newspaper advertisements. The rare reissue of Hoyle's Doctrine of Chances (see the essay "The Yorkshire Hoyles and the Doctrine of Chances") was advertised on December 24, 1760. I won't discuss it further here, but the book gets top honors among the 2014 acquisitions.

1761 Essay on Chess
A story goes with the next item. A week ago Tuesday, I wrote the description for Hoyle's Essay on Chess and uploaded it to my web site. Not only did I not own a copy, but I hadn't seen one for sale in the last thirty years. Chess is much more actively collected than other games and many of the great collections have found their way into institutions such as the John White collection in Cleveland or the collection at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in the Hague. The book is quite scarce on the market.

In a charming coincidence, the day after, a copy of the chess essay appeared on eBay with a "buy-it-now" option. Of course I bought it! What is intriguing about this copy is that it is autographed not only by Edmond Hoyle and Thomas Osborne, but apparently by Richard Baldwin as well. You can see the ascenders in his signature, sadly trimmed in the course of binding. For a clear example of his signature, see the essay "The Doctrine of Chances." This book was first advertised on December 30, 1760, just six days after the reissue of Chances. Some copies of Chess have a final leaf with an advertisement for Chances; in mine, the leaf was removed prior to binding.

I tried to repeat the describe-it-then-buy-it experience the next day, but of course without success.

1811 Pigott's New Hoyle
As I wrote in the essay "The Pigott Hoyles", it is hard to figure out the publishing history of The New Hoyle. Undated books and inconsistent statements of edition create confusion. This 1811 "new edition, improved" manages to misspell Pigott's name on the title page. It seems to be a rarity, with copies recorded only at Oxford, the Cleveland Public Library, and the University of North Carolina.


The best "non-Hoyle" of the year is another example of a work published by Bob Short (a pseudonym of Robert Withy), or here, Bob Short Junior. I describe a number of these "Short Rules" here.  This work, on draughts or checkers, was not written by Hoyle who never wrote about the game. Yet it carries the phrase Hoyle Abridged on the title page. I discuss another example of this phenomenon in the essay "A Research Trip to Cleveland." I like the fact that the book is in entirely original condition including the paper label on the cover.

1828 Draughts (title)
1828 Draughts (cover)











 
I've skipped a handful of other acquisitions: an early American edition of Hoyle, a French translation dated 1770 that has enough mystery about it to warrant its own essay, a 1796 Charles Jones Hoyle (discussed briefly here), and some duplicates that I snagged at auction for half the low estimate.

Having mentioned "A Research Trip to Cleveland", I note in passing that it is the most visited page on the blog, the only page with more than 500 visits. Overall, the blog has had 41,000 page visits and should reach the 50,000 milestone this summer.

Best wishes, all, for the holidays and the new year. What will 2015 add to the Hoyle collection? 

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Descriptive Bibliography of Edmond Hoyle

Wow, it's been three months since my last post to this blog. One might assume I have been neglecting my Hoyle research. Nothing could be further from the truth!

In my one year anniversary post to this blog, I described my motive for starting it:
My intention is to write a descriptive bibliography of the writings of Edmond Hoyle. I also intend to write more journal articles.
How did I come to start the blog? Unfortunately, the book is years away and journal articles take a surprisingly long time to do well. However, having spent a career in the corporate world, I'm trained to be happiest when I am producing, so I started this blog to give myself a more immediate sense of accomplishment.
The bibliography was "years away" in 2012 and still feels years away. How can I begin to make progress on it? I decided to work on the hardest parts of the bibliography, the technical descriptions of the books, and post them incrementally to my web site. So far, I have managed to get credible drafts of more than 60 book descriptions online. And that effort has engaged me fully since the first of September.

The technical aspects of the project are not without interest. My goal was to create each book description in an environment where it could be both published on the web and inserted into a word processing document. That way, I can publish incrementally on the web while having all the work available for later print publication. I decided to create the descriptions in XML, tightly constrained by an XML schema. The translation for the web is using XSLT, while I have Python scripts feeding Microsoft Word. I also use Python to generate indices both for the web site and the print version. Importantly, each time I create a handful of new descriptions, I run programs to regenerate all the indices and book lists for both versions. Lastly, I have Python scripts to check the internal consistency of the more error-prone aspects of the descriptions.

Hoyle Bibliography Home Page
The home page for the bibliography is here. The books are divided into three major categories: separate works, collections of separately published works in publisher's bindings, and collected editions. These categories will be familiar to readers of this blog.

In addition, there are a number of useful search tools. A chronology lists all books by date (generally the day) of publication. There is an index of games covered, which shows two interesting things: first, when games became sufficiently popular to be included in Hoyle; and second the imitation among editors and publishers. For example, just after James Beaufort introduced Billiards to Hoyle's Games Improved, Charles Jones followed quickly. Holdings shows major institutional and private collections of Hoyle. It's a bit early to keep score, but the Bodleian has the deepest collection and I'm just ahead of the British Library in second place. Other indices show books by printer (when known) and publisher. Finally I list some of the standard reference works on gaming literature (discussed in the essay "Where can I learn more about Hoyle's writing?") and cross reference them to my bibliography. 

This is a truly significant project in the digital humanities. I know of no other such online bibliography, nor of one that used tools that could be reused by another bibliographer. There is much more to do. Proof reading the descriptions is a monumental effort. I have completed a third of the books I need to to bring me to 1800 and plan to carry on into the mid-19th century. Daunting, yes, but there is tangible progress!

Any comments or suggestions are welcome. Have at it!