The book has received much attention from gaming bibliographers. Both Julian Marshall and Frederic Jessel discussed the work (see the essay "Where can I learn more about Hoyle's Writing?"). More recently Thomas Marston wrote a short descriptive bibliography as an introduction to a 1970 reprint of the Gamester. Despite the scholarly work, there are many errors in the bibliographical record due to changes in ownership of the copyright. The changes led to frequent reissues with a different imprint and, in two cases, with an entirely new title. This essay will attempt to provide a correct chronology and add bits and pieces about the book that I have come across in the course of my research.
The Compleat Gamester was entered in the Registry Book at Stationers Hall on October 28, 1673, showing Robt. Cutler as the proprietor. The entry corresponds with the imprint “London: printed by A.M. for R. Cutler, and to be sold by Henry Brome at the Gun at the west-end of St. Pauls, 1674.”
|1676 Henry Brome|
|Stub of original|
of new title page
In general, cancels are pasted on the stub from left from the original page. This cancel was actually sewn with the book as you can see by the wrap-around stub of the cancel title page (above right). This suggests that the this copy was unsewn in quires when the title page was cancelled. Perhaps it's my lack of experience, but I don't recall seeing that before.
Henry Brome published the true second edition in 1680, an entirely new printing. He died in 1681 and his business was carried on first by his widow Joanna Brome (d. 1684) and then by his son Charles. Charles reissued the second edition under 1687 as Instructions How to Play at Billiards, Trucks, Bowls, and Chess. He reverted to the original title in a third edition of 1709, reissuing it in 1710. He died in 1711 and the copyright was to pass on once again.
Tomorrow will be publish’d GAMES most in use in England, France, and Spain…Sold by J. Morphew near Stationers-Hall; and by the Booksellers. Price, bound in Sheep, 1s. 6d. in Calf, 2s.Games Most In Use is thus the fourth edition and the first not to have the frontispiece. Perhaps Morphew did not acquire the plates when he acquired the copyright and was not willing to pay to have them redone.
To continue to story requires a look at a second, similarly-titled book, The Court Gamester. As I noted in "The Predecessors of Hoyle," editions of The Court Gamester appeared in 1719, 1720, 1722, 1728, and 1732. They were written by Richard Seymour and published by Edmund Curll.
In 1734, with Wilford owning the rights to The Compleat Gamester and Curll owning the rights to The Court Gamester, the two joined to publish The Compleat Gamester in Three Parts, a book that combined and expanded both texts. This would be the seventh edition of The Compleat Gamester.
After the joint publication, we find some documented transactions in the copyright of The Compleat Gamester at the booksellers trade sales. On February 24, 1736, Lintot bought a one-half share in the copyright from Wilford for £2 10s and Corbett bought the other half along with another work for £1 16s. 6d. On April 24, 1739, Lintot sold his share (along with other copyrights) to James Hodges for £15 15s.
|1739 Curll and Hodges|
By 1756, Hodges acquired a piece of the Hoyle copyright (see "The Hoyle Copyright in Hoyle's Lifetime"). With Hodges able to participate in that much more valuable property, the Gamester was not to be published again until it was reprinted a number of times in the 20th century.
In various forms and under various titles, The Compleat Gamester was the most popular work on gaming from 1674 until Hoyle appeared. Hoyle cut into its sales and bookseller Hodges decided to invest in Hoyle rather than continue to publish the Gamester.
- Julian Marshall, "Cotton and Seymour's 'Gamesters.'" Parts 1 and 2, Notes and Queries, 6th ser., 9 (April 26, 1884): 321-3, (May 17, 1884): 381-3. Available for download.
- Julian Marshall, "Books on Gaming." Part 11, Notes and Queries, 7th ser., 8 (December 21, 1889): 482-3. Available for download.
- Thomas E. Marston, "Introduction" to The Compleat Gametser. Barre: Imprint Society. 1970