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 J. Millan."

  • General Evening Post, December 12, 1748: "...Compleat Card Player, containing about 30 games. 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...


  1. I could see a 1s or 2s book not being significant to include in a preserved library collection. But a 9s? Wasn't that a huge price for a book 260 years ago?

  2. It's the penny books that vanish into thin air. I'm surprised no copies of the book at a shilling or two survive even though this is not the sort of book that would be found in a gentleman's library. The 9s price could be a typo--I found it only in the one 1751 source with later prices of 1s or 2s.