Monday, November 22, 2021

2021: The Year in Collecting

Until a flurry at year end, 2021 was a quiet year, even though it was the year that my Hoyle collection surpassed that of the Bodleian Library, at least according to my idiosyncratic way of counting. The depth of my collection makes it hard to find new things. 

The most fun purchase was a parcel I bought at auction. The auction house described it as follows:

Playing card, gambling and other interest books to include Beeton's Book of Acting Charades, The Mott St. Poker Club 1888, Ten days at Monte Carlo at the Bank's Expense by V.B., Middleton's Astronomy and the Use of Globes 1862, Cavendish on Whist, Hoyle's Games, Systems and Chances by R.W. Richardson, signed by the author and signed note from the author to Lord Braye, Potter on Gamesmanship and The pawnbrokers act 1872 by Francis Turner.

I wrote them to ask about the Hoyle, and it turned out there were two copies of Hoyle Made Familiar by Robert Hardie, a book I complained in the essay "Kicking and Screaming into the 19th Century." I already had one of them, but the other was a rarity, with only one other copy recorded, of course at the Bodleian. For the parcel, I bid what I was willing to pay for the rare Hoyle and won the lot. Shipping from the UK cost nearly as much as the books themselves.

Unpacking the box reminded me of the old days of going to a second-hand book shop and sitting on the floor, going through the gaming books. Yes, the gaming books were invariably on a bottom shelf! As in the book shop, going through the parcel was a multi round game of "junk" or "treasure." There were 20 books on gaming, only a few of which were identified in the auction catalogue. I ended up adding eleven books to the collection. Of course, the rare Hoyle was the highlight, even with (or perhaps because of) the crude frontispiece:

Hoyle Made Familiar (1852)

There were other nice books:

  • A first edition of Round Games at Cards by Henry Jones, who wrote under the pseudonym "Cavendish" (London: de la Rue 1875).

  • A ninth edition of Cavendish on Whist (London: de la Rue 1872). I knew that the tenth edition included an important chapter on the history of whist that did not appear in the eighth edition. I had never seen a ninth edition before and now know that the tenth was the first with the historical notes. I've written about Cavendish many times, identifying him as the successor to Hoyle in one essay. We'll see a particularly interesting Cavendish item below.

  • An early edition of Boaz on the Laws of Bridge (London: de la Rue 1898). In 2020, Thierry Depaulis (with the help of Philippe Bodard, Edward Copisarow, and Dave Walker) published an article in The Playing Card identifying Boaz as the pseudonym of Ernest de la Rue, a member of firm Thomas de la Rue & Co. which manufactured playing cards and, as you will have noticed, published gaming books. 

The parcel also included books I plan to get rid of. Is anyone interested in the Pawnbroker's Act of  1872? Charades? Globes?

The next item is a manuscript on the game of whist, likely from the late 18th century: Wisht

The four-page manuscript is printed on interesting paper. This back-lit image shows a watermark of a crowned shield with a horn inside over the name of the paper-maker, C & I Honig, who was active in the Netherlands from the early 18th century into the 19th:

C & I Honig watermark
I placed a higher resolution photograph on my web site. I found a similar watermark online from a drawing at the Morgan Library and was curious if the paper could be dated from the watermark. I queried the booklists Exlibris-L and SHARP-L and received many interesting replies. One respondent pointed out two letters from Thomas Jefferson in the Gravell Watermark Archive with similar Honig watermarks, here and here

Another engaging reply was from Ian Christie-Miller, author of the recent book Revealing Watermarks. He said that if could send him front- and back-lit images without moving the paper or camera, he could extract the watermark more clearly. I sent him the two images below: 


[Aside: if you click on one of the above photos to enlarge it, you can use the arrow keys to toggle between the two pictures and see how they line up.]

Ian used digital subtraction to remove the text and sent me an image essentially of the paper alone:

C & I Honig paper

I've shared the text with some French friends who collect and study whist. They were struck by several unusual spellings: "wisht" for "whist", "a tout" for "atout", "robert" for "robre" and more. Their thought was that the manuscript was not copied from a book, but the author wrote down rules he heard. 

Both the paper and the rules appear to be from the late 18th or early 19th century, but it is difficult to be more precise. 

As promised, back to Cavendish. I purchased a letter from Henry Jones on stationery with his printed address, dated January 16, 1891. The unidentified recipient had written a letter to The Field, a British monthly treating field sports and games, of which Cavendish was the card editor. The original letter apparently complained about the lack of uniformity at whist, that is, the proliferation of conventions (partnership agreements) governing card play. Cavendish replied that the writer's proposed scheme for regulation "has no chance whatever of adoption" and could not recommend that the letter be printed in The Field. Cavendish suggested a more open-ended query--whether the lack of uniformity does call for a remedy.

Cavendish letter p1

Cavendish letter p2-3

Cavendish letter p4

The writer did take Cavendish's suggestion and wrote a second letter to The Field which was published on January 31, 1891. There we learn that the author was W. H. Collins, best known for his leadership of the British Lawn Tennis Association. He gives an example of the lack of uniformity:

First hand [holding] King, queen, knave, ten. Some players lead the ten under all circumstances; others the king with four and the knave with five or more.

and continues with another half dozen specifics. All four cards would have equal trick-taking power-- the choice of which to play is a matter of partnership agreement, a subject I discuss in the essay "The Nature of Gaming Literature (part 2)."

More generally, Collins notes:

[I]n the present stage of whist development, half one's time when playing with strangers is taken up in discovering to what particular school they belong, and how far their reading is up to date. 

Cavendish replied in The Field

It is to be regretted that so many points of difference exist in whist play, but it appears to us to be a necessity of the case. It must be borne in mind that within the last few years changes have taken place in the game which amount to a revolution. In cannot be expected that the whole body of whist players will accept these changes at once, and in their integrity. It will take at least a generation to settle what is good in the proposed changes.

Alas, Cavendish's prediction did not come true. As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, whist died out in favor of early forms of bridge. The 1898 Laws of Bridge by Boaz, mentioned above, foreshadowed the future. 

There are a few more items either in transit or coming up at auction before year end, so perhaps there will be a second part to this essay. I find it striking that two of the items described here are manuscripts, the rules of whist and the Cavendish letter. I find myself more and more attracted to manuscript material. The items are unique, unlike printed books which may be produced in hundreds or thousands. I am not alone. As digitization brings more and more printed texts online, collectors, both institutional and private, are seeking out what cannot be found elsewhere. 

Did I mention that one of the items in transit is another manuscript on the game of trictrac?

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Hoyle in Halifax?

In the essay "250 Years," I noted Hoyle's involvement in a maritime insurance venture in Rotterdam in the 1720s. That refuted my earlier assertion that nothing is known of Hoyle's life before he began to tutor and write about the game of whist in the 1740s. 

A recent email from Dave Walker hints that we may be able to find even earlier information. Dave sent me a snippet from Halifax Books and Authors by J. Horsfall Turner (1906), p177. You can find the book in the Internet Archive. The passage begins: 

THE HOYLES. As with the families of several other local authors that we have named, the Hoyles have resided in the parish ever since surnames were adopted, that is, before 1400, or even 1300 in many cases. The Hoyles take their name from their original place of residence, possibly places of residences, for there were Hoyles of Hoyle or the Hole in Hipperholme, Hoyles of the Hole in Sowerby, besides a family similarly named from the Hole in Colne Valley. I believe these had not a common origin...

In the essay "The Yorkshire Hoyles and the Doctrine of Chances," I've rejected the view that Edmond was one of the landed Hoyles of Yorkshire. The key reference is: 

Yorkshire has been called the county of [Edmond Hoyle's] birth, but the present representative of the Yorkshire Hoyles, who acquired (temp. Edward III.) estates near Halifax, Mr. Fretwell Hoyle, has taken great pains of his genealogy, and has come to the conclusion that the Edmond Hoyle of whist celebrity was not in any way connected with his family. (Julian Marshall, "Books on Gaming" in Notes and Queries, 7th Ser. VII. June 22, 1889, p481)

Turner suggests that the were multiple Hoyle families in Yorkshire. Perhaps Edmond was one of the others? He goes on to say:

Besides EDMOND HOYLE, whose work on "Games" reached numerous editions, claimed conclusively by Mr. E. J. Walker, in the "Halifax Guardian" Portfolio, as productions of a Halifax man...

Now, that is new and interesting! Before we look into the Halifax Guardian, let's consider Yorkshire geography. The image below, from Google Maps, highlights Rotherham, the home of the landed Hoyles in the 19c and Halifax, where it is suggested that Hoyle came from.


So is Edmond from Halifax after all? And from a different Hoyle family than Fretwell? 

I've found more about the Halifax Guardian and it's "Portfolios." The Guardian is no longer published, but there was an article in the Halifax Courier of March 13, 2015 (available here) that described the portfolios. The article was called "Recording tales of old Halifax" and continued "Newspaperman Walker collected stories that tell history of our town in years gone by." Edward Johnson Walker wrote a series of 100 columns in the weekly Guardian beginning in June 1856 called "Our Local Portfolio," devoted to "interesting matter connected with the parish of Halifax." The Portfolio was published nearly weekly--by the end of July, 1858, nearly 100 articles had appeared. 

The Halifax Guardian is available on microfilm at the Halifax Central Library, the British Library and the Library of Congress. Perhaps one or more will open soon and I can find someone willing to spend a day with a microfilm reader. 

What did Mr. Walker have to say about Hoyle?


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Two Beauties of Hoyle, both owned by women. Coincidence?

I am nearly done putting bookplates in my gaming books, with just a box or two of small pamphlets to go. You can see the bookplate in my 2019 collecting essay. The project has been largely tedious, but it has been fun to revisit each item in the collection. I have learned a lot from classes in provenance and binding at Rare Book School and from bookish Facebook groups on endpapers, bookplates, and bookseller labels.  I've become attuned to aspects of my books I had missed initially.

So here's something I just noticed, and it has me wondering...

In my essay "Eighteenth Century Whist Literature," one of the books I discussed was The Beauties of Hoyle and Paine by General Scott (London: 1792). The Oxford English Dictionary says that "beauties," a term now used rarely, is found in titles of anthologies to mean "the choice passages from a particular writer, genre, etc." So The Beauties of Hoyle and Paine includes choice passages from Hoyle's Whist and Payne's Maxims for Whist (discussed here). General Scott misspelled Payne as Paine.

I have two copies of the first edition of Scott and no others are recorded in WorldCat or ESTC. I have vague memories of seeing a copy in the trade about ten years ago, so perhaps a third has survived.

Scott, London 1792

What is remarkable is that both my copies show evidence of ownership by women. The copy above has a seemingly contemporary ownership inscription "Mrs. Buckland" on the title page.

The other copy is presented by R. Coningham to Mrs. Hewit.

Can you help me make out the third word in the next line? I read "from her affined Hoyle" with "affined" meaning "bound in relationship." If I'm reading that correctly, it's rather charming! A reader sent a more plausible reading: "my assured Hoyle".

What is striking is that both copies of Beauties manifest ownership by women. Coincidence? Or are these Beauties intended for female readers? 

There were hundreds of Beauties: of Shakespeare, of popular magazines, of biography ("for the instruction of youth of both sexes"), of history ("designed for the instruction and entertainment of youth"), of the poets, of English drama. The beauties of Johnson and Fielding and Goldsmith and Hervey and so many more. I extracted phrases from the long title suggesting an appeal to the young, but there is also The Lady’s Poetical Magazine; or, Beauties of British poetry.

I've never seen books on whist offered to youth, so I wonder...might this Beauty have been created for women?

Monday, January 25, 2021

Who printed Piquet for Francis Cogan? Thank you Compositor!

(udpated 3/13 to link to Patrick Spedding's post, with his discussion of Compositor)

Last week, I watched Joseph Hone present a paper 'Secrets, Lies, and Title Pages' (now available on YouTube) sponsored by ODSECS, the Open Digital Seminar in Eighteenth-Century Studies. Joseph discussed how 18c printers "corrupted title pages with false names, dates, and disguise the origins of dangerous  books or piracies." I recommend the talk highly. 

In general, we don't know who printed a particular book in the 18c. The imprint, if honest, tends to identify the publisher and only occasionally the printer. Several times, Joseph made reference to the Compositor database of 18c printers' ornaments which he used to unmask printers who would otherwise have stayed hidden. I knew that Compositor was an upgraded version of Fleuron, a site I had used frequently. In my online Hoyle bibliography I had links to Fleuron which no longer worked in Compositor. It had been on my list to update the links and Joseph's talk prompted me to do so. Done!

I also explored Compositor and was blown away by a new feature: "image search", with a tutorial on their blog. It allows you to take an ornament in one book and find matches in others. Sometimes, those matches will be in books that identify the printer, suggesting a printer for the original book. Before giving an example, here is some background:

  • Printers ornaments are decorative elements, generally woodblocks, used in books through the late 18c. For a charming example, see the squirrely headpiece here
  • The source for Compositor is ECCO, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, a subscription database of nearly 200,000 18c books that can be accessed through most university libraries. ECCO began as microfilm and was digitized from the film. For a great history of ECCO, see Steven H. Gregg's paper "Old Books and Digital Publishing: Eighteenth-Century Collections Online" available here. The path from film to digital means that the reproductions are not always of pristine quality. 
  • The Compositor/Fleuron team must have done an immense amount of image processing that I can imagine only vaguely. They extracted the ornaments from full pages, developed ornament metadata, and, most magically, allowed visual search. Well done!

Okay, enough talk. Let's figure out who printed Piquet for Francis Cogan. My description of the book is here. The imprint, "Printed for F. Cogan at the Middle-Temple-Gate", is silent as to the printer. Scroll down to the contents where it says ‘[headpiece] | SOME | Rules and Observations | FOR | Playing well at CHESS. | [...]’. Click on the link to see again the headpiece with squirrels and then click on "Load Ornament in Visual Search". 

Now for the part requiring some dexterity. As described in the tutorial, you can use the right mouse button to select a rectangular area in the ornament. It will highlight red as you drag, and turn yellow when you are done.  

Selecting an Ornament

When I clicked "search", I found 103 matches: 

Matching an Ornament

You can click on a match and the original image on the left and the match on the right. If you click the middle image, it will toggle between the two and you can determine whether they were made from the same woodblock. Many things can account for differences even when the block is the same: Woodblocks become worn from use. Any given impression can use more or less ink. The microfilm and digitization can introduce artifacts. Despite the differences, I'm awestruck by how well this works! Truly, this be miraculous!!

Now for the part I found a bit clunky. You can click on the filename of the rightmost image to go to a page like this and then click on the link "This ornament was extracted from this book". In this example, you see the first of ten volumes of Moliere's works with the suggestive imprint "printed by and for John Watts at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court near Lincoln's-Inn Fields". One match does not a printer identify, so you'd want to look at more ornaments and more matches. That entails a lot of clicking. And a lot of keeping track of what you're seeing. Well, I wondered, couldn't I automate that?

Did you notice the little button that let you export the search results as a .csv (comma separated variable) file? Well, I saved the 103 matches to a file and dragged out some rusty Python skills to read the .csv file, visit the 103 matches, visit the book from which the ornament was extracted, extract the imprints, and print them out. Ninety minutes of coding; sixty lines of code. It took longer to write this blog post. If you run it for the 103 matches of the squirrel ornament, the first eight results are:

filename:  105540010000600_1
ornament ID:  1171998
ESTC:  T048220
publisher:  printed for F. Cogan at the Middle-Temple-Gate

filename:  005770040202750_0
ornament ID:  944832
ESTC:  T052789
publisher:  printed for H. Lintot, J. and R. Tonson and S. Draper

filename:  041920010801090_0
ornament ID:  634261
ESTC:  T064098
publisher:  printed for John Watts at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court near Lincoln's-Inn Fields

filename:  025940030001100_0
ornament ID:  1028312
ESTC:  T064113
publisher:  printed for John Watts at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court near Lincoln's-Inn Fields

filename:  086630010201970_0
ornament ID:  166790
ESTC:  T089176
publisher:  printed for J. and R. Tonson and S. Draper in the Strand

filename:  025940040000700_0
ornament ID:  838797
ESTC:  T064114
publisher:  printed for John Watts at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court near Lincoln's-Inn Fields

filename:  094430010500090_1
ornament ID:  706629
ESTC:  T064441
publisher:  printed by and for John Watts at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court near Lincoln's-Inn Fields

filename:  015270010000960_0
ornament ID:  763509
ESTC:  T063293
publisher:  printed for Jacob Tonson in the Strand 

It would have been easy and useful to extract the title and date. And to replace the ' with an apostrophe. But that would have taken more than 90 minutes. Had I done so, you would have seen the first item listed is the source book Piquet. Only one of the eight imprints identifies the printer: "printed by and for John Watts...". Of the 103 entries, 31 of them include "printed by" and in all cases, the printer is John Watts. I've visually inspected a good number of the ornament matches and similarly checked other ornaments from Piquet. I'm completely confident that I have identified the printer. 

There are some caveats in working with ornaments to identify printers. The printing of a book may be shared by more than one printer. A printer may loan out his ornaments. You have to be careful about when a printer died--another printer may have inherited the ornaments. My sense is that these caveats are mostly (repeat mostly) theoretical, but you should be aware of them. 

In fact I had done a lot of pre-Compositor ornament searching and had already identified Watts as the printer of Piquet. But with this new tool, I have identified printers for some of the Dublin Hoyles and for some non-Hoyles in my collection. 

Thank you Compositor! And thank you Joseph for the nudge!

For Patrick Spedding's take on Compositor, see his blog essay here.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

2020: The Year in Collecting (part 2)

I shared most of the 2020 acquisitions in an earlier essay, but saved one book, two manuscripts, and some exonumia for this second part. The book is an unusual one for me--a 17c Italian work on the game of Ombre:

Del giuoco dell'ombre. Bologna 1688.

The work is attributed to Cardinal Giovanni Battista de Luca (1614-1683) and is a later edition of a book first published in 1674 with a second in 1675. This 1688 edition is the third, but has a bit of biblio-mystery about it. 

My copy collates 12o: A-C12; 36 leaves, pp. [1-2] 3-67 [68-72] with the two final leaves blank. Lensi, on the other hand, says that the book is a 16o with only 48 pages (so, a sheet and a half). So, is there one book or two?

I checked WorldCat and found four copies:

  • The Bodleian Library has a copy in the Jessel collection, a 12o with no size or pagination given. 
  • Erlangen-Nürnberg has a copy noted as 67 pages.
  • The Houghton Library at Harvard describes their copy more fully: 14 cm, with a collation and pagination formula matching mine including the two final blanks. 
  • Stanford's copy is 48 pages and 15 cm. 

The Italian Union Catalogue locates two more copies:

  • The Biblioteca comunale Sperelliana in Gubbio (Umbria) has a copy matching my collation and pagination. 
  • The Biblioteca d'arte e di storia di San Giorgio in Poggiale (Tuscany) has a 48 page copy, a 12o with signatures A-B12.

It seems there are two different books, although Lensi and the Tuscan library disagree about format--a 16o or a 12o. It's a bit hard to sort all this out during the pandemic, but as libraries reopen, I'll send some emails and try to assess differences. 

Vellum binding

My copy is 13.9 cm tall and is bound in vellum as pictured at left. And if I get bored of biblio-mystery, I can always try to decipher the inscriptions on the fly leaf and title pages. 




Next, the manuscripts. I talked about one 18c trictrac manuscript in "The Left Hand of Bougy." I have another which I've never written about on this blog, but is pictured as item 7, here. I found two more trictrac manuscripts, likely late 18c, at an auction this summer. I haven't studied them in depth, but the text does not appear to be copied from any printed book, although the content of both is typical of instructional trictrac books, enumerating the complex rules of the game. The first is titled "Extract of the most general rules and observations on the game of trictrac."


The second manuscript has a somewhat battered cover with a title that I find charming: "Rules of Trictrac according to my husband".










The text has the more pedestrian title "Principal Observations and Rules for the Game of Trictrac."

And now onto the exonumia. Holabird Americana has been selling the vast token collections of Benjamin Fauver. They have sold perhaps ten thousand tokens and there are more to come. A typical lot consisted of many, many tokens. As I'm interested only in the Hoyle items, I bid on one lot only that was all Hoyle and I picked up another token when a Holabird purchaser split up a lot and sold the Hoyle token on eBay. 

Aside: I can tell all kinds of stories about mixed lots at auction, typically a cheap book I really want with more expensive ones I don't. Annoying!!!

Anyway, I was excited to complete a set of early whist tokens. In the essay "Hoyle's Scoring Method and Whist Counters" I showed tokens one, two and three; now I have a duplicate or two, plus number four. The writing on the envelopes is Fauver's and the references to Mitchiner are from Jetons, Medalets and Tokens, volume three, British Isles circa 1558 to 1830, London: Hawkins 1998.

Mitchiner 5645 (obverse)

Mitchiner 5645 (reverse)

And the lovely Fauver token from eBay:

Mitchiner 5646

That's a wrap for 2020!

Friday, November 27, 2020

2020: The Year in Collecting

2020 hasn't been good for much, but it has been good for my collection. It's hard to find editions of Hoyle that I lack, but some early and interesting ones found their way here. 

The first two books are a 1744 Cogan edition of Quadrille and a 1745 Osborne edition of Piquet. I had neither, so this is pretty exciting news! There is a short and a long version to their stories. First, the short. When Osborne acquired the Hoyle copyright from Cogan, he also acquired some unsold copies of Quadrille and Piquet. As discussed in the essay "Every Cancel Tells a Story, Don't It (part 3)", Osborne reissued each of these books with cancel titles. I'd never had the original Cogan Quadrille, though I did have a copy of Osborne's reissue. It is rare with three copies at the Bodleian, one at UNLV and now one here. I had neither issue of Piquet, so one down, one to go. 

first edition by Francis Cogan (1744)
reissued by Osborne (1745)











Now for the long version. These two copies were not individually published. For an example of how Cogan published the individual treatises, see here and for an Osborne example see here. Instead, these were each published as part of collections of all of Hoyle's treatises. The collections included Whist, Quadrille, Piquet, and Backgammon, and occasionally the rare sheet, Laws of Whist, but were advertised, bound, and sold as a collection. The collections can come in many permutations as I discuss in the essay "The Osborne Collections of Hoyle (1745-7)". I don't want to rehash the details here, but the main differentiators are:

  • Whist.6 or Whist.7 (the sixth or seventh edition of Whist)?
  • Piquet.1.2 or Piquet.2 (the Osborne reissue of Cogan's Piquet or the Osborne's reprint)?
  • Quadrille.1.2 or Quadrille.2 (the Osborne reissue of Cogan's Quadrille or the Osborne's reprint)?

The Piquet pictured above came with Whist.6, Quadrille.1.2, Piquet.1.2, and BG.2. There is a separately issued Piquet.1.2 at the Clark Library at UCLA and copies of this collection at the Bodleian, The Library Company of Philadelphia, and the American Contract Bridge League. Uncommon, yes, but a collection I had seen before. 

The second collection, the one containing Cogan's Quadrille.1.1, was entirely new to me. One might expect to find it in a Cogan collection (discussed here), but here it was in an Osborne collection, consisting of Whist.7, Laws.2, Piquet.2, Quadrille.1.1, and BG.2. What was a Cogan Quadrille doing in a collection of Osborne imprints? I can only assume that Osborne neglected to cancel the title page of this particular copy. This is a unique configuration.

The collection includes a copy of the Laws of Whist (see the 2012 essay "An Insomniac's Reward"). It's not quite as rare as I thought when I wrote about it in 2012. I now have two copies as does Vanderbilt. Copies at the Bodleian and UNLV bringing the total to six.

Tyson Bookplate

One extra in the book is a partial, but charming bookplate. It should have been easy to identify. The initials S & M T are suggestive and the heraldic elements are simple enough that I expected to find it in the standard references, even with my limited skills. One can deduce the colors from the shading. The oval field is azure and the lozenge vert. There are three lions rampant (standing) regardant (facing backward). Nonetheless, I found nothing. 

I queried the book lists, book friends on social media, and sent out emails to experts. I finally learned from a member of The Bookplate Society that the arms belonged to the Tyson family. The only reference was an 1875 book by Frederick Cansick with drawings of monuments from Tottenham churches. The arms appeared on the grave of Edward Tyson (d. 1723), so the bookplate must belong to a descendant. Heraldry is hard!

Almanach du Whisk (1765)

Three more Hoyles. First is an almanac with a translation of Hoyle's Whist that I bought at auction. The catalogue said that book was dated 1766, but when it arrived something seemed a bit off with the final "I" in the Roman numeral for the date. It does not seem to be letterpress, but rather stamped over a letterpress period that was used to separate parts of the date. Thus, the book is really from 1765 and indeed the calendar, though undated, matches days of the week for 1765 rather than 1766. The bookseller probably had copies left over at the end of the year and was trying to disguise the date.


If someone purchased the book in 1766 for the almanac they would have been disappointed. And I might have been disappointed as well--I already had a 1765 copy, though without the almanac.  But there was a hidden bonus--the brocade endpapers are spectacular. And it is possible to identify the paper maker as Georg Reymund:

brocade endpapers by Georg Reymund

You can see another specimen of the same paper at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Despite the duplication, I am really pleased with the purchase. It's lovely! 

A few weeks ago, I was on a panel sponsored by the Rare Book School called "Collecting & Copyright: Three Case Studies". The video is now available on YouTube. I discussed how the end of the Hoyle copyright led to innovative books at the top of the market and cheap abridgements at the low end. Toward the end of the talk I noted: 

I must confess that I don’t understand the cheaper books as well as I do those that I have called complete. They were the product of the low-end of the trade, often outside of London. You’ve never heard of the printers. They were distributed by mercuries and hawkers rather than the retails shops. In aggregate, there are a huge number of them, but any particular edition survives in but a copy or two. The cheap bindings make them fragile. They were not collected institutionally or by private collectors. My collecting and my research are slowly turning down market.

Two new cheap Hoyles reinforce those comments. They are rare and they have led me to a lot of research. The first is the Card Games of Hoyle printed by Thomas Hughes (1825). I had seen a copy of an 1828 edition at the Bodleian Library, but the lovely colored frontispiece was dated 1825 and I suspected there was an unrecorded 1825 edition. And so there was:

The Card Games of Hoyle (1825)

The book was too small for Mary Turner's bookplate, so she folded it in half before pasting it in. It certainly has an art nouveau 1910c look to it, but I have yet to identify her.

Bookplate of Mary Turner

What is odd is that the book is 100% the same setting of type as the 1828 edition. It's hard to imagine that Hughes would have left type standing for three years, so the book is probably stereotyped. Other stereotyped Hoyles left a lot of evidence about the process. See the essay "Kicking and Screaming into the 19th Century" for an example. This book has no evidence of having been stereotyped, but it must have been.

A similar book, also acquired this year, is Hoyle's Card Games published by Richard Griffin & Co., Glasgow (1827). The book was first printed in Bath in 1824 and there are two Glasgow imprints, one dated 1826 and a reissue dated 1827 with a different title page. The new 1827 Glasgow edition is a different setting of type that the others. It is rare, with only one other copy recorded, and I snagged it on eBay for the sum of $1.00! It was in pretty rotten shape--no cover and pages that were torn and dog-eared. I learned how to do simple paper repairs when I studied bookbinding many years ago, and this was a good candidate. It's still not great, but at least it won't get any worse.

I said the Bath/Glasgow books were similar to the one printed in London by Thomas Hughes. How similar? The text is identical, word for word, up to a point. The last chapter of the provincial books is "A Guide to the Turf" on horse racing. Instead of that chapter, Hughes printed short chapters on the games of speculation, lottery, loto, Boston, and hazard. 
The similarity doesn't end there. There are some anomalies in the Hughes book (1825) that demonstrate a connection with the Bath edition (1824). Hughes has gatherings of 8 leaves and the first two leaves generally signed in each gathering. So page seventeen has a "B" at the bottom, page nineteen "B2" and so in. There are some anomalies in gathering A that make an interesting comparison with the Bath edition:
  • The Bath edition has a two leaf gathering A: the title page and verso, followed by the table of contents and blank verso. The text begins on page one (B1r , signed "B") with the game of whist.
  • The Hughes edition has the title on A1r and the table of contents on A1v. The text begins on page one (A2r) with the game of whist, but that page is signed "B". 
  • In the Bath edition, page five is correctly signed "B3". 
  • In the Hughes edition, page five is A4 and is incorrectly signed "B3".
The Hughes compositor introduced the signing anomalies because he had a copy of the Bath edition in hand! What a satisfying explanation for a signing error!

There were some other 2020 purchases that deserve their own essay.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Whist and its Masters

updated August 3, 2020 with information from the second Foster letter

This meandering essay will discuss an 18c article and a series of 19c articles on whist strategy. The earlier article has been quoted without attribution so many times, that I want to acknowledge the original source. The later series is, I think, unknown to today's scholars of whist.
Let's begin with an entry in Jessel's 1905 bibliography1 of gaming books:
560. FOSTER, ROBERT FREDERIC. - Whist and its Masters. In The Monthly Illustrator, Sept. 1896 to March 1897, inclusive. I. The Old School. II. The New School. III. The Signalling School. IV. The Scientific School. V. The Number-Showing School. VI. The Duplicate School.VII. The Private Convention School. (Butler, p. 43. These papers are about to be reprinted in book form.)
Let's unpack the entry a bit. Whenever Jessel had not seen a book he included in his bibliography, he was careful to note how he learned of it. Here, the parenthetical item "Butler, p. 43" means that he saw the book listed in William Butler's outstanding work, The Whist Reference Book (1898)2. The book is arranged as an encyclopedia and on pages 42-3 is an article called "Articles on Whist". The entry of interest is:
"Whist and its Masters," by R. Frederick Foster, Monthly Illustrator, Sept. 1896 to March 1897, inclusive. I. The Old School. II. The New School. III. The Signalling School. IV. The Scientific School. V. The Number-Showing School. VI. The Duplicate School.VII. The Private Convention School. 
So Jessel did no more than copy Butler.

As much time as I spent with Jessel, I had never paid much attention to this entry. Certainly if the papers had been reprinted in book form, I would have run across them at one time or another. Why did Jessel think they were going to be reprinted?

I visited the Jessel collection at the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford in 2018, As I looked at a lot of books and a lot of Jessel's handwritten notes about his collection, I discovered that dozens of his books included letters from the author which Jessel had pasted in the front of their books. I looked at as many of these letters as I could find and got a sense of how Jessel collected, and how he put together his bibliography. The most frequent correspondent was Foster and the earliest letter I found was in an edition of Foster's Complete Hoyle (1897), shelf mark Jessel e.443.

Foster wrote the letter on November 16, 1903 apparently responding to a request from Jessel that he list all the books he had written on card games. Foster mentions 20 titles and their publishers, but also describes "Whist and its Masters":
"Whist and Its Masters" was a series of articles, ten I think, published in a magazine called "Home & Country" I had arranged to have them appear in book form, but the publishers failed, and it fell through. These articles were a complete history of the strategy of the game, showing how it developed and enlarged, and the articles were illustrated by photos of all the men who had taken a leading part in advocating certain conventions. Some persons thought these articles the best things I ever wrote on Whist, I have no copies of them."
A later letter by Foster said that plan to publish the book was revived. The letter, dated January 1, 1905, is pasted in Foster's Practical Poker, shelf mark Jessel f.425. It is on the letterhead of The Sun, a New York daily newspaper to which Foster contributed columns on card games. "We [presumably The Sun] are going to reprint the 'Whist and Its Masters' and I shall be pleased to send you a copy for your library. How I sigh for that library!"

These letters intrigued me! I originally began to collect books on whist to understand the history of whist strategy. As I got more into Hoyle and its publishing history, that desire waned. There is not a lot of literature on the progression of whist strategy. William Pole's The Evolution of Whist (1897), here, does a creditable job, as does Butler's Whist Reference Book.

The revived plan must have failed as well--there is no hint that the book was ever published. So I needed to locate the original articles. I turned to ILL, that is inter-library loan, an experience both frustrating and rewarding in this instance. The frustration was that I did not have good bibliographical information about the articles. Butler and Jessel were wrong, the periodical is, as Foster indicated, Home and Country; its publisher is The Monthly Illustrator Publishing Co. of New York. The dates were wrong as well. The first article appeared in August 1896, the final article, number nine (not ten, as Foster recalled) appeared in April 1897.

ILL was able to provide digital copies of six of the nine articles. Surprisingly, I found a seventh on eBay for about $20. And, I have leads on the final two, but can't really pursue them until libraries reopen after the Covid-19 sheltering. Here is a complete list:
  • I. The Old School, 13:1, 15-21, August 1896
  • II. The New School 13:2, 89-94, September 1896
  • III. The Signalling School, 13:3, 153-7, October 1896
  • IV. The Scientific School, 13:4, 211-15, November 1896. 
  • V. The Number-Showing School, 13:5, 295-9, December 1896
  • VI. The Duplicate School, 13:6, 376-9, January 1897
  • VII. The Private Convention School, 14:1, 11-16, February 1897
  • VIII. The Common-Sense School, 14:2, 109-14, March 1897
  • IX The School of the Future, 14:3, 205-9, April 1897
I'm left to wonder who thought the articles were the best writing on whist Foster had done. Perhaps Foster himself?

Below is the cover for the issue I found on eBay. 

Home and Country
February, 1897

And here, a couple of pages from the Foster article, "The Private Convention School."

The articles are quite good, if one overlooks some overly-flowery prose. I'd like to focus on the first article as it is the one to focus on Hoyle and before. Before? Haven't I always claimed that Hoyle was the first to write on the strategy of card play? Foster writes:
The first attempts to reduce the practice of whist to a science appear to have been made by a coterie of players who met at the Crown Coffee-House, in Bedford Row, London, early in the last [18th] century, and of whom the first Viscount Folkestone is the best known. Unfortunately, they left no authentic record of the results of their investigations, and we have it on hearsay evidence only that they followed the general principles of "playing from the strongest suit (not the longest), studying the partner's hand, and playing to the score." (16)
The anecdote about Lord Folkestone and the Crown Coffee-House appears throughout the literature of whist. It is rare that any reference is supplied. Where did the story come from?

The source is an article by Daines Barrington in Archaeologia called "Observations on the Antiquity of Card-playing in England," a paper read before the Society of Antiquaries on February 23, 1786. Barrington traces the origin of playing cards and, at the end of the paper, he discusses the most popular card games: primero, ombre, quadrille, trumps, swabbers, and lastly whist.

Of whist, Barrington writes:
...[W]hisk seems never to have been played upon principles till about fifty years ago, when it was much studied by a set of gentlemen who frequented the Crown coffee-house in Bedford Row. (145)
A footnote begins below and continues on the next page:
I have this information from a gentleman who is now eighty-six years of age. The first lord Folkstone was another of this set. They laid down the following rules: To play from the strongest suit, to study your partner's hand as much as your own, never to force your partner unnecessarily, and to attend to the score. (145-6)

Barrington (145)

Barrington (146)

Two comments. First, I stand by my claim that Hoyle was the first to write about the strategy of whist. The Crown Coffee House group may have been the first to form principles of play, but they did not write or publish on the game. Second, one sees the suggestion that Hoyle may have been part of the group at the coffee house. That is certainly not true. Hoyle was a household name in 1786 when Barrington's piece was written. Had Hoyle been part of the group, Barrington's "gentleman friend" would have told Barrington; Barrington would have added Hoyle's name alongside that of Lord Folkstone.

I'm delighted to have tracked down (most of) the series of articles by Foster. They are well-written and informative. If you manage to locate a copy, be aware of a caution Butler made about Foster's writing in the Whist Reference Book:
[Foster] is also a frequent contributor to other publications, his recent series of articles (1896-'97) in the Monthly Illustrator, ...containing much valuable and interesting material, although tinctured with his likes and dislikes, which are very strong. (184)

1A Bibliography of Works in English on Playing Cards and Gaming. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1905. Available for download.  
2Available for download. If you happen to click through to the Google copy, be sure to check out the smile-inducing pages 16 and 17.