Thursday, December 7, 2023

2023: The Year in Collecting

An even dozen books came my way in 2023. I've discussed two of them in the essay "Oddly Imposed. Oddly Signed." I'll write about four more here, ignoring some 19th century books on whist that filled gaps and ignoring some 19th century books in Italian that are on lesser-known card games. 

The earliest is a French work on the game of piquet dated 1683. My experience with French and English gaming literature is that small pamphlets appeared treating a single game appeared first in the 17th century. The booksellers learned that those interested in one game were likely interested in more of them, and anthologies replaced works covering a single game. In France, early works on games such as piquet, reversis, and hoc gave way to anthologies such as La Maison Académique. In London, early works on piquet and hombre gave way to The Compleat Gamester and later, Mr. Hoyle's Games


Piquet 1683

 It was a treat to find this late 17th century work, of which only one other copy is recorded. An earlier version of the book was published in 1631 and portions were translated into English in 1651 in a book I discuss in the essay "Piquet, Provenance and a Puzzle." Actually, I'm lying a bit. The first 25 pages of this 43 page pamphlet are on piquet, but it has a couple of pages each on another nine card games. Nonetheless, it is a small (12.5 x 8.7 cm) pamphlet and feels more like one of the single-game pamphlets. 


Next is a manuscript on the game of trictrac. I've shared other trictrac manuscripts here, here, and here. As noted on the title page, the scribe copied the book while he was staying in the parish of St. Jean de Brayes just outside Orleans in 1787. The printed book is quite rare with three copies known other than mine, one in Lyon, one in Grenoble, and one Châlons-en-Champagne, Marne. All these cities are several hours’ drive from Orleans, so perhaps there remains another copy closer to Orleans. I wonder if our 1787 scribe was aware of the book’s rarity when he spent hours making his copy.

printed book

But the year would not be complete without finding some Hoyle. It gets harder and harder for me to find something new and most of the recent acquisitions have been either cheap books or translations. I've often written about Robert Withy, the author of Hoyle Abridged, or Short Rules for Short Memories at the Game of Whist by "Bob Short". My overview article listed editions known to me in more than ten years ago.

London 1806 Harris

 More continue to turn up, including an auction find, pictured at left. It is an 1806 "twenty-second" edition printed in London for John Harris, described more fully here. I have seen an advertisement for a "twentieth" Harris edition of 1801, an 1806 "twenty-first" edition printed in Bath, and an 1809 "twenty-second" edition printed in London. They are all different settings of type. It is hard to make sense of the fanciful edition numbering and the fact that 1806 saw books published in London and in Bath. No other copies of this one are known, so I won't much complain about the indifferent condition.

Firenze 1823

Recently, I have done a lot of work on my online bibliography. I have added photographs of books in my collection and have reworked the section covering Hoyle in translation. See here and scroll down to "Continental Translations." A couple of clicks away is a full description of this 1823 Italian translation of "Bob Short" on whist, one of two recorded copies. It is the first of two Italian translations of "Bob Short," followed by another Florence imprint in 1832. 


 Happy holidays and best wishes for 2024!

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Oddly Imposed. Oddly signed.

Last month I ended a six-month dry spell, adding two French gaming books to my collection.  Each has bibliographical oddities. 

The first book is L'Arithmétieque du Jeu de Boston published in Cherbourg. Although no author or publication date is given, secondary sources identify the author as Louis-Guillaume-François Vastel and the date as 1815. Boston is a game of the whist family, discussed here and in more detail in Hans Secelle's recent book From Short Whist to Contract Bridge Toronto: Master Point Press (2020). The book is rare, with copies found only at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Houghton Library at Harvard.

Vastel, Boston

As is evident from the title, this is a book on the mathematics of the game, a book on probability. Vastel was a lawyer and mathematician and translated the first part of Bernoulli's Ars Conjectandi into French in 1801. 

The book is in a lovely, but tight binding. The sewing threads are nowhere visible, so when I collated it, I had to rely on the signature marks. 

front board






The book appears to collate 12o: [1-2]4/2 3-204/2 plus three leaves at the end. Numeric signing became common in the 19h century (see the discussion of the second book below); it is the imposition that I find most strange. I have never seen a duodecimo gathered in fours and twos. I commented about the unusual format to my friend J.P. Ascher and he pointed me to a 19th century printer's manual, William Savage, A Dictionary of the Art of Printing, London: Longman et al (1841). There is a large section of imposition diagrams and figure 36 is a half sheet of twelves, with two signatures, eight pages and four pages, as here. 

So the imposition scheme was known to contemporary printers, but why would it be used? A more normal scheme would be to have gatherings of six leaves, reducing the number of gatherings by half, and thus reducing the amount of sewing by the binder. Savage cited a number of earlier printer's manuals for this imposition scheme and, unlike Savage, they clarified why a printer might want to use it. I'll mention only one of many examples. Stower, The Compositor's and Pressman's Guide to the Art of Printing, London: Crosby (1808) called the imposition scheme "half sheet of twelves with two signatures, being 8 concluding pages of a work, and 4 of other matter." 

Ah! That makes perfect sense. If 8 pages will complete a duodecimo, you could use this imposition to set 4 pages of another book, or some advertising, or any other job work. But, but but--why would you set an entire book this way? It remains a mystery to me. 

The second acquisition is a translation of Hoyle's Whist into French, published by Fournier in the late 1780s. Fournier published many editions the Almanach des Jeux from 1779 into the 19th century. The Almanach included a calendar and sections on the games of whist, reversis, tressette, piquet, and trictrac. The individual sections were often published separately, as with whist:

Fournier, Whisk

As mentioned many times in this blog, I do like books in original unsophisticated bindings as here:

drab paper cover

This book, like Vastel above, is signed numerically, collating 12o: 1-412 56 (-56 missing, blank?). In general, the second leaf is signed with an asterisk, and the fifth with two, such as 1* and 1**. This would help the binder make sure the gathering is folded and quired correctly, but the numeric signing is unusual. The bible for signing practices is an article by R. A. Sayce in The Library (5th ser, XXII:1 1966), "Compositorial Practices and the Localization of Printed Books, 1530-1800." Sayce studied nearly 3000 books and examined others more casually, and wrote about numeric signing: 
This, perhaps the commonest method of signing in the nineteenth century and after, is found in only three cases in the sample, two from Paris (1755, 1788) and one from Parma (1795). 
I can now add another Parisian example from the 18th century. I haven't seen other Cherbourg imprints from the early 19th century and can't say how common numeric signing might have been in 1815.  

I hope these two French delights mean the collecting dry spell is over!

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

2022: The Year in Collecting

A dozen books came my way this year--some condition upgrades, some of interest only to the Hoyle completist, plus a few gems. I'll discuss five of them in the order they were published.

The earliest acquisition is a third edition (1671) of Wits Interpreter: The English Parnassus. Most collectors want first editions, but I would not have been interested in the first (1655) or second (1662). The book collects love songs, poems, and dialogues from plays in reaction against the Cromwell revolution. With Charles II restored to the throne in 1660, the third edition included material on games, as highlighted in the preface:

I took advantage from this golden season...the golden age of His Majesties happy Restauration, from which all manner of Wit and Ingenuity received as it were a new birth, to add several Games and Sports, the most A la Mode and Curious, that are now in esteem among the Gentilest...
Part 7 contains chapters on ombre, piquet, gleek, cribbage, and chess. Jessel observes that this book is the earliest that has come down to us with a treatise on card games, predating The Compleat Gamester (discussed here) by three years.

1671 Wits Interpreter

My copy is in a luscious, extensively decorated morocco binding with the bookplate of Charles Tennant of The Glen in Scotland. 

Bookplate of Charles Tennant

There are two minor bibliographical oddities about the book. First, the title page identifies the author only as J. C. and the book it has universally been attributed to John Cotgrove, including by the ESTC. Joshua McEvilla recently demonstrated conclusively the the author is John Cragge in The Library, 18:3 337-344 (2017). 

Second, there appear to be at least two versions of the third edition. Mine (like ESTC R2199) has the imprint "printed for N. Brook, at the Angel in Cornhill, and Obadiah Blagrave, at the Printing Press in Little Britain, MDCLXXI." Other copies (like ESTC R225554) omit the second line of the imprint. Moreover, at least one copy of the second issue ends on page 351, while other copies have a catchword at the bottom of 351 and the book continues through page 520. Library inquiries would be required to understand the variants I have seen in a small number of copies. 

I purchased another copy of Games.5, the "fourteenth" edition of Mr. Hoyle's Games (1767). As I wrote in an earlier essay, some copies have a cancel title page, others the uncancelled page, and a couple have both. I found a copy with both title pages, crossing a completist variant off my list. 

Also among my desiderata was the New York edition of Beaufort's Hoyle's Games Improved (1796). I found a Boston edition in 2014. When I purchased a Philadelphia edition in 2018, I wrote "Does anyone know where I can pick up the one sold in New York?" I got an email from a bookseller friend noting that another dealer had listed that book for sale and can now cross that off the list.

Hoyle's Games Improved
New York (1796)

The next item is not obviously by Hoyle, although the text is almost entirely his. It was first published in 1798 by H. D. Symonds. I noted an 1817 reprint by John Harris in an essay on eighteenth century backgammon literature. I bought an earlier Harris edition (1801) at auction.
1801 Rules and Directions for Backgammon

1801 Rules and Directions for Backgammon

The last book came from an annoyingly mixed lot at auction, consisting of a Compleat Gamester worth thousands, a signed Hoyle (which I had) worth hundreds, and a later obscure Hoyle worth not very much. The obscure Hoyle is an 1820 reissue of a book first published in 1808 with a cancel title, although why it got reissued I cannot say. The book is rare, with copies recorded at Cleveland Public, Louisiana State, and Vanderbilt. Great rarity does not always mean great value. 

1820 The New Pocket Hoyle

I was not willing to bid anywhere near enough to be competitive on the lot, but I tried an approach that is usually unsuccessful. I wrote the auction house and told them of my interest in the least of the books and asked them to pass my name onto the winning bidder. They did so and I heard back from the winning buyer, a bookseller I know casually, and he was delighted to sell me the book for a modest price. A happy ending, and another to cross off my list. 

Best wishes for a happy 2023!

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

2021: The Year in Collecting (part 4)

The Hoyle I purchase at a German auction in late November has finally arrived. Before taking a close look at it, let's return to the December auction where I bought four lots, fourteen books, including the whist manuscript discussed in the last essay. There were some early books on the game of ombre, but I'll focus on the Hoyles. My collection is deep and the opportunities for me are mostly with cheap literature and with translations. 

For cheap literature, it is hard to top this Hoyle's Games in Miniature, purportedly by Bob Short, Jun.

Hoyle in Miniature 1825c. wrapper

I've written about the chapbooks by "Bob Short," which I have shown is the pseudonym of Robert Withy (see "Who is 'Bob Short'?" parts one, two, and three). Like Hoyle himself, Bob Short became a brand. Withy himself wrote only about whist and quadrille in the 1780s and 1790s, but in the first half of the 19th century, you could find all sorts of chapbooks and cheap books offered under his pseudonym, sometimes, as here, with a disingenuous "Jun." appended. There is a charming and naive hand-colored frontispiece:

frontispiece and title page

This is a reissue of a book first published in 1820 or so. The original book was imposed in eights; the reissue in sixes, still the same setting of type. The reissue also adds eight pages on the games of brag and domino, which are listed on the title page, but not on the wrapper. These cheap books are quite rare. The only copy of the first issue is at the Bodleian Library and mine is one of two surviving second issues. 

I'll show without comment two French translations of Hoyle treatise on whist, one published in the Hague by Staatman in 1765, the other in Amsterdam by Prault in 1767. 

Staatman 1765
Prault 1767

Now onto the gem. In general, editions of Hoyle are objects of commerce, not luxury. With the exception of the first edition of Hoyle's first book, pictured here, the bindings are cheap, utilitarian, and not particularly attractive. Here is a second exception, albeit a bit stained:

deluxe Italian? binding

The book is an Italian translation of Hoyle on chess printed in Florence in 1768. 

Scacchi, Florence, 1768.

The long title translates as The game of chess with some rules and observations to play it well, by the Englishman Mr. Hoyle translated into our language and dedicated to incomparable merit of Mr. Dudley Digges, English officer of the navy in the service of his British Majesty. We'll return to Mr. Digges in a moment. The book is quite rare with only three institutional copies in major chess collections: the White collection at Cleveland Public (pictured here), the van der Linde collection at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (available on Google), and the Fiske collection at the National and University Library in Iceland. A label in my copy says it is a duplicate from the collection of Lothar Schmid (1928-2013), so perhaps a fifth copy remains in that collection, which I understand is still intact.

The text is not from Hoyle's 1761 work on chess, as one might expect, but rather from the second half of Hoyle's treatise on piquet, first published in 1744, and included in all editions of Hoyle's Games thereafter. To give a sense of the typography, here is the beginning of the text:

Chess, part one

There are a few additions by the translator. The first is a two-page letter to the reader: 

Translator's preface

The translator is Ranieri Collini and the preface expresses fawning admiration of Digges. Some rough translations: 

"To whom better than you to be able to dedicate this book..."

"...having reendered yourself ably in the service of your august monarch..."

"...long undertakings, and painful voyages by land and sea..."

"I know that your soul is very alien to conceit..."

In the third and final section of the book, Hoyle had 14 numbered paragraphs and Collini adds a fifteenth: 

Part 3, paragraph XV

It connects the game of chess to antiquity, noting that the title of Augustus was given to one of the imperial Romans for having won ten games of chess in a row. I haven't seen that anecdote before!

So how did Collini and Digges cross paths? A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy, 1701-1800, Yale University Press, 1997 is based on an archive assembled by Sir Birnsley Ford and edited by John Ingamells. It is an alphabetical listing of visitors to Italy, many undertaking the grand tour. The dictionary shows Captain Dudley Digges and his brother West Digges visiting Florence in 1767, a year before the Hoyle was published:

Dictionary p301

Astonishingly, the source document, Gazzetta Toscana, is available on Google books. An entry marked "Florence, December 26, 1767" reads:

Gazzetta Toscana, p215

Correcting the misspelling of the names, this translates in part:

"Among the foreign gentlemen who came to this capital in the space of eight days are...Messrs. Belven, West Digges, English gentlemen, Mr. Dudley Digges, captain in service of his British Majesty."

I have not been able to track down Belven. West Digges is a quite well-known comic actor, but if Collini had met them both, he must have been more impressed with brother Dudley. The text in the gazette almost matches the dedication on the title page. So it is possible to connect Collini and Digges in time and space. It would be fascinating to learn how they came to meet.

It took more than six weeks for this gem to travel here, but it was well worth the wait, don't you think?


Sunday, January 9, 2022

2021: The Year in Collecting (part 3) Who is William H?

In part 2, I said that I wasn't ready to write about the bundle of books I bought at a mid-December auction. This essay will discuss just one of them, an extraordinary manuscript on the game of whist. First, the description from the auction catalogue:

Manuscript. Rules for the game of whist, circa 1820s, 196 leaves, written throughout in a neat legible hand in sepia and red ink, Contents at front with step index, some marginal toning, marbled endpapers, hinges splitting, armorial bookplate of Joseph Tasker, Middleton Hall, Essex, all edges gilt, contemporary straight-grained red morocco by Frank Murray of Derby, Leicester & Nottingham, with his label to front pastedown, flat spine ruled and lettered in gilt ‘Game of Whist’, spine rubbed and darkened, upper cover re-jointed, gilt single fillet on covers and edges, gilt roll on turn-ins, 8vo
Bearing the bookplate of Joseph Tasker whose library was sold at auction in 1862 and 1868.

A beautifully-written manuscript comprising rules for the game of whist, containing references throughout to Hoyle and Payne, and with a list of contents included at the front.

The manuscript consists primary of excerpts from Hoyle. It is peculiarly numbered--it is the openings that are numbered, rather than the pages or the leaves. Here is opening 11, which will give you a sense of the manuscript:

opening 11

 The paragraph in the upper right is one such Hoyle excerpt:

A and B are Partners against C and D; A leads a Club, his Partner B plays before the Adversary C; in this case D has a right to play before his Partner C, because B played out of his Turn.

Hoyle  50-9.                 
Payne  8-3.

This is what Hoyle and contemporaries called a "law" of whist. It was not a rule telling how to play the game, but a remedy to redress an irregularity that can occur at that table, here a play out of turn. 

It took some work to decipher the references to Hoyle and Payne. P refers to a page number and C a "case," as Hoyle frequently designated sections of his text. The hunt was on to find this text on page 50 of an edition of Hoyle.  It turns out that the Hoyle references are to the 1796 edition of Hoyle's Games Improved, revised and corrected by Charles Jones (Jones.5). Here is page 50, case IX of that book, matching the text of the manuscript:

Hoyle's Games Improved (1796)

The reference to Payne was more difficult. Payne wrote the second book on whist after Hoyle, Maxims for Playing the Game of Whist (1773), discussed here. In no edition of Payne did the laws appear as early as page 8. Finally I found the reference, not in Payne, but in the Charles Pigott's New Hoyle (Pigott.1.1). There were three issues of the first edition of that book, all with the same setting of type. Here is a photo from the third issue, again matching the text of the manuscript:

Pigott's New Hoyle (1796)

This oddity persists throughout the book. All of the hundreds of manuscript references to Payne are actually to this early edition of Pigott!

It might have been quicker for me to identify the sources had I reached opening 18 more quickly: 


It reads:

The foregoing Laws at Whist, with the following general rules for playing the Game, as well as the instructions for playing particular Hands, are taken from the revised and corrected edition of Hoyles Games Improved, by Chas Jones, Esqr; also, from a Publication called New Hoyle, Printed by Ridgeway, York Street, Saint James's, from the Manuscript of the late Charles Pigott Esqr; both were published in 1796. WmH.
WmH? This must be the monogram of the compiler of the manuscript! And that took me back to the preliminary material. In addition to the 196 openings with Arabic numbers, there are also 22 preliminary leaves with Roman numerals. The opening below shows an alphabetical table of contents and the step index mentioned in the catalogue. If you click on the image to enlarge it, you will see that the contents refer to pages marked in black ink and "cases" marked in red:

page III

Now I understood an entry which confused me on first reading:

H Wm, his observations 3-2-3. 4-1-2-3-4. 6-1. 8-1. 14-1. 17. 51-1-2-3-4-5. 86-1. 105-26. 192-3. 155-4 156-7.

The manuscript has many interpolations by the compiler. Not all of them were indexed in the table of contents. The most interesting is from opening 14. First, the compiler transcribes a law from an old edition of Hoyle (one of four such references in the manuscript) and notes that it is obsolete:

page 14

The laws reads:

No Person may take new Cards in the middle of the Game, without the consent of all Parties. 

Hoyles old Edtn 81-23                 
The law addresses the right of a player to request a new pack of cards, feeling that that the old ones were running against him. I believe that the reference is to the "eleventh" edition of Hoyle's Games from 1757 (Games.2), pictured below. There is another possibility based on the page and case numbers for the 4 references to the old edition of Hoyle, so I'm not 100% certain.

Hoyle's Games
"eleventh" edition (1757)
It is the commentary below the law that is of the most interest:

NB. The above Law is Obsolete.

I betted Ten Guineas that no Person might take fresh Cards in the middle of the Game without the consent of the Adversaries; it was referred to the first Whist Club in England held at that time (1792) at Martindales St. James’s Street; when they decreed, that either Party might have fresh Cards at any Point of the Game, (the Party calling paying for them) without consulting the opposite Party. WmH.
Martindales was a club that took over the premises of another club, White's, in 1789. I suppose the new law is a money-maker for the club--likely they mark up the cost of the cards and are delighted when someone wants new ones! From the anecdote we can deduce that WmH was an adult in 1792 and a man of sufficient means to make a frivolous ten guinea bet. Perhaps he was a member of Martindales.

So who is WmH?
My first thought was that he must have owned one of the early editions of Pigott, which are quite scarce. Might one of the few surviving copies have a revealing bookplate or signature? The only copy of the first issue is at the Bodleian Library. There are no surviving second issues and only two third issues--one at the Bodleian and one in my collection. Sadly, none of the three books was helpful. The first issue has the ownership inscription of J. Muzio whom I cannot identify, and there was nothing useful in the other two.

Second, I went through all the whist literature looking for a William H of the right time period. I found nothing about members of Martindale's club. A book about White's Club notes that General William Howe (1729-1814), commander in chief of the British army in North America, was a member. There is a lot of Howe manuscript material online, but I don't feel qualified to compare the handwriting.
The Jessel bibliography records a four-volume set called Rational Recreations by William Hooper, but that does not particularly deal with whist. The index in Courtney's English Whist and Whist Players (1894) lists artist William Hogarth and writer William Hazlitt as connected to whist. Hogarth (1697-1764) is too early. The samples I've seen of Hazlitt's handwriting do not match the manuscript, but of course the compiler and the scribe may be two different people.

The identity of WmH is likely to remain a mystery. It has been great fun digging into the manuscript and trying to understand it. My conclusion is that it has very little material that is not in any late 18c edition of Hoyle, but that the material is much better indexed and cross-referenced. What a treasure!

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

2021: The Year in Collecting (part 2)

Well, sometimes things don't work out as planned. I was hoping this essay would include a lovely Hoyle I won at a November 25 auction in Germany. Sadly, shipping was delayed due to the resurgent pandemic and the book hasn't yet reached the US Postal Service. On the other hand, I won four lots totaling 14 books (some real gems!) in a December 16 auction in the UK and those books arrived yesterday. But I'm not ready to write about them yet!

So we're left with a short essay discussing two other late 2021 acquisitions. Regular readers will know that I love original bindings and I love manuscripts. You'll see one of each today. Two things unite the books: both are interesting for reasons other than their text and both are one-of-a-kind.

The first item is a stitched pamphlet, never bound, on the game of piquet.

Piquet (Bruyeres: Chez la Veuve Vivot, 1784)

It is a word-for-word reprint of the chapter on piquet that appeared in Almanach des Jeux, published by Fournier in Paris annually from 1779 until 1790 or so, and sporadically thereafter. The text is, therefore commonplace, but many other things fascinate. First, it is an uncommon provincial reprint--from Bruyeres, rather than Paris. Second, it was printed Chez la Veuve Vivot, that is at the shop of the widow Vivot, who succeeded her husband Jean-François. As in England, women who could not themselves set up a business, could carry on that of their husband. Third is the binding--stab sewn and never put into the sort of fancy binding that French collectors love. Finally, as near as I can tell, the book is unique. I can find no recorded copies in any of the online library catalogues.

Another one-of-a-kind find is a manuscript on the game of trictrac. The title is Le jeu du trictrac, comme on le joüe aujourd’huy. Enrichy de Figures and the text is taken from on of the many "Amsterdam" imprints of Académies des Jeux, though it was likely printed in Paris. The Académies  appeared with great frequency from the 1750s into the late 1780s.

The manuscript is 194 numbered pages followed by a table of contents. I believe it is a quarto gathered in eights. It is 22.5 x 16.2 cm, the chain lines are horizontal, and the watermarks are where one would expect for a quarto, but each signature is eight leaves. I don't think I've seen that format before.

The handwriting is precise and readable. The scribe reproduced in ink illustrations of the trictrac board that were woodblocks in the Académies:

Sample illustrations

 They are quite lovely!

I'm not quite ready to date the manuscript. It appears to be circa 1800, but I suspect more can be learned from the paper with the digital subtraction techniques shown in the previous essay.

A final mystery is the inscription on the final page:

The final bit reads "Je suis à Mr. Bernard Duhaut-Cilly." There is a large family with the surname Bernard in Bretagne who added "du Haut-Cilly" to their name when they entered the nobility. The family included the explorer/trader Auguste (1790-1849) who visited California in the 1820s. A friend in Paris suggested the most likely candidate is Robert-François Bernard, sieur du Haut, who died in the late 18th century.

More soon...

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?