Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Discovery at the Morgan Library

In April 2010, I had the pleasure of visiting the Morgan Library where I made a heart-stopping bibliographical discovery.

To set up the story, it helps to understand the procedures for using the reading room at the Morgan Library.  First, you must make an appointment. Second, you must apply for reader privileges. Third, you must identify the works you wish to consult in their catalogue, so they can be brought to the reading room for your visit. There, the books are kept in a locked safe and brought out one at a time for examination.  For those who haven't used the collections at a library like the Morgan, the procedures may seem formidable, but they are a sensible compromise between the conflicting goals of preserving the collection and making it available to researchers. The staff was gracious and helpful as we arranged my visit by email.

One of the books I wanted to see was a 1742 edition of Hoyle's A Short Treatise of Whist. There are two editions dated 1742. One is the true first edition of Hoyle's first book with the imprint "printed by John Watts for the author." The imprint is significant--Hoyle himself was the publisher and was responsible for the book's design and for selling it. The other edition is a piracy actually printed in early 1743 with the false imprint "printed for W.Webb" and a false date. There is no W. Webb--that was a name used by many printers to disguise their identity when violating a copyright or printing seditious material. For a modern (though inexact) Hollywood analogue see Allan Smithee.

The Morgan catalogue was not clear as to which of the two books they owned. The catalogue gave author, title, and date only, but no publisher information, no page count, and no physical description of the book. I was expecting to see the piracy, however, because ESTC, the English Short Title Catalogue listed the Morgan copy as the piracy.

Both the first edition and the piracy are quite rare. I knew of three copies of the first edition, one at the Bodleian, one at the University of Aberdeen and one in my collection.  Both of the UK copies had been rebound over the years. Mine has the somewhat shabby red morocco binding with ornate gold tooling pictured at left. The Bodleian, the British Library and I each have copies of the Webb piracy and I expected to see a fourth at the Morgan.

Back to the morning of my visit to the Morgan. I entered through security, got a badge, walked through the Renzo Piano atrium, and took the elevator up to the reading room. I checked my bag, bringing only my laptop, a pencil, and paper into the reading room. I introduced myself to the reference librarian and she opened the safe, removed my first book, and laid it on the counter.

That was the jaw-dropping, heart-pounding moment!

The book on the counter was bound in the identical binding as mine! The same red morocco, the same gold decoration, tool-for-tool! I gradually became aware of the implications of the identical bindings. First, both must be original to the book. Second, the binding must have been selected by the publisher. Third, that publisher was Hoyle--this was the binding HE selected for his book! Hoyle was selling the book to his society whist pupils at the enormous price of one guinea (twenty one shillings). The piracy sold variously for one shilling or six pence (half a shilling). Hoyle's customers could afford a deluxe binding and he provided one.

One of the mantras of a bibliographer is to examine as many copies of a book as possible. This story illustrates the wisdom of that mantra. By seeing one more copy, I was able to learn more about how this delightful and important book was designed and sold.

Note: The Morgan catalogue and ESTC have both been updated to show the Morgan copy as a first edition.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Scottish Hoyles (part 2)

(updated February 12, 2012 to show newly discovered copy in original drab paper binding)
(updated March 5, 2012 to note disposition of newly discovered copy)

When my daughter was young, she would occasionally humor me by asking to see books in my collection. She had her favorites. "Dad, please show me your oldest book" or "your smallest" or "the one with the ooky stain." As she has grown, so has the collection. I have a new smallest book.

It is an early 19th century edition of Hoyle's Game of Whist "with all the improvements" of modern writers. As you can see below, the text block is only 3 1/8 inches high and, in keeping with our theme, it is a Scottish printing--not Edinburgh as one might expect, but Dundee. The imprint reads "Dundee: Printed for T. Ostell, Ave-Maria Lane, London; Manners & Miller, Edinburgh; and C. Mitchell & Co., Perth. W. Chambers, Printer, Cowgate, Dundee. 1806."

miniature Hoyle
(click to enlarge)

Much of the text is from Hoyle's A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist but the book has been expanded. Hoyle was no longer protected by copyright in the 19th century, so there is no suggestion of piracy here. The text doesn't matter much, however. There are 14 lines of printing per inch and even with a good magnifying glass, it is impossible to read!

Now perhaps this is not technically a miniature book. The Miniature Book Society notes that in the United States, a miniature book is one that is no more than three inches in height, width, and thickness. Mine is a tad large. The Society allows that outside of the United States, books up to four inches are often considered miniature, and I am delighted to recognize its Scottish origin and consider it a miniature book.

I am not alone. There is a copy of this book in the McGeehee Lindemann Collection of miniature books at the University of Virginia.

The book is quite rare. There is a second institutional copy at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, shelf mark Jessel g.95, though the book does not appear in Jessel's bibliography. A third copy sold on eBay in 2010. Mine is a fourth and a fifth recently turned up at auction in Canada. 

Levy copy
(click to enlarge)
In my copy, the binding, 3 1/4 inches in height, is not original to the book. A binder's ticket indicates the book was bound by Martin, Bookbinder & Co., Lisson Grove, Marylebone, N. W.

Canadian copy
(click to enlarge)

The Canadian copy, on the other hand, is in its original drab paper binding, sadly repaired with tape. Note the stamped "Hoyle" on the front cover. The purchaser of the Canadian copy has arranged to sell it to the National Library of Scotland, surely the best home for this rare item.

A final note. Like the earlier Scottish Hoyle I discussed, this one also bears a colophon on the final page.

(click to enlarge)

This is the only miniature Hoyle I have ever seen.

  • Frederic Jessel,  A Bibliography of Works in English on Playing Cards and Gaming. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1905. Available for download, retrieved June 24, 2011.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Scottish Hoyles (part 1)

I have handled hundreds of copies of eighteenth century Hoyles in libraries and private collections in England and the United States. The most common, those published during Hoyle's lifetime by Thomas Osborne from 1745 to 1767, are rather uniform in size, shape, type, paper. In short, they all feel the same.

(click to enlarge)
The first time I saw a copy of the book pictured at left, I knew something was different. It bears a typical Hoyle imprint, that is the statement of the persons responsible for the production of the book (Carter, p129):
"London: Printed for Thomas Osborne in Gray's Inn, Stanley Crowder, at the Looking-Glass; and Richard Baldwin, at the Rose, in Pater-Noster-Row."
and is undated, also typical of the Hoyles of the time.

The book contains the usual advertisement on the verso (Carter, p228) of the title page, saying that "No copies of this book are genuine, but what are signed by us, Edmond Hoyle and Thomas Osborne," yet the book is atypically not signed.

And yes, the book felt different. It was smaller than the typical Osborne Hoyle, the paper was thinner and cheaper, the type looked different in ways I could not articulate. The original leather binding was not decorated the same as an Osborne Hoyle. Was this a piracy?

(click to enlarge)

 The answer came on the last leaf of the book. Observe the colophon, a note at the end of a book giving some particulars about the work (Carter, p68). Here the printer is identified as "Mundell & Son, Royal Bank Close, Edinburgh."

Ah, so this was the so-called Scotch edition!

Checking references, I found this edition described by Julian Marshall as "an edition arrangement with the proprietors for Scotch circulation." Based on details in the text, Marshall concludes that it is later than the London "twelfth" edition (1760) , but earlier than the "thirteenth" (1763). It is listed in the Jessel bibliography of books on gaming as number 805.

It have found no collateral evidence supporting Marshall's assertion that the book was printed by arrangement with Osborne, but agree with his conclusion. The Statute of Anne (1709), the first copyright law, applied with equal force in England and Scotland. Mundell  & Son, a legitimate Edinburgh printer, would not have put a colophon on a piracy.

As to the dating, I can't disagree with Marshall, but would like to find contemporary advertisements in Edinburgh newspapers. As of yet, I have not, but I am persistent...

  • John Carter and Nicolas Barker, ABC for Book Collectors. Eight Edition. Oak Knoll Press and The British Library. 2006. Available for download on the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers website (retrieved June 24, 2011). 
  • Frederic Jessel,  A Bibliography of Works in English on Playing Cards and Gaming. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1905. Available for download, retrieved June 24, 2011.
  • Marshall, Julian, "Books on Gaming", Notes and Queries, 7th S. IX. February 22, 1890, p142.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Was Hoyle a "careless editor"?

Researching the biography, rather than the bibliography of Hoyle is quite a challenge. I have located virtually no primary material and nearly all of the secondary material is flawed.

Sometimes secondary sources just invent facts. For example the Chambers Book of Days (1832, Vol. II p282) says that Hoyle sold his copyright to A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist for 1000 pounds. In fact primary evidence (see p136 of the article "Pirates, Autographs, and a Bankruptcy") shows the price was 100 guineas (105 pounds), still an enormous sum for the day.

Other times secondary sources take good research out of context to make an unwarranted generalization. William Mill Butler wrote a generally outstanding encyclopedia on the game of whist, The Whist Reference Book.  The article on Edmond Hoyle (p209) states "He was a careless editor, but possessed a vigorous style of writing and much originality." The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography  says virtually the same thing: "He was a careless editor, but possessed a vigorous and original writing style." The same charge appears in dozens of other sources.

Where did that idea come from? Was Hoyle a careless editor?

The reference comes from Julian Marshall, the first Hoyle bibliographer, in his series "Books on Gaming" published in Notes and Queries in 1889-90. First some background.

The first edition of Hoyle's first work, A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist (1742), makes it clear that Hoyle had previously circulated portions of the work in manuscript form:
The author of this treatise did promise, if it met with approbation, to make an addition to it by way of appendix, which has has done accordingly. (p1)

What follows in this treatise is the addition promised. (p46)

Some purchasers of the treatise in manuscript, disposed of the last winter, having desired a further explanation concerning the playing of sequences, they are explained in the following manner. (p74)
"Last winter" must refer to the winter of 1741-2. Marshall notes that the phrase appears in subsequent editions of Hoyle through the "thirteenth" edition of 1763. In the "fourteenth" edition of 1767, the last published in Hoyle's lifetime, the text was changed to "disposed of some time since."

Marshall notes "It may be well to remark here that Hoyle, with all his original genius and accuracy, which are undoubted, was yet a rather careless editor." (p4) The charge of carelessness is based solely on the failure to update the two words "last winter" in later editions of his book! Marshall comments on a minor error and is cited by secondary sources for more than a century. Such a cathedral deserves a more solid foundation. 

I would hope we could overlook the minor error and rid Hoyle once and for all of the label "careless editor."

  • William Mill Butler, The Whist Reference Book, (Philadelphia: John C. Yorston. 1899).
  • H. R. Tedder, "Hoyle, Edmond (1671/2–1769)", rev. Heather Shore, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 23 June 2011], subscription required.
  • Marshall, Julian, "Books on Gaming", Notes and Queries, 7th S. VIII. July 6, 1889, p4.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

An Artificial Memory for Whist

Hoyle's third book is An Artificial Memory for Whist (1743). It is a small thirty page pamphlet published by Francis Cogan in London.

The long title promises "an easy method of assisting the memory" but the recommendations are terrible. For example, "If in the course of play you find you have the best card remaining of any suit, put the same to the left of your trumps." (page 6) If you were to follow Hoyle's advice, a card sharp could watch you manipulate your cards and make inferences about your holdings, much to your detriment.

The book adds "several cases not hitherto publish'd" in the same style as the original Short Treatise on the Game of Whist (1742).

Cogan sold the Hoyle copyright to bookseller Thomas Osborne in 1745 and when Osborne republished the Short Treatise on the Game of Whist (6th edition, 1746), he included the text from An Artificial Memory and it ceased to be published as a separate book (except in Ireland, but the story of the Irish reprints is a story for another time).

For me, the big mystery of An Artificial Memory is who printed it. The title page of books from the eighteenth century generally identify the author and publisher, but not the printer. Sometimes you can identify printers through archival records such as the ledgers of the Bowyer print shop. More often you need to look at woodblock ornaments used throughout a book and compare them with those in other books for which you know the printer. That work is time consuming; nonetheless, I have identified the printer for all the early Hoyles, except...An Artificial Memory.

Pirates, Autographs, and a Bankruptcy

It is well know that Hoyle was widely pirated and that he took to autographing every copy of his work to distinguish genuine copies. For the full story, please see The Edmond Hoyle Home Page for my article "Pirates, Autographs, and a Bankruptcy: A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist by Edmond Hoyle, Gentleman." It was originally published in Script & Print, 34 no. 3 (2010): 133-61.

The article identifies the pirates, traces the origin of the famous autograph and discusses the efforts of Hoyle and his publisher to defend the copyright. Included is a descriptive bibliography of all editions of Hoyle's A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist from 1742-4.