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.

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