Monday, August 29, 2011

The Humours of Whist, a satire of Hoyle

On this day, August 29, Edmond Hoyle died at the age of 97. It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Hoyle had countless imitators. But to me, nothing flatters more than satire—it requires familiarity with and affection for the target. Most of all, effective satire demands a target larger than life. Thus, I choose to commemorate the life of Hoyle with a discussion of a contemporary satire of Hoyle, his book, and the passion for gaming that makes both immortal.

Hoyle published A Short Treatise on Whist in November 1742 and sold it privately to his students. The first commercial edition to reach a wider audience was a piracy, published in mid-February 1743, followed by an authorized "second" edition in March 1743. I discuss the details of the piracy and the efforts to combat the pirates in 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 and is available for download here.

(click to enlarge)

In early May 1743, the anonymous play The Humours of Whist (freely available for download here) was published, obviously satirizing Hoyle and the contemporary mania for gaming. Less obviously, the play satirizes the battle between the pirates and the publisher. I'll focus on a few of the aspects of the play that satirize Hoyle and will discuss those that touch on the publication history in a future essay.

The long title of the play is The Humours of Whist. A Dramatic Satire, as Acted every Day at White's and other Coffee-Houses and Assemblies.  The play was never performed—but all the behavior being satirized must have been evident every day at the coffee houses where gaming took place.

The sixty page play makes numerous references to Hoyle and launches a number of barbs. I'll select just a few examples. Hoyle opens Whist with an offer to his readers:
[The author] has also framed an artificial memory, which does not take off your attention from your game; and if required he is ready to communicate it, upon payment of one guinea. And also he will explain any cases in the book, upon payment of one guinea more. (1-2)
The advertisement that opens Humours mockingly seeks additional payments:
The author begs leave to acquaint the polite world, that on the payment of so small a price as five pieces, he is ready to wait upon any nobleman, lady, gentleman, or others, in order to give a more particular explanation of the characters displayed in the following scenes. (3)
In the play, Professor Whiston is Hoyle and, like Hoyle, is a whist tutor who has just written a treatise on the game. The comic hero is Sir Calculation Puzzle, "a passionate admirer of whist, who imagines himself a good player, yet always loses." (p8) Lord Slim, a student of Whiston's, asks Puzzle, "How do you like the last edition of his treatise with the appendix, Sir Calculation? I mean that sign'd with his name." (p15) Here, Slim shows awareness of Hoyle's autograph used to distinguish the genuine editions from the piracies.

Puzzle replies:
O Gad, my Lord, there never was so excellent a book printed. I'm quite in raptures with it.—I will eat with it—sleep with it—go to court with it—go to Parliament with it—go to church with it.—I pronounce it the gospel of whist-players; and the Laws of the Game ought to be wrote in golden letters, and hung up in coffee-houses, as much as the ten commandments in the parish churches. (p15)
[Aside: Note the reference to the separately published Laws of Whist which I discuss here.]

The cardsharp Lurchum complains to his compatriot Lurchum that the book will put the sharpers out of business:
Thou knowest we have the honour to be admitted into the best company, which neither our birth or fortunes entitle us to, merely for our reputation as good whist players...But if this damn'd book of the professor's answers, as he pretends, to put players more upon a par, what will avail our superior skill in the game? We are undone to all intents and purposes...We must bid adieu to White's, George's, Brown's, and all the polite assemblies about town...(p10)
Fortunately for the sharpers, Whiston's material was too difficult for Sir Calculation Puzzle, who was unable to understand, remember, or apply the book's calculations. He describes a hand at whist against Lurchum: 
We were nine all. The adverse party had 3, and we 4 tricks. All the trumps were out. I had queen and two small clubs, with the lead. Let me see—it was about 222 and 3 halves to 'gad, I forgot how many—that my partner had the ace and king—let me recollect—ay—that he had one only was about 31 to 26—that he had not both of them 17 to 2,—and that he had not one, or both, or neither, some 25 to 32.—So I, according to the judgment of the game, led a club, my partner takes it with the king. Then it was exactly 481 for us to 222 against them. He returns the same suit; I win it with my queen, and return it again; but the devil take that Lurchum, by passing his ace twice, he took the trick, and having 2 more clubs and a 13th card, I—gad all was over.—But they both allow'd I play'd admiraby well for all that. (p13)
Humours also criticizes a particular bit of Hoyle's advice on technical grounds. Hoyle writes:
If you have ace, king, and four small trumps, begin with a small one, because it is an equal wager that your partner has a better trump than the last player; if so, you have three rounds of trumps; if not, you cannot fetch out all the trumps. (p15)
In the midst of a discussion about the value of whist to society, Lord Rally notes "And I fancy too with ace, king, and four trumps, I should be able to fetch the trumps out, tho' you asserted ever so roundly the contrary." The professor replies "Your Lordship has laid your finger on the only errata in my book."

There is no shortage of amusing passages to discuss. In the historical discussion in his 10th edition of his Laws and Principles on Whist, Cavendish chooses some of the same ones as I did, including others as well. The point is, I think, that the readers of The Humours of Whist must have been intimately familiar with Hoyle's Whist  to appreciate the satire, and the anonymous writer even more so to create it.

Long live Edmond Hoyle (1672-1769)!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Nature of Gaming Literature (part 2)

Part 1, found here, discusses (1) existential writing, (2) rules, and (3) remedies. I continue in this essay with (4) strategy, its subset for partnership games, (4a) partnership agreements, and (5) cheating. My goal in discussing this scheme is to discuss in what ways Hoyle's writing was new and to give some context for discussing other important books about gaming such as Cotton and Seymour.


While game rules are sufficient for legal play, they are not sufficient for good play. The long title Hoyle's Whist treatise promise "some rules, whereby a beginner may, with due attention to them, attain to the playing it well." In my vocabulary, these are not rules, but strategy. Consider the first of Hoyle's "general rules to be observed by beginners":
When you lead, begin with the best suit in your hand; if you have a sequence of king, queen and knave, or queen, knave and ten, they are sure leads...(page 11)
While you are allowed to play any of the thirteen cards in your hand, Hoyle offers advice about which is the most likely to be successful.

Cotton offers no strategic advice in The Compleat Gamester; nor does Seymour in The Court Gamester despite his thorough description of rules. This, I believe, is Hoyle's major breakthrough--I know of no earlier strategic writing about cards games (although examples exist for chess and trictrac).

Partnership Agreement

Partnership games such as whist or bridge pose an additional strategic complexity--good play requires partners to make agreements (and disclose them to the opponents) so the partners can communicate about their hands (based on the card played and not by other means; see cheating, below). Hoyle's first rule continues, "...begin with the highest of the sequence, unless ..." So Hoyle is suggesting leading the K from KQJx. The trick-taking power of each of the honors is the same, but Hoyle is implicitly saying that the lead of the K denies the A and promises the Q. This is a matter of partnership agreement and partners may choose different agreements (as some do in bridge when they play Rusinow leads).

In retrospect, Hoyle did a big disservice to gaming literature by failing to distinguish between strategy and partnership agreement. He really didn't have a chance of getting it right--it took almost 150 years to get the two concepts disentangled. Unfortunately, the failure to distinguish between strategy and partnership agreement persists in beginning bridge books to this day. Even worse some beginning books fail to distinguish among rules, strategy, and partnership agreements; some beginners think they are breaking the rules of bridge if they open with less than 13 points!


I said that remedies applied only to inadvertent irregularities. Intentional breaches of rules are cheating and are not covered by the laws. As Cavendish put it "There is a popular belief that card-laws are intended to prevent cheating. This belief, however, is altogether erroneous. the penalty for cheating is exclusion from society." (Clay's Decisions, and Card-Table Talk, p117)

Hoyle never discussed cheating or the means of detecting in, a theme that was common in Cotton's The Compleat Gamester and The Annals of Gaming.


There are certainly other categories I have not considered here. A common theme of early literature about games is the morality of gaming, surely another topic. One of the things I like about the Hargrave bibliography which I criticized here, is it classification of the literature (though she frequently put books in the wrong category).

I wrote this essay to highlight the role of Hoyle and I do think my list of categories helps us appreciate his contributions. Cotton's earlier writing was primarily existential with a good dose of cheating. Seymour set down rules and remedies for two card games and is, I think, under-appreciated for his contributions. Hoyle assumed knowledge of rules and dealt with remedies; he was the first to do so for whist. While I do wish he had distinguished partnership agreements from strategy, Hoyle was the first to discuss strategy for any card game. All-in-all, I think his reputation as the father of whist is well deserved.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Nature of Gaming Literature (part 1)

Obviously, I've looked at a lot of books on gaming. For this essay, I want to jump above the minutia of cancels or the effect of copyright law on Hoyle's body of work and discuss gaming literature more abstractly. The goal, however, will tie back to Hoyle, by showing in what ways Hoyle's work broke new ground.
When I see a discussion of, say, whist in a book, I mentally place it into one or more of these categories: (1) existential; (2) rules; (3) remedies; (4) strategy; (4a) partnership agreement (5) cheating. This is my model and my definitions--others may differ and I'd be eager to hear other points of view. Let me discuss each in turn.


Existential writing, my term, does little more than document a game's existence. While this may sound trivial, it is actually important historically to learn both when a game was introduced and who played it. For example, the long list (please do click through!) of games played by Rabelais's Gargantua tells us something of the games that were known in the 1530s. The references to whist in Jane Austen indicate that it was a society game in the early 19th century. Cavendish makes much use of existential sources in his historical treatments of whist and piquet.

Existential sources can also date the vocabulary of a game. For example what contract bridge players called a "cross-ruff" was known to Hoyle as a "see-saw," a term that in bridge means something completely different.


By rules, I mean detailed instruction about how to play the game legally. For example, the rules of whist are trivial, given concisely on the wonderful website Knowing only what is written in those half dozen short paragraphs, you could begin to play whist immediately. You would play poorly, of course, but legally. I find it fascinating that these rules are nowhere clearly expressed in any whist book I know! All the writers from Hoyle to Cavendish and beyond assume the reader knows the mechanics of the game, a thought made explicit by Cotton in The Compleat Gametser, noting that "every child almost of eight years old has a competent knowledge" of whist.

Seymour's Court Gamester, (1718, with a later edition available for download) is a rare exception, providing rules for the games of ombre and piquet. Is there any earlier example in English of a set of rules for a game?


It is easy to violate the rules of a game inadvertently. The dealer can give the wrong number of cards to a player or expose a card while dealing. A player may show his cards to a partner or opponent, may play out of turn, or may fail to follow suit. In backgammon, a player may move the incorrect number of pips, or play a checker forgetting that he has another on the bar. These irregularities happen with sufficient frequency, that the over time a set of remedies has evolved to restore equity.

I particularly like the chapter title Seymour uses to describe the remedies at Piquet: "Of the Accidents which happen at this Game, and the Penalties which attend them." (page 84). Hoyle's Laws of Whist are really such remedies:
I: If any person plays out of his turn, it is in the option of either of his adversaries to call the card so played, at any time in that deal, provided it does not make him revoke; or if either of the adverse party is to lead, he may desire his partner to name the suit he chooses to have him lead, and when a suit is then named, the partner must play it if he has it. (Laws of Whist)
It is interesting to realize that today, when playing games on a computer, violations cannot happen and remedies are unnecessary. A well-designed program will not permit an irregularity!

More on Strategy, Partnership Agreement and Cheating in the next essay.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Covent-Garden Magazine

A detour on my Hoyle voyages...

In a previous essay, I mentioned a 1775 publication called The Annals of Gaming, anonymously written by "A Connoisseur", and wondered whether it was another reprint of Hoyle triggered by the end of copyright protection in 1774. According to bibliographer Frederic Jessel, The Annals of Gaming reprints the gaming material from a periodical called The Covent-Garden Magazine. I'll discuss the book in a later essay and give the reasons why I reject it as part of the Hoyle canon. In this essay, I will share the amusing history of The Covent-Garden Magazine and its ill-fated publisher George Allen. 

The magazine was serialized in forty-two parts from July 1772 until December 1775. The advertisement for the first number appeared in the London Evening Post of July 18-21, 1772:
On Saturday the 1st of Aug. will be published, price 6d. to be continued the first of every month, as long as gallantry and gaming prevail in the fashionable world, embellished with a frontispiece, exhibiting that pious and celebrated mother Abbess, Charlotte Hayes, giving instructive lectures to her nuns, for the regulation of their conduct in their religious vocation. Also a well known Macaroni, making love to the famous Poll Kennedy, admirably designed and engraved, Number I. of  The Covent-Garden Magazine; or, Amorous Repository. Calculated for the entertainment of the polite world, and the finishing of a young gentleman’s education; intended as the pantheon of literature, where the gay, the voluptuous, the witty, and jocose, will be introduced into the company of the choice votaries of Bacchus and Venus, and enabled to figure with eclat at Arthur’s, Alma K’s, Boodle’s Newmarket, and all places of elegant entertainment. London: Printed for the authors, and sold by G. Allen, No. 59, in Pater-noster-row, and all other booksellers in Great Britain and Ireland.
Well, who would not want to subscribe to such a publication? You can get a flavor of the magazine from almost any of the advertisements. Number V treats the game of lansquenet "with all the frauds and artifices practiced at it" and publishes an "account of a snug rendezvous in the city for cuckolding common councilmen." (Public Advertiser of December 1, 1772). Number XII contains an account of backgammon and "the legerdemains practis'd at it" as well as a copper plate "exhibiting a whore's last shift." (General Evening Post of July 3, 1773).

Alas, as one might imagine, all did not go well for publisher George Allen. The London Chronicle or Universal Evening Post for November 27-30, 1773 reports:
Last Thursday the publisher of the Covent Garden Magazine was brought up to the Court of King's Bench, Westminster, to receive sentence for publishing what was judged an indecent print in that magazine for May last; the Court fined him 6s. 8d. and committed him to the King's Bench Prison for one month.
Allen continued to publish the magazine with no gap during his imprisonment. He addressed the matter of his punishment in a December 30, 1773 advertisement in the General Evening Post:
After the severities of the law, to which the publisher of the Covent-Garden Magazine has been exposed and undergone, the public cannot doubt of the resolution and fortitude with which the proprietors are resolved to prosecute this Miscellany. The publisher is now discharged from prison, and is happily settled in his old shop, No. 59 Paternoster-row, after having been immured several weeks, for publishing a humourous print in this magazine, which a scandalous informer thought proper to represent as an infamous publication, tending to prejudice the morals of the rising generation. The little success he has met with, will probably deter him, and all such innovators of public liberty, from pursuing the like scandalous practices; and the generous public, to whom the proprietors of this magazine acknowledge the greatest favours, may rely upon the exertion of their utmost abilities, and that no expense whatever shall be spared in conducting this work with a spirit suitable to its original plan; and they moreover pledge themselves to the public, to make such improvements, as may occur or be pointed out to them, resolving to make the Covent-Garden Magazine worthy of the extensive patronage it has received.
The advertisement continued by announcing issue XVIII for December, 1773.

A year later, in the London Evening Post of December 31, Allen advertises number XXX for December, 1774, also noting for the first time the availability of The Annals of Gaming; Or, A Players Sure Guide for 2s. 6d. That advertisement allows us to date the book with precision. The final issue of the magazine was advertised in the same paper on March 2, 1775—Number XXXII (misprinted XXXVII) of February, 1775.

The troubles were not over for Mr. Allen. On April 29, 1776 he was sentenced to three months imprisonment for publishing a book called The Rat-Trap (Timperley) and on June 8 of that year, he was adjudged bankrupt (Maxted).

Yes, a detour, but a worthwhile one, I hope!

  • Frederic Jessel,  A Bibliography of Works in English on Playing Cards and Gaming. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1905. Available for download.
  • Ian Maxted,  "Bankrupts" in Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History, published online.
  • H. R. Plomer, et al. A Dictionary of the Printers and Booksellers Who Were at Work in England, Scotland, and Ireland From 1726 to 1775. Oxford University Press, 1930.
  • C. H. Timperley, A Dictionary of Printers and Printing, London: H. Johnson, 1839. Available for download

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Predecessors of Hoyle

In 1742 Hoyle published A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist and followed up quickly with books on backgammon, piquet, and quadrille. His writing remained the standard English gaming literature for more than a hundred years. I have looked at the successors to Hoyle (here and here), but what was there before Hoyle? What did his writing displace?

frontispiece from
The Compleat Gamester
In 1674, an anonymous book appeared called The Compleat Gamester whose title continues "Or, Instructions How to Play at Billiards, Trucks, Bowls, and Chess. Together with all manner of usual and most Gentile Games either on Cards or Dice. To which is added, The Arts and Mysteries of Riding, Racing, Archery, and Cock-Fighting." The thirty eight chapters discuss twenty card games, six games of the backgammon family, and, as is evident from the long title, some outdoor recreations. 

The Compleat Gamester neither teaches the rules of the games it discusses, nor treats strategy. An extract from the section on whist is typical:
Ruff and Hounours (alias Slamm) and Whist, are games so commonly known in England in all parts thereof, that every child almost of eight years old has a competent knowledge in that recreation, and therefore I am unwilling to speak any thing more of them than this, that there may be a great deal of art used in Dealing and playing at these games which differ very little one from the other. (page 114)
Much of the book teaches how to detect cheating, here again from the section on whist:
He that can by craft over-look his adversaries game hath a great advantage, for by that means he may partly know what to play securely; or if he can have some petty glimpse of his partner's hand. There is a way by winking, or the fingers to discover to their partners what honours they have, as by the wink of one eye, or putting one finger on the nose or table, it signifies one honour, shutting both eyes, two; placing three fingers or four on the table, three or four honours. (page 117)
Of course such cautions can equally be read as a manual on how to cheat.

The book was reprinted and reissued with regularity over the next 50 years. Julian Marshall (1884) and Thomas Marston (1970) provide starting points for a descriptive bibliography of the Gamesters, though more work is required. The book was reissued in 1676 and further editions appeared in 1680 (reissued in 1687 as Instructions How to Play at Billiards, Trucks, Bowls, and Chess), 1709, and 1710. In 1713 a new edition appeared under the title Games Most in Use in England, France and Spain (reissued as The Compleat Gamester in 1721). Two more editions appeared in 1725 and 1726.

The Court Gamester
In 1719 the notorious bookseller Edmund Curll hired Richard Seymour to produce The Court Gamester, a title which must have been intended to compete and cause confusion with The Compleat Gamester. Further editions appeared in 1720, 1722, 1728, and 1732. The Court Gamester covered three games only--Ombre, Piquet, and Chess. One could certainly learn to play ombre or piquet from the book as the rules are clear, though there is no discussion of strategy. Chess is treated much more briefly.

In 1734, Curll joined with the copyright owner of the Compleat Gamester to bring out a book that combined and expanded both texts under the title The Compleat Gamester in Three Parts. It is from the preface to this book that we learn who wrote the original Gamester in 1674: "The second and third parts of this treatise were originally written by Charles Cotton Esq; some years since, but are now rectified according to the present standard of play." (page viii) Cotton is best know as the author of portions of Isaac Walton's The Compleat Angler.

New editions of the consolidated version of The Compleat Gamester appeared an 1739 and 1750. In 1754 a final edition appeared edited by Charles Johnson. Julian Marshall (1889) dissects the changes made by Johnson and determines that they are thinly disguised plagiarisms of Hoyle and of contemporary French gaming books. So Hoyle's text displaced Cotton's in the final realization of The Compleat Gamester. More importantly, Hoyle's sales displaced the Gamesters to become the standard English work on gaming for more than a century.

  •  Julian Marshall, "Cotton and Seymour's 'Gamesters.'"  Parts 1 and 2, Notes and Queries, 6th ser., 9 (April 26, 1884): 321-3, (May 17, 1884): 381-3. Available for download.
  • Julian Marshall, "Books on Gaming." Part 11, Notes and Queries, 7th ser., 8 (December 21, 1889): 482-3. Available for download
  • Thomas E. Marston, "Introduction" to The Compleat Gametser. Barre: Imprint Society. 1970

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Successors to Hoyle (part 2)

In the first part of this essay I contend that Hoyle's reign as the top authority on gaming lasted until 1862 when Cavendish published his first book on whist. Cavendish held the post until his death in 1899, when he was succeeded by Robert Frederick Foster, writer on whist, bridge-whist, and auction bridge. As auction gave way to contract bridge in the late 1920s, Foster gave way to the man responsible for the contract fad, Ely Culbertson.

Ely Culbertson The New Gold Book
Ely (pronounced EE-lee, not EE-lye) Culbertson (1891-1955) is known as "the man who made contract bridge." He was showman, a huckster, a prolific author, and built an enormous and profitable enterprise around bridge. The most recent scholarship on Culbertson is The Devil's Tickets, by Gary Pomerantz. The book tells how Culbertson exploited the public's fascination with a bridge-table murder to build build his empire. Culbertson founded the The Bridge World in 1929, contract bridge's leading magazine, still in print. Culbertson dominated the New York Time's best seller list with book after book from 1930 into the mid-1950s. Bourke and Sugden devote twelve pages to his more than 100 titles, most of which went through multiple editions. He wrote on canasta, gin rummy, Jo-Jotte (a game he invented and named for his wife Josephine), and, of course, Culbertson's Hoyle, The New Encyclopedia of Games. Culbertson's tools  extended beyond printing as he appeared in short films and on radio. In the late 1930s Culbertson absented himself from the world of gaming to concentrate on world politics.

Charles Goren
Championship Bridge
Culbertson was succeeded by the man known as "Mr. Bridge," Charles Goren. His success at bridge tournaments in the late 1930s sparked a playing and writing career that "supported an industry" (Bourke and Sugden, 471). His Contract Bridge Complete was the bible of bridge from its release in 1953 throughout the 1970s. Hundreds of bridge books appeared under his name as well as books on backgammon, canasta, probability, and, inevitably, Goren's Hoyle Encyclopedia of Games in 1950. He brought bridge to television with his show Championship Bridge, running from 1959-64. He retired from tournament bridge in the late 1960s but his literature remained in print into the 1980s.

Certainly arguments could be made for other "successors." Joseph Elwell was a top writer on bridge-whist in the early 20th century, and but for his locked-room murder, still unsolved, he may have transitioned to auction and contract bridge and become better known. Angelo Lewis ("Professor Hoffmann") wrote on an extraordinary number of games, but was instead known primarily for his conjuring work.

I'll stick with my list of Hoyle, Foster, Culbertson and Goren. I don't find it surprising that each made his reputation in games of the whist family, the card game that gives most scope for strategy and skill. Similarly, it is sad, though unsurprising with the decline of contract bridge in the past generation, there has been no successor to the 250 year line of gaming authorities.Will we ever have another Hoyle?

  • Tim Bourke and John Sugden, An Annotated Bibliography of Bridge Books in English. 1886-2010. Cheltenham: Bridge Book Buffs. 2010

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Successors to Hoyle (part 1)

With the publication of A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist (1742), Edmond Hoyle (1672-1769) was instantly a best-selling author. He went on to write books on other popular games: backgammon, piquet, chess, quadrille, and brag and, as embodied in the phrase "according to Hoyle", quickly became the recognized authority on the laws and strategy of popular games.

How long did Hoyle's preeminence last? Who succeeded him as both best-selling author and gaming authority? While others may disagree, I discuss my four candidates in this and the next essay, limiting myself to those who wrote in English. They provide continuity from 1742 until the last quarter of the 20th century--I would view the role as empty now.

Henry Jones ("Cavendish")
Butler, The Whist Reference Book

I've always felt that Hoyle was such a presence that he discouraged other English authors from writing about whist. After significant works by William Payne (1773) and Thomas Matthews (1804), the next important book did not appear until 1862--The Principles of Whist Stated and Explained, and its Practice Illustrated on an Original System, by Means of Hands Played Completely Through. Its author, Henry Jones (1831-99), wrote under the pseudonym "Cavendish" and the book was an instant success, running through four editions in a year and remaining in print throughout his lifetime. In 1864, he became card editor of The Field, the leading sportsman's magazine in England. He wrote additional popular books on whist and other games including bézique, piquet, écarté, patience, calabrasella, euchre, backgammon, and cribbage. Bibliographer Frederic Jessel lists more than 70 books under his name.

Robert Foster
Butler, The Whist Reference Book

The successor to Cavendish is Robert Frederick Foster (1853-1945). He was born in Edinburgh and moved to New York in 1872. In 1888 he began to teach and write about whist, beginning with the Whist Manual of 1889. Interestingly, his views on whist strategy were opposed to those of Cavendish, and much of the whist literature of the 1890s century echoes their differences. As whist gave way to bridge-whist 1890s, Foster became one if its first authorities with his Bridge Manual (1900). He wrote separate works about hearts, cinch, dice, dominoes, poker, euchre, and chess, and his triumph was Foster's Complete Hoyle (1897), about which Jessel remarked "This is indubitably the most complete book of its kind that has been produced". Jessel lists 39 works for Foster through 1905. Foster continued to write into the early 1930s as bridge-whist gave way to auction and then contract bridge. Bourke and Sugden list two dozen later titles, most of which went through several editions.

Inscription in a copy of Cavendish
from Jessel to Foster.
(click to enlarge)
To bring together three of the names mentioned in this article, see the inscription at left from a 7th edition of Cavendish's first book, retitled The Laws and Principles of Whist...(1864). It is a lovely link between two successors to Hoyle forged by a great collector and bibliographer.

  • Tim Bourke and John Sugden, An Annotated Bibliography of Bridge Books in English. 1886-2010. Cheltenham: Bridge Book Buffs. 2010
  • William Butler Mill,  The Whist Reference Book. Philadelphia: John C. Yorston. 1899.
  • Frederic Jessel,  A Bibliography of Works in English on Playing Cards and Gaming. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1905. Available for download 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chess, Hoyle, and a bibliographer's speculation

I was reading Manfred Zollinger's bibliography of gaming literature before 1700 (discussed here). One entry intrigued me and made me speculate about a connection with Hoyle 125 years later.

The entry is number 70 for The Famous Game of Chesse-Play by Arthur Saul and John Barbier. It was first published in 1614, but it is the second edition of 1618 that is of interest. Bound into the book is a sheet titled "A Briefe of the Lawes of Chesse-Play, set downe more at large in the books, with the reasons of them." The sheet lists twenty laws that are, as suggested by the title, presented in more detail in the book itself. Below the laws reads "You may paste this briefe, on the backe-side of your chesse-borde."

Interestingly, some of the laws of chess differ from the modern game.  For example law 8:
You may not make a pawne a queene, so long as you have your first queene, but you may make it any other piece that you have lost.
The laws now allow multiples queens. On the other hand, the laws of castling (9-12) are consistent with current rules, though castling is called "shifting."

One must, I suppose, ignore the difficulty of consulting the laws during a game if they are pasted to the bottom of the board. Francis Cogan had a better idea when he advertised the Laws of Whist "proper to be framed or made screens of" on March 5, 1743. As I noted in my earlier essay on the Laws of Whist, no copies of the Cogan publication are known, though three copies printed later by Thomas Osborne survive. Further, evidence from surviving copies of Osborne editions of Hoyle show that the Laws, once present, were removed and presumably hung above the whist table.

I can't help but wonder if Cogan was aware of Saul's laws of chess when he created his Laws of Whist. There is no way to know, but a bibliographer is entitled to the occasional speculation.

Hoyle, by the way, did write about chess himself. His treatise on Piquet, first published in 1744 included "some rules and observations for playing well at chess." The Piquet treatise was reprinted a number of times and later incorporated into Hoyle's Games. In 1761, Hoyle wrote An Essay Towards Making the Game of Chess Easily Learned, By Those Who Know the Moves Only, Without the Assistance of a Master. Osborne published the single edition and somehow the work escaped the attention of pirates and Irish reprinters, although an Italian translation appeared in 1768. It remains the only 18th century edition of Hoyle devoted solely to chess. 

Of the two copies of Saul (1618) in the United States, the copy at the Huntington Library retains the plate. The copy at the Houghton Library at Harvard does not. Look for an early 17th century chess board with the missing Laws pasted to the bottom!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Where can I learn more about Hoyle's writing?

Here I list the seven best bibliographical sources for the writings of Edmond Hoyle, along with my comments about each source. Modesty prevents me from adding this blog or my own publications to the list! With the exception of Marshall, all are enumerative, rather than descriptive bibliographies. (see Belanger for definitions).

Marshall, Julian. “Books on Gaming,” Parts 1-13, Notes and Queries
  • 7th ser., 7 (June 15, 1889): 461-2, (June 22, 1889): 481-2. Available for download (~60MB). 
  • 7th ser., 8 (July 6, 1889): 3-4, (July 20, 1889): 42-3, (August 3, 1889): 83-4, (August 24, 1889): 144-5, (September 14, 1889): 201-2, (October 5, 1889): 262-4, (November 2, 1889): 343-4, (November 23, 1889): 404-5, (December 21, 1889): 482-3. Available for download (~60MB).
  • 7th ser. 9 (January 11, 1890): 24-5, (February 22, 1890): 142-4. Available for download (~60MB).  
Marshall was the first bibliographer of Hoyle in a series of articles in Notes and Queries. He provided descriptions of all the editions he knew about through the "fourteenth" edition. As I discuss in Was Hoyle a "Careless Editor?", Marshall's writing has too often taken on a life its own by the uncritical researcher. Nonetheless, Marshall is the essential starting point for any work on Hoyle. His enthusiasm for the literature and the joy he finds in a new discovery permeate the writing.

Horr, Norton Townsend. A Bibliography of Card-Games and of the History of Playing-Cards. Cleveland: Charles Orr. 1892. 
Reprinted in Frederic Jessel and Norton T. Horr. Bibliographies of Works on Playing Cards and Gaming. A reprint of A Bibliography of Works in English on Playing Cards and Gaming by Frederic Jessel and A Bibliography of Card Games and of the History of Playing-Cards by Norton T. Horr. Montclair: Patterson Smith, 1972. Available for free download (2MB) from the Google eBookStore.
Horr was a collector of books about gaming and, finding no check list, he compiled his own. Horr lists about 1350 books on gaming in English and many continental languages. He clearly was not aware of the earlier work by Marshall, and his list of early Hoyles has many inaccuracies. The major defect of Horr is that he had not seen most of the books he listed--he relied on other lists and catalogues. Certainly for English books, Horr was quickly superseded by Jessel...

Jessel, Frederic. A Bibliography of Works in English on Playing Cards and Gaming. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1905.
Reprinted in facsimile as noted under Horr, above. Available for free download (6MB) from Google eBookStore.  
Jessel worked at the Bodleian Library and over the course of more than three decades built up a personal collection of 3400 works on gaming, which he left to the Bodleian. He listed 1700 English language books in his bibliography, including many dozens of editions of Hoyle. Although the bibliography is enumerative, Jessel annotated many of the listings. The Bodleian has three copies of his bibliography with his hand-made corrections (shelf marks Jessel d.136, d.137 and d.138). The few errors and omissions in his listings of early Hoyle have generally been corrected in one or more of those copies. Jessel remains the first place to look for nineteenth century and earlier gaming literature in English.

Hargrave, Catherine Perry. “Bibliography” in A History of Playing Cards and a Bibliography of Cards and Gaming. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1930, 368-446. Reprinted in facsimile New York: Dover. 1966.

Hargrave is not a bibliography as such, but a catalogue of the collection of the United States Playing Card Company. The collection, unfortunately no longer open to the public, is fabulous. One only wishes that Hargrave better understood what she was looking at. She erroneously misplaces some editions of Hoyle in a section called "Gamesters" rather than in "Hoyle" because the Irish reprints were called The Polite Gamester and the "ninth" edition was called The Accurate Gamester's Companion. She lists the "ninth" edition of Pigott's New Hoyle (clearly 19th century as the "fifth" edition is dated 1800) earlier than the genuine "tenth" edition (1750) because of the stated edition. Despite her misconceptions about the literature, the description of the collection is much fun to read. Would only that the library reopen!

Rather, John and Goldwater, Walter. According to Hoyle… 1742-1850. A bibliography of editions by or based on the writings of Edmond Hoyle. New York: University Place, 1983.

Chess player Walter Goldwater was researching a chess bibliography through the year 1850. When he ran into health issues he abandoned that project, but worked with his bookseller friend John Rather to bring out a bibliography of Hoyle, since so many of the early chess books were by him. They were well familiar with the works of Marshall and Jessel and identified 159 editions in English through 1850 and listed another twenty translations. Rather and Goldwater is clearly more complete than anything that came before, yet there are occasional ghosts and omissions.

Depaulis, Thierry. Les Loix du Jeu. Bibliographie de la Littérature Technique des Jeux de Cartes en Français avant 1800. Suivie d’un supplément couvrant les années 1800-1850. Paris: Cymbalum Mundi, 1994.

Depaulis is now the definitive source for the French literature of card games, supplanting Horr. Among the more than 300 entries are twenty editions of Hoyle, beginning with a 1761 translation from the 1750 London edition and reprints of Hoyle in the French gaming anthology Académie Universelle des Jeux. The introduction to the bibliography provides a thoughtful international history of gaming literature.

Zollinger, Manfred. "Whist-Regeln in Kontinentaleuropa bis 1800" The Playing-Card 33 (3): 198-210. (Jan-Mar 2005). Available for download (2MB).

Zollinger's most important work is his bibliography in German of gaming literature through 1700. He had hoped to write a second volume covering the the 18th century, but the project was unfortunately interrupted. We are fortunate to see the partial fruits of his research in an article in The Playing Card covering continental translations of Hoyle through 1800. Zollinger traces the spread of Hoyle from English first to Portuguese, then German, French and Italian, not to mention Dutch, Danish and Russian.The article is important both for its bibliographical content and for the discussion of the cultural transmission of games and gaming literature throughout Europe.

My long-term plan is to write a descriptive bibliography of editions of Hoyle through 1800, together with the history of their publication. The seven works listed here provide much of the foundation, yet there is a huge gap between a listing in an enumerative bibliography and a description of the physical book. As you have seen elsewhere in this blog, particularly in the essays about cancels, the physical book can reveal much about its publication history. Despite all the scholarship discussed above, I have a great deal of work to do!