Monday, April 2, 2012

Hoyle in French

Updated July 21, 2014. See this essay for a subsequent important discovery! 

Hoyle was appeared in French more often than any other translation, yet interestingly, it was only one of his works, the whist treatise, that appeared in French. Backgammon was never popular in France—the national version of tables was trictrac. Piquet, Chess, and Quadrille had their own literature in France, dating back to the 17th century.  I have complied a list of 29 editions of Hoyle's whist treatise in French, plus another dozen appearance in French gaming anthologies. The first was printed for A. Wagner fils in 1761, well after Whist was translated into Portuguese (1753) or German (1754).

These books are much less common in the American and British libraries I have visited, so I have seen very few of the books. This essay, then, will be a survey of some examples from my collection. For a fuller treatment, both of the Hoyles, and the literature on Piquet and Quadrille, see Les Loix des Jeux by Thierry Depaulis, described here. See also the article by Zollinger on whist rules in continental Europe. For the French literature on trictrac, see here.

One would expect that nearly all of the French books were printed in Paris, but in fact the imprints are numerous: Amsterdam, Turin, The Hague, Vienna, Brussels, and Liege are all found. There is reason to believe that the Amsterdam editions were printed in Paris, but used a false imprint to avoid the requirement of a printing privilege.

Three examples are shown below. In all cases the text was not as current as it might of been, coming from the 1748 London edition, rather than the 1760. Of the books printed below, I find the 1764 Alamanach particularly charming. It is an unusual format, a 24mo in eights and fours, producing a small pocket-sized book. The Turin example is particularly well printed. The later Belgium imprint contains text on other games, none of them by Hoyle.

1764 Amsterdam
1794 Liege
1765 Turin

Gaming anthologies have a much longer history in France than they do in England. A series called La Maison des Jeux appeared from 1654 until the early 18th century, incorporating separately published works on games such as piquet and trictrac, as well as providing original material. The approach continued with other anthologies such as the Académie Universelle des Jeux, appearing from 1718 throughout the 18th century, and with many changes, into the 19th and beyond. New texts, as they appeared, were incorporated into the anthologies. The experience is the opposite of England, where the anthologies began with Hoyle, who was "improved" with the addition of other games by other authors (see the discussion here).

The Académie, below at left, is augmented by the game of chess by Philidor and by the game of whist, by Edmond Hoyle, translated from the English. Le Noveau Joueur, with a size much like the 1764 Almanach and its lovely title page in red and black, gives authorship to "Ed. H. & Th. K. Joueurs expérimentés." 

1770 Académie
1796 Le Noveau Joueur

The conclusion is that Hoyle's whist treatise was extraordinarily popular in the French-speaking world and that the name of Hoyle had enough name recognition that it was included on title pages of works that were otherwise largely anonymous.

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