Monday, June 4, 2012

More Hoyle collectibles

This essay continues the discussion from recent essays, looking at Hoyle and whist collectibles.

The first is an early American letter from Samuel Smith to his brother Edwin, dated September 20, 1810. The Smith family of Wiscasset, Maine produced several prominent Maine lawyers and one governor. What is interesting for our purposes is the line:
Wish you to bring on with you a little book of mine which I lent to you some time since, called "Hoyles Games", which I very much want, to perfect myself in the Game of Chess one of the games contained in the volume—it can be of no service to any one at our house

Smith letter p1
Smith letter p2

To get a little bibliography into this essay, let's ask what edition of Hoyle Smith might have owned. The first gaming book to be published in American was Hoyle's Games Improved, edited by James Beaufort. It was a reprint of a London edition first appearing in 1775, after the Hoyle entered the public domain (as discussed here). The the second and final London edition appeared in 1788. The book was printed in the United States in 1796 and was issued in three cities, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The imprints are:
  • Boston : Printed and sold by William Spotswood, 1796
  • New York : Printed for and sold by William Prichard; sold also by Prichard and Davidson, Richmond, 1796.
  • Philadelphia : Printed for and sold by H. and P. Rice, no. 50 Market Street. Sold also by James Rice and Co. Market Street, Baltimore, 1796.
The language is likely significant. The Boston edition was "printed and sold" by Spotswood, while the others were "printed for and sold by" the other booksellers. I would expect the Boston edition to be the original, with cancel titles appearing on the New York and Philadelphia reissues. I will need to visit the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester which is the only institution with copies of all three. To note another possibility, one sometimes sees the imprint "printed, and sold by" with the comma suggesting that someone other than the bookseller printed the book. Sometimes even without the comma, the book was printed by an anonymous printer. More research is required!

Other American editions which preceded the 1810 letter include:
  • The Pocket Hoyle. New York: David Longworth, 1803
  • The New Pocket Hoyle. Philadelphia: H. Maxwell, 1805
  • Hoyle's Games Improved. New York: G. and R. Waite, 1810.
Of course Smith may have owned a London edition—they were certainly imported to the United States. The earliest newspaper advertisement I have found is in the Pennsylvania Gazette of December 22, 1747 which notes "Also lately imported, and to be sold by B. Franklin, the following books, viz...[long list of books ending with] Hoyle on Whist."

I have discussed scoring tokens for whist in an earlier essay and also discussed the third important English book on whist, Advice to the Young Whist Player by Thomas Matthews (often spelled Mathews), first published in 1804. About 1818, the Birmingham metal smith Edward Thomason made a set of 24 tokens each with a quotation from the book. As one would expect, most of the tokens present suggestions for the game at whist. The one pictured below is of a different sort.

Mathews token obverse
Mathews token reverse

Advice went through more than two dozen editions, most of which I haven't seen. While the quotation does not appear on page 47 of any that I have, it does appear in the book in a section challenging one of the most basic of Hoyle's principals—to begin with one's longest suit. Matthews recommends leading the single card of a suit in some situations. This controversy among whist players persisted until well into the 20th century.

The quotation in greater context is:
As I have ventured to recommend occasional deviations from what is considered as one of the most classic maxims; i. e. the leading from single cards, without that strength in trumps hitherto judged indispensibly necessary to justify it; I give all the reasons that influence my opinion, in favor of this practice...And I appeal to those who are in the habit of attending whist tables, whether they do not frequently see the players, who proceed more exactly according to the maxims of Hoyle, &c. after losing the game, trying to demonstrate that this ought not to have happened, and that they have been vanquished by the bad, not good play of their adversaries. I do not recommend in general leading from single cards, unless very strong in trumps; but with such hands as I have mentioned, I am convinced it may be occasionally done with very great, though not certain advantage. It may not be unnecessary to inform the reader, that most of Hoyle's maxims were collected during what may be called the infancy of whist; and that he himself, so far from being able to teach the game, was not fit to sit down even with the third-rate players of the present day.
Finally, in the essay on whist tokens, I linked to an image of a set of tokens branded "Hoyle's Scoring Method." Here I offer images of a more pleasing set. The first images are the container for the four tokens.
Container bottom
Container top

One of the four identical tokens is pictured below. It is dated 1847 with Queen Victoria on the obverse and a seated lady at the card table on the reverse.

Token obverse
Token reverse
As discussed earlier, Hoyle had nothing to do with the scoring method that is not recorded until 1791, 22 years after his death. It is noteworthy, however, that Hoyle was a familiar brand from the first appearance of his books in the mid-18th century up to the present day.

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