Tuesday, June 4, 2013

More on The Covent Garden Magazine

Last essay, I discussed my recent visit to the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. My travels continued to the main campus at UCLA where I visited Special Collections at the Young Research Library. There were a half dozen copies of Hoyle I wished to examine, but the real draw for me was copies of The Covent Garden Magazine, which I had written about previously.

The magazine, published by George Allen from July 1772, contains a mixture of erotica and essays on gaming. Some of the gaming essays are collected into The Annals of Gaming, printed for G. Allen, 1775 and reissued with a cancel title page as a "second" edition by William Lane, T. Axtell, J Wenman and J. Williams, G. Corrall, , S. Hayes, J Lewis, and T. Lewis.

The UCLA catalogue lists seventeen monthly issues of The Covent Garden Magazine and according to the reading room rules, I could examine two issues at a time, but not take photographs. The issues turned out to be in near pristine condition--original blue printed wrappers with a table of contents on the front cover and a note to the public on the back. Each issue was 48 pages with two copperplate engravings, one article on a game, and the rest rather tame erotica.

My interest in seeing the magazine was to learn (1) what games were covered, (2) how much of the gaming material was reprinted in The Annals of Gaming, and (3) how much of the text was lifted from Hoyle. The first issues I saw were one, five, six, and nine.

Issue one contained a general introduction to the plan of introducing gaming literature without discussing any game in particular. Five contained lansquenet, a game not covered by Hoyle. Six and nine contained piquet and quadrille, two of Hoyle's games.

Comparing the treatment of piquet in issue six of December 1772 (pp220-4) with Hoyle's book on the game is fascinating. The article adds a two-paragraph description of the game. Next are two chapters copied verbatim from Hoyle: chapter I "General Rules for Playing at Piquet" and chapter VII "Laws of the Game at Piquet." Absent are Hoyle's meatier chapters on strategy, probability, and examples of good play. The article continues with a page on methods of cheating at piquet. Whether they are to instruct the cheater or to enable the honest player to detect cheating is open to debate.

Issue six, being at the end of the year, contained an index of the first six issues, in which I learned that issues two through four covered whist, hazard, and tennis.

Issue nine of March 1773, had the first of two articles on quadrille (pp86-92), which does not appear to be copied from Hoyle's 1744 work.

I next saw issue fourteen, with an article on "labelle, the flux, and thirty one," a game I had never heard of. I turned to Google to learn something about it and quickly found something that surprised me greatly--Google books had digitized the entire run of The Covent Garden Magazine! I can't believe I never ran across it before, and can only assume that the digitization was a fairly recent effort by Google.

With the full text of CGM available, I am able to expand on my earlier essay which was based solely on advertisements for the magazine. It turns out that the magazine continued publication until December 1775 and the full text of volumes  one, two, three, and four are freely available online. And, I am able to answer the questions I set out above.

What games were covered in the magazine? In the 42 issues, 37 games were covered. Of these, only the first dozen were reprinted word-for-word in the Annals of Gaming. The chart below shows the games, the issue, pages, and date where the game was discussed in The Covent Garden Magazine, and the pages where the same text was reprinted in the Annals of Gaming:

quadrille (continued)10:133-1401773-04145-172
comet or pope joan14:281-41773-08206-16

*The Covent Garden Magazine issued annual volumes at the end of every year. There was a supplement to the second volume containing additional material on billiards that was included in the Annals of Gaming.

**Annals copied a few pages of Hoyle's Backgammon that did not first appear in CGM.

How much was copied from Hoyle? The article on whist plagiarized chapters one and three (and some other tables) from  Hoyle's treatise with some added material much like piquet, discussed above. The article on backgammon copies most of chapters two through five of Hoyle's treatise, plus the five laws of backgammon from the end of the book. So, at least for the games Hoyle covered, CGM and Annals copy substantially from Hoyle.

What I find most striking from this exercise is that the magazine copied Hoyle before Hoyle went off copyright.  See "Hoyle in the Public Domain (1775)." In that essay I discussed the flurry of Hoyle reprints that were published in 1775, including the Annals of Gaming. Now that I have had a chance to see CGM, it is clear that publisher Allen copied Hoyle before Donaldson v Beckett eliminated perpetual copyright. I suppose this is not surprising--Allen served time in jail for publishing an "indecent print" in The Covent Garden Magazine. A little copyright violation just added spice to the stew (or perhaps stew to the spice).

In any case, it is ironic that my visit to UCLA to see scattered issues of The Covent Garden Magazine should result in my finding the full run online.

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