Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Research Trip to Cleveland

I'm just back from a week in my home town of Cleveland, Ohio, where I did spent the bulk of my time doing research in the John G. White Chess Collection at the Cleveland Public Library.
[I also spent a lot of time with family and friends, visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and saw a great Indians' win at Progressive Field.] 
White was an attorney, president of the library's board of trustees, and a fanatic and careful collector of chess, checkers, folklore, and orientalia. His books make up the core of Special Collections at the library--the chess collection is the deepest in the world. And of course where there is chess, there is Hoyle.

The staff could not have been more helpful, paging more than a hundred edition of Hoyle for me and suggesting other items I should see. I have not yet assimilated it all, so for now I will discuss a few random items and relate them to my Hoyle research.

Challenges for the Hoyle bibliographer

In the essay "Eighteenth Century Backgammon Literature" I noted that compiling a list of Hoyle's writings is difficult because there are books which reprint his text without attribution:
Reprints of Hoyle such as Chess Made Easy and Back-Gammon present quite a challenge for the Hoyle bibliographer. The works are nowhere identified as his writing, but are clearly derived from it. None of the earlier Hoyle bibliographers (see "Where Can I Learn More about Hoyle's Writing?") have included these works in the Hoyle canon, where clearly they belong. Why didn't Hoyle's name appear on the title page?
Not really a Hoyle
Cleveland Public Library
John White Collection
I saw the other side of this coin in Cleveland.  An 1815 book on draughts (checkers) published in Albany by the author purports to contain "forty games from Hoyle, Payne, and Sturges" and would thus seem to belong in a Hoyle bibliography. Alas, Hoyle never wrote about draughts. Clearly what happened is the author reprinted material from Payne that was reprinted in the 1779 edition of Hoyle's Games Improved, a book I discuss in "The most important Hoyle after Hoyle." Does this belong in a Hoyle bibliography? Why did Hoyle's name appear on the title page?

The Rimington-Wilson chess manuscript

I've written a number of posts on the Rimington-Wilson chess collection and its dispersal first at a 1928 Sotheby's auction and then by the Quaritch firm (see here and here). The most interesting R-W item was a manuscript translation of Vida's 1527 poem Scacchia Ludus (The Game of Chess), believed to be in the hand of Oliver Goldsmith. The essays about the manuscript (here, and more recently here) have been among the most popular on this blog.

John White purchased a number of items from the Rimington-Wilson collection, including a marvelous 1885 hand list of the chess library. [Aside: There is a hand list of R-W's sporting books (hunting, mountaineering, etc.) at the Albert and Shirley Small Library at the University of Virginia.] Below is R-W's description of the "Goldsmith" manuscript from the hand list of chess books:

Rimington-Wilson's description of manuscript Vida translation
Cleveland Public Library
John White Collection
Rimington-Wilson clearly believed the manuscript was penned by Goldsmith!

A rare bookseller's ticket

Wicksteed Ticket
Cleveland Public Library
John White Collection
White had a copy of the prosaic 1826 Hoyle's Games Improved edited by Charles Jones. From the Longman archive (discussed here), we know that 4000 copies were printed and that John Wicksteed owned a 1/72 share of the copyright, entitling him to 55 copies. What makes White's copy special is that it still has the ticket from Wicksteed's bookshop, a rare survival, and one that I felt privileged to see.

The loveliest book...
1768 Chess in Italian
Cleveland Public Library
John White Collection

...was of course a chess item. White owned a copy of the 1768 Italian translation of Hoyle's chess essay, published in Florence. Although rebound, the original printed blue wrappers were bound in, giving a sense of what the book must have looked like as issued. The Florentines made beautiful books.


Unusual structures

Most of the Hoyles are in duodecimo (12mo) format, meaning there are 12 leaves (24 pages) to a printed sheet. They are gathered in sections of either 6 or 12. Some late 18th century Hoyles are 18mo, gathered in sixes, resulting in smaller and cheaper books. I saw two books that I believe were printed in 18mo format that were gathered peculiarly.

One, an 1805 edition of Pigott's New Hoyle (discussed here) was gathered in sections of 9 leaves. This seems completely crazy. To make things easy on the binder, you want an even number of leaves in each gathering, so you can fold the leaves and sew the book through the folds. To make gatherings of 9 leaves, the binder folded and sewed 8-leaf gatherings and pasted the 9th leaf in the middle. So much unnecessary work (though a bit less sewing than if the book were gathered in sixes).

I'm not sure how to write the collation formula for the book. Based on what I saw, I'm tempted to write 18o: π2 A2+1 B-N9 O6 (-O6) P6+3. Bowers, in Principles of Bibliographical Description, has a long rant against "odd index figures" beginning on page 225, arguing forcefully that they should not be used. On the other hand, he notes:
There do exist, however, a very few extraordinary books for which it would be acceptable to use odd index numbers when the odd leaves indicate a consistent method of printing a whole book and not simply of an isolated gathering...Jacob Blanck in a recent article on Washington Irving's Salmagundi pamphlets (1807-1808), which often exhibit the initial gathering in 9's and even in 11's, refers to several early nineteenth-centruy books regularly gathered in 9's. (page 228-9)
I'll look for the Blanck article and for now suspect that the 1805 Pigott Hoyle is one of those "few extraordinary books."

Even stranger was an undated 19th century New Pocket Hoyle printed by R. Walwyn in London. It appears to be an 18mo, gathered in sections of 8 leaves, 1 leaf, 8 leaves, and 1 leaf. The collation formula might look something like 18o:  A2 B8 C1 D8 E1 F8 G1 H8 I1 K8 L1 M8 (M8 missing, blank?). Or perhaps Bowers might approve the shorthand 18o:  A2 B-L8/1 M8 (M8 missing, blank?), although that uses another...odd index figure. It's also interesting that the A and M gatherings total 9 leaves as well--likely they were printed together. I couldn't determine the conjugacy of the leaves in the final gathering. 

More Irish Cancels

Until my Cleveland visit, I had never seen a copy of The Polite Gamester, Dublin: printed by James Hoey, 1783. In the essay "Every Cancel Tells a Story, Don't It? (part 1)" I showed that in 1776 Hoey reissued Ewing's 1772 Polite Gamester with canceled title pages. He did that because Ewing had died and he acquired Ewing's unsold stock--the title page would tell customers where they could buy the book. Surprisingly, the 1783 Hoey edition is a second reissue of the 1772 book with a second set of revised title pages. Hoey's motivation for the second reissue is less certain. Clearly he had unsold stock and perhaps he wished to make it look more current with a new date.


What makes a good research trip? Certainly the collection is most important, but a comfortable reading room and supportive staff are also important. I found all three in Special Collections at the Cleveland Public Library. Every chess (and Hoyle) researcher needs to visit the John White collection!