Monday, June 16, 2014

The Yorkshire Hoyles and the Doctrine of Chances

Updated August 25, 2017 with more on the Hoyle Coat of Arms. 

There are suggestions that Edmond Hoyle was one of the Yorkshire Hoyles. Here is a typical claim:
In "Yorkshire Genealogist" for October, 1887, P. 190, you give some notes on the Hoyle family, in which mention is made of an Elkanah Hoyle, of Upper Swift Place, Upper Hoyle Head, &c., near Halifax. I am very anxious to discover the parentage of this gentleman, and hope that some of your readers will kindly assist me.
I have no authority for the statement, but have reason to believe that he was the son of John Hoyle de Lowershawe, in Soyland, 1617-1769, and Susannah Garside de Barkisland; and that he was a brother of the Edomnd Hoyle who wrote the "Treatise on Whist." (Percy Savile Hoyle, "Hoyle", The Yorkshire Genealogist, 1890, p40).

The author provides an illustration of the Hoyle family coat of arms, reproduced at right. Heraldry sources indicate the Hoyle family motto was ""facta non verba" (Latin for "deeds, not words").

I have never believed the claim. The citation I find more persuasive is:
Yorkshire has been called the county of [Edmond Hoyle's] birth, but the present representative of the Yorkshire Hoyles, who acquired (temp. Edward III.) estates near Halifax, Mr. Fretwell Hoyle, has taken great pains of his genealogy, and has come to the conclusion that the Edmond Hoyle of whist celebrity was not in any way connected with his family. (Julian Marshall, "Books on Gaming" in Notes and Queries, 7th Ser. VII. June 22, 1889, p481)
Marshall goes on to note:
It is strange that no portrait of Hoyle should be known to exist. A picture, said to be his portrait, by Hogarth, was exhibited at the Crystal Palace some years ago (1870); but Mr. F. Hoyle, mentioned before, recognized this as a likeness of an ancestor of his own, one Edmond Hoyle, it is true, but not the Edmond Hoyle of whist. (p482) 
On the other hand, a recent acquisition suggests a connection between the Yorkshire Hoyles and the father of whist. The acquisition is an exceptionally rare copy of Hoyle's An Essay Towards Making the Doctrine of Chances Easy to Those who Understand Vulgar Arithmetic Only, a book I wrote about here. Jolliffe published the first edition in 1754 and Osborne reissued it with a cancel title in 1760. The most common version is a second edition of 1764. I noted that only one copy of the reissue survived at the Bodleian Library. I just acquired a second at auction.

1760 Chances

What is curious about the my copy is the inscription on the title page. Not the autograph signatures of author Edmond Hoyle and publisher Thomas Osborne which are always present in Hoyles from this time, but the ownership inscription at the top, "W. Hoyle." There were many William Hoyles in Yorkshire and I cannot say who's signature appears here.

Even more curious is the bookplate on the inside cover with a heraldic image, the Yorkshire Hoyle family motto "facta non verba" and the surname Hoyle below. The bookplate reproduces the Hoyle family coat of arms.

Update: This summer I took a course at the Rare Book School called Provenance: Tracing Owners & Collections. The class included a basic introduction to heraldry. The Hoyle coat of arms would be described as "per pale or and ermine a mullet sable". The "per pale" indicates the shield is divided vertically. "Or and ermine" are the two tinctures on either side. Mullet is the heraldic term for a five-pointed star and sable is its tincture.

Burke, The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales (London: Harrison, 1884) confirms what we see with the following entry:
Hoyle (Eastwood Lodge, Rotherham, co. York; confirmed to Fretwell William Hoyle, Esq., eldest son and heir of William Fretwell Hoyle, Esq., of Ferham House, co. York, and their descendants). Per pale or and erm. a mullet sa. Crest--An eagle's head erased ppr. charged on the neck with a mullet sa. and holding in the beak a white rose slipped ppr. Motto--Facta non verba.
I'm no genealogist but poking around a number of web sites and family trees from the 17th and 18th century, I'm finding no connection between our Edmond and the Yorkshire Hoyles. But the records are by no means complete.

So, connection or coincidence? I can't say. I like to think that Percy Savile Hoyle found this book in a family library and concluded that Edmond must be a relative.

One curiosity about the text. The title page is a cancel, changing a 1754 book sold by John Jolliffe to an undated book (but one first advertised in 1760) sold by Osborne, Crowder, and Baldwin. The curiosity is on the verso of the title page, where we find an erratum correcting an error elsewhere in the text.

There are three ways to correct such an error. First, the erroneous sheet could have been cancelled. Second, the correction could have been made in pen. Finally, since Osborne was having a new title page printed in any case, adding the erratum to the verso is the least expensive solution. I find it odd that the erratum was printed more than six years after the error it corrects!

Now, if anyone can tell me any more about the genealogy of the Hoyle family...


  1. I just acquired what I believe is the family seal. It is an intaglio fob carved with the motto and the griffin holding the Rose. Have you come across anything similar?