Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hoyle Bibliography: technology update (part 3)

For background to this short post, please see part 1 and part 2 of the technology update. I've pretty much finished the work of producing MS Word from my XML files, but my approach is quite different from the one I expected.

I thought the model would be XML->HTML for the web and XML->MS Word for the print version. It turns out to be easier, much easier, to go XML->HTML->MS Word!

To look at the sample file, the HTML version of Whist.3 is here. Below is the translation to MS Word:

(click to enlarge)
Now you'll notice there isn't much in the way of formatting: no borders on the table, no nice margins or spacing, no bold table headers, etc. That's deliberate. One can always add styling later and it can be quite hard to remove if there's too much. What I have done is get all the text rendered correctly: smallcaps, italics, superscripts, etc. And the crazy table with the rows and columns that span cells. [Aside: As you can learn here, spanning columns is simple; spanning rows is much more difficult.]

Other than spanning rows, the hardest thing was managing whitespace. There is a whole section in my XSLT/XPath book on whitespace including a subsection "Solving Whitespace Problems" with subsections "Too Much Whitespace" and "Too Little Whitespace". I had problems with both. It was necessary:
  • to have the XML->HTML transformation use stricter <xsl:output method ="xml"> rather than "=html"
  • to have the HTML->MS Word transformation use <xsl:strip-space elements="*"/>
  • to write a function to "normalize" all text data--that is, collapse consecutive white space into a single space, but allow an initial leading and trailing space.
 Okay, TMI, I know. But I wanted to write it all down so I wouldn't lose it.

There may well be better ways to do this. I found myself frequently at the boundaries of my knowledge. But with a lot of Googling and reading, I've found that many others have been down this path and come up with similar solutions.

OK, enough technology. Back to bibliography!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hoyle Bibliography: technology update (part 2)

Another techie update...

In my last essay, I gave an overview of the technology I am using for the Hoyle bibliography. One of the claims I made is that storing the descriptions in a highly-structured format would allow me to render them both on the web and in a word processing document. If truth be told, until quite recently, I had never tested that claim, except on the most trivial data. But now I'm ready to declare success!

To review the acronyms briefly, I am storing each bibliographical description in an XML file. I use another language, XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations) to translate the data into HTML for display on the web. I've always assumed that I could modify the XSLT to translate the data into a MS Word file, but had tested that only for unformatted text. It remained to deal with the annoyances of superscripts, subscripts, italics, tables, etc.

Well, I'm quite relieved to be able to report that everything works! In the last essay, I showed the XML for the collation formula for Whist.3, which is displayed as:

12o: A–D12 E4 [$½ (-A2,B2) signed; missigning B4 as B5]; 52 leaves, pp. [8] [1] 2–96

You can see the full bibliographical description on my website here, rendered as HTML. I wrote a new XSLT program reads the same XML and plops the collation formula into a file that MS Word can read. More on that program in a moment. Here is the output, readable by MS Word:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?><?mso-application progid="Word.Document"?>
<w:wordDocument xmlns:w="">
                  <w:i w:val="on"/>
               </w:rPr>A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist<w:rPr>
                  <w:i w:val="off"/>
               </w:rPr>, printed for F. Cogan, third London edition, 1743.<w:p/>
               <w:t>Collation: 12<w:rPr>
                     <w:vertAlign w:val="superscript"/>
                     <w:vertAlign w:val="baseline"/>
                  </w:rPr>: A–D<w:rPr>
                     <w:vertAlign w:val="superscript"/>
                     <w:vertAlign w:val="baseline"/>
                  </w:rPr> E<w:rPr>
                     <w:vertAlign w:val="superscript"/>
                     <w:vertAlign w:val="baseline"/>
                  </w:rPr> [$½ (-A2,B2) signed; missigning B4 as B5]; 52 leaves, pp. [<w:rPr>
                     <w:i w:val="on"/>
                     <w:i w:val="off"/>
                  </w:rPr>] [1] 2–96 </w:t>

All those impenetrable tags beginning <w:....> are the incantations that MS Word needs for formatting.

For the ambitious, you can copy that text into a file and save it as Whist3.xml or some such. Note that the file extension must be .xml. Then launch MS Word and open the file. You should get something that looks like this (click to enlarge):

Notice that I've dealt with paragraph breaks, superscripts, italics, and more. Success!

Not shown in this example are other things I'll need to do: tables, headers, etc. Fortunately, I've solved those items as well. 

Back to the program. The really good news is that there is about an 80% overlap between the XSLT used to translate to HTML and to MS Word. Now that I am learning which parts of the XSLT are the same and which must be customized, I can recode the XSLT a bit more intelligently so that the common 80% is in one file, and the two 20% specializations are in other files.

I can't say I was ever worried about getting my descriptions into MS Word, but it's awfully nice to know it works!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hoyle Bibliography: technology update

While it has been ages since I last posted on this blog, I have been monumentally busy with Hoyle. Last November, I announced that I would be starting an online descriptive bibliography of Hoyle. This post highlights the progress I have made, both with content, and with the supporting technology.

Underlying Approach

The bibliography nears a major milestone. I have completed descriptions of all but a handful of the 18th century editions of Hoyle, the task I had originally contemplated. Inevitably, my scope has expanded, and I’m well into the 19th century. It is difficult to find a graceful stopping point. In addition to the content, the bibliography is a significant and apparently unique effort in the digital humanities. So far I have created 170 bibliographical descriptions, storing each in a file for validation, processing, and display. The programming effort has been substantial and is ongoing, but continues to pay for itself many times over. This blog essay discusses the technology I have developed in the course of compiling the Hoyle bibliography.

My primary goal was to create bibliographical descriptions of the books that could be presented in multiple ways—initially as a web site and then in a word processing document leading to print publication. I expect that others will be able to extract data programmatically from my descriptions if  desired—perhaps a library wishes to update its catalogue or a collector wishes to build a checklist. This goal, one data source with multiple presentations, dictated storing the descriptions in a highly-structured way.

A second goal was to avoid errors and inconsistencies in bibliographical descriptions and their presentation. As to the descriptions, collation formulas and pagination statements should total to the same number of leaves. Deletions and signing errors should refer to leaves actually in the collation formula. Signature references and page references should point to the same page. I have seen each of these errors in printed bibliographies—mistakes are inevitable. Formatting is equally error prone. Fredson Bowers’ Principles of Bibliographical Description is the standard for descriptive bibliography, including the collation formula and pagination statement. Bowers requires dexterous use of brackets, italics, commas, semicolons, superscripts and subscripts. Proofreading is hardly...foolproof. It seemed as though there should be better solutions.

The desire to avoid errors led to the same design decision suggested earlier, highly structured data. Following other digital humanities projects, particularly TEI (about which more below), I chose XML as an underlying technology. A brief excerpt from one of my book descriptions will show how structured XML data can reduce error. Consider Whist.3 (my description is online here), which has one of the simpler collation formulas:

12o: A–D12 E4 [$½ (-A2,B2) signed; missigning B4 as B5]; 52 leaves, pp. [8] [1] 2–96

The data used to produce the collation formula is:

                    <gatheringRange signed="true">
                    <gatheringRange signed="true">
                    <pageRange numbered="false" range="true">
                    <pageRange numbered="false">
                    <pageRange numbered="true">

XML is a hierarchical structure: elements have values (the book's format is 12, a duodecimo) and attributes have values (page 1 is unnumbered, pages 2-96 are). Everything is text and therefore readable by humans, particularly when indented in an outline form that reveals the structure. In the example above, the collation consists of format, collation formula, total leaves, and pagination. The collation formula consists of gatherings, signature leaves (indicating normal signing), and anomalous signatures. Each gathering range within the gatherings has a starting signature (sigStart), an optional ending signature, and a number of leaves. A gathering range may be signed or unsigned. The pagination section is similar. More complicated books will use other optional elements.

How does this encoding help avoid error? First, the data it is validated against an XML schema I created. The schema is formal description of the rules for describing a book. The schema requires elements such as collation, collation formula, signature leaves, etc. The element anomalous signatures is optional, as are elements for signing errors, duplicated signatures, doubled alphabets, insertions, deletions, and free form notes. Failure to include a required element or inclusion of an unexpected element will generate an error.

Moreover, the XML schema restricts each element as to allowed types values. For example format is limited to a small set of values such as 8 for octavo, 12 for duodecimo, etc. Entering 13 into the format field will generate an error. The schema is rather complex, but does an admirable job of preventing errors.

One might expect that all of the tags, required structure, and rules for allowed values would add substantial effort when inputting data. Indeed the above snippet of XML for Whist.3 is much more verbose than the collation formula. Surprisingly, there is much less data entry. Much less. Modern tools will read the required structure contained in the XML schema, insert most of the tags, and suggest allowed values for the data. Most of the typing is done for you. And as we shall see below, you don’t have to worry about brackets, italics, superscripts and the like—that is handled elsewhere.

Once the data is structured and individual elements are known to have valid values, it is possible to check them for internal consistency. For example, I have written a program to read the collation formula statement, count the number of leaves it implies, and compare it with the element signature leaves, flagging any discrepancy as an error. Similarly, the pagination statement implies a total number of pages that is expected to be twice the number of leaves. In the example above, there are four gatherings of 12 leaves and one of 4, totaling 52 leaves and 104 pages. Check.

Much more validation is possible. For example, I give references in terms of both signature and page, such as A5v–E4r (2–95) for a range or E4v (96) for a page. Once we are certain that the collation formula and pagination statements are consistent, we know the page number for each leaf. I was able to write a program that verifies that leaf A5v is page 2, E4r is page 95, and E4v is page 96. It is no exaggeration to say that the program has detected hundreds of errors. Perhaps thousands. By entering both the signature and page reference, I have to make two errors that are consistent with one another before mistakes of reference appear in the bibliography.

I only wish there were a similar way to validate quasi-facsimile transcription!

XML works with another language called XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations) to render XML in other formats such as text or HTML. It is an XSLT stylesheet that transforms the collation as expressed in XML into Bowers format. All the “knowledge” of Bowers' rules is in one program. As a result, when entering the collation for a book, I do not have to type brackets, italics, or superscripts—a major time saving for data entry.

An amusing example demonstrates the strength of the approach. At Rare Book School, I learned to describe signing errors by saying “missigning B4 as B5”. Bowers prefers “misprinting B4 as B5” and has no objection to quoting the erroneous signature, writing “misprinting B4 as ‘B5’”. (See Bowers p270). Regardless of which is preferred, I can change the output for all 170 book descriptions by making a minor change to one XSLT stylesheet and not all 170 descriptions. Neat!

A third goal was to automate the production of indices for the bibliography. The top-level index classifies works as (a) separate works; (b) publishers’ collections of works published separately; and (c) collected editions. It is produced programmatically. Other programs produce other indices:
  • An index of short titles and short imprints
  • A chronological list of all editions and issues
  • A list of games and subjects treated in Hoyle with a chronological list of books for each game or subject
  • An index by publisher or printer
  • A list of institutions holding copies of Hoyle (see here, for example, for libraries in the British Isles) and the books held at a given library (for example, the Bodleian, which has the largest collection of Hoyles in the world)
  • Lists of Hoyles in each of the standard gaming bibliographies, such as Horr, Jessel, and Rather and Goldwater.
Each time I add a new bibliographical description, I can regenerate all of the indices and indeed the entire website by running one program.

The final goal is perhaps the most ambitious—to develop a platform that other bibliographers can use. I have no intention of turning the technology into a commercial product, and have built it with laser-like focus on my needs rather than as a general solution to bibliographical description.  I would expect, however, that hobbyist programmers familiar with the technologies I used should have little difficulty extending it to their needs. I would be eager to hear from anyone who is interested.

Afterword: A Note on Technology

I initially explored the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) as a way to encode book descriptions. I found that, as the name suggests, the standards were focused on encoding text and other contents, rather than encoding characteristics of the physical book. A TEI Work Group on physical bibliography made a good start at encoding a collation statement, but their work did not proceed to completion and did not become part of a TEI release.  I used theirs as a starting point for my own work. 

I am using early and well-supported versions of products in the XML suite: XML 1.0, XML Schema 1.0, and XSLT 1.0 (including XPath 1.0). While there are some attractions to using later versions, they are not always supported by browsers, and I wanted the web version to work with Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari, not all of which support more recent versions of XSLT and XPath.

I use oXygen XML Editor 17 as an XML development environment. It is an awesome tool and I fear that I am only using a fraction of its capabilities.

Where I need to insure consistency of the book descriptions beyond what XML Schema provides, I write programs in Python 3.4. Python also creates the various indices I described earlier. Python is a general purpose programming language that excels in handling text and has excellent libraries for reading and writing XML files.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Left Hand of Bougy: A Trictrac Manuscript (1772)

Jeu du Trictrac

Manuscripts continued to be produced in the hand press era and they can be the most charming of books. I just acquired a manuscript on the game of trictrac that has an unusual origin, one that I have never encountered.

title page

 The title of the manuscript is Regle  du Jeu de Trictrac or Rules for the Game of Trictrac. The title page continues "ecrit de la main gauche du sieur M. C. Bougy depuis 1771 jusqu'en l'année 1772...", that is written with the left hand of Mr. M. C. Bougy. What is the significance of the left hand?


Before answering that question, let's take a look at the contents. The text turns out not to be original, but a transcription of the section on trictrac and other tables games from Académie Universelle des Jeux, published in Paris by Theodore Legras from 1718. The Académie went through many editions and the trictrac section was occasionally published separately.

Compare the text and diagram of this snippet from Legras with that in the hand of M. Bougy:


Why would M. Bougy copy a book that was readily available for purchase? The answer is evident from a short biographical section at the end of the book. You will have to live with my crude translation, paraphrase, and excerpting:
M. C. B. was born in Paris on August 15 1711 and baptized in the parish of Saint Andre des Arts. He was a mercer near the Palais Marchand and married in 1740. Two years after the death of his wife in 1758, he became ill at his residence on the Rue du Sépulchre in Fauborg Saint Germain. He had a stroke and was dangerously ill for two months, resulting in paralysis on the right side of his body...M. B. undertook to exercise his left hand and began to write...having made much progress, he decided to create several manuscripts:
  • From 1766 to 1770, he made extracts of newspapers from Holland and France and had them bound in two quarto volumes.
  • Second, he made excerpts of fourteen volumes of sermons by Father Bourdaloue, which he had bound in calf, a thick volume in twelves...
  • Third, also bound in calf, the title Collection of Everything that Happened on the Refusal of the Paris Parliament to Register the Edict of the King.
  • Fourth, in an identical binding, the title Regles du Jeux de Trictrac.
  • For the fifth and final volume, 806 pages plus 40 pages of tables at the end, Verse, Prose, Stories, Fables and Songs to Amuse the Reader and make him Laugh
The beginning of the biography
I have not been able to locate any of the other manuscripts, but online finding aids for later manuscripts are rather unsatisfactory.

I am left to wonder, has anyone other than M. Bougy produced a manuscript as physical therapy for a stroke?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Le Grand Trictrac

Long before I started my Hoyle research, I studied the game of trictrac and its literature. Trictrac is a French game played on a backgammon board, but unlike backgammon it is not a racing game. Points are scored for various plays and positions and, as we shall see, the scoring can be quite arcane. I created the Trictrac Home Page, developed and sold a neural-net based Windows program to play the game (still available!), and published an enumerative bibliography of trictrac literature.

I named my software Soumille after the author of the most useful and accessible book about the game. In Le Grand Trictrac, Soumille teaches trictrac through the device of games played between the characters Damon and Cloris. There are some 270 woodblock prints illustrating the games move-by-move, making it quite easy to learn the rules and, to some extent, strategy. For those interested, I have published English language rules here, and reproduced Soumille's first game, here.

Le Grand Trictrac was first published in Avignon in 1738; further Avignon imprints appeared in 1739 and 1756. The book was published in Paris in 1756, 1766, 1790, and 1801 (the links are to full-text copies available for download from Google). I have several copies of this book including the Avignon edition of 1739. I had always wondered why a second Avignon version appeared just one year after the first. It seemed unlikely that the book had sold out and needed to be reprinted. And my copy of the 1739 version had five cancelled leaves, suggesting that it was a reissue of the 1738 edition with a new title page and other changes.Why did the book reappear so quickly?

Until this week, I had never seen the first edition of 1738, but I was able to buy a copy at the spectacular auction of the Messager collection of gaming literature and equipment from the auction house Alde in Paris. When it arrived, after making sure it was complete, I began to compare it with the my 1739 version. With the two books side by side, it quickly became clear that they are the same setting of type, and hence by definition both first editions, but different issues.

Avignon (1738)

The first issue, pictured at right, has an unsophisticated but charming frontispiece of Damon and Cloris playing trictrac.

Avignon (1739)

The second issue lacks the frontispiece and other preliminary material, but from page one of the text, the type is the same as that of 1738 except for the cancels.

I have written about cancels many times--they are great fun for bibliographers. To correct some sort of problem, the printer would print a new page; the binder would cut out the incorrect leaf, leaving a stub, and paste the replacement on the stub. As I wrote in the essay "Every Cancel Tells A Story, Don't It (part 1)", what I find most interesting is not the fact of the cancel, but the reason for it. With both the 1738 and 1739 issues of Le Grand Trictrac, I could compare the original and replacement pages side by side and learn the reasons for the cancels.

In the first cancel below, the woodblock of the trictrac board is wrong in the page on the left from 1738. Note the upper right quadrant where two black checkers belong on the point marked "H" but are actually shown one point to the right. The diagram does not match the textual description of the game. On the right is the corrected diagram of 1739. If you look closely (as always, you can click to enlarge it) at the 1739 page, you will be able to see the stub from the excised leaf. A close look will also show that the type has been reset for the page. 

leaf E2v page 36

leaf Ll1r page 265

Another incorrect diagram appears on page 265...

leaf Oo2v page 292

 ...and a third on page 292, where again the stub is prominent.

I'll skip one cancel where there was a minor textual change, but my favorite cancel is this:

leaf Y4v page 176

The diagram is unchanged. Well mostly unchanged. More about that in a moment. What is new is the addition of text below the diagram. Cloris rolls 22 and scores 4 points for being able to "hit" Damon's blot on the point marked P with a checker on the point marked L (see the rules describing "battre sur une demi-case"). Not mentioned is that Cloris can also score six points for "battre le coin" and that omission must have vexed an attentive reader.

When Cloris fails to score the points, as she often did in the sample games, Damon could claim them, scoring "écoles" or sending Cloris to school. But no mention is made of écoles here. In the cancel, neither player could be given the points without changing the flow of the game, so Soumille wrote that Cloris hit the "coin" but didn't notice, and neither did Damon! Of course it was Soumille who at first didn't notice. An amusing omission and an unusual reason for a cancel.

There is one more point to notice about these side-by-side pages with the unchanged diagram. Notice that the dice have moved although they display the same roll. And the figure number seems to have drifted off to the right. That suggests that the piece of wood used to print the diagram did not contain the dice or the figure number. The dice were likely separate pieces of wood placed on the diagram and the figure numbers were pieces of type place in the woodblock.

I've looked quickly at later editions. The 1756 Avignon edition had new, smaller woodblocks. while the Pairs editions of 1756 and 1766 had a third set of woodblocks. What a lot of work for the woodcarver!

I've often noted that Hoyle wrote the first book of strategy on any card game, whist in 1742. He also wrote the first book of backgammon strategy in 1743. But, as we see from Soumille, there was an instructional book on trictrac four years earlier. And like the early Hoyles, the early versions of Soumille reveal much about their publishing history.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Missing Book; A Trail of Breadcrumbs

Recently, I ran across some intriguing newspaper advertisements for a book I've never heard of. Here's a sample:
  • General Advertiser, November 26, 1748: "In a few days will be publish'd...Compleatest Card J. Millan."

  • General Evening Post, December 12, 1748: "...Compleat Card Player, containing about 30 games. J. Millan."

  • General Advertiser, September 9, 1752: "Printed for J. Millan, near Whitehall...Complete Card-player, on the size of a card, 2s..."

  •  Public Advertiser, July 7, 1753: "...also this day published...Complete Card Player, 20 new Games, 1s...

  •  Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, November 23, 1767: "In the press, and soon will be published, The Complete Card-Player: containing many games not in Hoyle, all his greatly improved, and many of his trifling cases, corrected, price 2s. neatly bound."
The advertisements are not limited to newspapers. Google books turned up some as well:
And look at the oddball title page pictured at right (1752). Click to enlarge the image and note that the advertisement for the Compleat Card Player four lines up from the bottom. I don't recall ever seeing an advertisement on a title page.

ECCO discloses other advertisements in books, one of which provides some new new information:
  • In A Familiar Epistle (1751): "Compleat Card Player, containing several games never printed before on 12 plates, 9s...engraved most beautifully"
I really don't have much to add to what the advertisements say. There are enough advertisements with enough specifics for me to believe the book or books were actually published. The title is unclear as is the physical book ("size of a card", "12 plates", "engraved"). It is unclear whether Millan is merely the publisher or also the author--he wrote a number of other books which he published.

This appears to be the first anthology of gaming literature to compete with Hoyle. It would be fascinating to read the text and learn how much was original and how much was copied from Hoyle or perhaps from continental anthologies. The Compleat Card Player appears to have stayed in print for nearly twenty years, with a new edition contemplated in 1767.

I would love to find a copy, but none is noted in library catalogues, bookseller's catalogues or auction records.We are left with but breadcrumbs...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Who is "Bob Short"? (part 3)

This is the final installment of my "Bob Short" trilogy. Parts one and two conclude that "Bob Short" is stockbroker Robert Withy and not poet Anna Latetia Barbauld. I present a last bit of evidence here, evidence that also answers a second mystery hinted at it my prequel "Bob Short's Short Rules for Short Memories". This essay also adds a final note for the Barbauld collector or scholar.

In the prequel, I note:
Eighteenth century copies of Withy's works are scarce. According to ESTC, Whist survives in but two copies of the 1791 edition, and one each of 1792, 1793, 1794, and 1795. The University of Nevada Las Vegas has a copy of a 1793 German translation. Two copies of the 1793 edition of Quadrille are extant. 
A couple of years ago, I acquired a copy of Quadrille, so now three copies are known.

In the prequel, I cited a number of newspaper advertisements that predated the 1791 edition of Whist. The earliest, from 1781, offers only "twelve short standing rules" for whist.

Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, January 31, 1781

This advertisement is likely for Robert Withy's trade card which describes his business on one side and has twelve rules for whist on the verso. Beginning in 1782, we see advertisements for a different book:

Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, January 26, 1782

There are two differences from the previous advertisement indicating that it is not for a mere trade card. First, the price is increased from 2d. or 1s. a dozen to 3d. or 2s. a dozen. Second, the book offers "the laws of the game as played at White's, and all public places". Is this merely an earlier edition of the 1791 Whist or is this a different book? I would have guessed the former, but...

The 1791 Whist indicates that it was "entered at Stationers' Hall", so as part of my effort to identify Bob Short, I used inter-library loan to request the microfilm of the Stationers' records. Then a couple of long, tedious days at the microfilm reader. Here is what I found:

Entry in the Stationers' Register of Books February 14, 1785

The entry, dated February 14, 1785,  indicates that Rt Withy registered the copyright for "A present for grown masters & misses, Hoyle Abridged or short standing rules for short memories at the game of whist with the laws of the game by Bob Short". Withy deposited nine copies of the book and the record was entered by stationer John Wilkie, himself an owner of a share of the main Hoyle copyright (see the essay "The Hoyle Copyright in Hoyle's lifetime").

And a second entry nearly six years later:

Entry in the Stationers' Register of Books December 14, 1790

The title is "Hoyle Abridged, or short rules for short memories, at the game of whist, with the laws of the game, &c adapted for the head or pocket, by Bob Short." Again nine copies were deposited and now stationer Robert Horsfield prepared the entry.

There are two conclusions to be reached from these records. First, that Withy wrote two different books on whist, only one of which has survived. The "present for grown masters & misses" seems to have been advertised from 1782 but entered in the registry only in 1785. I have found advertisements for it as late as 1788.

The second book on whist survives and the chronology is clear. It was entered in the Stationers' register on December 14, 1790, advertised from December 24 (see below), and printed with a date of 1791.

World, December 24, 1790

Note the new price, 6d., the warning against piracies, and the entry of the book at Stationers' Hall.

Second, the Stationers' registry proves it: Robert Withy is "Bob Short." If there were any doubters after the two previous essays, let them doubt no more!

There is, however, no entry in the registry for Withy's Quadrille, nor for Barbauld's Religion of Nature under any of its various titles. 

One last comment for fans of Anna Letitia Barbauld. In part 2, I noted many printings of her letter The Patriotic Clergyman, most of them published by J. Mitchell in Newcastle on Tyne. The first of these, a 36 page chapbook called The Charms of Literature was illustrated by Thomas Bewick. In 2011, Nigel Tattersfield wrote the monumental catalogue of Thomas Bewick, The Complete Illustrative Work. Tattersfield lists Charms as TB 2.71A (volume 2 p139) and identifies many more editions. The Barbauld collector or bibliographer should consult that entry!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Who is "Bob Short"? (part 2)

In part 1 of this essay, I presented a puzzle. The London Morning Post of January 3, 1794 contains an advertisement for three books by the pseudonymous "Bob Short", a strong suggestion that all three were written by one person. Yet, the books on whist and quadrille are reliably by Robert Withy, while the third, The Religion of Nature, is attributed to the dissident poetess Anna Letitia Barbauld (née Aikin). As a result the gaming books are sometimes attributed to Barbauld as well. Let us try to sort this out.

I got a digital copy of The Religion of Nature and learned that the text was first published anonymously as a letter to the editor of the Morning Chronicle of November 29, 1793:

It was reprinted with an introduction (about which more later) as The Religion of Nature, A Short Discourse, Delivered before the National Convention at Paris by Mons. le Curé of ———, still without attribution to Barbaud. This is the book that was advertised with Whist and Quadrille by Bob Short.

What is the basis for the attribution to Barbauld? I borrowed some of the many texts on Barbauld from the library and consulted a number of reference works on pseudonyms, but did not learn why Barbauld is given as the author. I then posted a query to the rare book listservs, Exlibris-L and SHARP-L and got a number of useful pointers. Professor William McCarthy pointed me to his biography Anna Letitia Barbauld, Voice of the Enlightenment, Baltimore Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

There I learned that the text of The Religion of Nature was reprinted under two more titles. First, it appeared as The Patriotic Clergyman in the early 19th century in a number of chapbooks and miscellanies. I checked WorldCat and Google Books and located many editions:
  • The Charms of Literature, Newcastle on Tyne: J. Mitchell, 1800. A 36 page chapbook with illustrations by Bewick containing The Patriotic Clergyman.
  • The death of Rousseau, an interesting story ... : to which is added, the patriotic clergyman. Newcastle on Tyne : Printed and sold by J. Mitchell, nd. 
  •  The Charms of Literature, Newcastle on Tyne: J. Mitchell, 1805. A 434 page miscellany available from Google.
  • The interesting story of Montford, or, the generous man: Together with the death of Rousseau; The military mendicant ... by ... C.I. Pitt ; The victim of dishonour ; and The patriotic clergyman, by Mrs. Barbauld. Newcastle on Tyne: Printed. by J. Mitchell, 1806.
  • Interesting stories : containing, The military mendicant. Female heroism. The patriotic clergyman. Edinburgh : Printed for the booksellers in town and country, 1815. 
  • The Intelligent Reader: Designed as a sequel to The Child's Guide. Springfield: Merriam, 1847. A 252 page children's reader available from Google and containing Clergyman.
Undoubtedly, many, many more reprints exist.

Some of the reprints attribute the piece to Barbauld—the section title of the first is pictured below. The text is the same letter originally published in the Morning Chronicle with a new first paragraph. It is "attributed" to Mrs. Barbauld; in the 1806 edition the title page indicates the piece to be hers. These are not, however, convincing attributions. How did the publisher identify Barbauld as the author?

It is the two-volume set The Works of Anna Laetitia Barbauld, London: Richard Taylor, 1825 (available from Google, volumes one and two) that makes the attribution certain. It was compiled by Barbauld's niece Lucy Aikin who had access to a great deal of private material about her aunt. The letter appears in volume two, pages 260-7, under yet another title, The Curé of the Banks of the Rhone, with the notation that it was written in 1791. The text matches that of the letter to the Morning Chronicle.

With the appearance of the letter in her niece's collection of Barbauld's works, I accept the attribution and am left with the need to explain the advertisement consisting of Withy's gaming books along with Barbauld's letter.

The explanation is, I'm afraid, rather prosaic. Let us return to The Religion of Nature, the work causing all the confusion. Pictured below are the title page and introduction for the copy at the University of London Goldsmiths' Library. What I am not showing is a handwritten annotation on the front fly leaf "by Anna Letitia Barbauld", another attribution without evidence.

Religion, title page
Religion, Introduction

The title page indicates that the "short discourse" was delivered by "Mons. le Curé of ———" and it is "the short address to the jurymen of Great Britain", that is the introduction, that is by "Bob Short". The former is Barbauld and the latter must be Withy. Note the annotation "Withy" next to the name Bob Short on the title page. I am not the first to reach this conclusion, although I hope mine is better documented.

Quadrille, introduction
The introduction is signed Bob Short at Baker's Coffee-house, December 22, 1793. This is just as he signed the introduction to Quadrille, pictured at right: Baker's Coffee-house, January 1, 1793. I wish I could see a physical copy of The Religion of Nature. From the reproduction, it appears quite similar to the contemporary copies of Whist and Quadrille I have seen. All have an oblong format and the type and layout appear similar.

Indeed, Withy carried on his trade at the coffee house:
...Robert Withy...transacts as usual, all the branches of this business, and attends at Baker's Coffee-house, Change-alley, every day from one to three. (Morning Herald, October 23, 1799)
The conclusion is that Withy wrote the introduction to Religion as "Bob Short" while Barbauld wrote the text. My strong suspicion is that Withy, a former seller of books and prints, published all three pamphlets, explaining the advertisement linking all three books. We can say with certainty that Robert Withy and not Anna Letitia Barbauld was the author of Whist and Quadrille. Establishing that fact was my primary goal although I greatly enjoyed the detour provided by Barbauld. She was a remarkable woman—dissident, poet, educator and more. 

Professor McCarthy left me with some interesting questions about Withy and The Religion of Nature:
Did Barbauld know Robert Withy? Why did he reprint this piece from the [Morning Chronicle]? Did he know who wrote it, or did he reprint it because he agreed with it? Or did he reprint it because he cared about the plight of the Spitalfields silk-weavers?
I cannot answer these questions, but perhaps some readers can help?

If you're still not convinced about Withy's authorship of Whist and Quadrille, stay tuned for a brief part 3 coming shortly!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Who is "Bob Short"? (part 1)

In this essay, I return to Hoyle Abridged: or Short Rules for Short Memories at the Game of Whist. I find the chapbook annoying (see the discussion here) because there are so many editions and because they survive in such small numbers. The whist book and a similar title on quadrille (never reprinted) were written under the pseudonym Bob Short. The purpose of this essay is to resolve a lingering question—who is behind the pseudonym?

The whist book has been attributed to two different writers, Anna Letitia Barbauld (née Aikin) and Robert Withy. I had never investigated the case for Barbauld and thought the case for Withy convincing. Yet a recent discovery forced me to investigate further.

The earliest attirubtion to Barbauld is likely The Whist Table, A Treasury of Notes on the Royal Game, edited by "Portland" (London: James Hogg). Oh dear, another pseudonym! And an undated work! Not wishing to multiply my researches indefinitely, I am going to accept the assurance of a secondary source, Jessel (from whom more below), that "Portland" is a pseudonym for the publisher James Hogg and that the book was published in 1894. Hogg reprints most of Bob Short's rules, noting first in square brackets (suggesting an editorial voice):
It is an interesting fact, and one but little known, that these celebrated Rules were actually written by a distinguished lady—the authoress of the famous "Evenings at Home" and "early Lessons for Children," &c.
Anne (sic) Laetitia Aikin, afterwards Mrs. Barbauld, was a versatile and high-toned writer..."Bob Short" appeared about 1792, and enjoyed immediately great popularity, many editions being rapidly disposed of. The rules are substantially based upon "Hoyle": indeed, "Bob Short" only professed to be "Hoyle Abridged." (p212)
Hogg provides no evidence for the attribution. William Mill Butler repeats it, including the misspelling of Barbauld's forename, in the article "Books on Whist" in The Whist Reference Book (Philadelphia: John C. Yorston, 1899):
"Hoyle Abridged: or Short Rules for Short memories at Whist," by "Bob Short" (Anne Laetitia Aikin). Bath, 1792. Many editions. Over 7000 copies sold during the first year. (pp57-58)
The argument in favor of Robert Withy was made by William Prideaux Courtney in English Whist and English Whist Players (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1894):
At the beginning of 1793, there came out a little tract called 'Short Rules for Whist, by Bob Short,' which was so popular among card-players that 7,000 copies were sold in twelve months. (p361)
This was likely Butler's source for the sales figure in The Whist Reference Book, but Butler did not go on to read the next page:
A satirical poem by John Gale Jones, the democratic orator, bearing the fantastic title of 'An Invocation to Edward Quin, as delivered at a Society called the Eccentrics,' and discussing the peculiarities of a social set at a tavern near Charing Cross, discloses the author's name. It was written by Robert Withy, a respectable stockbroker, and 'a facetious and pleasant companion, but very irascible,' the last years of whose life were harassed by pecuniary troubles. This statement finds corroboration in an advertisement of Robert Withy, stockbroker, which is appended to the brochure on quadrille, when his house is given as 13, George Street, York Buildings, and he is said to frequent Baker's Coffee-house. He died at West Square, Surrey, on September 19, 1803, aged seventy-two. Before trying his fortune on the Exchange, he had been for many years a book and print seller1 in Cornhill. (p362).
I would have thought this evidence dispositive. The citation from Invocation (London: printed for the author, 1803) includes two lines of verse:
Did W*thy tell the with his parting breath,
That all must share the fatal stroke of death?
with commentary below:
The late Robert W*thy, a respectable stock-broker, and an honorary member of this society. This gentleman was author of a little tract well known among card players, intituled, "Ten Minutes Advice to those who play at Whist," signed "Bob Short." (pp37-8)
Jones gives a title that does not match any surviving copies, but Hoyle Abridged is the only possible candidate. Courtney notes the advertisement of Robert Withy, stockbroker, in Hoyle Abridged, part II. Or, Short Rules for Playing the Game of Quadrille by Bob Short (pictured below). Similar advertisements appear in the 1791 and 1792 editions of Bob Short's Whist, editions not known to Courtney.
1793 Quadrille
Withy advertisement

To this, I would add that a Robert Withy trade card survives in the John Johnson Collection of printed ephemera at the Bodleian Library and, on the back of the card, are twelve short rules for whist by "Bob Short".

Given Courtney's research, I always accepted the conclusion of Frederic Jessel in his Bibliography of Works in English on Playing Cards and Gaming (London: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1905):
Mr W. P. Courtney has proved conclusively that Robert Withy was the author of the above treatises. (page 303)
He comments elsewhere about a related later work:
These rules, evidently an imitation of the better-known 'Bob Short's' rules by Robert Withy, have been attributed to Mrs. Barbauld, apparently because she adopted the pseudonym for a tract unconnected with cards. (p265)
Jessel must be referring to Barbauld's Religion of Nature, With a Short Address to the Jurymen of Great Britain. By Bob Short. There is a note on the ESTC record that "Bob Short = Anna Letitia Barbauld".

Two recent happenings caused me to reassess the evidence. First, I read the charming new book by Julian Laderman, Bumblepuppy Days, The Evolution from Whist to Bridge (Toronto: Master Point Press 2014) which repeats the Barbauld (Aikin) attribution. Second, I began to work on the "Bob Short" items for my online bibliography of Hoyle. I reviewed all my notes on copies I have seen, copies in my collection, and contemporary newspaper advertisements. One advertisement leapt out at me:

1794-01-03 London Morning Post
Here was an advertisement for The Religion of Nature, attributed to Anna Letitia Barbauld AND for Bob Short's Short Rules for Whist and Quadrille!  Could Barbauld be the author of the gaming books all along?

I then began to find more similarities among the three titles. The imprints all show a connection to Baker's Coffee-House and involved many of the same booksellers:
  • Whist: Printed for the benefit of families, to prevent scolding: and sold by the author, at Baker’s Coffee-House, Exchange Alley; Nicol, St. Paul’s Church Yard; Ryall, Lombard Street; Bell, Strand; Fourdrinier, Charing Cross; and Debrett, Piccadilly, [1791]
  • Quadrille: Printed for, and sold by the author, at Baker’s Coffee-House, Exchange Alley ; Ryall, Lombard Street ; Newbery, St. Paul’s Church Yard ; Bell, in the Strand ; Fourdrinier, Charing Cross ; and Debrett, Piccadilly, [1793]
  • Religion of Nature: Printed for the benefit of the distressed spital-field-weavers, and sold at Baker’s Coffee-house, and by Richardson, Cornhill; Ryal, Lombard-street; Newberry, St. Paul’s Church-Yard; Bell, in the Strand; Foundrinier, Charing-Cross; and Debrett, Piccadilly, [1793]
The common language "printed for the benefit of..." is suggestive, as is the pricing "3d. or 2s. a dozen to give away". The same prices appeared in early advertisements for Whist. It felt to me that all three books might be written by the same person—would that be Robert Withy or Anna Letitia Barbaud?

My next step was to investigate the attribution of Religion to Anna Letitia Barbauld.

To be continued...


1Withy left the print- and book-selling trade in 1766. He auctioned off some of his stock on August 10, 1766 (see ESTC T150858, available on ECCO) and the remainder plus his copyrights at a trade sale on May 21, 1767 (see ESTC T130031).