Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Two Beauties of Hoyle, both owned by women. Coincidence?

I am nearly done putting bookplates in my gaming books, with just a box or two of small pamphlets to go. You can see the bookplate in my 2019 collecting essay. The project has been largely tedious, but it has been fun to revisit each item in the collection. I have learned a lot from classes in provenance and binding at Rare Book School and from bookish Facebook groups on endpapers, bookplates, and bookseller labels.  I've become attuned to aspects of my books I had missed initially.

So here's something I just noticed, and it has me wondering...

In my essay "Eighteenth Century Whist Literature," one of the books I discussed was The Beauties of Hoyle and Paine by General Scott (London: 1792). The Oxford English Dictionary says that "beauties," a term now used rarely, is found in titles of anthologies to mean "the choice passages from a particular writer, genre, etc." So The Beauties of Hoyle and Paine includes choice passages from Hoyle's Whist and Payne's Maxims for Whist (discussed here). General Scott misspelled Payne as Paine.

I have two copies of the first edition of Scott and no others are recorded in WorldCat or ESTC. I have vague memories of seeing a copy in the trade about ten years ago, so perhaps a third has survived.

Scott, London 1792

What is remarkable is that both my copies show evidence of ownership by women. The copy above has a seemingly contemporary ownership inscription "Mrs. Buckland" on the title page.

The other copy is presented by R. Coningham to Mrs. Hewit.

Can you help me make out the third word in the next line? I read "from her affined Hoyle" with "affined" meaning "bound in relationship." If I'm reading that correctly, it's rather charming! A reader sent a more plausible reading: "my assured Hoyle".

What is striking is that both copies of Beauties manifest ownership by women. Coincidence? Or are these Beauties intended for female readers? 

There were hundreds of Beauties: of Shakespeare, of popular magazines, of biography ("for the instruction of youth of both sexes"), of history ("designed for the instruction and entertainment of youth"), of the poets, of English drama. The beauties of Johnson and Fielding and Goldsmith and Hervey and so many more. I extracted phrases from the long title suggesting an appeal to the young, but there is also The Lady’s Poetical Magazine; or, Beauties of British poetry.

I've never seen books on whist offered to youth, so I wonder...might this Beauty have been created for women?

Monday, January 25, 2021

Who printed Piquet for Francis Cogan? Thank you Compositor!

(udpated 3/13 to link to Patrick Spedding's post, with his discussion of Compositor)

Last week, I watched Joseph Hone present a paper 'Secrets, Lies, and Title Pages' (now available on YouTube) sponsored by ODSECS, the Open Digital Seminar in Eighteenth-Century Studies. Joseph discussed how 18c printers "corrupted title pages with false names, dates, and disguise the origins of dangerous  books or piracies." I recommend the talk highly. 

In general, we don't know who printed a particular book in the 18c. The imprint, if honest, tends to identify the publisher and only occasionally the printer. Several times, Joseph made reference to the Compositor database of 18c printers' ornaments which he used to unmask printers who would otherwise have stayed hidden. I knew that Compositor was an upgraded version of Fleuron, a site I had used frequently. In my online Hoyle bibliography I had links to Fleuron which no longer worked in Compositor. It had been on my list to update the links and Joseph's talk prompted me to do so. Done!

I also explored Compositor and was blown away by a new feature: "image search", with a tutorial on their blog. It allows you to take an ornament in one book and find matches in others. Sometimes, those matches will be in books that identify the printer, suggesting a printer for the original book. Before giving an example, here is some background:

  • Printers ornaments are decorative elements, generally woodblocks, used in books through the late 18c. For a charming example, see the squirrely headpiece here
  • The source for Compositor is ECCO, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, a subscription database of nearly 200,000 18c books that can be accessed through most university libraries. ECCO began as microfilm and was digitized from the film. For a great history of ECCO, see Steven H. Gregg's paper "Old Books and Digital Publishing: Eighteenth-Century Collections Online" available here. The path from film to digital means that the reproductions are not always of pristine quality. 
  • The Compositor/Fleuron team must have done an immense amount of image processing that I can imagine only vaguely. They extracted the ornaments from full pages, developed ornament metadata, and, most magically, allowed visual search. Well done!

Okay, enough talk. Let's figure out who printed Piquet for Francis Cogan. My description of the book is here. The imprint, "Printed for F. Cogan at the Middle-Temple-Gate", is silent as to the printer. Scroll down to the contents where it says ‘[headpiece] | SOME | Rules and Observations | FOR | Playing well at CHESS. | [...]’. Click on the link to see again the headpiece with squirrels and then click on "Load Ornament in Visual Search". 

Now for the part requiring some dexterity. As described in the tutorial, you can use the right mouse button to select a rectangular area in the ornament. It will highlight red as you drag, and turn yellow when you are done.  

Selecting an Ornament

When I clicked "search", I found 103 matches: 

Matching an Ornament

You can click on a match and the original image on the left and the match on the right. If you click the middle image, it will toggle between the two and you can determine whether they were made from the same woodblock. Many things can account for differences even when the block is the same: Woodblocks become worn from use. Any given impression can use more or less ink. The microfilm and digitization can introduce artifacts. Despite the differences, I'm awestruck by how well this works! Truly, this be miraculous!!

Now for the part I found a bit clunky. You can click on the filename of the rightmost image to go to a page like this and then click on the link "This ornament was extracted from this book". In this example, you see the first of ten volumes of Moliere's works with the suggestive imprint "printed by and for John Watts at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court near Lincoln's-Inn Fields". One match does not a printer identify, so you'd want to look at more ornaments and more matches. That entails a lot of clicking. And a lot of keeping track of what you're seeing. Well, I wondered, couldn't I automate that?

Did you notice the little button that let you export the search results as a .csv (comma separated variable) file? Well, I saved the 103 matches to a file and dragged out some rusty Python skills to read the .csv file, visit the 103 matches, visit the book from which the ornament was extracted, extract the imprints, and print them out. Ninety minutes of coding; sixty lines of code. It took longer to write this blog post. If you run it for the 103 matches of the squirrel ornament, the first eight results are:

filename:  105540010000600_1
ornament ID:  1171998
ESTC:  T048220
publisher:  printed for F. Cogan at the Middle-Temple-Gate

filename:  005770040202750_0
ornament ID:  944832
ESTC:  T052789
publisher:  printed for H. Lintot, J. and R. Tonson and S. Draper

filename:  041920010801090_0
ornament ID:  634261
ESTC:  T064098
publisher:  printed for John Watts at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court near Lincoln's-Inn Fields

filename:  025940030001100_0
ornament ID:  1028312
ESTC:  T064113
publisher:  printed for John Watts at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court near Lincoln's-Inn Fields

filename:  086630010201970_0
ornament ID:  166790
ESTC:  T089176
publisher:  printed for J. and R. Tonson and S. Draper in the Strand

filename:  025940040000700_0
ornament ID:  838797
ESTC:  T064114
publisher:  printed for John Watts at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court near Lincoln's-Inn Fields

filename:  094430010500090_1
ornament ID:  706629
ESTC:  T064441
publisher:  printed by and for John Watts at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court near Lincoln's-Inn Fields

filename:  015270010000960_0
ornament ID:  763509
ESTC:  T063293
publisher:  printed for Jacob Tonson in the Strand 

It would have been easy and useful to extract the title and date. And to replace the ' with an apostrophe. But that would have taken more than 90 minutes. Had I done so, you would have seen the first item listed is the source book Piquet. Only one of the eight imprints identifies the printer: "printed by and for John Watts...". Of the 103 entries, 31 of them include "printed by" and in all cases, the printer is John Watts. I've visually inspected a good number of the ornament matches and similarly checked other ornaments from Piquet. I'm completely confident that I have identified the printer. 

There are some caveats in working with ornaments to identify printers. The printing of a book may be shared by more than one printer. A printer may loan out his ornaments. You have to be careful about when a printer died--another printer may have inherited the ornaments. My sense is that these caveats are mostly (repeat mostly) theoretical, but you should be aware of them. 

In fact I had done a lot of pre-Compositor ornament searching and had already identified Watts as the printer of Piquet. But with this new tool, I have identified printers for some of the Dublin Hoyles and for some non-Hoyles in my collection. 

Thank you Compositor! And thank you Joseph for the nudge!

For Patrick Spedding's take on Compositor, see his blog essay here.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

2020: The Year in Collecting (part 2)

I shared most of the 2020 acquisitions in an earlier essay, but saved one book, two manuscripts, and some exonumia for this second part. The book is an unusual one for me--a 17c Italian work on the game of Ombre:

Del giuoco dell'ombre. Bologna 1688.

The work is attributed to Cardinal Giovanni Battista de Luca (1614-1683) and is a later edition of a book first published in 1674 with a second in 1675. This 1688 edition is the third, but has a bit of biblio-mystery about it. 

My copy collates 12o: A-C12; 36 leaves, pp. [1-2] 3-67 [68-72] with the two final leaves blank. Lensi, on the other hand, says that the book is a 16o with only 48 pages (so, a sheet and a half). So, is there one book or two?

I checked WorldCat and found four copies:

  • The Bodleian Library has a copy in the Jessel collection, a 12o with no size or pagination given. 
  • Erlangen-N├╝rnberg has a copy noted as 67 pages.
  • The Houghton Library at Harvard describes their copy more fully: 14 cm, with a collation and pagination formula matching mine including the two final blanks. 
  • Stanford's copy is 48 pages and 15 cm. 

The Italian Union Catalogue locates two more copies:

  • The Biblioteca comunale Sperelliana in Gubbio (Umbria) has a copy matching my collation and pagination. 
  • The Biblioteca d'arte e di storia di San Giorgio in Poggiale (Tuscany) has a 48 page copy, a 12o with signatures A-B12.

It seems there are two different books, although Lensi and the Tuscan library disagree about format--a 16o or a 12o. It's a bit hard to sort all this out during the pandemic, but as libraries reopen, I'll send some emails and try to assess differences. 

Vellum binding

My copy is 13.9 cm tall and is bound in vellum as pictured at left. And if I get bored of biblio-mystery, I can always try to decipher the inscriptions on the fly leaf and title pages. 




Next, the manuscripts. I talked about one 18c trictrac manuscript in "The Left Hand of Bougy." I have another which I've never written about on this blog, but is pictured as item 7, here. I found two more trictrac manuscripts, likely late 18c, at an auction this summer. I haven't studied them in depth, but the text does not appear to be copied from any printed book, although the content of both is typical of instructional trictrac books, enumerating the complex rules of the game. The first is titled "Extract of the most general rules and observations on the game of trictrac."


The second manuscript has a somewhat battered cover with a title that I find charming: "Rules of Trictrac according to my husband".










The text has the more pedestrian title "Principal Observations and Rules for the Game of Trictrac."

And now onto the exonumia. Holabird Americana has been selling the vast token collections of Benjamin Fauver. They have sold perhaps ten thousand tokens and there are more to come. A typical lot consisted of many, many tokens. As I'm interested only in the Hoyle items, I bid on one lot only that was all Hoyle and I picked up another token when a Holabird purchaser split up a lot and sold the Hoyle token on eBay. 

Aside: I can tell all kinds of stories about mixed lots at auction, typically a cheap book I really want with more expensive ones I don't. Annoying!!!

Anyway, I was excited to complete a set of early whist tokens. In the essay "Hoyle's Scoring Method and Whist Counters" I showed tokens one, two and three; now I have a duplicate or two, plus number four. The writing on the envelopes is Fauver's and the references to Mitchiner are from Jetons, Medalets and Tokens, volume three, British Isles circa 1558 to 1830, London: Hawkins 1998.

Mitchiner 5645 (obverse)

Mitchiner 5645 (reverse)

And the lovely Fauver token from eBay:

Mitchiner 5646

That's a wrap for 2020!