Tuesday, December 27, 2022

2022: The Year in Collecting

A dozen books came my way this year--some condition upgrades, some of interest only to the Hoyle completist, plus a few gems. I'll discuss five of them in the order they were published.

The earliest acquisition is a third edition (1671) of Wits Interpreter: The English Parnassus. Most collectors want first editions, but I would not have been interested in the first (1655) or second (1662). The book collects love songs, poems, and dialogues from plays in reaction against the Cromwell revolution. With Charles II restored to the throne in 1660, the third edition included material on games, as highlighted in the preface:

I took advantage from this golden season...the golden age of His Majesties happy Restauration, from which all manner of Wit and Ingenuity received as it were a new birth, to add several Games and Sports, the most A la Mode and Curious, that are now in esteem among the Gentilest...
Part 7 contains chapters on ombre, piquet, gleek, cribbage, and chess. Jessel observes that this book is the earliest that has come down to us with a treatise on card games, predating The Compleat Gamester (discussed here) by three years.

1671 Wits Interpreter

My copy is in a luscious, extensively decorated morocco binding with the bookplate of Charles Tennant of The Glen in Scotland. 

Bookplate of Charles Tennant

There are two minor bibliographical oddities about the book. First, the title page identifies the author only as J. C. and the book it has universally been attributed to John Cotgrove, including by the ESTC. Joshua McEvilla recently demonstrated conclusively the the author is John Cragge in The Library, 18:3 337-344 (2017). 

Second, there appear to be at least two versions of the third edition. Mine (like ESTC R2199) has the imprint "printed for N. Brook, at the Angel in Cornhill, and Obadiah Blagrave, at the Printing Press in Little Britain, MDCLXXI." Other copies (like ESTC R225554) omit the second line of the imprint. Moreover, at least one copy of the second issue ends on page 351, while other copies have a catchword at the bottom of 351 and the book continues through page 520. Library inquiries would be required to understand the variants I have seen in a small number of copies. 

I purchased another copy of Games.5, the "fourteenth" edition of Mr. Hoyle's Games (1767). As I wrote in an earlier essay, some copies have a cancel title page, others the uncancelled page, and a couple have both. I found a copy with both title pages, crossing a completist variant off my list. 

Also among my desiderata was the New York edition of Beaufort's Hoyle's Games Improved (1796). I found a Boston edition in 2014. When I purchased a Philadelphia edition in 2018, I wrote "Does anyone know where I can pick up the one sold in New York?" I got an email from a bookseller friend noting that another dealer had listed that book for sale and can now cross that off the list.

Hoyle's Games Improved
New York (1796)

The next item is not obviously by Hoyle, although the text is almost entirely his. It was first published in 1798 by H. D. Symonds. I noted an 1817 reprint by John Harris in an essay on eighteenth century backgammon literature. I bought an earlier Harris edition (1801) at auction.
1801 Rules and Directions for Backgammon

1801 Rules and Directions for Backgammon

The last book came from an annoyingly mixed lot at auction, consisting of a Compleat Gamester worth thousands, a signed Hoyle (which I had) worth hundreds, and a later obscure Hoyle worth not very much. The obscure Hoyle is an 1820 reissue of a book first published in 1808 with a cancel title, although why it got reissued I cannot say. The book is rare, with copies recorded at Cleveland Public, Louisiana State, and Vanderbilt. Great rarity does not always mean great value. 

1820 The New Pocket Hoyle

I was not willing to bid anywhere near enough to be competitive on the lot, but I tried an approach that is usually unsuccessful. I wrote the auction house and told them of my interest in the least of the books and asked them to pass my name onto the winning bidder. They did so and I heard back from the winning buyer, a bookseller I know casually, and he was delighted to sell me the book for a modest price. A happy ending, and another to cross off my list. 

Best wishes for a happy 2023!

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

2021: The Year in Collecting (part 4)

The Hoyle I purchase at a German auction in late November has finally arrived. Before taking a close look at it, let's return to the December auction where I bought four lots, fourteen books, including the whist manuscript discussed in the last essay. There were some early books on the game of ombre, but I'll focus on the Hoyles. My collection is deep and the opportunities for me are mostly with cheap literature and with translations. 

For cheap literature, it is hard to top this Hoyle's Games in Miniature, purportedly by Bob Short, Jun.

Hoyle in Miniature 1825c. wrapper

I've written about the chapbooks by "Bob Short," which I have shown is the pseudonym of Robert Withy (see "Who is 'Bob Short'?" parts one, two, and three). Like Hoyle himself, Bob Short became a brand. Withy himself wrote only about whist and quadrille in the 1780s and 1790s, but in the first half of the 19th century, you could find all sorts of chapbooks and cheap books offered under his pseudonym, sometimes, as here, with a disingenuous "Jun." appended. There is a charming and naive hand-colored frontispiece:

frontispiece and title page

This is a reissue of a book first published in 1820 or so. The original book was imposed in eights; the reissue in sixes, still the same setting of type. The reissue also adds eight pages on the games of brag and domino, which are listed on the title page, but not on the wrapper. These cheap books are quite rare. The only copy of the first issue is at the Bodleian Library and mine is one of two surviving second issues. 

I'll show without comment two French translations of Hoyle treatise on whist, one published in the Hague by Staatman in 1765, the other in Amsterdam by Prault in 1767. 

Staatman 1765
Prault 1767

Now onto the gem. In general, editions of Hoyle are objects of commerce, not luxury. With the exception of the first edition of Hoyle's first book, pictured here, the bindings are cheap, utilitarian, and not particularly attractive. Here is a second exception, albeit a bit stained:

deluxe Italian? binding

The book is an Italian translation of Hoyle on chess printed in Florence in 1768. 

Scacchi, Florence, 1768.

The long title translates as The game of chess with some rules and observations to play it well, by the Englishman Mr. Hoyle translated into our language and dedicated to incomparable merit of Mr. Dudley Digges, English officer of the navy in the service of his British Majesty. We'll return to Mr. Digges in a moment. The book is quite rare with only three institutional copies in major chess collections: the White collection at Cleveland Public (pictured here), the van der Linde collection at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (available on Google), and the Fiske collection at the National and University Library in Iceland. A label in my copy says it is a duplicate from the collection of Lothar Schmid (1928-2013), so perhaps a fifth copy remains in that collection, which I understand is still intact.

The text is not from Hoyle's 1761 work on chess, as one might expect, but rather from the second half of Hoyle's treatise on piquet, first published in 1744, and included in all editions of Hoyle's Games thereafter. To give a sense of the typography, here is the beginning of the text:

Chess, part one

There are a few additions by the translator. The first is a two-page letter to the reader: 

Translator's preface

The translator is Ranieri Collini and the preface expresses fawning admiration of Digges. Some rough translations: 

"To whom better than you to be able to dedicate this book..."

"...having reendered yourself ably in the service of your august monarch..."

"...long undertakings, and painful voyages by land and sea..."

"I know that your soul is very alien to conceit..."

In the third and final section of the book, Hoyle had 14 numbered paragraphs and Collini adds a fifteenth: 

Part 3, paragraph XV

It connects the game of chess to antiquity, noting that the title of Augustus was given to one of the imperial Romans for having won ten games of chess in a row. I haven't seen that anecdote before!

So how did Collini and Digges cross paths? A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy, 1701-1800, Yale University Press, 1997 is based on an archive assembled by Sir Birnsley Ford and edited by John Ingamells. It is an alphabetical listing of visitors to Italy, many undertaking the grand tour. The dictionary shows Captain Dudley Digges and his brother West Digges visiting Florence in 1767, a year before the Hoyle was published:

Dictionary p301

Astonishingly, the source document, Gazzetta Toscana, is available on Google books. An entry marked "Florence, December 26, 1767" reads:

Gazzetta Toscana, p215

Correcting the misspelling of the names, this translates in part:

"Among the foreign gentlemen who came to this capital in the space of eight days are...Messrs. Belven, West Digges, English gentlemen, Mr. Dudley Digges, captain in service of his British Majesty."

I have not been able to track down Belven. West Digges is a quite well-known comic actor, but if Collini had met them both, he must have been more impressed with brother Dudley. The text in the gazette almost matches the dedication on the title page. So it is possible to connect Collini and Digges in time and space. It would be fascinating to learn how they came to meet.

It took more than six weeks for this gem to travel here, but it was well worth the wait, don't you think?


Sunday, January 9, 2022

2021: The Year in Collecting (part 3) Who is William H?

In part 2, I said that I wasn't ready to write about the bundle of books I bought at a mid-December auction. This essay will discuss just one of them, an extraordinary manuscript on the game of whist. First, the description from the auction catalogue:

Manuscript. Rules for the game of whist, circa 1820s, 196 leaves, written throughout in a neat legible hand in sepia and red ink, Contents at front with step index, some marginal toning, marbled endpapers, hinges splitting, armorial bookplate of Joseph Tasker, Middleton Hall, Essex, all edges gilt, contemporary straight-grained red morocco by Frank Murray of Derby, Leicester & Nottingham, with his label to front pastedown, flat spine ruled and lettered in gilt ‘Game of Whist’, spine rubbed and darkened, upper cover re-jointed, gilt single fillet on covers and edges, gilt roll on turn-ins, 8vo
Bearing the bookplate of Joseph Tasker whose library was sold at auction in 1862 and 1868.

A beautifully-written manuscript comprising rules for the game of whist, containing references throughout to Hoyle and Payne, and with a list of contents included at the front.

The manuscript consists primary of excerpts from Hoyle. It is peculiarly numbered--it is the openings that are numbered, rather than the pages or the leaves. Here is opening 11, which will give you a sense of the manuscript:

opening 11

 The paragraph in the upper right is one such Hoyle excerpt:

A and B are Partners against C and D; A leads a Club, his Partner B plays before the Adversary C; in this case D has a right to play before his Partner C, because B played out of his Turn.

Hoyle  50-9.                 
Payne  8-3.

This is what Hoyle and contemporaries called a "law" of whist. It was not a rule telling how to play the game, but a remedy to redress an irregularity that can occur at that table, here a play out of turn. 

It took some work to decipher the references to Hoyle and Payne. P refers to a page number and C a "case," as Hoyle frequently designated sections of his text. The hunt was on to find this text on page 50 of an edition of Hoyle.  It turns out that the Hoyle references are to the 1796 edition of Hoyle's Games Improved, revised and corrected by Charles Jones (Jones.5). Here is page 50, case IX of that book, matching the text of the manuscript:

Hoyle's Games Improved (1796)

The reference to Payne was more difficult. Payne wrote the second book on whist after Hoyle, Maxims for Playing the Game of Whist (1773), discussed here. In no edition of Payne did the laws appear as early as page 8. Finally I found the reference, not in Payne, but in the Charles Pigott's New Hoyle (Pigott.1.1). There were three issues of the first edition of that book, all with the same setting of type. Here is a photo from the third issue, again matching the text of the manuscript:

Pigott's New Hoyle (1796)

This oddity persists throughout the book. All of the hundreds of manuscript references to Payne are actually to this early edition of Pigott!

It might have been quicker for me to identify the sources had I reached opening 18 more quickly: 


It reads:

The foregoing Laws at Whist, with the following general rules for playing the Game, as well as the instructions for playing particular Hands, are taken from the revised and corrected edition of Hoyles Games Improved, by Chas Jones, Esqr; also, from a Publication called New Hoyle, Printed by Ridgeway, York Street, Saint James's, from the Manuscript of the late Charles Pigott Esqr; both were published in 1796. WmH.
WmH? This must be the monogram of the compiler of the manuscript! And that took me back to the preliminary material. In addition to the 196 openings with Arabic numbers, there are also 22 preliminary leaves with Roman numerals. The opening below shows an alphabetical table of contents and the step index mentioned in the catalogue. If you click on the image to enlarge it, you will see that the contents refer to pages marked in black ink and "cases" marked in red:

page III

Now I understood an entry which confused me on first reading:

H Wm, his observations 3-2-3. 4-1-2-3-4. 6-1. 8-1. 14-1. 17. 51-1-2-3-4-5. 86-1. 105-26. 192-3. 155-4 156-7.

The manuscript has many interpolations by the compiler. Not all of them were indexed in the table of contents. The most interesting is from opening 14. First, the compiler transcribes a law from an old edition of Hoyle (one of four such references in the manuscript) and notes that it is obsolete:

page 14

The laws reads:

No Person may take new Cards in the middle of the Game, without the consent of all Parties. 

Hoyles old Edtn 81-23                 
The law addresses the right of a player to request a new pack of cards, feeling that that the old ones were running against him. I believe that the reference is to the "eleventh" edition of Hoyle's Games from 1757 (Games.2), pictured below. There is another possibility based on the page and case numbers for the 4 references to the old edition of Hoyle, so I'm not 100% certain.

Hoyle's Games
"eleventh" edition (1757)
It is the commentary below the law that is of the most interest:

NB. The above Law is Obsolete.

I betted Ten Guineas that no Person might take fresh Cards in the middle of the Game without the consent of the Adversaries; it was referred to the first Whist Club in England held at that time (1792) at Martindales St. James’s Street; when they decreed, that either Party might have fresh Cards at any Point of the Game, (the Party calling paying for them) without consulting the opposite Party. WmH.
Martindales was a club that took over the premises of another club, White's, in 1789. I suppose the new law is a money-maker for the club--likely they mark up the cost of the cards and are delighted when someone wants new ones! From the anecdote we can deduce that WmH was an adult in 1792 and a man of sufficient means to make a frivolous ten guinea bet. Perhaps he was a member of Martindales.

So who is WmH?
My first thought was that he must have owned one of the early editions of Pigott, which are quite scarce. Might one of the few surviving copies have a revealing bookplate or signature? The only copy of the first issue is at the Bodleian Library. There are no surviving second issues and only two third issues--one at the Bodleian and one in my collection. Sadly, none of the three books was helpful. The first issue has the ownership inscription of J. Muzio whom I cannot identify, and there was nothing useful in the other two.

Second, I went through all the whist literature looking for a William H of the right time period. I found nothing about members of Martindale's club. A book about White's Club notes that General William Howe (1729-1814), commander in chief of the British army in North America, was a member. There is a lot of Howe manuscript material online, but I don't feel qualified to compare the handwriting.
The Jessel bibliography records a four-volume set called Rational Recreations by William Hooper, but that does not particularly deal with whist. The index in Courtney's English Whist and Whist Players (1894) lists artist William Hogarth and writer William Hazlitt as connected to whist. Hogarth (1697-1764) is too early. The samples I've seen of Hazlitt's handwriting do not match the manuscript, but of course the compiler and the scribe may be two different people.

The identity of WmH is likely to remain a mystery. It has been great fun digging into the manuscript and trying to understand it. My conclusion is that it has very little material that is not in any late 18c edition of Hoyle, but that the material is much better indexed and cross-referenced. What a treasure!