Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Biographical Notes on Robert Withy (part 1)

I wasn't able to attend this week's conference on Bibliography Among the Disciplines, but did follow a bit on Twitter under the tag #BxD17. One of the memes was "When you fall down a rabbit hole, go for it!" In that vein, my latest rabbit hole is Robert Withy.

I've written about him and his publications about whist and quadrille many times. The most important essay was a series (parts one, two, and three) establishing conclusively that it was he and not Anna Letitia Barbauld who wrote Short Rules for Short Memories at the Game of Whist under the pseudonym "Bob Short".

The rabbit hole is the Withy biography. I happened on some fascinating sources and wanted to pull them together, much as I did for bookseller Francis Cogan. The most important source is an article in Miscellanea, Genealogica et Heraldica, volume III, new series, edited by Joseph Jackson Howard, London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1880. The article is called "Pedigree of Withy of Berry Norbert and Westminster" and includes information compiled by the Vicar of All Saints', Lambeth and transcribes genealogical information from the Withy family bible. It is available for download from Google Books.

I have a couple of other interesting sources that I will save for a later part. 

Here is the first part of a chronology of what I've learned about Withy:

1732-12-11 Robert Withy is born, the son of Hilborne (an upholsterer) and Elizabeth Withy of Coleman Street, London.

1747-07-07 Hilborne binds Robert as an apprentice to the bookseller John Rivington for £105. [McKenzie, Stationers' Apprentices]

1754-09-03 Withy is free of the Stationers' Company. [McKenzie]

1755 Withy begins a bookselling and print-selling career. Some of his imprints are at the sign of the Dunciad in Cornhill. See this lovely broadside advertising his business. Other imprints show Withy in partnership with John Ryall at Hogarth's Head opposite Salisbury Court, Fleet Street. A broadside from that business survives as well. [ESTC]

There are 107 entries in ESTC listing Withy as a publisher. I haven't gone through these in detail to find out what role he played or how many were in partnership with John Ryall. The first 101 are dated from 1755 to 1767, when, as we shall see, Withy left the trade.

1756-02-01 Withy marries, as is noted in the London Evening Post of February 3:
Sunday last Mr. Robert Withy, a bookseller in Fleet-Street, was married to Miss Amelia Hope, daughter of Roger Hope, Esq; of Windsor, an agreeable lady with a handsome fortune. 
One the one hand, this is clearly our Robert Withy. On the other, the marriage does not show up in Miscellanea (which complies both parish records and the Withy family Bible), which notes two marriages, the first of which is the listed immediately below. What is the story of this ignored marriage? A mystery!

1758-03-16 Withy marries Mary, daughter of William and Elizabeth Johnson. The couple had thirteen children from 1759 to 1778, most of whom died in child birth or infancy. There were two sons name Robert who did not survive, followed by a third Robert (born 1768-06-20) who went on to become an attorney and author. [Miscellanea]

1762-03-02 Thomas Dale becomes an apprentice of Withy. [McKenzie]

1766-08-20 Withy leaves the print-selling trade, selling his remaining inventory at auction. The 19 page catalogue survives, titled:
A Catalogue of the Remaining Part of the Stock in Trade, of Mr. Robert Withy, of Cornhill, Print-Seller, who is going into another branch of business: Consisting of a great variety of prints, elegantly framed and glazed for furniture, and in portfeuilles; maps and plans upon rollers; drawing-books copper plates perspective machines, and other effects...which will be sold at auction by Samuel Paterson, at Essex-House in Essex Street, in the Strand, on Wednesday August the 20th, 1766, and the two following days, to begin each day exactly at twelve o'clock. [ESTC, ECCO]
1767-05-21 Withy sells his books and copyrights at a bookseller trade sale. [ESTC] From this point, Withy became a stock broker and auctioneer.

(updated 10/20/2017 with more complete and primary source information on the next section)

1768-02-04 An advertisement appears in the Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser: As we shall see, it was Withy who placed the advertisement.
An estate for seven years to be sold. To prevent trouble, none need apply who cannot deposit four thousand pounds, five hundred of which to be advanced on making out the title, which is a very good one, and the remainder not to be paid till the deeds are executed. Enquire of C. D. at Baker's Coffee-House, Exchange Alley. 
Nonetheless trouble ensued, and quickly. That day, the House of Commons issued two orders as a result of that advertisement. They ordered that Charles Say, printer of the Gazetteer and the person who keeps Baker's Coffee House attend Parliament the next morning, Friday, February 5. (p580)
[Aside: My account is taken from the Journals of the House of Commons. an 1803 reprint, available for download from Google Books. The Journal reports orders, such as the two above, and who was giving testimony, but not always the substance of the testimony.]
The proceedings continue over the next week and a half:
  • On February 5, the House discussed a bill that might possibly be relevant to our story, a bill for the further and more effectual preventing bribery and corruption in the election of members to serve in Parliament. (583) The orders for Say and the keeper of Baker's House were carried over until Monday. (584) On Monday they were carried over until Tuesday. (589)
  • On February 9, Charles Say, printer of the Gazetteer testified that Robert Withy delivered handwritten copy of the advertisement to Say's clerk Hugh Jones on February 3. Samuel Purney, keeper of Baker's Coffee House, said that Withy asked him to delivery any letters which came in response to the advertisement to Withy's home. Purney did so.Withy was directed to appear on Thursday Februrary 11 and bring in any letters he received. Purney and Jones were also directed to attend. (596)
  • On February 11, Withy admitted placing the advertisement, but said that he had received no replies.Purney testified that Withy had frequently ordered letters directed to C. D. to be sent to him. Withy did not bring in any letters, saying that he had received none in response to the advertisement. Purney, contested that claim, informing the house that he had received letters since February 4 which he had delivered to Withy. (603)
  • Withy then opened up. He said that he had received letters from John Reynolds with relation to the borough of Milborne-Port; and that he received instructions from Reynolds to place the advertisement and to refer replies to Reynolds. Withy thought the meaning of the advertisement was an interest in some borough. He received replies from three attorneys, Hickey, Seagrave, and Coulthurst, all whom he referred to Reynolds. Withy claimed he was present at a conversation between Reynolds and Hickey in which Reynolds said that there were some boroughs available at a reasonable price, naming Milborne Port, Reading, and Honiton. Hickey made a deposit for a borough of Redding, and that Hickey identified his principal as Mr. Nightingale. (603)
This gives enough clues to sort out what is going on. Milborne Port and Honiton were "rotton boroughs", defined in the Wikipedia as Parliamentary boroughs so small that coule be used by a patron to gain unrepresentative influence within the House of Commons. Milborne Port is mentioned specifically. A Rowlandson print from 1807 satirizes Honiton as a rotton borough. So, it seems that Parliament is investigating an effort to by a seat in the House of Commons. Back to the proceedings.
  • Parliament ordered Reynolds, Hickey, Seagrave, and Coulthurst to attend the next day, and ordered Withy to be taken into custody to ensure his appearance the next day. No one is to speak to Withy but in the presence of the Serjeant at Arms, and that no letters are to be delivered to or sent by Withy. (603).
  • On February 12, Hickey, Seagrave, and Coulthurst, and Withy appeared, though Reynolds was apparently out of town. There was much testimony, including Withy recanting some details of his earlier testimony.The attorney Hickey was not present at the meeting where Reynolds named the three boroughs; that it was Reynold sand not Hickey who made the agreement about Reading; and that Nightingale was the principal of Reynolds. The proceedings were continued until Monday February 15. John Reynolds was charged with "being guilty of corrupt practices relating to several boroughs", Withy was to be held in custody until Monday February 15 to be further examined. John Reynolds was ordered taken into custody to answer the charge. (606)
  •  February 15, the House had a first reading of the bill for preventing bribery and corruption in the election of members to serve in Parliament. (610)
  • February 15, John Reynolds could not be found. Parliament resolved that a humble address be presented to His Majesty, pleading that he issue a royal proclamation for apprehending John Reynolds with a promise of reward. Hickey and Withy were examined, both separately and together, although there is no report of their testimony. The outcome was that it appeared to the house (by vote of 83 to 37) that Joseph Hickey was guilty of a corrupt attempt to obtain a seat in the House on behalf of a client and he was taken into custody. After further testimony, it was ordered "that the said Robert Withy be discharged out of custody, without paying any fees. (610)
And so ends the story, at least as to Withy. In a 1774 treatise on election law by a "Gentleman of the Inner-Temple", the author noted it was singular to discharge a prisoner without paying any fees. (p116).

Not so for Hickey and Reynolds. On February 18, Hickey petitioned to be discharged, admitting his guilt and promising to avoid incurring censure of the house. He was order to be discharged the next day. (p617). Reynolds was not so fortunate. He was brought to the House on the 18th, and after his testimony and thought of others, including Withy, he was confined to Newgate. His Majesty was requested to direct the Attorney General to prosecute Reynolds.

1778-01-07. Wife Mary dies delivering twins.

1781-01-31 Withy advertises a card with rules for whist in the Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser:
No Puff Poz. This day is published, neatly printed on a card. The fourth edition, with additions. Price on 2d. or 1s. a dozen. A New Year's gift for grown masters and misses. Hoyle Abridged; or Twelve short standing rules for short memories, at the Game of Whist. By Bob Short. Printed for the benefit of Families to prevent Scolding, and sold by the author, at Baker's Coffee-house, Exchange-alley, where he attends daily to answer all questions relating to the game of whist. Advice to the poor gratis...N. B. Signed by the author in such a manner as to defy all counterfeits. 
There is one surviving card in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. One side has "Twelve Short Standing Rules for short Memories at the Game of Whist" beginning with "Lead from your strong suit." and "Lead thro' on honour." The other side has an advertisement for Withy's business:
Robert Withy, Stock Broker and Auctioneer, begs leave to inform his friends and the public that he continues to buy and sell by commission, at public or private sale, estates, life annuities, mortgages, reversions, government and all other securities, also the same valued, and lives insured on the most reasonable terms.
The utmost value given for household furniture and other effects, to be remov’d or sold on the premises. All orders directed for him at Baker’s Coffee House, Change Alley, or at his house...
 This takes us to the beginning of his writing about whist. More soon...

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Breaking News!

How can there be breaking news in a blog about an 18th century author?

I learned this morning that Vanderbilt University just acquired the Clulow and United States Playing Card Company collection of gaming literature. This is a truly important collection, including one of the most complete collections of Hoyle in the United States. The collection has not been available to researchers since I embarked upon my Hoyle project, but is documented in the bibliographical section of Hargrave, A History of Playing Cards and a Bibliography of Cards and Gaming. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1930, 368-446 (reprinted in facsimile New York: Dover. 1966).

I describe the Hargrave work in the essay "Where can I learn more about Hoyle's writing?".

The one book I'm most curious to see is Calculations, Cautions and Observations, by E. Hoyle Jun. London. 1761. The Clulow copy is apparently the sole copy extant; the copy at the British Library was destroyed in the London Blitz. I've written about it in the essay "Contemporary Reviews of Gaming Literature".

I'm seeing a trip to Nashville in my future.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Who Made These Marks?

Let me note quietly the sixth anniversary of this blog!

There is an odd passage on pages 35-6 of Whist.4, the fourth edition of Hoyle's Short Treatise on Whist (1743). Hoyle gives one of his "cases" in a chapter called "Particular Games, and the Manner in which they are to be played...":
Suppose you have Ace, Queen, and three small trumps; Ace, Queen, Ten, and Nine of another Suit; with two small cards of each of the other suits. Your partner leads to your Ace, Knave, Ten, and Nine; and as the game requires rather to deceive your adversaries, than to inform your partner, put up the nine, which naturally leads the adversary to play trumps, if he wins that card. As soon as trumps are played to you, return them upon your adversary, keeping the command in your own hand. If your adversary who led trumps to you, puts up a trump which your partner cannot win, if he has no good suit of his own to play, he will return your partner's lead, imaging that suit lies between his partner and yours; if this finesse of yours should succeed, you will be a great gainer by it, but scarcely possible to be a loser.
That paragraph should give you a good sense of Hoyle's prose. The oddity is that your side suit is given as AQT9, but your partner is said to lead to your AJT9--an obvious inconsistency in the text.

I have three copies of the book and in two of them, there is a hand correction in pencil, making the text consistent by changing AJT9 to AQT9:

Whist.4 (copy 1)

Whist.4 (copy 2)

I have a third copy which is uncorrected. Similarly, the copy in the Bodleian Library digitized in ECCO is uncorrected. But here is one more copy:

Whist.4 (Fox copy)

Interesting! Here it is the holding of AQT9 that is corrected to AJT9, in ink rather than pencil. I know of another five copies, but don't know what appears on page 35--that's probably worth some emails.

How did the error come to be?  That's actually easy to answer. Whist.4 was printed by the same printer who was responsible for the earlier third edition, Whist.3. Indeed some of the type was left standing between Whist.3 (advertised March 18, 1743) and Whist.4 (June 29). The rest is a line-for-line resetting. Let's look at the section from Whist.3:


You can see that the line breaks are identical to Whist.4, consistent with a line-for-line resetting. But here, the hand is AQxxx AJT9 xx xx and partner leads to your AJT9. So, there is no error in Whist.3, nor in Whist.1 or Whist.2 for that matter. Clearly this was an error made by the printer in resetting the type.

Who do you think made the various corrections? It could be either Diligent Readers or a Contrite Printer. In favor of the Diligent Reader view is that the manner of correction differs in the three copies, suggesting different people made the correction. Second, only one of the corrections matches the text from Whist.3, text that would have been available to a Contrite Printer, but likely not to readers. In favor of the Contrite Printer view is that there are other minor errors in Whist.4 that, as far as I can tell, no reader has been diligent enough to correct.

What I do know is that the error persists for a long time. Whist.5 (1744), Whist.6 (1746), and Whist.7.1 (1747) all contain the error. When Thomas Osborne ceased publishing individual works, including whist and other games in Mr. Hoyle's Treatises (discussed here), the error continues until 1763 in Games.4. And when it was corrected, it didn't match Hoyle's original text!

Games.4 (1763)

These later editions suggest another argument for the Contrite Printer: I have never seen the error corrected in any of the later editions. In the end, I just can't say who made the corrections in Whist.4. It would be helpful, I suppose to look at more copies. This is another instance of reward from following the bibliographer's mantra, examine as many copies of a book as possible.

If someone plans to do a critical edition of Hoyle's Whist, this is one of the many little trouble spots!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Another 2016 Acquisition

Only days ago, I published an essay on my 2016 acquisitions. One more just arrived from Austria. I didn't include it in the previous essay because it had been stuck in US Customs for weeks due to some combination of Christmas volume and Homeland Security. But now that it is here, I find much to discuss about the lovely book.

title page

The short title is Gr√ľndliche Anweisung zum Whist-Spiele, published in Vienna and Prague in 1821. It is an anthology of English whist literature translated into German as is evident from a phrase in the long title: "based on examples after the best information of the old as well as the new school from Hoyle to Matthews".

The binding is boards covered with marbled paper and a red leather label on the spine reading "Adams, Whist Spiele." I've never been a huge fan of German books of this era. The fraktur is a challenge for me. The paper generally does not feel good to the touch and the binding is often brittle (though not in this case). This book may be the one to help me overcome my biases--I find it rather charming!


I cannot read the German, but the book has chapters excerpting the important English writers on whist. There is Herrn Hoyle.


After Hoyle, Herrn William Payne wrote Maxims for the Game of Whist. I discuss Payne's writing in the essay "The Most Important Hoyle After Hoyle".


Most of Adams' book is a translation of Thomas Matthews Advice to the Young Whist Player, an important and frequently-reprinted work I discuss here.


And somewhat surprisingly, there are excerpts from Charles Pigott's New Hoyle. New material did appear in later editions of Pigott, all published by James Ridgway after Pigott's death, but they were not about whist, but about other games. See "The Pigott Hoyles" for a list of editions of his books.

All in all, a lot for a small 196 page work! Now, a conundrum. Do I shelve it with my whist books or with my Hoyle's?

There is one other thing I find interesting. The signature marks have a different pattern from anything I've ever seen. The book is a duodecimo, regularly gathered in eights and fours. The first leaf of each gathering is signed numerically 1-16, but the second leaf of each eight-leaf gathering is signed 1*, 3* ... 15*. Only the first leaf is signed in the four-leaf gatherings. I've posted a query to book lists EXLIBRIS-L and SHARP-L to learn if this is typical of the time and location. As I said it's new to me.

There is one other 2016 purchase that is on it's way from Italy, but based on my experience with this book, I can't imagine it clearing customs until the New Year. Read about it perhaps a year from now.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

2016: The Year in Collecting

Earlier this year, the Book Club of California hosted the annual tour of the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies. I was a panelist for a session entitled "Delights and Dilemmas of Booksellers, Librarians, and Private Collectors."  The dilemma I discussed is one familiar to the long-time collector--I don't find much to buy in my area of interest. The upside is that when I do find something, it's quite delightful. There is a video archive of the discussion on the BCC web site.

With that thought, 2016 was, like 2013, 2014, and 2015, a pretty quiet year in collecting. I've already written about the most interesting books, the Scottish miniature in a slip case and the early English book with the rules of piquet. I have four items to discuss here and will treat them in the order published.

The New Pocket Hoyle (1807)
The oldest is a third edition of The New Pocket Hoyle printed by T. Davison for Robert Scholey and others, 1807. Like the first edition, discussed in my essay "Late Hoyles, Early Slipcases", the book was sold in multiple formats, this one in a slip case covered with an engraving dated 1805. It's hard to be 100% sure, but I believe the engraving is identical to the one dated 1802 used in the first edition--the engraver appears to have changed only the date. You can judge for yourself by comparing the picture at right with that in the earlier essay. The New Pocket Hoyle is a relatively common book and was priced accordingly, but it is delightful to find it in a well-preserved case.

Early American Hoyles are much less common. I found the shabby copy of Hoyle's Games pictured below on eBay. It is printed and sold by John Bioren in Philadelphia in 1817. There is a crude tape repair to the spine, but the printed paper covered board has somehow survived. There are only three known copies of this book and I'm only a bit embarrassed to say that I have two of them. Yes, this was a duplicate; perhaps one of my copies will make it to the American Antiquarian Society at some point. They try to collect every early American imprint and tend to be active on eBay. I don't know how they missed this one.

Hoyle's Games, Philadelphia (1817)

Hoyle's Card Games, Glasgow (1826)
Astonishingly, I found another delight on eBay. This is a Glasgow imprint of Hoyle's Card Games (1826). The text is the same as the Bath edition of 1824, and I was aware of an 1827 Glasgow edition with copies at Oxford and Louisiana State (in the poker and Hoyle collection of Judge Olivier P. Carriere). The 1826 Glasgow edition was not known anywhere. Alas the book is imperfect, lacking two leaves at the end, but it seems to be the only survival, so I can't much complain.

Bob Short on Whist (1832)
Finally, a travel story. My family visited Italy and Spain in the Spring. Had I been alone I would have attended the international book fair in Bologna and visited a number of fine book shops in Italy and Madrid. I had different priorities with my family but was pleased to happen upon a shop in Sienna. There I found two gaming books, one of which was a delight. It consisted of four pamphlets in Italian bound together: two on chess, one on the card game of calabrasella, and the last...Hoyle's rules for whist compiled by "Bob Short".

As regular readers may recall, Bob Short is a pseudonym for Robert Withy, about whom I've written frequently. His short rules for whist date to the late 18th century and were reprinted frequently in the first half of the 19th. This Italian edition of 1832 purports to be a third edition. I've tracked down a Florence edition of 1820 which seems to be the earliest, but no sign of a second edition.

Most rare book purchases are online these days. It's a delight to walk into a shop at random and find something that fits so well into my collection. I definitely miss the days when that happened much more frequently!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Piquet, Provenance, and a Puzzle

updated December 17, 2016 with details about the British Library copy of Ombre.

In 2013, 2014, and 2015, I wrote year-end essays highlighting new acquisitions. I've made sporadic interim updates on particularly noteworthy books: a trictrac manuscript and a Scottish miniature in a lovely slip case. I expect to do a year-end piece for 2016, but just acquired a book so delightful that I couldn't wait to write about it. 

Last month in New York, Sotheby's auctioned selections from the Fox Pointe Manor Library. I bought The Royall and Delightfull Game of Picquet (1651), a book I have written about before.

Predating Hoyle by nearly a century, it is the first instructional book on a card game in English. It is instructional in that it provides rules for how to play the two-handed card game of piquet. In 1744 Hoyle wrote the first book of strategy for piquet (mentioned here). I treat the distinction between rules and strategy in parts one and two of an essay on the nature of gaming literature.

The description in the Sotheby's catalogue was sparse:

2016 Sotheby's catalogue entry

I did a great deal of research about the book before bidding. I learned that there were only two institutional copies, one at the British Library (the one digitized for EEBO) and another at the Folger.

I found the book listed in the two standard gaming bibliographies by Horr and Jessel (see my essay "Where can I learn more about Hoyle's writing?"). The entry in Horr was odd:

Horr bibliography

It's clearly the correct book, but the publisher is not Tuckett, but Martin and Ridley. Then again, Horr had not seen many of the books he described. I know that he did not consult the British Library for his 1892 bibliographyit omits many, many gaming books that were in the library at the timeand the Folger was not established until 1932. So, at least initially, it was unclear how Horr even knew of the book.

Jessel, on the other hand, a Londoner, would have visited the British Library for his 1907 bibliography, and his description is more precise:

Jessel bibliography

After consulting the bibliographies, I turned next to auction records, private library catalogues, and bookseller catalogues. I found that architect Sir William Tite owned a copy that was auctioned by Sotheby's in May 1874:

Sotheby's catalogue (Google books)

The purchaser was the London bookseller Quaritch for £2 15s. Note the binding description: "tree-marbled calf extra, g. e. by Tuckett." "Extra" would mean extra decorative tooling and "g. e." would mean that the edges of the pages were gilt. And Tuckett was not the publisher, but the binder! Clearly Horr had seen this auction catalogue or the description in the 1877 Quaritch catalogue:

Quaritch catalogue (Google books)

and mangled the description. Typical Horr! Note that Quaritch had only a modest markup on the title from £2 15s. to £3 3s. Compare that to their much larger markup of gaming literature from the 1928 Rimington-Wilson sale

Picquet also shows up in the Aldenham Library, described here in an 1888 catalogue:

Aldenham Library catalog (Google books)

Ah, Henry Hucks Gibbs, Lord Aldenham! He has appeared a number of times in this blog, most notably in the essay "From the pen and library of Henry Hucks Gibbs." He was a superb collector of much more than gaming literature and a member of the oldest society of bibliophiles in the world, the Roxburghe Club. 

The description of the Aldenham copy is interesting because it notes that 12 pages on the game of Ombre are bound with it. That book is The Royal Game of the Ombre (1660), a rarity with only one copy known at the British Library. Sotheby's auctioned the Aldenham Library in 1937 and the Picquet/Ombre volume was sold to a bookseller named Edwards for £4. The catalogue is too recent to be available on Google books, but I was provided information from a database of auction prices realized. 

I could find records of no other copies. It seemed possible that the Fox Pointe Manor copy might be the Tite copy, although there are discrepancies in the description (a format of 16mo versus 8mo, for example). It seemed unlikely to be the Aldenham copy, as the catalogue did not mention a book on Ombre bound in. In a perfect world, I would examine the book before the sale, but geography intervened. 

Armed with my research, but no recent sales information, I was ready for the auction. I bid live online against one other active bidder and was successful within the limit I had set for myself. Then the waiting...

The book arrived a week and a half later and I first observed the binding, which is indeed lovely. It is "extra" and the edges are gilt. The "grain" effect on the leather is called tree calf or tree-marbled calf.

Picquet, front board

Looking more carefully at the front pastedown, I find a binder's stamp, "Tuckett Binder to the Queen" matching the catalogue description of the Tite copy. 

Binder's stamp

Indeed, there is a penciled inscription "Tite" on the verso of the front fly leaf, although whether by Tite himself or by, say Quaritch, I cannot say. Other notes include the fact that it was entered into a catalogue and an old sales price of, sniff, three pence.

Tite inscription

Clearly, the Fox Pointe Manor copy is the Tite copy. 

But there is more! Inside is a quite-familiar bookplate, that of the Aldenham Librarythe Fox Pointe Manor copy is also the Henry Hucks Gibbs copy!

Bookplate of the Aldenham Library

His signature appears on the flyleaf "Henry H. Gibbs, St. Dunstans, 1878". I recognize the handwriting from other Gibbs books and letters.

Inscription by Henry Hucks Gibbs

The note in Gibbs hand "bought of Quaritch" completes the story. Sotheby's sold the Tite copy to Quaritch in 1874 and Gibbs bought it from Quaritch in 1878.

When I purchased the book, I suspected there might be as many as five copies: the two institutional copies at the British Library and the Folger, the Tite copy, the Aldenham Library copy, and the Fox Pointe Manor copy. I now see that the last three are all the same physical book, now in my collection.

Two things strike me. First is that Sotheby's sold this book three times, but the most recent description was perfunctory, omitting much detail about the book such as the binder, and the provenance. All of that information was more available to them than to me. I suppose they're not willing to spend a lot of time on books in this price range when they sell others for a thousand times as much, but I think the lazy description does the seller a disservice—someone interested in Tuckett bindings or books from the Aldenham Library would never be drawn to this book.

Second, my research into the provenance of this book was atypically backward. Usually one starts with the physical object and observes indicia of ownership in the book. Here, while doing pre-auction research on other copies, I knew who prior owners were, and was delighted to be able to connect them with my book.

Finally, the puzzle. What happened to the rare pamphlet on Ombre that was at one time bound in with this work?  The Tuckett binding from Tite's day is still intact and there is no evidence that I can see of the removal of any text. What happened to Ombre?

I continued my research and found one more data point, another Quaritch catalogue from March 1878:

Quaritch catalogue (Google books)

There are two differences from the earlier listing. First the price is reduced to £2 16s., barely more than Quaritch paid at the Tite auction. Second, the listing mentions Ombre, and indeed is the earliest to do so. So, to complete the chronology, the description in the 1874 Tite sale and the first Quaritch catalogue of 1877 did not include Ombre, while a second Quaritch catalogue of 1878 and all the catalogues of the Aldenham library do include it. Yet it is not present now in what is clearly the Tite/Aldenham copy.

Any solution is speculative. Perhaps the 12 page pamphlet was laid in, rather than bound in, and subsequently become separated. If so, we can only hope it turns up one day. Perhaps the second Quaritch catalogue and all the Aldenham catalogues are all in error, although that seems unlikely. Perhaps Ombre was removed from the book in a way I am unable to detect.

update December 17:
I checked with the British Library about their copy of Ombre. Perhaps they would have information about the book that would suggest that it was once part of my book. Or perhaps they could confirm that it was not, indicating a second copy of Ombre out there somewhere. They told me that they acquired it by donation in 1978, but have no record of the donor. And that it is unbound. These two data points are consistent with the thought that their copy of Ombre was once part of my book. Or not.

There a final twist to the mystery. As I mentioned in my essay on Gibbs, he wrote a book on Ombre with three editions in 1874, 1878, and 1902, the latter of which he presented to members of the Roxburge Club that year. He made extensive references to historical Ombre literature throughout the book. For example:
Barrington says in his 'Archaelogia' that Ombre was introduced into this country by Queen Catherine of Barganca. We know that she played the game; for Waller wrote an epigram 'On a card that her Majesty tore at Ombre.' This must have been about 1680; but we have an earlier mention of the game in 'Pepys's Diary' under the date of September 1665. [Gibbs. The Game of Ombre, London: 1902, page 3]
The reference to Pepys did not appear in the 1874 or 1878 editions, but did appear in that of 1902. If Gibbs were aware of an even earlier reference in English, particularly from his own library, wouldn't he have mentioned it here?

Ombre remains a mystery, but Picquet, having graced the Tite, Aldenham, and Fox Pointe Manor libraries, has now found a new home.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Fifth Anniversary: The half-year in collecting

Today marks the fifth anniversary of this blog. Most of my energy is devoted to the descriptive bibliography of Hoyle, substantial portions of which are now online. But I don't want to neglect the blog entirely.

1806 Dundee miniature Hoyle

So let me share a recent purchase, a condition upgrade to a book I wrote about in the essay "The Scottish Hoyles (part 2)". It is Hoyle's Game of Whist printed in Dundee Scotland by W. Chambers for booksellers in London, Edinburgh, and Perth. It is the only miniature Hoyle with a text block that is 3 1/8" tall. While my copy was in satisfactory condition, it had been rebound.

The new copy is in near mint condition with the original binding of goldenrod papers and a red leather spine. Interestingly, the binding is different from that of the copy at the National Library of Scotland (pictured in the previous essay), also original. Perhaps each of the three booksellers issued the book in different bindings. Note the crescent of discoloration to the top of the book. Can you identify the cause? 

The discoloration is from the thumb-hole of a slipcase. Yes, this charming miniature was issued in a slipcase! See the pictures below of couples dancing at a ball and a foursome playing at whist. Rather charming, don't you think?

I've written about Hoyles in slipcases a couple of times. First in "Late Hoyles, Early Slipcases" I discuss two examples, one from 1802 and another from 1803. And in "An Epitome of Hoyle, a Discovery, and two Coincidences" I discuss a very early slipcase from the early 1780s.

It is an interesting question why publishers decided to go to the expense of making the slipcases. A comment from the 1803 work suggests that the goal may be to appeal to women:
The proprietors of Hoyle's Games Improved, ambitious of retaining that patronage which those who endeavour to serve or amuse the public generally acquire, have had the whole work carefully revised and enlarged with, as they hope, material corrections throughout; and supposing that the same might with propriety be divided into nearly two equal portions, one calculated for the card table, and most suitable for ladies, the other appropriate to the male sex, as containing games that require stronger exertion or more intense application; the proprietors consequently now first publish, in a convenient size and elegant manner, that part which they trust will prove most acceptable to their fair country-women, intending soon to print the rest in a similar form, so as to give a complete edition of a book containing the most fashiable games, both of skill and chance.
My copy of the Dundee Hoyle made six known copies and it was the only one in the slipcase. However, shortly after I purchased it, another copy came to auction as part of a shelf lot of 19th century bindings. So now there are seven, two of which are in slipcases. Perhaps the seventh copy will appear in the trade before much longer!