hist-games: Dominos

Christian Joachim Hartmann lukian at Null.net
Wed Oct 29 23:43:19 PST 1997


At 23:16 28.10.97 -0500, Ed Hopkins <Ed.Hopkins at mci.com> wrote:

>Speaking of dominos, I have seen some sets that go up to double
>nines, and I own a set with pictures instead of pips (for innumerate
>players).  When did these innovations come about?
>
>-- Alfredus Scurra

One author claims that the sets with 7, 8 and 9 pips originated only in the 19th c.

As to dominos with pictures, I think there are not for innumerate people but for children - a special group of innumerates thus.

The pips on the die are themselves a symbol for the numbers 1 to 6 which helped the illiterate and innumerate people in pre-modern times.
In those times,versions of roulette were popular, where the wheel is not numbered with (roman or arabic) numbers, but rather painted with a number of dice-faces showing the number. E. g. instead of the number twelve there would be three die-faces showing four; instead of the number fourteen there would be two dice showing five and one showing four.
In a typical example, you've got sixteen numbers to your roulette-wheel showing all the numbers that can be thrown with three dice, that is the numbers from 3 to 18.
I believe that there where people who could gather the number as shown on the dice but could not "read" the arabic ciphers.
(Transgression: There were also "fourtune-wheels" showing playing cards instead of numbers or dice.)

To come back to the question: As the innumerate people were already happy with the traditinal dice and their representation on dominos, the picture-dominos have to be for children. And this would put the origin of that kind of dominos to the century when one realised for the first time that the special abilities (disabilites in that case) of children called for specialy made games: the (early) 19th century.

The first dated example of such a picture-domino I have seen is from ca. 1840.

**       Christian Joachim Hartmann 
**       lukian at Null.net
**       christian.hartmann at uni-duesseldorf.de

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