hist-games: Charles Cotton's "Compleat Gamester"

Mark Waks justin at intermetrics.com
Wed Feb 18 07:58:47 PST 1998

David Levy quoted Christian:
> >Are there any other reprints of pre-1900 books on games?

Didn't notice that question the first time around...

> I just picked The Book on Games of Chance, a 1961 reprint of the 1953
> translation of Gerolamo Cardano's Liber de Ludo Aleae written about 1520,
> but first published in 1663. This is a moderately intelligible work on
> gambling and probability which pre-dates the Pascal and Fermat writings by
> 130 years. The book addresses a number of dice, table and card games,
> especially primero.

Yes -- cryptically. I've seen many people reconstruct primero from
Cardano's description, and no two seem to come out quite the same. One
of these days, I'll take a crack at it myself (and probably wind up with
yet a different version)...

Lessee; other books. Well, sometime this year (gods willing), we will
hopefully see the transcription of Willughby's Volume of Plaies, the
single most valuable early English gaming book I know of (never
published, but the MS still exists) -- this is being finished up, and
the preprint draft copy I got a year or two ago has proven enormously
useful. I assume that Jeff Singman (who is one of the editors) will tell
us when it comes out. My bibliography cite for it is at:


You *must* buy this when it comes out; not only is the original book the
very finest, but the editorial material in the appendices is hugely
useful in researching this stuff...

(No, no one's paying me to gush here. I really mean it -- Willughby is
better than any other source, including Cotton...)

Ascham's Toxophilus (a book on archery, with a short screed about
gaming) was reprinted in facsimile in 1969. Samuel Rid's Art of Iugling
(mostly a street-magic book) was done in 1974. Both of these were part
of The English Experience series of facsimiles. 

And of course, the Early English Text series has published huge amounts
of microfilm, covering most of the books published in English before
1700; if you can get access to a copy of the set (a couple thousand
reels of microfilm), it's invaluable for research. Off the top of my
head, I've pulled from there copies of Fulke's Philosopher's Game (which
I've transcibed onto the Period Games page), Caxton's The Game at Chess
(the first printed work in English, I gather), a couple of editions of
Cotgrave's Wit's Interpreter and Cotton's Compleat Gamester, as well as
numerous other tidbits.

All of the above are cited in my main bibliography (which I really need
to bring up to date), at:


And of course, there's the CD-ROM transcription of the Alfonso MS that
I've seen talking about lately, and which I am agonizingly slowly
beginning to try to translate. Anyone here know anything much about 13th
century Spanish? There are some verb forms (and a few roots) that have
me completely stumped so far; they're nothing like anything I can find
in my modern Spanish, ancient French, or Latin dictionaries...

				-- Justin
				   Who doesn't know any Spanish, of
				     course, but it's not like not
				     knowing Italian ever stopped me on
				     the dance sources...

Random Quote du Jour:

Re: Usenet Etiquette & talk.bizarre
">I know. This place has got to be the most dismal example of rudeness
 >and inhumanity known to man. 
 Actually, we'd like to think that this is quite an outstanding
 example of rudeness and inhumanity."
		-- Sho

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