hist-games: Primero

Thierry Depaulis thierry.depaulis at freesbee.fr
Fri Nov 1 12:17:56 PST 2002

On Tue, 29 Oct 2002 Imran Ghory wrote:

>I've found an usefull resource for the research of period games, the
>literary journal "Notes and Queries" in it I've found a number of articles
>which have allowed me to find older references to card games. (...)
>In particular the 1913 volume has a series of articles on Primero, well
>worth reading for anyone interested in the game.

I think it is important to quote the full reference since it is mainly one
*article* on Primero, by J.S. McTear.

It's in "Notes and Queries", 11th series, Vol. VII, (January) 1913, pp.
1-3, 23-24, 41-43.

Since "Notes and Queries" --an ancestor of our present-day discussion
forums-- was rather widespread there must be a collection near you.
McTear's article is really worth reading, although his final reconstruction
is in error.

McTear first quotes Berni's "Capitolo del gioco della primiera" (1526; 2nd
printing 1534), the earliest book giving the rules of a card game (and the
real Italian names for Numerus, Supremus, Fluxus, etc.). He uses Singer's
(1816) English translations of Berni and Cardano (quotations of the main
passages), then deals with "la prime" in France (here poorly documented
while there are lots of references) and ends with a list of English

The 2nd part has a quotation of Sir John Harington's Epigram 2: "The story
of Marcus's life at primero" then goes on examining some other English
sources, e.g. Florio's "Second Fruites" (1591) and Minsheu's Dialogue of
1599 (both used by Justin du Coeur in his recent reconstruction).

In the third part McTear offers a reconstruction of the game. I think he's
wrong on the whole but there might be something to glean. The article ends
with about thrity quotations from English sources.

I must say I did not know McTear's article: thank you Imran!

I only knew what the same author had published on Gleek in The Gentleman's
John Smith McTEAR, "Gleek: a forgotten old game", The Gentleman's Magazine,
Vol. 287, Oct. 1899, pp. 358-367.

Thierry Depaulis

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