hist-games: Willoughby is out!

Jane & Mark Waks waks at comcast.net
Sat Dec 13 08:27:21 PST 2003

The (very) long-awaited transcription of Francis Willoughby's Book of 
Games is here! I just got my copy (ordered something like a year ago) 
from the printers.

The book is expensive ($114), but strongly recommended for anyone 
serious about the field. While Willoughby's MS is post-period for the 
SCA (1660's), it sheds a lot of light onto the games of early modern 
England, and in many cases it's the earliest clear description of games 
that are referenced in the 16th century.

The book was clearly intended to be an encyclopaedia, and while it was 
unfinished, it's relatively well-organized. Willoughby's descriptions 
are much clearer than those of many of his contemporaries, like Cotton. 
For example, my Tick-Tack reconstruction is based mainly on Willoughby, 
rather than on Cotton's rather cryptic description. I've reconstructed a 
number of popular games based on my very old (~7 years) preprint copy of 
this book. And frankly, I encourage active discussion of my 
reconstructions, now that others can get the book and check my work. 
While I'm pretty confident of my stuff, it would be good to get other 
insights into this text.

The accompanying materials are also quite valuable. For example, the 
glossary in the back includes historical info on all of the listed 
games, including all of the early citations of those games. For the SCA 
researcher, this is a good quick filter for deciding which games are 
more likely to be appropriate for our context. The less common 
terminology is spelled out clearly, and the bibliography is extensive.

And frankly, this book is just plain fun -- one of my favorite toys. It 
has *so* many good games that it's great to work through. Card games, 
board games -- heck, it's even got a description of hurling. (Which, I 
must note now that I've actually thought to look at it again, bears 
little resemblance to the way the game is played in the SCA.) Now that 
I've got this easier-to-work-with edition, I really need to delve back 
into it.

If you are serious about period games, check it out; IMO, it's one of 
the three or four most useful books on the topic. The publisher is 
Ashgate, and the book can be ordered from www.ashgate.com...

				-- Justin

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