hist-games: Long Lawrence

Peter Michaelsen PMI at KM.DK
Tue May 15 11:04:26 PDT 2007

-----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
Fra: Peter Michaelsen 
Sendt: 14-05-2007 23:40
Til: 'Jon at Gothic Green Oak'
Emne: SV: hist-games: Long Lawrence

It is very nice that so many people are interested in the Long Lawrence die.
I wrote about it in my article "On some unusual types of stick dice", BOARD GAMES STUDIES 6, 2003 (pp.9-24).
This was partially based upon my article "Ponni, niks, alle-halve", ORD OG SAG 22, Institut for Jysk Sprog- og Kulturforskning, Aarhus University 2002 (pp.47-61).
Wnen I wrote these articles I did not know Willughby's description, published in 2003.
I made a photocopy of the pages in Willughby, but can't find them right now. As far as I remember, a note is telling that the Lang Lawrence was mentioned already in a poem from 1607. 
Prismatic dice sticks and also more or less cubic dice were probably used in the Middle Ages. Leo van der Heijdt suggested - in his FACE TO FACE WITH DICE. 5000 years of dice and dicing (Groningen 2002) ,p.103, that the Long Lawrence was used in the Middle Ages. We have no exact proof, but it probably was.
The put-and-take game is probably referred to by the Scottish poet William Dunbar in a poem from c.1500-1520: "He playis with totum, and I with nichell". In the early 18th c. 'totum' is described as "a whirlbone, a kind of die that is turned about". At that time a new name became usual: 'T totum' (the letter T, inscribed on one of the sides of the die, was placed before the word); later in the 18th c. the form was changed into 'tetotum' and around 1800 into 'teetotum', the current form in English. The original 'totum' was preserved in English dialects. (See OED, 2nd. ed. vol.XVII and XVIII (teetotum, totum). Se also The Scottish National Dictionary Vol. IX, (Edinburgh 1974),p.370, and the The English Dialect Dictionary Vol VI (Oxford 1905), p.203.
The word 'totum' is testified in French from 1611. In the mid 17th c. the form 'toton' appears for the first time, corresponding to the French pronounciation of the Latin word, and c.100 years later the old way of spelling it disappears.
An earlier French name for the same object was 'pirouette', first known evidence is from 1451. A related word with the same meaning: 'pirouelle' appears in a poem by Guillaume de Machaut from 1364 (see Trésor de la Langue Francaise vol.13 (Paris 1988), p.419: "pirouette".
Rabelais refers to the same put-and-take game 'pille, nade, jocque, fore' in his Gargantua II, 11, and I, 22 from 1534.
I think that it is difficult to say, if the medieval Jews borrowed the game from their non-Jewish neighbours in Europe, or the other way round. The Hebrew consonants on the four sides of the 'dreidel': nun, gimel, he, shin suggests, however, that Jiddisch-speaking Jews adopted a German variant with the letters N (nichts), G (ganz), H (halb), S (stell ein, Jiddisch: 'shtell').
According to a popular etymology this was interpreted as the first letters in the Hebrew message 'nes gadol hajah sham' (= a great miracle happened here).
When I browsed the internet for information about this subject, I did also find a reference which told that this dice top was known by Jews in France in the Middle Ages under various Hebrew names. Unfortunately I was not able to get access to the source referred to in Gilad J. Gevaryahu: www.shamash.org/listarchives/mail-jewish/volume22/v22n46 On that home page there was a reference to an article by Rabbi Dr. Meir Grunwald in SEFER HA'MOADIM V (1961) p.225-226.
In my BGS article I make an attempt to compare the special signs or markings on the sides of the Lang Lawrence with the markings on dice sticks used in some quite different outdoor games. Prismatic dice sticks with four letters on the sides seem to have been rather common in Denmark and Northern Germany, but unknown elsewhere. Perhaps some of you might want to discuss some of my ideas which I put forward in my article?
I may tell more about them in my next mail.
Peter Michaelsen.

-----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
Fra: hist-games-bounces at www.pbm.com [mailto:hist-games-bounces at www.pbm.com]På vegne af Jon at Gothic Green Oak
Sendt: 14-05-2007 18:14
Til: hist-games at www.pbm.com
Emne: hist-games: Long Lawrence

According to Parlett the Long Lawrence was used for playing Put and Take, which is an earlier game played with a teetotum - though how much earlier the teetotum is than the Long Lawrence I do not know (apart from the well known Bruegel reference of 1560). There is also the Jewish game played at Hanukkah with a dreidel (=teetotum) though again I am unsure of the antiquity of this. Could Put and Take and the teetotum have originated in the Jewish communities of medieval Europe and then passed to a broader gaming public? or is this just wishful thinking....

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