hist-games: Long Lawrence

Peter Michaelsen PMI at KM.DK
Tue May 15 15:30:29 PDT 2007

It seems very likely that the four-sided Long Laurence described and drawn by Francis Willughby represents an earlier stage of development compared to the eight-sided version described in Alfred Easther: A glossary of the dialect of Almondbury and Huddersfield, 1883, reprint Vaduz 1965, and quoted by Alice Bertha Gomme in her book: The traditional games of England, Scotland and Ireland, 1894-98, reprint New York 1964 (p.326f.).
Occasionally the Lang Laurence which Alfred Easther knew had only four sides, so this tradition was still alive in the late 19th c.
Now I found my photocopy of Willughby's book. In my last e-mail I referred to a note mentioning the year 1607 as the earliest reference to this game. The text of the note tells: "This game is alluded to by Willughby's contemporary John Wilson in his play T
'The Cheats' (1607: iv.i.46); it was still in use in the nineteenth century. It closely resembles the game of the tee-totum and its relatives, including the Jewish dreidel, which are essentially the same device in the form of a polyhedral top. A similar four-sided stick is used as a die in India."
The year 1607 can not be correct. John Wilson (1627?-1696) who was indeed a contemporary of Francis Willughby (1635-1672)wrote 'The Cheats' in 1662. 
It would also have been more relevant to refer to the similar four-sided stick used for the put-and-take game in Denmark and Northern Germany (Schleswig-Holstein), than to mention the Indian stick dice used in quite different games.
Under the heading 'Long Laurence' Willughby writes:
"A Long Laurence is a long parallelopipedon, one of whose sides has nothing cut upon it and is called Blanke, the opposite side has severall crosse lilnes & crosses & is called Soope All. One of the other sides has 2 crosse lines, & the opposite to it one.
Everie one of the plaiers stake one at first, and then they throw the Long Laurence by turnes as a die. If a Blanke bee throwne they neither take up nor lay downe any. If Soope All, they take up all. If the side that has [two vertical lines] upon it, they lay downe 2. If the side that has [one vertical line], they take up one. And as often as all are taken up they all stake againe.
A tetraedrical die would serve better for this game, with the same marks upon the 4 sides."
Willughby's drawing of the four sides of the die shows 4 crosses and 2 vertical lines on the side named 'Soope All'.
It seems that the exact number of crosses could vary. The number was not important, as the crosses and lines should simply
symbolize that the whole pool was taken. 
Easther's L.L. differs from Willughby's, having 10 crosses and a mysterious W on two of its sides. It seems that this L.L. tradition was influenced by a dice stick tradition known from West Flanders and South-West Norway, which again had other parallels in South Western Scotland, the Faroe Isles and other parts of Southern Norway. 
More about this in my next e-mail.
Best wishes,

-----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: 15-05-2007 21:24
Til: hist-games at www.pbm.com
Emne: hist-games: Long Lawrence

What you have told us is fascinating and so please do send more. The markings on the sides of the Long Lawrence are enigmatic and any light on this would be very interesting.  I would be interested especially if you think the suggestion that the ten linked crosses said to represent the gridiron upon which poor old St Lawrence met his end, post dates the invention of the die, and therefore initially derive from elsewhere. 
The idea that the totum (formerly teetotum, thank you) originates in the Jewish community is I agree something that would be difficult to demonstrate unless there was a much earlier jewish reference. Though what you say is interesting and certainly suggests that this may be the case. 
A question though - is there any reference to whether the Long Lawrence was originally square in section with each symbol appearing once or eight sided with each symbol appearing twice. The latter is easier to roll but may be a later development. 
Jon Hather

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