hist-games: Long Lawrence

Peter Michaelsen PMI at KM.DK
Thu May 17 15:13:10 PDT 2007

The Lang Laurence as well as the similar Danish/North German stick dice used for "put-and-take"-games were wooden.
According to Easther a L.L. is about three inches long. In Stewart Culin: Chess and playing cards, Washington 1898 there is a reproduced L.L, which is 7.5 cm long, as well as a 7 cm long octogonal 'Log' made of ivory. (Cat.No.7134, Museum of Archeology, Univ. of Pennsylvania). 
The Danish dice sticks varied in size: the smallest were less than 15 mm thick and 40 mm long, while the largest measured some 25 mm in width and 125 mm in length. The average size was probably approximately 20 by 50 or 60 mm. They were normally prismatic, but could have rounded corners.
There were several techniques of using these dice sticks. They were thrown up into the air, rolled upon a board, rolled between two hands, and sometimes one pushed upon the edge of them with the end of a finger, causing them to roll.
The similar dice tops were of course turned around.
The dice sticks used in outdoor games, where you hit them with a long stick, were typically 10-12 cm long and 15-30 mm wide.
One or both ends were often sharpened, and more or less pyramidal.
Concerning the 10 crosses and the W on the L.L. described by Easther, I discovered some parallels when I wrote my article for BGS 6.
I quote from my own article:
"The South-West Norwegian 'abeseditt' from Valestrand has the (Roman?) numbers 100, 50, 20 and 10. (Hordaland og Bergen i Manns Minne, Oslo 1974, p.35). Similar values are known from West Flanders. (de Cock, A. and Teirlinck, Is.: Kinderspel & Kinderlust in Zuid-Nederland III, Gent 1903, p.47f.) The 'wiep' used in the game 'wiep-slaan' has the (Roman?) numbers 100, 50, 25 and the word 'wiep', or as an abbreviation, the letter W. The similar stick used in 'dutzend-slaan' had the following signs: 10 crosses, meaning 100, 5 crosses, meaning 50, the Roman numeral 25 and 'niets' that is "nothing" (sometimes marked with a cross or V)." 
I have found one more Norwegian example from Vik in Sogn, very near Valestrand: 'slå kjil' in which the 'kjil' (the dice stick) had the numbers X (10), XX (20), F (50) and H (100). (Asbjørn Brekke, in Barnas eget lekehefte, Sparebankforeningen i Norge, c.1980).
The South-West Norwegian and West Flemish games are obviously closely related, despite having rather different names.
In these games the signs on the sticks directly indicate the number of points scored. This is also the case with the Faroese 'exebiti' described by Johan Christian Svabo in 1781/82, but the numbers are much lower (I, II, X and XII). 
Another Norwegian group of dice stick games have much lower values, (X=0, II, IIII and VI); here the numbers decide the number of strokes that one of the two teams are entitled to make. The numbers on the Scotch 'strac agus cat' are again different: I, II, III and IV. 
The first four examples mentioned are the most interesting, what the Long Lawrence concerns. They all have 100 as the highest value, and in at least one of the two Flemish examples this is shown by 10 crosses (while, on the other hand, one of the two Norwegian examples has the letter H in stead). In the two Flemish examples we find words like 'wiep' or 'niets' or the letter W, a X, or V on the side of the dice stick with the value zero. 
The ten crosses and the W is also found on Easther's L.L. 
I do'nt think that this parallel is quite accidental, and suppose that Easther's L.L. borrowed these features from a game similar to the Flemish dice stick games, while it seems less likely that the latter should have borrowed this feature from Easther's L.L. 'Wiep-slaan' was the name of one of the Flemish games, and I don't see that the W could have any meaning in the English put-and-take game. Similar game names like 'vippa' was used about other stick games without dice (testified in a Swedish source from the 17th c.).
The associations that turned the 10 crosses into the gridiron of St.Lawrence, have parallels in the Danish and North German dice sticks (and dice tops) used for 'put-and-take'. Here the letters N, T and P (originally "nihil", "totum" and "pone") on their sides could be interpreted as "Nikolaus", "Thomas" and "Peter", respectively. Even if such folk etymologies existed, the original Latin names for the dice sides have often been preserved quite well in the various British, Danish and German dialects, indicating that this game tradition has a medieval, and perhaps even Roman origin.
In Leo van der Heijdt: Face to face with dice, (p.117), two Gallo-Roman wooden dice are shown, dating from 100-300 A.D. They were moved by means of a handle - probably the predecessor of the spinning top. They were marked with 1-6 spots, not with letters or Roman numerals, and can be seen at Musée Archéologique de Saintes (France).
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: 17-05-2007 11:08
Til: hist-games at www.pbm.com
Emne: hist-games: Long Lawrence

The markings on the four sided die that Willughby describes makes more sense for playing Put and Take without question, and so I look forward to your ideas on the development on of the markings on the later eight sided die.
One aspect of playing put and take with the four sided die as opposed to the eight sided one is a social/spacial consideration. An eight sided die can be rolled easily and therefore played on a table top with those playing sitting around it. The totum/teetotum similarly. A four sided die would have to be small for it to be thrown properly in a small space and have sufficient chance to fall on any of its four sides equally. Is there any suggestion of size of these dice and what they were made out of? 
I have seen photographs of Indian long dice (4 sided) probably 19 C and these seem to be several inches long. 

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