Relative scarcity among card-game rule-booklets published by Goodall: An assessment as of mid-2011

Goodall published a large number of card-game rule-booklets, and many of them are scarce, and possibly rare.  There are a fair number of Goodall booklets that I have never seen offered for sale.  (The same applies to the De La Rue booklets, but this blog does not much treat the De La Rue booklets.)

Now I am going to talk a moment about the card-game rule-booklets of Professor Hoffmann.  Of the sixteen more-or-less distinct titles of card-game rule-booklets written by Professor Hoffmann, there are four that I do not have in my collection, in any edition.

Of those four, there are three that I have never seen offered for sale, in any edition (and in fact the three each may have appeared in only one edition).  The three are Bridge Varieties, as well as Hearts, Heartsette, and Ombre, and also Quinto.

Back on the total of sixteen, there are eight or so as to which I have never seen the first edition offered for sale.  That’s half of them!

Of the total of sixteen, there are nine of which I do not have a first edition. In other words, I have (presumed) first editions of only seven of the sixteen rule-booklets by Hoffmann — less than half.  Which ones?  These:

Rubicon Bezique, 1895

Ecarte, 1895

Bridge, 1903

Patience Games, 1900

Patience Games, Second Series, 1901

Patience With the Joker, 1907

Auction Bridge, 1912

And, actually, most of the Hoffmann rule-booklet titles have been difficult to find. What the future may bring, I do not know, but during the past few years, only a (smallish) handful have been anything like easy to find (for example, Selected Patience Games). And even as to those, the first editions have been extremely difficult to find–I have several copies of Selected Patience Games, but not a first edition.

Below I am going to discuss a few of Hoffmann’s booklets, with a few comments on their scarcity (as perceived by me).

I will focus here on three booklets:  (a) Bridge Varieties, (b) Hearts, Heartsette, and Ombre, and (c) Quinto.

Bridge Varieties.  I am inclined to believe that this may be the scarcest of all of the Hoffmann rule-booklets.  The only copy I know of, or have even heard of, is the copy in the Bodleian Library.

Hearts, Heartsette, and Ombre.  As with Bridge Varieties, I have never seen or heard of a specific copy of this booklet — except, of course, there is a copy in the Bodleian Library.

Quinto.  This is undoubtedly a very scarce booklet.  At first sight, that is somewhat puzzling, because the game was widely praised.  Ernest Bergholt, in a 1909 revised version of Professor Hoffmann’s 1898 Hoyle’s Games Modernized, stated:

This game is the invention of Professor Hoffmann. It has achieved the immediate popularity in circles where it has been experimentally introduced, and it has been thought that it may even be destined to supplant Bridge. Waiving discussion, however, of the question whether Bridge is on the point of the immediate deposition from its throne, no impartial person would deny that games could be devised that might run it very close, and bid fair to imperil its popularity. To invent such a game Professor Hoffmann, with his long and close experience of social pastimes of every kind, is exceptionally well-qualified [. . .].

I have definite information on one copy of Quinto being sold — exact current whereabouts unknown to me.  I have also heard that a copy appeared on eBay a few years ago.   And I know of two Quinto sets that have changed hands.  I presume those to involve the orthodox Goodall rule-booklets.  However, the situation is complicated by the existence of related publications, such as (apparently) an American edition.  And though my information presumably referred to different copies, I don’t know that for certain.  If one dealer sells a copy, and then later another sells a copy — sometimes it could be the same copy!

Of course, it is difficult to predict whether the foregoing books will remain difficult to find.  It is possible, for instance, that three copies of Quinto could appear on eBay next week.  This is not very likely, of course, but the best that can be done above is to estimate the probable scarcity of the works specified.

So, until I learn otherwise, I consider those three rule-booklets to be “rare.”  Usually the term “rare,” unless qualified in some way, implies small numbers and an important item.  I don’t know that the rule booklets are important in the same sense that, say, Hoffmann’s Modern Magic is.  But within the sphere of those who are interested in rule booklets, all of the Hoffmann rule-booklets would be considered important.  So, yeah, “rare.”

I consider the following to be noticeably scarce, regardless of the edition:

Auction Bridge

Ecarte

Five Hundred

Patience Games (Second Series)

Schnapps and Other Original Round Games

In a sense, this list is quite subjective, because it is based on my own experience. Speaking generally and approximately, I would say that I know of about three or fewer copies of each of those (and not necessarily first editions).  But something tells me there could be flaws in this analysis.  For example, I have two copies each of Auction Bridge and Five Hundred.  But outside of the Bodleian Library those are the only copies I have heard of.  So I know that they are at least fairly scarce, but it seems strange that I would have two copies of each if they are all that scarce.

Back on Modern Magic — regarding the first edition — I don’t think that any experienced collector would call that “rare.”  I have two copies.  I have had two other copies.  I think I have known of maybe four or so other firsts to change hands within the past three years — and if I had been at all determined, I probably could have acquired two or three of them myself.

Many collectors do not even consider the 1584 first edition of the Discoverie of Witchcraft (Reginald Scot) to be rare, since dozens of copies are known.

Personally, I would consider a book rare if it is reasonably important and sought after, and if maybe a half-dozen copies are known.  More than a half-dozen, and one might think carefully before calling something “rare.”

Now, I realize that according to some there are different types of rarity.  An example would be “geographical rarity,” where an item might be (say) rare in England and not-so-rare in the United States.  To me, qualifications like that tend to muddy the waters, and, besides, it is “rare” that people qualify the word “rare” (or its variations) with such modifiers, as in “temporary rarity” and “geographical rarity.”  Similarly, I am hesitant to qualify the term according to how often an item comes up for sale, or how much demand there is for it.  Example:  If there are 100 copies of an important book, and they are all pretty firmly ensconced in collections, and it has been 25 years since a copy came on the market–I don’t see how it can be “rare,” since I just got through saying that there are 100 copies in existence.  I may go into this in more depth in a future post.

As to a work like Cavendish’s Second Sight for Amateurs, that was published in an edition of 25 copies.  I have heard of maybe two copies changing hands in the last 40 years.  Of course, more than that may have been sold during that period, but it has not been a frequent occurrence.  I expect that the majority of copies of that work are still in existence.  However, if someone called it “rare,” I probably would not argue the point. In fact, Edgar G. Heyl, who was certainly one of the most knowledgeable collectors and dealers that the magic world has seen, in his Cues for Collectors, indicated his view that the Cavendish book was “rare at publication.”  So, I am not saying that everyone would agree with me!

I am sure that some of Hoffmann’s card-game rule-booklets can be designated more as pseudo-rarities than real rarities.  An example of such a work would be Patience With the Joker, 1907.  I have seen two copies on eBay (not sure which editions, but I suspect that at least one was a first edition) within the last three years.  I have a first edition in my collection.  I know of two later editions in the collections of magic-book collectors. And I know of one other copy, as well.  (Yes, it is possible — but unlikely — that one or more of these is the same copy as another.)  Anyway, this seems to be six copies accounted for — seven if you include the copy in the Bodleian Library.  So, disregarding editions, it seems that Patience With the Joker is not a super-scarce work.  Still, you could easily go for years without finding a copy, and if you do find one, it could be quite pricey.

Another of Hoffmann’s booklets which may seem scarce is Piquet.  I believe that early editions are extremely difficult to find, but the booklet was reprinted many times, and I have I think five or so copies of various printings.

I do expect to return to this topic quite soon, because in reviewing this post, I realized that there were a number of points which I hope to elaborate upon.  As it is, this is one of my longest posts.

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