Another look at “The Royal Game of Bezique” — Part 1: Comments on the mystery of the first edition of “The Royal Game of Bezique,” first published by Goodall, 1868 — but I think no one knows of a copy of the booklet before the “Second Edition” . . .

In two earlier posts (here and here), I discussed certain aspects of the Goodall booklet The Royal Game of Bezique (later editions of which were also known as The Standard Rules of the Royal Game of Bezique).  In the present series (which will not necessarily be an unbroken chain of posts, but I hope will be largely an intermittent series), I plan to discuss the booklet in more depth. It does appear, after all, to be the earliest of Goodall’s card-game booklets (with respect to the earliest printing), and over a period of decades, literally scores of editions (printings, I would think) were published.

In a recent email, Edward Copisarow forwarded a couple of titles as “contenders for the rarest Goodall booklet.”  One contender he mentioned was the first edition of The Royal Game of Bezique.  Also, Mike Goodall expressed something similar in an email a while back.  In this post, I thought I would delve into that a little.

A good starting place is Jessel.  Sure enough, the following listing is found in Jessel:

bigger rgob

That looks pretty indisputable.  But the first question is:  Was Jessel there listing the first edition?  And, although the situation becomes foggier the more one thinks about it, the initial answer is “yes,” in part because the undated “Second Edition” would surely not have been described as 1868, and a description by Jessel of the second edition would have noted the edition.  This assumes that the entry describes either the first edition or the second edition.  This reasoning follows the path of least resistance, though, and it could be very wrong.

Anyway, in the absence of information to the contrary, one might assume that Jessel at least examined a copy of the booklet he described, and that the description was probably made from a copy in his collection.

And yet, in the Bodleian Library catalog, to which one might look in the hope of some kind of confirmation, one finds no such booklet.  One would think that, since Jessel’s collection is now at the Bodleian Library, that Jessel’s copy (if he had one) would be there.

One does find listings (in the Bodleian Library catalog) for the fifteenth edition, the sixteenth edition, and the forty-third edition — of the following booklet:

The Standard Rules of the Royal Game of Bezique, by Camden

Now, collectors will immediately recognize that “extended” title as the title-page title of the vast majority of copies of the booklet.  But the cover-title of the book is still The Royal Game of Bezique.  Jessel lists only one booklet by that longer title, as follows (you can ignore the yellow):

cam bez 12 2 12a

Now that seems a little strange.  Jessel states the year 1883, but he does not state an edition number.  By any standards, 1883 would not be considered near to the date of the first edition.  In an earlier post, I described a twelfth edition that bore the date of 1872 (in Roman numerals).  So, Jessel’s 1883 edition appears to be just a random printing.  It is not a recent edition, since the booklet was being issued well into the twentieth century.  But if there was anything unusual about the booklet, that is not apparent from Jessel’s description of it.

And, of course, there remains the question of why that 1883 edition is not listed in the Bodleian Library catalog — if it was a book that was in Jessel’s collection.

I expect to get into these matters further, in the future.

—Tom Sawyer

Sunday, December 2, 2012

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