The strange case of “The Game of Ace Major,” by Camden — and possible reasons why only one copy is known . . .

When one considers the vast number of different Goodall game sets and the gigantic quantities of Goodall card-game booklets printed, it becomes immediately apparent that such items were largely considered disposable by the purchaser, at least — as to sets — upon the basic components of the set becoming worn out.

I suppose that the real wonder is that there are so many still in existence, even from well over a hundred years ago.

Some of you have more experience — a lot more — than me, in the playing-card field.  But I have only heard one oe Goodall Skat set on eBay, and one Goodall Check set on eBay, and none anywhere else.

I have never seen a Goodall Quinto set, though I have heard of one.

Now, everyone knows that there are tons of Goodall Bezique sets around. And as far as odds and ends from Goodall Bezique sets go (such as markers and booklets), it seems that there are always some on eBay.

Of Goodall Piquet sets, not so many!  I think I have seen maybe two on eBay in the past four years.

As to Goodall patience games sets of one type or another, these seem quite plentiful.  What do not seem plentiful are more extensive sets, including a Goodall booklet from say 1910 or before — not sure I have ever seen any.  (I recently bought a 1920 one on eBay — which is one of the very few Goodall patience games sets I have seen on eBay which I have  considered bidding on.)

Goodall Draw-Bridge sets — or partial sets — overall have been quite, quite common, though there is only one that I see on eBay right now, and that one is a scarce one.  That one, with rather elaborate wood and metal racks, is the only one I have ever seen of that style.  (It is priced at $475, and it probably will never sell at that price.)

But I must have a broader point, right?

Oh, indeed.

On the whole — in general — Goodall booklets and sets have become available for sale in an approximate correspondence to the number originally distributed.

That’s my main point.  If there are few Ace Major pamphlets, it is because relatively few copies were distributed.

There are also other components to the puzzle.  Maybe fewer people would buy a booklet by Camden, than would buy a booklet by Rawdon Crawley.  Maybe Ace Major sounds like a war game, while Bezique sounds like — a royal game!

So, a lady might have said to the stationer, “Yes, here is my thirty-six pence for six copies of the booklet on Bezique — oh, and here is sixpence for a copy of the Ace Major booklet — you know, for my son.”

Then again, for Bezique, there must be markers!  For markers, there must be a set.  And with each set there is a booklet.

I’m not sure whether Ace Major required markers.

Anyway, booklets on Bezique may be (in general) quite common, but probably they are not so common when judged against the number issued.

Here is a made-up example.  Say Goodall printed forty printings of the Bezique booklet, of 1000 copies per printing.  Let’s say you hunt for twenty years, and you find copies — sometimes five or six copies — but of some printings you find . . . none!  Of course, some would be more recent than others, and might thus be easier to find.  But maybe you found three second-printings, zero thirds, zero fourths, one fifth, two sixths, zero sevenths, an eighth, zero ninths.  Yet we have said that there were 1000 copies per printing.  (Again, these “facts” are not what really happened — it is a fictitious example.)

Now consider the Ace Major booklet.  (Much of this example is “made up” — fictitious.)  Maybe –probably! — there was one printing.  Let’s say the printing was of 1000 copies.  But wait, since it was an unproven booklet, maybe less were printed, say 700.  There was (probably) no boxed set to which it belonged, and which might protect it.  Maybe only a few hundred were sold, and the rest junked by Goodall.  No one played the game.  The book became trash for many of its owners.  These kinds of factors make the pamphlet more liable to fall into the “I found zero” category, even though maybe there were hundreds in circulation at some time.

Actually, Quinto is a little more puzzling, because it was recognized as a good game, and it was apparently played by many.  (See Bergholt’s comments on the game in certain editions of Hoyle’s Games Modernized).

If a Quinto booklet is hard to find, then it is not so amazing that The Game of Ace Major would border on impossible.

—Tom Sawyer

December 31, 2012

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