This file is an ongoing, and probably ever-growing project. It is simply a place where I record my notes on books that I am coming across, as I think of them. It may, in time, get merged together with other bibliographies to become The Mother Of All Period Game Bibliographies -- but not today.
This substantial French hardcover is a bit more of an encyclopedia than a typical dictionary. It has 500 pages of content, averaging about a page per entry, with some running quite a bit longer. It covers historical games in general, with fewer truly modern games than the Histoire des Jeux, but a lot of time spent on the Victorian. Well-illustrated, although again with a strong Victorian bent. Worthwhile, but not as strong as the Histoire des Jeux in general.
Don't be fooled by the reference to "games" in the title: this is specifically a book on sports, and spends no time to speak of on sedate pursuits. On the other hand, for sports it's an interesting work.
This book is encyclopedic in format, running alphabetically through all sports, and is quite substantial (well over a thousand dense pages). I haven't dug through it thoroughly to determine whether it discusses obsolete sports at all (although it covers virtually all know current sports). It does spend at least a bit of space discussing history for all sports that have a substantial history, and is potentially extremely useful for better understanding sports like stoolball, for which we don't have many complete period descriptions.
This is mainly a book on archery (a rather interesting one). It is told in the usual Q&A style so prevalent in the 16th century. However, from roughly pages 16 to 24, the teacher goes off on a long rant about comparisons between archery and gaming, and makes clear what awful slimebags gamesters are. Not much detail, but it does give one a bit of social milieu...
A far-reaching examination of games from many perspectives. It is divided into a number of sections, each taking a different look at games: History, Anthropology, Folklore, General, Recreation, Military, Business, Education, etc. Each section includes a couple of articles on the topic, plus a selected bibliography. Only Chapter 2, "Historical Sources", is particularly relevant to an SCA context, and it only contains one article, but that article is a gem: "Games and Sports in Shakespeare", by Paul G. Brewster. This article is an exhaustive examination of the games mentioned in Shakespeare's plays, and serves as an excellent source of documentation for Elizabethan games.
This is a short pamphlet, inveighing against lots -- that is, games that depend on any random element. He isn't strictly against games, just those that involve things like dice and cards. This booklet is a modest dozen pages, but...
This book illustrates magnificently the fact that endless pointless arguments between people who aren't listening to each other were not invented by the Internet. Whereas the previous book was quite concise, this one is 140 pages of point-by-point refutation of a book by a Mr. Gataker, which clearly defended the concept of random games. (I don't have a copy of Gataker yet.) It begins by reprinting the earlier work, but then goes off in a number of subsequent chapters. Not by any means a central book on the subject, but rather interesting to understand the arguments that raged around gaming, particularly through the Church...
This is exactly what it claims to be, and thus not particularly relevant to SCA period. But a later-period re-enactor may find it quite useful. It is a broad collection of party games from the Victorian period, told (and printed) in a distinctly Victorian style. Of course, it follows the fine Victorian tradition of not citing its sources, so it should be used with a little care, but I have no particular reason to doubt it: there is far more source material available, so it is plausible that the descriptions are accurate.
The best-known work on the topic, from which everyone else draws. This book divides games into a number of categories (Races, War Games, etc), and gives a number of examples from each. One could wish that Bell was a little clearer in his documentation -- although one or more sources are provided for each game, little is said about how those sources were interpreted. Still, the book is clear and easy to use, and is one of the most useful books to have; anyone interested in getting involved in period games should probably get this as one of their first sources. (Note, however, that the book deliberately ranges all over the map; only a fourth or third of the games are relevant to period Europe.)
This is the coffee-table book on the subject, and is quite nice; although not focused on period games in particular, it covers many of them. Bell is one of the best-known authors on the topic of world games, and here he sets out to create a very practical book on the subject.
For each of the roughly 80 games covered, Bell gives a historical precis, clear and concise rules -- and a board. The boards are full-color; where practical, they are photos of extant boards for this game. The boards aren't quite 100% usable, because the book is bound normally, so the pages tend to bend a bit when the book lies flat open. But many are usable, and at the least it makes it very clear what each board looks like. And it's terribly pretty.
Coverage is broad and quite a good selection -- it even includes a section on Rythmomachy, one of my personal crusades. Overall, the book isn't a must-have, but it's a very good popularization of the subject of world games, one of the best I've seen, and a lot of fun to leaf through.
A relatively early book on cards in particular (that is, not on games). Fairly thorough and well-thought-through, although unsurprisngly less complete than some more modern books. Illustrated mainly with relatively crude hand-drawn renderings.
This book is probably most interesting and useful for its substantial number of long quotes from late-period sources, including sections from several card-related plays, and details of the history of the London Company of Makers of Playing Cards. It also spends a number of chapters on "The Cardboard Court", describing the traditional associations of court cards with historical or mythological personages, and who those people were.
Overall, the book is a grab-bag of interesting facts: not as thorough as the works that would come after it, but covering the subject with considerable and interesting breadth. An interesting read, if you care about the history of cards.
A book of poems, with a couple that are relevant to our topic, in Latin and English.
"Of the Mutabylyte of Fortune" is mostly just about the vagaries of fate, but it has a very nice image of the Wheel of Fortune, familiar from the Tarot deck.
"Of folys that understonde nat game and can no thynge take in sport/and yet intermyt them with Folys" is about sport in general and the foolishness of some who partake of it. Like most of the book, though, it's mostly about morality.
"Of carde players and dycers" is the most obviously relevant piece; while still basically a screed, it's rather interesting.
The book also manages to launch into tirades about pretty much everyone else, including dancers, astronomers, cooks, and even heralds. It's quite even-handed...
The 1517 edition adds a section on "Of them that can take no playe".
This is a hefty book on every topic relevant to the behaviour of a proper gentleman; the table of contents alone runs 12 pages.
Of particular interest to us is the chapter on Recreation, which runs from pages 165-231. This wanders all over the place, and relatively little of this is on games per se. However, it deals extensively with both what the common recreations of a gentleman were, especially Hawking, Hunting, Shooting and other sports. It also provides an interesting look at attitudes towards how much recreation was regarded as proper, and what was viewed as moderate.
This is a collection of character sketches of a variety of character types. Of particular interest to us is the section on "A Gamester", which runs from pages 48-56. In the same source can be found A Cater-Character, throwne out of a Boxe, By an Experienced Gamester. This is really just more of the same, with four more such sketches.
This is one of the earliest sources to scientifically examine probability in gaming. While it doesn't get into the full details of game theory yet, it is an important first step on that road.
The book is best-known among game researchers for the fact that it spends several pages describing and discussing Primero, one of the most popular card games of period, and one for which we have few really good descriptions. Unfortunately, Cardano is not principally trying to discuss the rules -- he is mainly concerned with discussing the probabilistic aspects of card games -- so his rules are a bit ambiguous. (I have seen a number of widely-differing interpretations.) Nonetheless, this is an essential source for card-game research, and brief enough (57 short pages) to not be too difficult a read.
(One of these days, I'll sit down and do my own analysis of Primero...)
An examination of "games" in period. The definition of games here tends towards the physical, with much more on sports than on more sedate recreations. Also, it tends to spend the most time on highly organized sports -- ie, tournies. However, there is a bit of information about what the ordinary folk did, and a nice little section on London sports and pastimes.
One of the earliest books on Chess, printed in a very early font that closely resembles manuscript. This is actually a rather long tome, but is mainly using Chess as a moral metaphor. Each piece is described in detail, including a separate chapter for each Pawn -- the Pawns are individually described as, eg, a Clerk, a Smith, a Merchant, etc.
Don't expect deep ideas about chess strategy here; that isn't what the book is about. However, one can learn a fair bit about period culture from this book, and a moderate amount about the game along the way. One of these days I will seriously sit down to read this, and probably transcribe it as I go...
The later edition appears to be largely unchanged, save for the addition of illustrations at the head of each chapter.
An interesting and detailed ramble through the subject. The scholarship is, of course, a bit dated, but still not bad -- Chatto takes the subject seriously, and has done extensive research. Starts with a section on the possible origins of cards, moves into a long section on the early history of cards in Europe, runs through many details on the cards themselves, and finishes with a discussion of the history of moralizing about cards. The book has largely been replaced by Catherine Hargrave's History of Playing Cards, but it has more detail in many respects than Hargrave, and doesn't spend all the time on the modern history that she does. Chatto is mainly interested in the ancient history, and examines it well...
This book is now back in print in CD-ROM format from EBookCDRom; there is a page on this reprint. There is apparently also a reprint from Scholarly Press in 1977.
A long book describing everything a young nobleman should know; it is very comprehensive, comprising six books.
Relevant here are the following chapters:
Chapter 24 is the most intriguing, brief though it is. It does make specific reference, for example, to "French Cardes called Tareux" (one of the few nearly-period concrete English references to Tarot that I know). Between 24 and 25, it is pretty clear that cards were regarded as fairly respectable, but dice were not.
Yes, that's really all title. (Although I just call it Wit's Interpreter.) This mammoth book (around 500pp) is a sort of period People's Almanac, with sections on a wide variety of subjects, from droll poetry, to speculation on the origins of things, to a section on Cardinal Richelieu's Cypher. But it is relevant as the first good source of rules for period card games. It has gorily detailed rules for L'Ombre, Picket, Gleek, and Cribbidge. (As well as a long section on Chess.)
Note that large sections of The Complete Gamester (below) are lifted essentially word-for-word from Cotgrave.
Cotton is frequently referred to as the primordial book on gaming. This is only partly true; he steals liberally from other sources, particularly Wit's Interpreter (above). But it is one of the most truly useful and comprehensive sources around. Cotton gives rules for a wide variety of games, including card games, table games, and some outdoor games. (And riding, racing, and cock-fighting.) He is not always clear, but tends to be fairly complete, so this is often a good source to reconstruct from.
This is pretty much what the name says: a compact history of the game. I haven't studied it in detail, but it seems like a good popularization, covering all the major bases without going into gory detail. Davidson has clearly read the books of his predecessors, and follows the scholarship of the day decently well.
The book covers fairly wide ground: not only the evolution of the rules and the pieces, but also the legends of chess and its origins, the development of its vocabulary, and so on. Overall, not a bad place to start learning about the subject.
The definitive primer on medieval games. Jeff is known as Baron Salaamallah the Corpulent in the SCA, and has been researching period games for many years. This book is a compendium of what he has found, neatly summarized.
The book has its weaknesses -- it is extremely light on documentation (just a bibliography, few footnotes or references), so it can't easily be used for research. However, if all you're looking for is how to play the games, it's a good source. Descriptions are usually (although not always) clear, if often a little terse. Coverage is excellent: I know of only one other book (HJR Murray's History of Board Games Other Than Chess) with this degree of depth and breadth on the subject.
(This book is also my standard answer to "what period games are there for children?". Salaamallah covers pretty much everything that can reasonably be called a game, including a number of simple games, both sedate and active, that are simple enough for kids.)
A three-part article, totalling 40ish pages, exhaustively examining the game of Poch, including the traceries of how it evolved, and its relationship to Glic and other similar games. Invaluable if you care about period card games; Thierry does a very nice job of thoroughly examining what is known.
Not really period, but I find this book interesting as a near-period example of flashcards. This book came with a full deck of cards, where each card illustrated a particular geometric or mechanical principle. The accompanying book describes in more detail what is going on on each card, as a long series of propositions. I find it fascinating, and would love to find earlier examples of such flashcards. (I would particularly love to date the practice back to period, but I have no concrete reason to believe that it is.)
This book is volume D1137 in Wing's index, and can be found on Reel 64:5 of the corresponding microfilm series.
This book isn't particularly focused on history; it is mostly an encyclopedia of rules for all forms of indoor gaming. It is quite light on historical detail, although it does cover the usual games that date back to period. It is fairly complete within its objective (although it does not attempt to cover sports particularly), with especial thoroughness in cards. It is amply illustrated, although with very few primary-source pictures -- the illustrations are mostly there to demonstrate board layouts, moves, and suchlike.
A mildly useful reference book, but not particularly important with respect to period games specifically.
Another history of chess, apparently aimed at an audience about halfway between the casual and the academic. The book is reasonably thorough, covering most of the usual ground, but is moderately dense -- not ponderous, but not really light reading.
This book is only mildly useful for the period games researcher: only about the first 80 pages are pre-1650, and then it moves into the more modern history of the game. On the other hand, it may well be useful for understanding the broad sweep of the game's history.
This is a very nice overview of period games; it specifically focuses on the Middle Ages, so it is more useful than most books. The first part is a catalog of period games, written by Endrei; The last third is more about the context of gaming, and was written by Zolnay.
I have some problems with this book, but they may be mainly attributable to the translation; for example, the book has a long chapter on "Draughts or Checkers", which is actually entirely about Tables and its family -- as far as I can guess, the authors were totally confused about the English terminology.
That said, this book is useful in a number of ways. It is a good broad overview of gaming in period; while it doesn't go into a great deal of rule detail, it discusses the evolution of the major game families clearly and well. It focuses on gaming in Eastern Europe, which is often badly overlooked -- most literature tends to focus on England and France. And it is copiously illustated, making it a real pleasure to read.
While I wouldn't recommend this as a first book on the subject, due to the relatively low number of concrete rules given, it does make a good introduction to understanding the actual history of gaming. As of the last time I checked, it was still in print, although it has to be special-ordered from Hungary.
One of the earlier books on the history of games, this has the usual strengths and weaknesses of Victorian scholarship (no footnotes, erratic citations). It's a reasonably good account, although much has been superceded by more recent work.
The book has five major sections:
Overall an interesting book (especially the Magic Squares chapter, which isn't often covered under this subject), but far from essential at this point.
Yet another book describing how games of chance are inherently unchristian. Pretty similar to Balmford in general tone.
This is, as the name implies, basically a coffeetable book about Chess. Fortunately, they don't really propound the notion that Chess is really 2,000 years old, although they do spend a while on the various legends of Chess' antiquity.
The text of the book isn't bad -- it isn't Murray, but the authors appear to know what they are talking about, and they deal with many aspects of the history and culture of the game. But the real value of the book is in the pictures; it is plain and simply the best-illustrated Chess book I've ever seen. Multiple illustrations on almost every page, most in lush color, showing both Chess pictures and paintings and physical pieces and boards, give one a really complete idea of the evolution of the game on a visual level. If nothing else, the book would be worth it for the chapters on the pieces (one chapter per piece), including many pictures of how that piece evolved down the ages in various cultures.
Overall, while the book doesn't say anything remarkable, I recommend it for the pictures. It really is worthwhile, simply to get a better feeling for the physical aspects of the game, and the numerous period illustrations of it being played...
Perhaps the most useful book I know that isn't explicitly on the subject of period games. This is more concerned with present play than historic, with the chapters divided up by County, but the author has a sensitive eye for historical context, and relates as much as he knows on the subject. He is very honest about what is known, and refreshingly free from wishful thinking.
Games covered include: Backgammon; Bowls; Darts (as much as can be said); Shove-Halfpenny; various versions of Skittles; Merels; Quoits; and many others, both period and later. Not one of the core references, but definitely worth picking up if you happen across it at a used book shop.
A delightful and important book, this describes three different variants of Rythmomachy in considerable detail, with good illustrations. Clearer and more detailed than most of the modern books I've seen on the subject.
I have produced a draft transcription of Fulke for the Web; play around with it. (I'll add the illustrations when I have time...)
A book in Latin, by the author of the principal English translation of Rhythmomachy, describing a new game that I believe is of his own invention. My own Latin is staggeringly weak, so I haven't made much progress on this yet, but it appears to be in some respects the first modern war-game. The pictures show an extremely large board (33 x 50 spaces), depicting a castle and a large number of different types of attacking and defending pieces. These pieces are geometrical in form, and each has a numeric value of the area or volume of that shape.
The book has been translated into French and reconstructed in the second volume of Board Games Studies (1999). One of these days, I or someone else will translate it into English and play around with it. I'm very curious about whether the game is actually playable.
Another Latin book by Fulke, describing a game apparently of his own invention. I've made even less progress on this one than on Metromachy yet. The book depicts a substantial board, of 12 zodaical houses across by 30 spaces high, and shows game pieces that appear to be based on the seven planets; thus, in form, it bears an odd resemblance to the Zodaic game from the Alfonso MS. But I have no reason to believe at this time that there is any relationship between the two. As far as I know, there is no translation or reconstruction of this source, so it is a project waiting for someone.
A deep and detailed study of the subject, well-noted and with a colossal bibliography. Not specifically on the subject of period, but it spends a good long time on the early history -- the first 160 pages or so are relevant to the SCA timeframe. By far the best book on this particular game that I've come across so far.
Yet another book with probably the most popular of all game-history titles. This book is less a straightforward history like Murrary, and more a curious grab-bag of Chess Culture. It is rather interesting, although not important.
Chapters in this oversized book include things like "Chess and Machines", "Love and War at the Chessboard", "Living Chess", and so on. It has a few chapters on straightforward history, but much of the content there is about modern chess; there is a non-trivial amount of discussion about period, but it is lightweight compared with Murray, with whom this book doesn't try to compete.
The book is heavily illustrated, but a large fraction of the pictures are modern cartoons and photographs.
This book is a classic Victorian work: remarkable in its thoroughness and breadth, maddening in its light references. While Gomme talks about games of all times, and does provide a number of period references scattered throughout when appropriate, this book is not designed to make it easy to pick out the games appropriate to period.
The book is vital nonetheless, because it is perhaps the only serious compilation of children's games specifically. Gomme has collected descriptions of virtually every children's recreation known in the British Isles into this work. Note that adult games are deliberately omitted -- chess and backgammon are, for instance, conspicuously missing from the list.
For the serious student, this book is useful in that it carefully places each game geographically, citing which counties it can be found in, and how the game varies across Britain.
A good, fairly thorough examination of one specific toy. This spends a reasonably good chapter looking at the history of tops, then breaks them down into six principal categories and discusses each one in further detail. It does spend one chapter talking about games played with tops, including a few period references.
Reasonably well-illustrated from all sort of times and cultures, and includes a substantial bibliography of the subject. Only interesting if you actually care about tops, but essential if so.
This book is a rather pleasant surprise: although it is not theoretically focused on period games, it in fact has a very large proportion of such games, and is quite sensitive to the history of each game in it.
The first half of the book -- Board and Table Games -- is particularly useful. It was clearly inspired by the work of R.C. Bell (who wrote the introduction), and gives a historical precis of each game. It gives clear (if concise) rules for each game, and is heavily illustrated -- usually from period sources when possible. Most interestingly, it gives intructions on constructing the boards for most games.
This one is easy to find in used bookstores, and quite worthwhile. The rules aspects are easy to find elsewhere, but the illustrations and tips on construction can be quite useful for the player who is getting started on making his own equipment.
A collection of assorted poems and whimsies, brought to my attention by Alexx Kay in the course of his researches. This book is notable in this context mainly because Sir John has a few poems about gaming specifically. Since they are short, I reproduce them in whole here.
The two volumes are entries 12775 and 12776 in the Short Title Catalog, and are on Reel 1070 of the microfilm collection.
I Heard one make a pretty Observation,
How games have in the Court turn'd with the fashion
The first game was the best, when free from crime,
The Courtly gamesters all were in their Prime;
The second game was Post, untill with posting
They paid so fast, 'twas time to leave their bosting.
Then thirdly follow'd heaving of the Maw,
A game without Civility or Law,
An odious play, and yet in Court oft seene,
A saucy knave to trump both King and Queene.
Then follow'd Lodam, hand to hand or quarter,
At which some maids so ill did keepe the quarter,
That unexpected, in a short abode
They could not cleanly beare away their lode.
Now Nody follwd next, as well it might,
Although it should have gone before of right.
At which I saw, I name not any body,
One never had the knave, yet laid for Nody.
The last game now in use is Bankerout,
Which will be plaid at still, I stand in doubt,
Untill Lavolta turne the wheele of time,
And make it come about againe to Prime.
Lay downe your stake at play, lay down your passion:
A greedy gamester stil hath some mishap.
To chafe at play, proceeds of foolish fashion.
No man throws still the dice in fortunes lap.
If tales are told of Leda be not Fables,
Thou with thy Husband dost play false at Tables.
First, thou so cunningly a Die canst slurre,
To strike an Ace so dead, it cannot sturre.
Then play thou for a pound, or for a pin,
High men are low men, still are foysted in.
Thirdly through, for free entrance is no fearing,
Yet thou dost overreach him still at bearing:
If poore Almes-ace, or Sincts, have beene the cast,
Thou bear'st too many men, thou bear it too fast.
Well, Leda, heare my counsell, use it not,
Else your faire game may have so foule a blot,
That he to lose, or leave, will first adventure,
Then in so shamefull open points to enter.
Fond Marcus ever at Primero playes,
Long winter nights, and as long Summer dayes:
And I heard once, to idle talke attending;
The Story of his times, and coines mis-spending.
[Hi]s first, he thought himselfe halfe way to heaven,
[??] in his hand he had but got a sev'n.
[H]is Fathers death set him so high on [flote?],
[A]ll rests went up upon a sev'n, and coate.
[B]ut while he drawes for these gray coats & gownes,
[T]he gamesters from his purse drew all his crownes.
[A]nd he ne're ceast to venter all in prime,
[A]ll of his age, quite was consum'd the prime.
[?]hen he more warily, his rest regards,
And sets with certainties upon the Cards,
On sixe and thirtie, or on sev'n and nine,
If any set his rest, and saith, and mine:
But seeld with this, he either gaines, or saves,
For either Faustus prime is with three knaves,
Or Marcus never can encounter right,
Yet drew two Ases, and for further spight,
Had colour for it with a hopefull draught,
But not encountered, it avail'd him naught.
With, sith encountring, he so faire doth misse,
He sets not till he nine and fortie is.
And thinking now his rest would sure be doubled,
He lost it by the hand, with which sore troubled,
He joynes now all his stocke, unto his stake,
That of his fortune, he full proofe may make.
At last both eldest hand and five and fifty,
He thinketh now or never (thrive unthrifty.)
Now for the greatest rest he hath the push:
But Crassus stopt a Club, and so was flush:
And thus what with the stop, and with the packe,
Poore Marcus, and his rest goes still to wracke.
Now must he seeke new spoile to set his rest,
For here his seeds turne weeds, his rest, unrest.
His land, his plate he pawnes, he sels his leases,
To patch, to borrow, and shift, he never ceases.
Till at the last, two Catch-poles him encounter,
And by arrest, they beare him to the Counter.
Now Marcus may set up, all rests securely:
For now he's sure to be encountered surely.
A fascinating and weird book, this is an attempt to catalogue essentially everything that can be used as a heraldic charge; by its nature, it winds up being essentially an encyclopedia of everything. The real strength of the book is that Holme can't simply list something -- he is compelled to describe it in detail, and goes off on all sorts of wonderful digressions.
The reason this book is relevant is that some of those digressions are on gaming. In particular, he has chapters on Billiards, Trucks, Chess, Draughts, and Tennis in the original volume. There were also additional chapters which he wrote in MS., but which were not published until 1905; these include Tables, Bowling, and Cards.
The relevant sections of this book have been transcribed by Jeff Singman and myself, and are available online.
This booklet was apparently published as a souvenir edition for the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Roanoke colony. It is a curious little grab-bag of games, drawing heavily (and explicitly) from SCA sources, although it is not itself an SCA book. It runs some 36 full-sized 8 1/2 by 11 inch pages. Many of the entries are useful and appropriate (listings for Irish and Checkers, Merels, and many other games probably played in the colonies); a few are a little inexplicable (like the listing for Chess of the Four Seasons, which is asserted to have made its way to period England -- I've heard nothing of the sort elsewhere). All of the games appear to be drawn from other published sources, but some of those sources are more reputable than others as references for Renaissance games.
It's a useful reference in some ways, though. It spends a couple of useful pages on simple dicing games, often omitted elsewhere. In general, it covers a broad gamut of games in a very few pages. It has a nice diagram of a Shovegroat board, which I've used for constructing my own. It has an unusually wide selection of active games.
Although this book is principally dedicated to explaining the rules and strategies of modern Backgammon, it begins with a rather nice (and copiously illustrated) 50-page history of the game. It's a bit lightweight, but includes a number of interesting tidbits and quotes about Backgammon and related race games, and the pictures are worth the price all by themselves.
Not really a must-have, but a useful addition to the collection.
The subtitle of this book is "A collection of Tudor and early Stewart tracts and ballads telling of the lives and misdoings of vagabonds, thieves, rogues and cozeners, and giving some account of the operation of the criminal law."
That's a pretty fair description. This reprints a number of the important Elizabethan sources on crime. Specifically, it includes:
Robert Copland: The Highway to the Spital-House
Gilbert Walker: A Manifest Detection of Dice-play
John Awdeley: The Fraternity of Vagabonds
Thomas Harman: A Caveat for Common Cursitors
Robert Greene: A Notable Discovery of Cozenage, the Second and Third Parts of Coney-Catching, A Disputation Between a He-cony-catcher and a She-cony-catcher, and The Black Book's Messenger
Luke Hutton: The Black Dog of Newgate and Luke Hutton's Lamentation
Thomas Middleton: The Testament of Laurence Lucifer
Thomas Dekker: The Bellman of London, Lantern and Candlelight and O per se O
Samuel Rid: Martin Markall, Beadle of Bridewell
William Fennor: The Counter's Commonwealth
James Gyffon: The Song of a Constable
None of which contains all that much in terms of game rules. But it's an invaluable collection on period cheating, which is certainly a closely-related topic.
Stuart Kaplan is the owner of US Games, the largest publisher of Tarot cards in the US (and, I suspect, the world). He is a well-known occultist, and is principally interested in the mystical uses of the Tarot, rather than the period use for games. Therefore, these books need to be taken with a small grain of salt. That said, if viewed with a critical eye, they are nonetheless a useful reference work.
Volume I is the most useful. It contains a chapter on the origins of Tarot cards (which must be read very cautiously); more usefully, it contains a chapter citing the known references to playing cards, beginning in the 14th century, including a section on conspicuous omissions of references to cards, which help to pin down the dates when they were introduced.
The book is lavishly illustrated, with pictures of cards from many decks (a few in color, most in B&W); it spends several short chapters specifically on the Visconti decks. Later chapters drift out of period; the bulk of the book is relatively modern. The bibliography is monumental -- 30 very large pages of very small print -- and I haven't even begun to really work my way through it.
Volume II contains additions to the list of references, and several long chapters on the Visconti-Sforza decks and their context. It has a chapter on the early symbolism of the decks which is largely fairly cautious; although he clearly wants to find occult linkages, he generally shies away from outright saying that they were used that way in period, more discussing what the symbolism meant in the culture of the day. As with volume I, it finishes with vast numbers of illustrations of decks, some period, and another thirty pages of bibliography.
I don't have a copy of Volume III, which is even bigger than the impressively-thick Volume II; from the cover description, it sounds like it is entirely modern.
Exactly what the name implies: a Royal proclamation about what is and isn't legal to play. Nothing too dramatic or surprising, although it is interesting that it singles out Bowling as illegal...
This is a looseleaf collection of articles, consisting of an introduction, a number of auxiliary tables and sections, and a long reference giving the rules to the known period card games. I don't know if it can be ordered from anywhere; I got a copy directly from Dafydd some years ago (which I suspect is long out of date).
While this doesn't contain a lot of novel research, this collection is an enormously useful reference. Dafydd pulls out pretty much all of the period games from sources like Parlett and Depaulis, and clearly describes the rules for each game. While I occasionally disagree with some of the interpretations (mainly because I sometimes disagree with Parlett), the points of disagreement are rare, and I can't think of any comparable book.
If you can get a copy, I recommend it. One of these days, maybe I'll talk Dafydd into putting it on the Web...
This book takes a surprisingly broad, if somewhat shallow, view of the subject. It treats "The Renaissance" as a time-period rather than a culture, and covers essentially the entire world for that period -- it spends almost as many pages on North America as on Europe. For that breadth alone, this book is interesting.
That said, the book fails The Tablero Test. Its selection of European games is chosen somewhat whimsically (it is *far* from comprehensive, choosing a couple of dozen games to describe), and includes Tablero de Jesus. Given that, by the time of publication of the book, Tablero had been more-or-less discredited as a hoax, I have to be a little skeptical about the scholarship. It doesn't even cite the original "source" for Tablero, so I think it had to have been drawing from SCA sources (probably including my page) and neither citing nor checking them. Which is a pity, since the book seems generally useful, but I think it must be treated with some caution.
This massive tome (literally: 20+ pounds) was the prize of my 2001 trip to Paris. The first 350 pages are a lavishly illustrated history of games from earliest antiquity to the modern day, spending a fair amount of time on the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The organization isn't strictly chronological; typical chapters focus on a type of game more than a particular culture.
Following that is a very nice dictionary of games that runs several hundred pages. The listing is shallow but extremely broad, averaging several games per large page, so I would guess that covers between one and two thousand games in the listing. Again, this covers far more than our period of interest, but it is good to get the broad view.
An interesting little book (and I gather a fairly seminal one) on the cards themselves. This book doesn't really treat games at all, but gives a good overview of the history of the cards, breaking the types down by country and era. Much of the book is spent discussing out of period decks, but it is nonetheless a useful and interesting reference.
A substantial tome (600+ pages) in French, focusing primarily upon the social context and effects of games in period. Starts out with a detailed categorization of the games to be discussed, then goes into chapters on the gamesters themselves, the time and place of games, sections on subjects like violence and ritual, and so on. Finishes off with listings of games from Gargantua and Froissart, and a rather nice bibliography.
My weak French hasn't let me get far into this book yet, but it looks to be worth the effort.
This is actually a full-length play, which uses a chessgame as its organizing metaphor. The characters do not have names; they are simply "W.Kt.p", or "B. Queen". There are a few neutral chacters, but even they fit the metaphor, such as the "Fat Bishop and his Pawne".
Very interesting little book, continuing the tradition of using Chess as an illustration of morality, which dates all the way back to Caxton (or further)...
As the title implies, this is basically a phrasebook, giving little dialogues in parallel translation, Spanish beside the English. The book is fascinating, because the author was clearly fond of gaming -- some nine pages are involved in gaming-related dialogues. Of especial interest is a full page devoted to a blow-by-blow conversation as the speakers are playing Primero, with tantalizing hints as to what is going on. One of these days, I'm going to sit down and compare this conversation against the various Primero reconstructions, and see which ones make sense for this conversation...
A book to warm my heart: a serious scholarly examination of the history of Rhythmomachy. As of this writing, I have only recently acquired this book, so I haven't had a chance to do more than skim it, but it looks quite useful in understanding the context of the game.
It is not intended as a game-player's handbook -- this is mainly focused on the history of the game rather than its play. It includes a transcription of Fulke in the back, but goes no further than that in describing how the game was actually played. Which is a pity -- I think such a study would have been enhanced by more analysis of the game itself -- but it's still a good addition to the lore. And it includes what appears to be a pretty comprehensive bibliography (although, frustratingly, it does not cite my much-earlier transcription of Fulke, nor any other online material, of which there is much by now).
Many books with this title have been written down the years, but this is the one that really counts; while the scholarship has advanced a little since Murray's day, it's still the case that everyone starts here and then moves forward.
If you have only one book on period chess, this is the one to have. It's an enormous time (900 pages), and the vast majority of it is devoted to the pre-1600 history of the game. Once the game stabilizes in the early modern period, Murray seems to mostly lose interest.
Murray goes into minute detail about every aspect of the game, discussing not only the rules, but also issues like the literature written in period using chess as a metaphor, three chapters on period chess problems, and of course descriptions of every known early variant of chess (of which there were many).
The scholarship is impeccable; not only does the book discuss pretty much every known source in detail, it includes great swathes of medieval texts on the subject, in Latin, Spanish, English and other languages.
This is not a book for the casual reader; it is enormous and dense. But for anyone seriously interested in the subject of period chess, it is the most vital book on the subject. And now it is back in print. Get It.
This is Murray's much later, more obscure, and far harder-to-find followup to A History of Chess. While not as impressive a work as its predecessor, this is nonetheless one of the seminal works in the field.
This book sets down the format followed by many of the more recent writers, such RC Bell and Jeff DeLuca, encyclopedically categorizing board games and then listing pretty much all known instances of each type. It does not confine itself to period games, but tends to be heavy on them; Murray appears to have had little interest in modern board games. It is useful to have, not least because pretty much everyone who comes after cites this particular book.
Although usually fairly clear, the book is very concise in most cases; I definitely don't recommend it for beginners. In general, it is less clear than Bell, and has a smaller scope that DeLuca (in that it only covers board games); however, its coverage of board games is unbeatable, including many games and variants I haven't heard of elsewhere.
After many years of being one of the hardest books on the subject to obtain, this is now back in print. It's not expensive, and is a must-have. Anyone at all serious about period board games must have a copy.
This is a spiral-bound collection of rules to a variety of Elizabethan games. It is aimed more at the practical re-enactor than the scholar, so it focuses mainly on describing the rules clearly, but it does a better job of citing its sources and describing its reconstruction logic than most SCA and related sources. I occasionally disagree with his reconstructions (we have a long and rambling back-and-forth on the contentious subject of Primero), but this seems to be a good solid source for someone who wants to know how to play the games, and wants pointers to understanding where they come from. It makes a particularly good complement to DeLuca, since it focuses on exactly the games he doesn't cover.
One of the more just-plain-useful books on card games, although one that is a bit flawed. The book is precisely what the name says: an alphabetical dictionary of card games, with concise rules for each.
It should be noted that this is not specifically a book on period games -- although Parlett tries to cover all of the historical games as well, the majority of the book is devoted to more modern recreations. Also, while he gives the context for each game, it is sometimes quite brief -- this book really isn't about history, just rules. So figuring out which games are period can require close reading.
Parlett sets himself a large enough task that he occasionally errs; I disagree with some of his reconstructions, and I would recommend that the serious reader regard this as a starting-point, not gospel. Still and all, the book is indispensible for providing a very complete reference to all major known Western card games, in a very digestible and clear package. A must-have.
The only major recent overview of the subject. Parlett covers the broad sweep of the evolution of card games by dividing the games into a number of families, and tracing each one separately.
The book is good, and quite useful, although by necessity does not spend a great deal of time on any one game. Better sources can be found for many of the specific games, but nothing else provides the overview that this one does.
This work does not go into any significant detail about the rules of most of the games; it is best read with a copy of Parlett's Dictionary of Card Games alongside, to provide the detail. In general, the two books form a pretty good matched set, with the Dictionary giving the fine details and the History giving the context.
A broadside to the tune of "I Tell the Dick", using cards as a metaphor for various unsavory types.
The first known book on juggling and other street entertainments. A fine introduction to the subject. Actually more concerned with street magic than with what we would call juggling. Has a section on magic with cards, and some warnings about how people cheat with them. Ends with a section telling of the dangers of Alchemy, and a few curious charms for witches.
This is a sequel to the author's earlier pamphlet on Medieval Games (issue #71 of "The Complete Anachronist"), and covers a selection of non-European games that were contemporary with the European Middle Ages.
The book is more primer than research source -- its main goal is to assist the reader in learning to play these games, and it has few references or footnotes. It covers a good selection of games: 16 varied board games, most of the major Eastern Chess variants, a bunch of dice games and several domino-type games. It includes a bibliography in the back, and a timeline placing the known timeframe for each game.
This slim (less than 100 pages) hardcover is perhaps the best primer I've seen on the history of playing cards. It isn't as detailed as books like Hargrave, but it is clear and entertainingly written, and heavily illustrated. The chapters are divided up sensibly, with chapters on: Origins; The Italian and Spanish Packs; The German Pack; The French and Belgian Packs; The English Pack; The American and Russian Packs; and Special Packs.
An excellent popularization of the subject. If you can find a used copy, it's well worth having.
Tournaments Illuminated is the quarterly journal of the SCA, which has run for some 100+ issues over the past 30 years. In that time, several articles about period games have been published; this is a listing of some of the ones I have copies of. (In particular, this is currently a listing of most of the earlier articles.)
Issue 25; Winter 1972. A long letter, apparently in response to an earlier article talking about Shatranj. This letter synopsizes the high points of Murray's description of medieval chess. It describes the short assize in detail, as well as briefer descriptions of the Spanish, Lombard, and Anglo/French assizes. Written by Sir Thomas na Leabhar O Conaire.
Issue 31. Medieval and Renaissance Gaming, pt. 1, by Alair of the Bloody Fountain, OL. This article gives brief descriptions of Tarot (somewhat inaccurately), Ruff and Honors, Whisk, Triomphe, and Primero; collectively, these were several of the most common Renaissance card games. I just wish he included his sources; some of the rules he gives differ from what I know, and I'm curious where they come from.
Issue 33. Medieval and Renaissance Gaming, pt. 2, by Alair of the Bloody Fountain, OL. In this article, he covers a bunch of non-card games: Nine Men's Merels, Hazard, Draughts, Fox and Geese, and Alquerques. This article doesn't seem to have as much that surprises me...
Issue 48. The 78-Card Game: Card Games Played With the Tarot Deck, by Alfgar the Sententious. A nice 4-page article describing the basic concepts of tarocchi. Unfortunately, this article predates Dummett's The Game of Tarot, so it is a bit light on the historical detail, but it describes well what was commonly known at the time, and describes one version of the game nicely.
Issue 62. On Riddles, by Taira d'en Farraige Thiar. A nice article explaining the period concept of riddles, with a bunch of examples.
Issue 73. Tarock, the Tarot Game, by Arminius Aquilinus. Despite the name, this article actually describes a fairly standard version of tarocchi; it uses the term "Tarock" following Stewart Kaplan's suggestions that "Tarot" be reserved for divination. The description doesn't quite match my usual version, but it's certainly a reasonable variant, and he also gives synopses of several other variants. Overall, a good description of the basic game.
Issue 92. Of Circles and Kings: Two easy-to-learn Chess Variants, by Roberto de Jerez. Concise but reasonably clear descriptions of Circular/Byzantine Chess and Chess of the Four Seasons. Includes illustrations of the boards, but no bibliography.
Issue 92.. Shoffe Grotte, by Cathal Sean OConnlauin. A one-page description of Shovegroat, with a picture of the standard board, and instructions how to construct it.
Not a book of history, really, just a detailed examination of the modern game as played in Britain, written by the 1925 English Singles Champion. It describes the modern game in considerable detail, including fine points of strategy and style, like how to hold and throw the bowl, and the various kinds of shots one can try. It's all far more precise than would be likely in the period game, of course, but is nonetheless interesting -- the game hasn't changed dramatically in the intervening centuries, so some of what is written here is applicable to the looser period style.
After many years, I can finally list this book. Jeff Forgeng gave me a preprint many years ago, and many of my reconstructions, especially of late-period card games, are critically derived from it. It is now in print, and should be in the library of every serious games researcher.
Willoughby is, IMO, one of the half-dozen most useful books on the subject of period games. It is post-period (mid-17th century), but provides the first truly in-depth and clear descriptions of many games referred to during SCA period. Although only existing in manuscript form, it is far more thoughtful and detailed than contemporary sources such as Cotton. It covers a substantial number of games, including a variety of card games, board games and both indoor and outdoor sports.
This edition is a handsome one, useful far beyond the transcription. Besides considerable introductory material about Willoughby and his times, it also has an immensely useful glossary of the games referenced, with concordances of other sources mentioning those games, as well as a glossary of technical terms and a deep bibliography.
The book is far from cheap (over $100 at list price), but well worth it for anyone serious about the subject. Anyone who cares about Elizabethan games must have a copy.
This enormous (900 pages) book attempts to live up to its title, providing an overview of the rules of everything that can reasonably be called a game. Its sweep is enormous, covering everything from cards to board games to active outdoor recreations to guessing games; even a bit of dance is described. It is fairly geographically diverse, although clearly mostly Western in its outlook.
Although the book has occasional sections on history, that certainly is not its focus; it cares primarily about giving rules. The sections on history are brief, and often a bit suspect, with broad assertions that I find questionable.
Still, it is rather useful for its completeness, especially if one needs to look up a modern game for some reason. It doesn't cover everything, but it's more complete than any other book I know on the subject.
As of this writing this is a recent acquisition, so I haven't been able to look through this in detail. It is an interesting little book of culture, though, with an almost-period attitude: using Chess as a lens to understand culture. It traces the origins of the Queen as a chess piece from its beginning, and focuses mostly on period history, using the Queen as a springboard to examine period attitudes about women. Not a crucial source for the game historian per se, but an interesting and useful contextual source.