Historic Card Games described by David Parlett




Sources and booklist
Aldenham, Lord (Gibbs, G H)
The Game of Ombre (London 1874, 1902, privately printed)
A detailed and readable account of the game, well illustrated, and with an analysis of Belinda's Game from Pope's The Rape of the Lock
Benham, W. Gurney
Playing Cards (London 1931)
"A history of the pack and explanations of its many secrets". Ward, Lock; Reprinted by Spring Books, London, 1953.
Cardano Girolamo
Liber de ludo aleae (1564)
Translated as "The book on games of chance" by Sydney H. Gould (New York 1953). Basically a manual on gambling, written by a 63-year old scholar and former playboy, this is the earliest example of a book containing more or less intelligible rules of play for any card games, specifically Primero and Trappola.
"Cavendish" (= Henry Jones),
Card Essays (London 1879)
In full, "Card Essays, Clay's Decisions, and Card-Table Talk". Essay titles: Whist versus Chess, On the Morality of Card-playing, On the Origin and Development of Cards and Card Games, On the Etymology of Whist, Duties on Playing-Cards, Molière on Piquet, The Duffer's Whist Maxims.

/strong>Cavendish on Piquet (London 1896)
In full, "The Laws of Piquet adopted by the Portland and Turf Clubs, with a Treatise on the Game". My copy (1896) is the ninth edition; the first was privately printed in 1873.
Chatto, William Andrew
Facts and Speculations on the Origin and History of Playing Cards (London, 1848))
A fascinating read, for its time. The title speaks for itself.
Cotgrave, John
Wits Interpreter)(2nd edition, London, 1655)
Sub-titled "The English Parnassus", and amounting, in effect, to a sort of Idler's Vademecum, this is the earliest English book to contain detailed descriptions of various card games, and then only in the second edition. (The first appeared in 1652.) The section devoted to "Games and sports now used this day among the gentry of England" contains the following entries: "the Noble Spanish Game of l'Ombre, the Ingenious Game of Picquet" (cribbed from an English translation of a French book), "the Gentile [sic] Game of Cribbidge, the Princely Game of Chesse". (These are followed by an article entitled "How to Cure Corns".)
Cotton, John
The Compleat Gamester(1674)
The first English book devoted entirely to games and sports was published anonymously and later ascribed to Cotton, who had in fact a few years earlier produced an expanded edition of Izaak Walton's celebrated Compleat Angler, on which the Gamester is obviously based. The chapters on Ombre, Piquet, Cribbidge and Chess are lifted almost bodily from Cotgrave, but the others appear to be more original. I have worked from (a) a facsimile of Samuel Pepys's personal copy of the 1676 edition [Pepys, 714], with annotations in the diarist's handwriting, published in 1972 by Cornmarket Reprints, London (ISBN 0 7191 1486 1), and (b) a reprint forming Part I of Games and Gamesters of the Restoration', London, 1930, of which Part II is Lives of the Gamesters by Theophilus Lucas.
"Du Coeur, Justin" (= Martin Waks)
Medieval and Renaissance Games),
A web site containing much useful information on period games, including reconstructions, transcriptions of sources and images, bibliographies, FAQs, links to vendors of period games and materials, and related matters.
Dummett, Prog. (Sir) Michael
The Game of Tarot (London, 1981)
Most of the first half of this pioneering work is devoted to the history and development of cards and card games in general, as background to the more specific study of Tarot games themselves. The second half has since been superseded by Dummett and McLeod: A History of Games played with the Tarot Pack (Edwin Mellen Press, 2004).
Hargrave, Catherine Perry
A History of Playing Cards(1930)
"A History of Playing Cards and a Bibliography of Games and Gaming". Mine is the Dover (New York) reprint of 1966. The Bibliography is invaluable.
Holme, Randle
The AScademy of Armory (1688)
(Vol 2, ed Jeayes, Roxburgh Club, 1905) (BM C.101.h.2) Contains brief and inadequate descriptions of: Picket, Gleke, Cribbidge, Ruffe & Honors and Whisk, Bone Ace, Put and the High Game, Lanterloo, Noddy and Cribbidge-Noddy, Penneech, Post and Pair - all mostly cribbed from Cotton, though with one or two additional comments of interest, and a list of other card games.
Hoyle, Edmond
Hoyle's Games (London, 1847),
My copy is 1847, but Hargrave lists an earlier G.- H.- edition of 1835
Jones, Henry
The prolific 19th-century writer on card games in general, and Whist in particular, wrote under the pen-name "Cavendish", q.v.
"Lucas, Theophilus (pseud.) Lives of the Gamesters, (1714)
Reprinted in Games and Gamesters of the Restoration (together with Cotton's Compleat Gamester, above), London, 1930. The chief interest of this work is that it puts card games into context: you learn who played what, how well or honestly, and with what result.
Mcleod, John
"Pagat" Rules of Card Games
The most comprehensive and only authoritative web site for all rules of card games and associated material.
Pole, William, et al.
The Handbook of Games - Volume II, Card Games, (London 1891)
Contains Whist (Pole), Solo Whist (F Green), Piquet, Ecarté, Euchre, Bézique, Cribbage (by "Berkeley"), and half a dozen round games, including Spoil Five, by "Baxter-Wray".
Rabelais, François
Gargantua, (1534)
Rabelais' rewrite of an existing story called The Great and Inestimable Chronicles of the Grand and Enormous Giant Gargantua (1532) includes a list of some 195 games played by his eponymous hero, of which the first 35 are, where identifiable, all card games. They include Prime (Primero), Triomphe, Cent (Piquet), Thirty-One, Cuckoo, Glic, and "Coquinbert, qui gaigne perd" ("he who wins, loses"). A subsequent German-language version entitled Geschichtklitterung ("History-Twistery"), by the Alsatian writer Gottfried Fischart, expanded the gaming list to over 600 items by the time of its third edition in 1590.
"Quanti, Q. (pseud)
Quadrille Elucidated (Cheltenham, 1822)
"Being a historical, critical and practical Treatise of that Admired Game": a detailed, authoritative and fluent work, if a trifle pedantic.
Singer, Samuel Weller
Researches into the History of Playing Cards, with illustrations of the Origin of Printing and Engraving on Wood (London, 1816)
The complete text has been digitised by Google.
Taylor, Rev. Edwin S.
The History of Playing Cards (1865)
"With Anecdotes of their use in Conjuring, Fortune-Telling and Card-Sharping". Based on a translation of Boiteau d'Ambly, Les cartes à jouer et la cartomancie (1854), but with substantial contributions by others, the whole edited by Taylor. My copy is a 1973 reprint by Tuttle of Tokyo. It is an enjoyable and to some extent informative book, if used with all due critical caution; but the republication in 1973 of something over a century out of date has had the unfortunate effect of misleading the unwary, especially journalists and occultists, into perpetuating notions of the subject that have since been discredited.
Taylor, John, "The Water Poet"
Taylor's Motto (1621) John Taylor (1580-1654)was a Thames ferryman who wrote large quantities of doggerel verse of more interest to social historians than to students of literature. His Motto includes a wonderful list of popular board and card games of the time in the following passage:
    The prodigalls estate like to a flux,
    The Mercer, Draper and the Silkman sucks.
    At Irish, Tick-Tacke, Doublets, Draughts, or Chesse,
    He flings his money free with carelessnesse.
    At Novum, Mumchance, Mischance (chuse ye which),
    At one-and thirty, or at Poor-and-rich,
    Ruffe, Slam, Trump, Noddy, Whisk, Hole, Sant, New-cut.
    Unto the keeping of four Knaves he'll put
    His whole estate; at Loadum or at Gleeke,
    At Tickle-me-quickly, he's a merry Greeke;
    At Primifisto, Post-and-payre, Primero,
    Maw, Whip-her-ginny, he's a lib'ral hero;
    At My-sow-pigg'd: but (reader, never doubt ye)
    He's skill'd in all games, except Look about ye...
    And thus the Prodigall, himself alone,
    Gives sucke to thousands, and himself sucks none
Willughby, Francis
A Volume of Plaies (ms. ca. 1665-70) published as
Francis Willughby's Book of Games (2003)
(Plaies = games for playing, not plays for performing.) Manuscript of the Middleton Collection, Hallward Library, University of Nottingham. A redaction by Jeff Forgeng, Dorothy Johnston, and David Cram was published in October 2003 by Ashgate Press under the title Francis Willughby's Book of Games" (ISBN 1 85928 460 4).
Copyright © 2017 by David Parlett
Balloon up Jokerlink Suitmix logo Globe
Top of
Glossary of
card terms