Traveling the World via a Board Game…

Imagine getting paid to play with children’s books and sometimes even with children’s games.  As a cataloger, I get to “play with” them, in a sense — but it’s not quite the same as “playing” games, I assure you — and I usually learn something and almost always enjoy doing it too: “instruction with delight,” as John Newbery famously phrased it.

This all ran though my mind while cataloging a new Cotsen acquisition: a French board-game adaptation of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, titled: Le Voyage Autour du Monde en 80 Jours: d’apres le Roman de Jules Verne: Jeu de Société. 

Game Board for "Le Voyage Autour du Monde en 80 jours : D’apres le Roman de Jules Verne : Jeu de Société"

Game Board for “Le Voyage Autour du Monde en 80 jours : D’apres le Roman de Jules Verne : Jeu de Société” by Roches Frères  (Paris, ca. 1880?)  – Cotsen new acquisition.

Cotsen’s version of the game-board isn’t itself titled, but the caption title I used to catalog the item comes from the accompanying four-page printed instruction and rule booklet. Roches Frères has added the imprint of their Paris printing house on the bottom left of the board, in the white margin, but it’s a little hard to see in the above photo (a better view is in a photo below).  I’m still looking for information about the Paris firm Roches Frères, but the they seem to have been active in Paris from the 1880s through 1900, based on the dates of other of their publications cataloged by other libraries.  After 1900, another Roches Frères published in Avignon until 1911 or so — maybe the firm moved? (Research also turned up a third, earlier firm named “Roches Frères,” this one publishing in New Orleans from about 1813 into the early 1820s, presumably a different entity altogether, but so far I can’t say so definitely).

"tres Amusant"... Rules of the game

“Très amusant”… Description and rules of the game.

Cotsen’s game-board seems to be one of at least 8 different versions of the game issued by various publishers between 1874 and 1928, an apparent testament to successful sales  and ongoing popularity with children and/or grown-ups.  (Verne’s novel first appeared in print in 1872.) With children’s books and games, it’s always hard to know how much items’ sales connote their actual appeal to children themselves, since adults were generally the ones making the purchases.  But I think a 50+ year run of publication and re-publication certainly suggests a popular item!  Cotsen’s game board seems to be a relatively early version, based on the form of the title, the printer’s dates, and particularly a chronology of versions posted online.1

Unfortunately, the Cotsen copy of the the game arrived without the illustrated box it originally came in, six little hand-painted lead playing pieces (modeled on characters in the novel: Phileas Fogg, his servant Passepartout, etc.), currency tokens, dice, and dice cup. (Dice thus make a somewhat unusual appearance in a children’s game of this era, in lieu of a teetotum spinner — dice generally being shunned in children’s activities games for being associated with gambling and the unsavory world of vice.  Perhaps this is because the mainspring of book’s plot is a bet?)  But Princeton’s Graphic Arts Collection has a later (ca. 1915) version of the game that’s essentially complete, accompanied by an advertising flyer, which curator Julie Melby has blogged about.  Both versions of the game board are the same size: fully opening out to 49 x 58 cm.

The games afoot... The game board first spaces, showing Fogg in London.

The game’s afoot!
The game board’s first spaces, showing Fogg in London (with Roche Frères’ imprint below).

But let’s get back to the game itself!  True to Jules Verne’s original story, the players begin in London, appropriately enough with space number 1 depicting Phileas Fogg (here called “Phogg”) and space 3 the scene where Fogg bets £20,000 (a colossal sum then!) with fellow-members of the Reform Club that he can completely travel around the world within 80 days.  With that, he’s off on his trip leaving the familiar world of London and fashionable Saville Row (space 4) behind…


Through the Alps and a view of Mt. Vesuvius

In the game, players of the game race to be first to complete Fogg’s journey, the places and people encountered shown here in illustrations, within the numbered spaces and accompanying graphics, all brightly chromolithographed.  First, it’s through France and Italy and onto a steamer across the Mediterranean, depicted by the nineteenth-century steam locomotive racing through a tunnel under the Alps (both new technological marvels then), a contemporary steam-ship, and a depiction of the Bay of Naples, with a smoking Mt. Vesuvius in the background.  Vesuvius, whose spectacular volcanic eruption in 79 AD buried Pompeii and Herculaneum, also erupted some 14 times during the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, and it often figures prominently in children’s literature of this period.  This is due to a combination of factors, I think: the pure visual appeal of depicting an erupting volcano in hand-colored or color-processed illustrations, then relatively cutting-edge book technologies, the fascination that such volatile forces of nature hold for a child (or adult!) reader, the frequent attention paid to natural history in educational children’s materials during this period (and we’ll see another instance of this in another recently-cataloged work to be discussed in the following blog posting), as well as the way that volcanoes and natural disasters displayed the power of fate, human frailty, and the power of God or supernatural forces to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century readers.

Into Egypt

Suez Canal, Port Said, and Aden

Middle Eastern people

Middle Eastern people

Next, it’s through the Suez Canal — then, having recently opened in 1869 — via a canal steamer and on to the ports of Port Said, Egypt, and Aden, in what’s now Yemen, via what look like smaller and smaller sail-powered craft. Things are getting a little more adventurous… Along with scenery, the people Fogg encountered on the journey are also presented on game spaces in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the terrifically-popular illustrated European travel literature of this period, such as David Roberts’ Travels in Egypt & the Holy Land.  The emphasis on visual artistic depictions of “exotic” places and people in the game — and in children’s literature generally — reminds us just how new and exciting such depictions were to Europeans at this time, something it’s easy to forget in our era of visual-media-on-demand in a world that seems to have “shrunk” in many ways.

Traveling through India...

Traveling through India…

On to Singapore and Hong Kong...

On to Singapore and Hong Kong…

As the players move along the board, they see more of the sights that Verne had Fogg encounter: India, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Indian rajahs, magicians… Modes of transportation also reflect the vicissitudes of journey described by Verne, for instance, the travelers must leave an Indian railroad (not fully completed, despite what Fogg had read in a London newspaper, which had prompted his bet!) and buy an elephant to proceed along the 50-mile gap in the railroad; the “iron horse” — wonderfully evoked by the French term “chemin de fer” (literally “road of iron”) — literally yields to traditional animal-powered locomotion.


Central game-board view of the globe, centering on the Pacific Ocean, unlike most European views

To win the bet, Fogg had to make it all the way around the world and back to London!  So he and Passpartout begin the return leg of their trip across the Pacific Ocean.  This provides the illustrator with an opportunity to show their dotted-line route on a slightly unusual view of the globe — at least for Europeans — one centered on the Pacific, not Atlantic, Ocean.  Think of all the Mercator Projection cutaway views of the globe that you’ve seen with Europe and the Atlantic Ocean at the “center of the world” with the map “split” so the Pacific is an the “edges” of the earth.  There’s no strictly logical, map-making reason for this presentation, other than cultural orientation — cultures just typically present themselves at the center of the world!  (A British Library exhibition, “Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art,” presented examples of this orientation in a variety of maps, produced by a wide variety of cultures and eras.) And don’t miss the purely illustrative “exotic” animals positioned around the globe —  a visual rendition of “nature red in tooth and claw”

San Francisco and across Great Plains, via "chemin de fer"

San Francisco and Great Plains, via “chemin de fer”

New York & and Statue of Liberty (dedicated, 1886)

New York & and Statue of Liberty (dedicated, 1886)

Having crossed the Pacific from East to West, the travelers’ next leg in the journey takes them across the entire United States, also something of a mystifying wilderness expanse of land to Englishmen and Europeans at the time.  Accordingly, the board spaces in the “inner loop” of the game-board depict San Francisco (and one of its legendary cable cars), the recently-completed Transcontinental railroad across the Great Plains (where distinctive American bison then ran free), a side-wheel paddle steamer, Chicago (whose Loop looks suspiciously like San Francisco!), and finally New York with its distinctive Statue of Liberty (dedicated only in place on Liberty Island in 1886, so this view may be an artistic imagining of the actual scene), before setting sail across the Atlantic.

Eventually, back in England after drama involving a missed ship, a mutinous crew, and a Scotland Yard detective detective who mistakenly arrests him for being a robber — all depicted on the ten or so last spaces on the game-board — Fogg is able to collect his bet, marry the girl (an Indian princess no less, Aouda, whom he had rescued during the journey), and enjoy the quintessential London vista of the River Thames, Tower Bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The River Thames at London Bridge

Back to London in time to win the bet!

To find out more about such plot escapades, you’ll have to read the book for yourself — I have to say that I’m curious myself now to reread the story! — but I hope this blog posting has shown you something about how the world and some of its peoples were depicted on this nineteenth-century game-board.  It really is remarkable how what’s essentially a backdrop for a game portrays so many facets of world geography and ethnography using a purely visual “vocabulary” with no language, (other than brief text labels): instruction with delight, indeed!

1. Marie-Helene Huet, “Re: Le Tour du Monde, game from 1915,” Jules Verne Forum (Thu, 10 Mar 2011), accessed 4/16/2015.


A Christmas Box, or, a Small Holiday Mystery…

Some Early Holiday Books for Children Published by the Baldwins

Book publishers frequently reissue a variety of new versions of books around the holidays, many in “special holiday editions” or versions meant to make them suitable as gifts. Sometimes, these are indeed new books, but often they’re just reissues of prior editions, with colorful new covers or dust-jackets, designed to catch the eye of someone looking for a entertaining but educational gift.  This is especially true of many children’s books.  What adult hasn’t spent time looking for a last-minute gift or stocking-stuffer for a child?

We tend to think of this repurposing of content as a modern phenomenon—after all, isn’t this the era of marketing and targeted sales? But—as in many cases—children’s booksellers seemed to have caught on to this idea long ago—indeed, in the eighteenth century they seem to have been one of the early innovators of this practice.

In much the same spirit of entrepreneurial innovation, bookselling was perhaps the first trade to realize that the packaging for item—that is, books’ covers or paper wrappers—could be a marketing tool for helping attract purchasers. Books, which had been offered for sale unbound or in plain bindings or paper wrappers, were sold in increasingly attractive publisher’s bindings, some illustrated, some colored, and some in eye-catching materials.  Dutch gilt paper for instance, was used by Thomas Boreman and John Newbery to bind up entertaining books for young readers as a way of distinguishing them from school books or more serious titles.

The Three Baldwin variations (arranged earliest to latest from left to right, in their appealing Dutch Paper wrappers. (Cotsen New Acquisition)

The three R. Baldwin editions (arranged from earliest to latest, left to right, in their appealing (but quite different) Dutch gilt paper wrappers.
(Cotsen New Acquisition)


Title page of a Christmas Box (R. Baldwin, [after 1754] (Cotsen new acquisition)

Title page of A Christmas Box, 
(R. Baldwin, [after 1754])
(Cotsen new acquisition)

Cataloging several editions of a previously unrecorded eighteenth century children’s book brought home the idea of repurposing content to me. The first book I cataloged announced that it was a Christmas book in its title: A Christmas Box. The full title, as it appears on the title page is: A Christmass Box, or, Little Polite Tales, Fables, Riddles, Stories, Letters, Epitaphs, &c.: in Easy Prose and Verse, with Other Lessons of Morality Equally Instructive & Entertaining for Little Masters and Misses: Adorned with Sculptures.  Quite a mouthful, compared to the current practice of keeping titles to single words.  (Note: “Christmass,” which I first thought must be a typo, turns out to be an early variation on the spelling, more widely used in the sixteenth-and seventeenth-century, but clearly still in use in the mid-eighteenth century. By the way, a “Christmas box” was a small clay container with a slot like a piggy bank and at the end of the year servants went around with them collecting tips from employers.  The term could also be used in the eighteenth century as a synonym for any present given during the extended Christmas holidays).

As the subtitle suggests, the book is miscellany of fables, tales, riddles, short Bible stories, short poems, precepts, and epitaphs. This broad range of material was consistent with prevailing eighteenth-century views that an anthology ought to mix up serious and humorous materials as a way of catching and holding the interest of children, so they might learn something useful from their pleasure reading. It’s still fairly typical of gift books.

But this book posed some small mysteries for a cataloger.  When was it published? (It’s undated, as the image of the title page shows.)  Also, who was the publisher “R. Baldwin”? There several booksellers and printers using the name “R. Baldwin” at about the same time.  Cotsen Library has no other book titled Christmas Box by Baldwin, nor did I find one in the WorldCat, the world-wide combined library catalog.  With so little information and no other similarly-titled book to compare, the plot thickened…

But the long alternate title turned out to be an important clue.  And Cotsen does have another Baldwin publication—in fact two copies of one—titled Little Polite Tales, Fables Riddles, Stories, Letters, Epitaphs, &c.  Looking inside these books, I quickly realized that all three books had the same content, and the same number of pages (128, plus two leaves of engraved plates, the frontispiece illustration and the title page). Only the title pages were different—along with some other, relatively minor printing variations; take a look at the variations in the woodcut headpieces and the decorative capital letter “T” at the first selection in each book.

First page of text in all three books: actual text is the same but all three have different woodcut headpieces and decorative capital initial "T," among other smaller changes--suggesting different editions of similar content.

First page of text in all three books: actual text is the same, but note how all three have different woodcut headpiece ornaments and different printer’s device decorations around the initial “T,” among other smaller changes–suggesting different editions of similar content.


Little Polite Tales,  R. Baldwin, Jr, (1751) (Cotsen new acquisition)

Title page of Little Polite Tales,
R. Baldwin, Jr,  (1751)
(Cotsen new acquisition)

Only one book was dated, the 1751 edition of Little Polite Tales. Was it the first one printed, or was one of the other books printed first?  How to tell?  One potential clue—or point of confusion—seemed to be in the variation in the publisher’s name, “R. Baldwin, Jr.” (on both Cotsen copies of Little Polite Tales), as opposed to “R. Baldwin” (on the Christmas Box).  But was this the same person or two different people, perhaps a father and son?  (Publishing in this era was often a family affair.)  To make things more confusing, there were at least five R. Baldwins issuing books in London at this time, three Richards and two Roberts, two brothers and their three sons!

To make a long story short, it seems that “R. Baldwin, Jr” was Richard Baldwin, 1724-1770, son of Richard, brother of Robert, and both nephew and cousin of two Roberts. He first issued books under the name “R. Baldwin, Jr.” to distinguish himself from his father, but gradually dropped the “Jr.” once he became more established himself; the last book he issued as “R. Baldwin, Jr.” was in 1754.¹

Title page of Little Polite Tales, R. Baldwin, Jr, ([between 1751 & 1754?]) (Cotsen new acquisition)

Title page of Little Polite Tales,
R. Baldwin, Jr,  ([between 1751 & 1754?]) 
(Cotsen new acquisition)

What does all this mean in terms of dating our books? Remember, one copy of Little Polite Tales was dated 1751. So the other copy of Little Polite Tales, the one with no date, seems likely to have been issued sometime between 1751 and 1754—that is, between the date of the first (dated) edition and the date when Richard Baldwin dropped the “Jr.” from his imprint.  This conclusion seems supported by an interesting change to the title page of this undated edition, the addition of the text: “A Pretty Present as a Christmas Box, or New Year’s Gift.”  This suggests the original Little Polite Tales was reissued as a holiday gift book. (Perhaps the printing of the frontispiece and title page in red ink was meant as a festive touch?)

The book titled Christmas Box, then, must date from sometime after 1754, since Baldwin identified himself just as “R. Baldwin.”  Cotsen’s copy of this book also has an inscription dated “1774,” so we can use 1774 as the last possible date the book could have been issued. So the Christmas Box seems to date from between 1754 and 1774 and it is apparently the last of the three books to be published.

Inscription, dated Jan1774, in Christmas box, which suggests a 1774 terminal date

Inscription, dated Jan, 7, 1774, in A Christmas Box, which suggests 1774 as a terminal date for publication: thus a date of [between 1754 & 1774].  The January 7 inscription also suggests that this book was indeed given to Jos. Phillips as a Christmas or New Year’s holiday book.

This sequence of publication also makes sense, I think, in terms of how the title of the book seems to have evolved: 1) Little Polite Tales; 2: Little Polite Tales…A Christmas Box…; 3) A Christmas Box. The idea that Baldwin took a “regular” book and reissued it at least twice seems to make sense too, in terms of the general publishing “model” I talked about at the beginning of this piece—it seems unlikely that Baldwin took a Christmas book and reissued it as a non-seasonal piece (but technically, that remains a possibility).

And what sort of Christmas delights could be expected by the “masters and misses” to whom Baldwin dedicated each version of his book?  “A Short Essay on the Nature and Beauty of Fable,” and “An Alphabet in Verse, containing Rules of Life,” lead off the book, followed by fables each followed by an explicitly didactic moral “application.”  Next come the riddles, and after them, the Bible stories, such as “A History of the Creation of the World, and the Fall of Man,” “The History of Cain and Abel” (accompanied by a woodcut of Cain braining Abel with a huge club), and “ The History of Daniel in the Lion’s Den.” Following these Bible stories, comes the seven-page “Filial Ingratitude: the Ancient History of King Lear and his Three Daughters,” which at least follows the eighteenth-century editors’ practice of having Lear and Cordelia survive “for some years afterwards,” instead of meeting the tragic ends Shakespeare provided.  (Dr. Johnson, for one, thought the original ending of King Lear was just too horrific for adults, not to mention for children.)

Concluding all three of the “Christmas Box” books and its kin are “serious” and “humorous” epitaphs, the last reading:

An Humorous Epitaph

On Little Stephen, a noted fiddler, in the Country of Suffolk.
Stephen and Time
Are how both even;
Stephen beat Time,
And Time beat Stephen.

So, while these eighteenth-century books are quite different from earlier religious instruction, primers, and alphabet catechisms aimed at “miniature adults,” as they’re sometimes termed, publishers clearly had quite a different idea of what an “instructive and entertaining book for little masters and misses” was than we have now.

And on that note, Cotsen Library wishes all of you–children and grown-ups alike–a very Merry Christmas!

 Note:  1) C.Y. Ferdinand, “Richard Baldwin Junior, Bookseller,” in Studies in Bibliography, Vol 42 (1989), p. 259.