The Royal Pastime of Cupid: Two Early English Association Copies

Duggan, Eddie (2017) The Royal Pastime of Cupid: Two Early English Association Copies. In: XX Annual International Board Game Studies Colloquium, 17–20 May 2017, University of Copenhagen.

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This paper will review twelve examples of The Royal pastime of Cupid or the Entertaining Game of the Snake, known to be published in Britain, suggesting revised publication dates in three instances.

The R. H. Laurie print in the V&A collection, dated ca. 1850, is perhaps the most well-known (Goodfellow 1991, p. 18). The central motif shows cupid sharpening his arrow on a wheel in a formal garden. The V&A website notes the transfer of stock between the various owners of the business at 53 Fleet Street, suggesting Laurie’s 1850 print uses Robert Sayer’s 1750 plate with the imprimatur updated. Whitehouse (1951) includes Sayer’s Royal Pastime of Cupid in his “list of games known to have been published”; however, it has not been possible to locate Sayer’s 1750 print.

Three examples published in Glasgow ca. 1810–1830 by James Lumsden & Son are known. One, a chromolithograph, is included in Adrian Seville’s 2016 exhibition catalogue, The Royal Game of the Goose: 400 Years of Printed Board Games.

Several examples dated “1794” are known: the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera in the Bodleian Library has a Laurie & Whittle print (the imprint of which states “published 12th May 1794”) together with another “printed and sold by William Dicey at his printing office in Bow Church-Yard London”. A third, attributed to Laurie & Whittle, bears the imprint “Printed & sould by John Garrett at his shop next ye stayers of ye Royall Exchange in Cornhill” (Whitehouse 1951, facing p. 60).

The Laurie and Whittle print uses the image of cupid sharpening his arrow as the central motif; this design is copied by James Lumsden & Son. Both the Dicey and Garrett examples use a peasant dance motif, apparently derived from Visscher’s 1625 design (an example of which can be seen in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam: RP-P-OB-77.369).

A Carington Bowles print, dated ca. 1765, was sold by a dealer in Tennessee. While the date is plausible, the Cupid game does not appear in the John Bowles & Son catalogue of 1753, suggesting the game was added to the Bowles’s stock some time after 1753. It is included, however (along with two other board games) in Carington Bowle’s 1784 catalogue. A coloured example, with the Bowles & Carver imprint, probably dates from 1793–1830.

This paper will show evidence to suggest the Dicey print would probably have been published between 1736–1740, or at least before 1770. The Garrett print, estimated to have been published ca. 1690–1700, is included in the Garrett catalogue of 1697 and a revised estimate might therefore be "ca. 1697". Similarly, the dealer's estimated "ca. 1765" publication date of the Carington Bowles issue would be more certain with the support of catalogue evidence, and should probably be "ca. 1784".

John Garrett is also the printer of two earlier association copies. One, dated by Clayton to 1700, belonged to George Clarke (1661–1736) and is in the George Clarke Print Collection at Worcester College, Oxford. The other, dated 1690, was owned by Narcissus Luttrell (1657–1732) and is part of the Bute Broadside collection in the Houghton Library at Harvard.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: board games, Cupid, Snake
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NE Print media
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Business & Applied Social Science > Department of Arts & Humanities
Depositing User: Eddie Duggan
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2020 08:58
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2020 08:58

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