Douai, J. Bogard 1615.
8vo. [xl], 607 [r. 623], p. and three plates — TWO FOLDING ENGRAVED AND LETTERPRESS PLATES PRINTED ON BOTH SIDES AND ONE FOLDING ENGRAVED PLATE. Seven small text engravings, an engraved Bogard title device.
18th-century gilt-ruled sprinkled calf (front hinge worn, lower portion of rear hinge cracked), spine and red morocco label gilt, gilt board edges and turn-ins, red edges, green silk marker.
EDITIO PRINCEPS OF THE LUDUS REGULARIS: THE “PROTOTYPE OF ALL WAGERING GAMES WITH THREE DICE” (Lhôte, tr.).
Devised by Wibold, bishop of Cambrai (d. 965), as a virtuous alternative to the common game of dice, this medieval board game is here illustrated with three large plates. Two show different board configurations — one carved in a wooden table, the other laid out as a square — and the markings of all faces of the dice. The boards have fifty-six positions, with a Christian virtue and three numeric values assigned to each.
The three cubical dice have a different combination of one to six vowels as pips on each face. The tetrahedral die has four different consonants as pips on each face. Players acquire virtues by rolling the four dice simultaneously. The three cubes determine which virtue is in play. It can be claimed only if all the vowels in that virtue appear in the top faces of the cubical dice and at least one consonant in the virtue appears on the bottom face of the tetrahedral die. Each virtue can be claimed just once. When all the possibilities had been exhausted, the player with the most virtues wins.
The third plate eliminates the use of dice entirely. It shows a wheel with a rod at the center that players spin. Each end points to one of the fifty-six virtues around the perimeter. The game’s complex rules conclude with Latin verses revealing the name of the author: VVIBOLDVS.
The 12th-century Chronicle of Cambrai and Arras is “one of the most important contemporary works in local history” (Manitius, tr.). It records the dramatic upheavals on the border between Frankish kingdom and German empire between c. 445-1070.
Bound in at the end is a forty-four-page 19th-century manuscript French translation, Supplement à la chronique De Baldéric, a continuation of the Chronicle, discovered in 1787. In good condition, manuscript notes on the front flyleaves, bookplates of George Sens and de Surmont.
¶Lhôte, Histoire des jeux de société 201-3 & 536-7; Knuth, “Two Thousand Years of Combinatorics” in Combinatorics: Ancient & Modern edd. Wilson & Watkins 13-14; Manitius, Geschichte der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelalters II: 337-44; Molinier, Les Sources de l’histoire de France II: 161-62,1730; Potthast, Bibliotheca historica medii ævi 514 “One of the best editions of a medieval author” (tr.).