Friday, May 1, 2015

The Left Hand of Bougy: A Trictrac Manuscript (1772)

Jeu du Trictrac

Manuscripts continued to be produced in the hand press era and they can be the most charming of books. I just acquired a manuscript on the game of trictrac that has an unusual origin, one that I have never encountered.

title page

 The title of the manuscript is Regle  du Jeu de Trictrac or Rules for the Game of Trictrac. The title page continues "ecrit de la main gauche du sieur M. C. Bougy depuis 1771 jusqu'en l'année 1772...", that is written with the left hand of Mr. M. C. Bougy. What is the significance of the left hand?


Before answering that question, let's take a look at the contents. The text turns out not to be original, but a transcription of the section on trictrac and other tables games from Académie Universelle des Jeux, published in Paris by Theodore Legras from 1718. The Académie went through many editions and the trictrac section was occasionally published separately.

Compare the text and diagram of this snippet from Legras with that in the hand of M. Bougy:


Why would M. Bougy copy a book that was readily available for purchase? The answer is evident from a short biographical section at the end of the book. You will have to live with my crude translation, paraphrase, and excerpting:
M. C. B. was born in Paris on August 15 1711 and baptized in the parish of Saint Andre des Arts. He was a mercer near the Palais Marchand and married in 1740. Two years after the death of his wife in 1758, he became ill at his residence on the Rue du Sépulchre in Fauborg Saint Germain. He had a stroke and was dangerously ill for two months, resulting in paralysis on the right side of his body...M. B. undertook to exercise his left hand and began to write...having made much progress, he decided to create several manuscripts:
  • From 1766 to 1770, he made extracts of newspapers from Holland and France and had them bound in two quarto volumes.
  • Second, he made excerpts of fourteen volumes of sermons by Father Bourdaloue, which he had bound in calf, a thick volume in twelves...
  • Third, also bound in calf, the title Collection of Everything that Happened on the Refusal of the Paris Parliament to Register the Edict of the King.
  • Fourth, in an identical binding, the title Regles du Jeux de Trictrac.
  • For the fifth and final volume, 806 pages plus 40 pages of tables at the end, Verse, Prose, Stories, Fables and Songs to Amuse the Reader and make him Laugh
The beginning of the biography
I have not been able to locate any of the other manuscripts, but online finding aids for later manuscripts are rather unsatisfactory.

I am left to wonder, has anyone other than M. Bougy produced a manuscript as physical therapy for a stroke?