Pierre Mallet

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Pierre Mallet

Postby liam stephens on Wed Jul 04, 2007 7:31 am

Gentle Readers,

Having taken up your time with some frivolous extraneous matter, we now return to more serious topics.

I found the following article printed on plain paper among some old pages I came across recently.

The subject is Pierre Mallet's book on Draughts published in 1668.

The first paragraph of the article is taken from Dunnes Guide, but can any of you bibliophiles tell where and when the subsequent review of the book appeared and by whom it was written. And, if it is the review, referred to in the footnote at the end, who translated it into English?



Messieurs - If it can be permitted to one like me,
an honest Picardian, with some sort of civility and good feeling, and without being accused of sounding too loud my trumpet, to present a challenge to a dozen or more of those gentlemen whose swords flash from their scabbards at the name of Draughts: whether they be good christians or barbarians, I will meet them fearlessly and with a stout heart, and the greater the number the more willingly will I undertake the encounter.
For, though it may be true in the game of Draughts,
as in divers other things, they say that I am much more
fit for counsel than execution, nevertheless I will combat them singly, or in combined array, at the hazard of a dozen pistoles (about £5) to play according to the standard rules.
I chafe at the delay they make in presenting themselves, and await their coming with impatience, but with confidence.

Mathematician to the King.

Copied from Dunnes Guide 1890.

The Game of Draughts (French style) with all the maxims and rules, both particular and general, which should be observed in this game, and the way to become a good player.

Paris, at the Palais, in the great room - 1668, 516 pages dedicated to the beautiful and highborn ladies.

Of these 516 pages scarcely half are concerned with the game of draughts, namely: 18 devoted to the title, dedication and contents
(entitled: Brief and general description of the principal things included in the 18 chapters of this book), and the last nine chapters starting from the tenth page 201, apart from 36 pages of the twelfth chapter; everything else in the book has nothing to do with the game of Draughts.

But in this part of the book (dealing with Draughts) examples are given of the game itself, accurately divided into different categories - 'corporal' 'spiritual' and 'mixed' - the principles governing each of these categories are enumerated, together with definitions, descriptions, explanations, precepts, instructions, origins of draughts,
arguments about the game and about chess; He also treats
of the advantages to be gained or received, of the conditions, demonstrations, and advice on the game,
quotes certain great Players, tries a comparison between draughts and chess, gives general rules and maxims, different ways of playing to win, followed by several excellent openings for attack and defence. He deals with the best method of playing with the obligation to take not only when his opponent is strongest but also when the greatest gain can be achieved; He suggests a cartel of 12 of the world's greatest players, and concludes with a method of play whereby the single pieces or pawns cannot take the crowned pieces (kings); he explains the game of draughts known as Coq-Inbert and that called 'Jeu du Renard (game
of the fox).

This book is really amazing in the clear logical way with which he sets forth all the above mentioned facts; it is especially interesting when we remember that it is the first book in French on the subject of Draughts; it is as precious as it is rare and sought after.

Mallet, its learned author has studied draughts deeply; He was very good at the game and was fully conversant with its spirit. In short, it is on this excellent treatise on the Game of Draughts as played in France that the majority of succeeding works have been modelled.

On pages 203-9, 215-16, 221-30, 270-78, 303-14 and 372, Mallet deals with chess in detail, which he recognises as a game of skill scientific and philosophic, a mathematical game owing nothing to chance; he teaches the way in which the chess-board must be laid out, the substances of which it is usually made, quotes one surprising and very valuable example, made of white and yellow amber and gives his ideas on the invention and inventor of the game. He adds that Turks, Indians, Tartars (Russians), Greeks, Arabs and all Orientals play it as well as the Germans Spaniards and Italians; speaks of the work of Selenus, Duke of Brunswick, of the village of 'Echecs' (Volspergen) in the duchy of Brunswick, and of the way in which its inhabitants play chess; compares draughts to chess and after numerous arguments gives the palm to Draughts. He does not believe in the story of the Spaniards and Portuguese playing the game while travelling on horseback, nor in the monkey chess players quoted by several authorities, recalls Montaigne's Opinions of Chess, and recognises that in all ages the greatest men and the most famous leaders have derived pleasure and recreation from Chess.

As very few people will be able to see this rare book, I think I should add the part not dealing with draughts, is concerned with the development of a new and rather strange system of spelling in French; general definition of games, remarks on the necessity for games and amusements which are law abiding, subject to rules and governed by moderation, advice on how to avoid the lazy and workshy and how to work; rules and instructions for teaching the young, the enumeration of the 'Ludus' 'Jocus' and the 'Lusus' three kinds of games played by the Romans, to which can be traced all the various games or amusements created and practised by tho ancients; mention is also made of a large number of games practised in different times and places; historic details are given on the foundation of Carthage and Rome, on Palemon, Venus, Troy, Dido, the sacred fires and the Vestal Virgins; finally the story of Palamedes and details concerning Ipshigenia, Orestes, Pylade and Clymonestre, things which it is surprising to find mixed up in a fine treatise on the Game of Draughts.

At the end of the book are two engravings representing the 64-square draught-board, of which 32 are numbered in a remarkable way. On each side consecutive numbers 1 to 16 are arranged in Boustrophedon i.e. written from right to left and from left to right in alternate lines, starting on the right of each player.
The first engraving shows the board divided into two halves with the squares alternately white and black, and the numbers on the white squares. The second engraving also shows the same division of the board into two halves; but the squares in this case are of one colour only, and on each side are twelve pawns (men) drawn as discs, some white with the top side at the bottom, others black with the bottom side at the top, bearing the consecutive 12 numbers drawn in Boustrophedon; the 8 squares between the two opposing sides bear no number.

The letters ABDC are one in each of the four angles of the board, shaped as you see here. ([i:134aa1671d]in the text, the letteres A and B are printed upside down - L.S.)[/i:134aa1671d]

To what extent has Mallet influenced the Game of Draughts? He himself, (a military engineer by profession) acquired much of his ability for the Game by his natural aptitude for it, and by much practice with the then leading French and Spanish masters.
The review of his book, "The Game of Draughts" (and incidentally the first book in French on the game) is taken from Encyclopedic du Jeu De Dames 1855. It must have impressed William Payne a mathematician and author of "An Introduction to the Game of Draughts" the first book published in English on the Game of Draughts.
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Re: Pierre Mallet

Postby tommyc on Thu Jul 05, 2007 9:27 am

Very good Liam, it just shows a little education is easy carried.A great discovery indeed and an education in the English language!!..
Always read "Cannings Compilation 2nd Edition" every day.
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Re: Pierre Mallet

Postby liam stephens on Thu Jul 05, 2007 7:50 pm

Thank you, Tommy.

Yes, some of those old articles are expressed in quite elegant English indeed.

I wonder where those "monkey chess players" came from?
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Re: Pierre Mallet

Postby whitefork on Fri Jul 06, 2007 7:08 am

Boustrophedon i.e. written from right to left and from left to right in alternate lines

"as the ox turns in plowing"

typically used to describe a method of writing used before a culture opted for right-to-left (Hebrew, Arabic), or left-to-right (the European languages) form of writing exclusively.

Not easy for the dyslexic I suspect.

A beautiful word.
Пилите, Шура, пилите!
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Re: Pierre Mallet

Postby liam stephens on Sat Jul 07, 2007 9:58 am

Thank you Whitefork – very interesting.

Actually, I may have had a dyslexic moment when I said the letter B was turned upside down, as of course that way it would look no different.

In fact, the B was turned into a mirror image.

Reminds me of a children’s game where you had to make up a sentence where the action described was impossible to carry out.
Example: Turn a pea upside down . (John Major could do it on Spitting Image lol)

In Irish the word for turnips (plural) is turnapi with an accent ([i:a9da9636eb]fada[/i:a9da9636eb]) on the letter[i:a9da9636eb] i[/i:a9da9636eb] and pronounced the same as [i:a9da9636eb]turn a pea[/i:a9da9636eb].
So growing up in Ireland, not only could you have your peas and mash turned upside down, but the turnips also.

I believe the technical term for such identical sounding words or phrases is “homophone”.

Another example:
Rose of Castille (an Opera)
Rows of cast steel (a railway line)

By the way, I just had an inspirational thought about those monkey chess players.
Could they have been Torvill and Dean? !!
liam stephens
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Re: Pierre Mallet

Postby tommyc on Sat Jul 07, 2007 10:02 pm

I dunno if the were "homophobic" Liam maybe "Bovrill and Bean" were?.

And well done Westmeath and Donegal in the football qualifiers...mmmmm now i wonder how do we get to Las Vegas??
Always read "Cannings Compilation 2nd Edition" every day.
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Re: Pierre Mallet

Postby liam stephens on Mon Jul 09, 2007 6:46 am

Nice one Tommy, but more likely Lxxy and Kxxxe.

A bit like the old [i:065f053e1e]Apples and Pears [/i:065f053e1e]= [i:065f053e1e]Stairs[/i:065f053e1e]. I lived within the sound of Bow Bells for many years.
(ever watch Eastenders or Dick Van Dyke in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - lol)

Re your trip to Vegas, try catching the [i:065f053e1e]Last Train to San Fernando[/i:065f053e1e]. (if you miss this one you’ll never get another one)
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