With winter weather closing in and the holiday season nearly upon us, one might find oneself stuck inside with visiting family and searching for an activity to fill the time.  If the allure of the television has waned, and you’d like to do something that gets everyone actively involved, I suggest going old school.  How about a card or dicing game?  If you’re rusty on the rules or want to try a new game, reaching for a copy of one Edmond Hoyle’s books would be a good place to start.

Beginning in 1742, Edmond Hoyle (1672-1769) wrote several treatises on a variety of card games and backgammon.  In 1748 his publisher, Thomas Osborne, began to sell a compilation of Hoyle’s earlier works.  As a result of these publications Hoyle eventually became the acknowledged expert on the rules for many games, especially Whist.  The phrase, “according to Hoyle” has become idiomatic in English, meaning according to the rules, or according to the highest authority.

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Edmond Hoyle.  From Wikimedia Commons

Although today Hoyle is the most well known name in table game rule books, he was not the first to publish such works.  The Library holds two volumes of an earlier title, The Compleat Gamester.  The first edition of this book was published anonymously in 1674.  It covered numerous card games, games from the backgammon genre, and several outdoor sports.  Its full title was, The Compleat Gamester: Or, Instructions How to Play at Billiards, Trucks, Bowls, and Chess. Together with all manner of usual and most Gentile Games either on Cards or Dice. To which is added, The Arts and Mysteries of Riding, Racing, Archery, and Cock-Fighting.”

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Frontispiece from the 1710 edition of The Compleat Gamester.  National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Over the next 50 years the popular book was reissued and reprinted frequently.  Several new editions with additional material and various subtitles appeared.  NSLM holds an edition from 1710 called, The Compleat Gamester: or instructions how to play at all manner of usual, and most gentile games, either on cards, dice, billiards, trucks, bowls, or chess; also the arts and misteries of riding, racing, archery and cock-fighting.  To which is added, the game Basset; with a discourse of gaming in general.  The description of a gaming ordinary, and the character of a gamester.  With a song on the game at Piquet.  Despite this title, much of the material in the book does not concern how to play games but rather how to spot a cheater.  In this excerpt from the Epistle to the Reader that precedes the text, the author’s opinion of “gamesters” is made quite clear,

Mistake me not, it is not my intention to make Gamesters by this collection, but to inform all in part how to avoid being cheated by them: If I am imperfect in my discoveries, impute it to my being no profest Gamester, and the hatred I bear that hellish society; by whom I know I shall be laught at, and with whom if I should converse, I might sooner by my study come to be Nature’s Secretary, and unriddle all her Arcanas than collect from them any new unpractised secret by which they bubble ignorant credulity, and purchase money and good apparel with everlasting shame and infamy.

To conclude, let me advise you, if you play (when your business will permit) let not a covetous desire of winning another’s money engage you to the losing your own, which will not only disturb your mind, but by the disreputation of being a Gamester, if you lose not your estate, you will certainly lose your credit and good name, than which there is nothing more valuable (Compleat Gamester, 1710).

The author’s anonymity and the vehemence of his opinion of “gamesters” makes me wonder if he wasn’t expertly fleeced himself.  Perhaps this book is his revenge on the culprit.

Individual games are given basic descriptions but generally there is not much information on actual game play or strategy.  Instead the author offers clear descriptions of some techniques used by “gamesters” to cheat other players.  For example, he describes Piping, where the gamester’s accomplice, on the pretense of leisurely smoking a pipe, adopts a position in which he is able to view the cards of the gamester’s opponent.   The accomplice is then able to signal the contents of the dupe’s hand to the gamester.  The signals consist of various finger placements on the pipe, which the gamester can see and decipher.  Ironically given the author’s clear disapproval of cheating, the detailed descriptions he provides of it serve not only as a warning to would-be marks, but also as instructions for would be gamesters.

In addition to practical gaming advice, the author also offers commentary that is sometimes comical or clever.  I love this line about bowling, “A Bowling-Green, or Bowling-Ally is a place where three things are thrown away besides the Bowls, viz. Time, Money and Curses, at the last ten for one” (Compleat Gamester (1710), p. 35).

In 1719 in a bid to capitalize on the popularity of The Compleat Gamester, notorious bookseller Edmund Curll hired Richard Seymour to write The Court Gamester.   The volume dealt with Ombre, Piquet, and Chess.  Apparently Curll’s gambit of offering a book on a similar topic with a similar name to the popular Compleat Gamester paid off as there were four more editions published by 1732.  In 1734 the two titles were published together as, The Compleat Gamester in Three Parts.  The Library holds a 1739 edition of this combined title.

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Frontispiece of the 1739 edition of The Compleat Gamester: in Three Parts by Richard Seymour.  National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of Russell Arundel.

The work includes instructions and rules for card games (ombre, quadrille, quintile, piquet, basset, faro, whist, all-fours, cribbage, put, lue, brag, &c.), chess, English and French billiards, riding, horse racing, archery, cock fighting and bowling.

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Charles Cotton, the original Gamester.  From Wikimedia Commons

In addition to updating the rules of game playing, the preface of this book identifies the author of the original 1674 Compleat Gamester: “The second and third parts of this treatise were originally written by Charles Cotton Esq; some years since, but are now rectified according to the present standard of play” (page viii).  Charles Cotton is best known today as the author of portions of Isaac Walton’s The Compleat Angler.  He died insolvent in 1687, 13 years after the publication of The Compleat Gamester, but I could not find anything indicating that he had gambled away his money or been swindled by a nefarious gamester.  His motivation for penning the book remains a mystery.

Although The Compleat Gamester retained its popularity for three quarters of a century, eventually Edmond Hoyle’s publications eclipsed it.*  The final edition of Gamester appeared in 1754.

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A Hoyle’s branded book for sale today on Amazon.

Rule books featuring the name Hoyle are still in production today.  Over time new editions featured rules for new games and eliminated those for games that fell out of favor.  If you plan ahead a bit and lay in a couple decks of cards and some dice, along with a copy of Hoyle’s or even one of the editions of The Compleat Gamester, you’ll have an activity for snowbound evenings.  Maybe you’ll learn how to play Whist and can show off that knowledge the next time Jane Austen’s stories come up.

* David Levy’s blog, Edmond Hoyle, Gent. provided a great deal of the publication history contained in this post.  It is also chock full of interesting information on gaming, recreation, and book selling and publication in the 18th Century.  I encourage our readers to visit his blog and do a little exploring.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

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There are more things than books in the Library, and some of our most unusual items in the collection are stored in a tray in the Rare Book Room. The same tray has some of our unique, prehistoric materials as well as a small assortment of commemorative medallions and buttons. One medallion recently caught my eye, a rectangular bronze piece labeled J-B A CHAUVEAU:

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J.-B. A. Chauveau, by Paul Richer, unknown date. National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of Ellen B. Wells.

Some quick Googling revealed this to be Jean-Baptise Auguste Chauveau (1827-1917), a French veterinarian and professor. An interesting scene adorns the verso of the medallion:

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J.-B. A. Chauveau, by Paul Richer, unknown date. National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of Ellen B. Wells.

Initially, the scene reminded me of the how horses were used in antitoxin production. Upon further review, however, this appears to be a completely separate instance of horses paving the way for human medical progress.

Chauveau was an important figure in cardiology, wading into a decades-long debate on cardiac motion and the relation of that motion to the sounds of the heartbeat. in 1859, he teamed up with scientist and inventor Etienne-Jules Marey to invent a new way to study the subject using cardiac catheters. The collaboration was successful, with Chauveau and Marey clarifying the observation of the cardiac cycle and pioneering cardiac catheterization in the process.

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Auguste Chauveau (1827-1917) and assistants performing heart catheterisation on a horse. Accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

Horses were used to study the new method of catheterization, for several reasons. First, Chauveau wanted to use an animal with a similar circulatory system to human beings, and horses were considered more anatomically close to humans than frogs or other research animals. Second, because the horse’s heart beats slower than a human heart, it was easier to make precise observations. The experiment with the horse was a resounding success, with Chauveau successfully inserting a catheter into the horse’s heart and studying the rhythm of its motion.

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Etienne-Jules Marey, surrounded by his many inventions. Accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

Chauveau moved on to other projects in the 1860s, and made significant contributions to understanding germ theory and tuberculosis. In his later life, he rose to Preisdent of the French Academy of Science and President of the French Academy of Medicine. His research on muscular metabolism contributed to the discovery that muscles metabolized glucose.

Marey went on to pioneer physical instrumentation, aviation, and cinematography. In 1882 he invented the chronophotographic gun, an instrument capable of taking 12 consecutive frames a second. His inventions made it possible to photograph animals and insects in their most rapid motions, blending photography and the study of physiology.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail 

The F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room at NSLM houses our rare collections. These collections include more than just books: manuscripts, typescripts, letters, panoramas, and other ephemera are housed there. Over the past 18 months, we have been working hard on reprocessing the collections in Rare Books. This project was brought to completion recently. We’ve certainly made a lot of progress!

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A “before” photo from the Rare Book Room. Many collections in the room were disorganized, incorrectly stored, or in need of assessment for condition.
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An “after” photo of the same shelf with books reprocessed.
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Every volume in the Rare Book Room was cataloged, assessed for condition, and had barcode tickets inserted. The entire space was reorganized to match the organizational structure in Library’s Main Reading Room.

In addition to working on the rare contents of the room, the room itself received some major care.

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Cases against the walls were re-anchored and straightened.
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A new section of shelving for folios was built at the back of the room.
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The room was repainted sage green, and vinyl lettering was installed.

All told, the project included months of reprocessing, the installation of new storage units, and general maintenance which was due for the space. The Library staff is moving on to other collections maintenance projects: cataloging the contents of the Library Vertical File, as well as loose photographs and ephemera that have gone uncataloged to this point. After that, the Library’s periodicals collection will be cataloged, completing the ability of researchers to find any materials from any Library collection.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail 

While reprocessing our Rare Book collections, we often come across unusual volumes. We enjoyed finding two volumes of The Gentleman’s Companion. Volume I is titled An Exotic Cookery Book and volume II is titled An Exotic Drinking Book. Both were donated to NSLM by Paul Mellon in 1957, and both are indeed exotic! Many of the recipes are as outlandish today as they were when the books were published in 1939.

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From Randolph Caldecott’s “Graphic” Pictures, 1898. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Broiled Turtle Steaks, a Isla de Pinos, Being a Receipt from an American Pineapple Planter in Estates there before Our Government Returned the Island to Cuba.
Steaks may be from green, hawkbill or loggerhead turtles, but not too thick or too aged — 1/2″ to 3/4″ thickness is correct. Rub with cut lime vigorously so as to get oil from peel into steak, rub with a cut clove of garlic, sprinkle with salt and let stand in squeezed juice lime for 1 hour. Brush with lots of olive oil and broil like any steak over coals or under broiler, seasoning to taste.

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“More Friends and Less Need of Them,” from Involuntary Thoughts Henry Alken, 1824. National Sporting Library & Museum.

The book includes handy advice for how to prepare its meals, “exploding” the “old wives’ tales” associated with cooking. But many entries simply give hints on how to spice up preexisting recipes or give direction as to who might enjoy the dish.

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From Randolph Caldecott’s “Graphic” Pictures, 1898. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Wine Jelly, a la Tsarina, which is another Delicate Remembrance from the Grandly Royal Days of Old Russia
We include this as suggestion for a wine jelly dish to be sent to the bedside of a favourite hospital patient, or invalid, as a taste-change from usual wabbly desserts dietitians seem to delight in inflicting on helpless souls. … Put jelly moulds on ice where they will get really chilled. Fill with any good usual wine jelly flavoured with the fruit which is the favourite of the subject, and sherry, being careful not to pass the half-way mark in the mould — retaining equal amount of the jelly. … While this last is still liquid, add 1 jigger of Gilka kummel, and whip with an egg beater so diligently that it grows white and thick. Put enough into moulds to fill, and chill very cold indeed.

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From Randolph Caldecott’s “Graphic” Pictures, 1898. National Sporting Library & Museum.

As for the exotic drinks, there are plenty of unusual concoctions and advice as well.

The Bird of Paradise, a Colorful, Eye-Filling Experience We Found in Signing Our Names to the Book at the Strangers Club, Colon, Panama
This strange little club has many famous names in its logbook, Robinson from the SVAAP, Alain Gerbault, poor Dick Halliburton whom we first met in Singapore before he flew to Sarawak in 1932, sitting at table with Ruth Elder and Walter Camp. We always have found a welcome there during the 10 or 1 doz times we have been in the “Zone” going west to east or vice versa. … Actually this Bird of Paradise Fizz is Aziz’ Special to which 2 to 3 tsp of raspberry syrup have been added instad of the sugar, and juice of 1 1/2 limes instead of the lemon. Float on a red rose petal, or any scarlet small tropical blossom, like bougainvillea, as a final garnish. Shake hard and long.

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“Nights of Pleasure,” from Involuntary Thoughts Henry Alken, 1824. National Sporting Library & Museum.

An entertaining entry is how “To Salvage a Guest from the Effects of Hanging — by Rope, not the Morning After.” Cited as an “Ancient English routine,” the instructions are unusual, and include stripping the victim of clothing, rubbing the body with wool-gloved hands, or placing the victim’s body face-down on the living room rug to perform compression on the lower rib cage. The book knowingly advises:

Don’t dawdle or joke. Hanging is no fun and must be handled quickly or not at all.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail 

Recently I discovered a charming little item in the Rare Books Room.  It’s what appears to be a tiny book, less than 3 inches high.

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Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

Although quaint, it is not all that unusual in the NSLM collection.  We have quite a few miniature books, particularly a collection of Compleat Anglers that contains a number of diminutive editions.  However, when I opened this book, I got a bit of a surprise.  It is actually a lovely color map of, and guide to, the Puckeridge Hunt territory.  Ahead of the folded map there are twelve pages of text.

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Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

The first section gives distances to various meet sites.

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Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

The second lists inns that have facilities to handle hunter horses.

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Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

Finally, railway stations servicing the area are listed.

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Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

Then comes the map.

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Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

The paper is mounted to a fabric backing making the map sturdy and easy to unfold.  When unfolded it measures 7 x 8.5 inches. In addition to the usual roads, towns, and landmarks, the map shows 32 meet sites used by The Puckeridge Hunt, across Essex and Hertfordshire.

Although its tiny size and sturdy construction indicate that this was a utilitarian item, meant to be carried and used while in the saddle, that doesn’t preclude a touch of style.

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Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

The red cloth cover is decorated with a gilt pictorial vignette depicting a horseman clearing a fence, making this little map an eye catching accessory.  It certainly caught my eye when I opened the clamshell case that it’s stored in at the Library.  These little surprises are one of my favorite things about working with the NSLM collections.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

One of the most impressive Thoroughbred racers of the 20th Century was Gallant Fox, whose racing career lasted from 1929-1930. Gallant Fox was the second horse ever to win the American Triple Crown, and the term “Triple Crown” for the Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont was popularized during his 1930 campaign.

“The Fox” was owned by William Woodward Sr.’s Belair Stud in Maryland but was foaled in Kentucky. Following the horse’s retirement from racing, William Woodward wrote a custom-printed memoir to commemorate Gallant Fox’s achievements. The National Sporting Library & Museum is privileged to hold a copy of this book, one of the scarcest volumes in the NSLM collection. It has great value for its memories of the entire racing career of Gallant Fox.

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Gallant Fox with his dam, Marguerite. From Gallant Fox: A Memoir. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mrs. Jacqueline B. Mars, Dr. Timothy J. Greenan, Mrs. Helen K. Groves, and Dr. Manuel H. Johnson, 2015.

One of Woodward’s memories of “The Fox” was his intelligence and curiosity, even from his earliest days as a colt.

The colt was broken and showed no special signs of anything one way or another, except that he was curious-minded and wanted to know all that was going on, giving every evidence of a high mentality, which however, would be slow to develop.He was a good fast colt as a yearling, with nice action, which was also the case in the beginning of his two-year-old year.

From Gallant Fox: A Memoir, by William Woodward, Sr.,
1930, National Sporting Library & Museum.

The Fox’s curiosity would last throughout his career, and it was the horse’s custom to eye the grandstands before each race. Still, Gallant Fox’s penchant for distraction led to a bad start to his racing career:

We started him in a five furlong race, with Peto as a companion. There was a good horse in the race called Desert Light. It was a small field. Gallant Fox was looking around the country when the tape was sprung and he was left about seven or eight lengths.

From Gallant Fox: A Memoir, by William Woodward, Sr.,
1930, National Sporting Library & Museum.

Despite the bad start, The Fox recovered to finish third, kicking off an auspicious career with an impressive list of prominent wins: the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, the Preakness Stakes, the Arlington Classic, the Dwyer Stakes, the Saratoga Cup and the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

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Gallant Fox’s Trainer, James E. “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons. From Gallant Fox: A Memoir. National Sporting Library & Museum.

The jockey for most of Gallant Fox’s wins was Earl Sande, a South Dakota native who got his start as a “bronco buster” before turning to Thoroughbred horse racing. Sande was most famous for his time on Gallant Fox, and went on to be a successful trainer and racehorse owner. Two days before the 1930 Belmont Stakes, Sande was in an automobile accident, putting his start in jeopardy.

On Thursday night before the Belmont, Sande was riding in an automobile driven by one of his friends, when they had a crash. The car turned over, and as he had been under it and was rather badly cut up, I sat with him on Friday afternoon in the Belmont paddock for quite a while to see whether he was in proper shape to ride such an important race. He was altogether himself and was fortunately unhurt except for scratches and patches. He said that his first thought, when he found himself under the car, was, “How terrible! I won’t be able to ride the horse on Saturday.”

From Gallant Fox: A Memoir, by William Woodward, Sr.,
1930, National Sporting Library & Museum.

Sande, his face bandaged from the episode, rode to victory, making Gallant Fox the second American Triple Crown winner in history.

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William Woodward Leading Gallant Fox after winning the Lawrence Realization Stakes, Sande up. From Gallant Fox: A Memoir. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Later in the year, on a very heavy track, Gallant Fox lost the Travers Stakes in a major upset. Weighed down in the mud, Gallant Fox and rival Whichone dueled throughout the race, before both were overtaken by Jim Dandy, who won handily. Popular sentiment pegged Gallant Fox as weak on a heavy track. Woodward, however, saw the way the race unfolded on position as the primary reason why Gallant Fox was defeated.

To my way of thinking there were two reasons for The Fox’s defeat. First, the star was an unfortunate one for Gallant Fox. Second, he was taken wide the entire way against our will, and intentionally so, as evidenced by Workman’s ride on Questionnaire in the Realization. The Fox was horse enough to race outside of Whichone and beat him but neither he nor Whichone could give away the distance given to Jim Dandy and win.

From Gallant Fox: A Memoir, by William Woodward, Sr.,
1930, National Sporting Library & Museum.

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Gallant Fox and Whichone famously lost the Travers Stakes, depicted in a series of photographic plates. From Gallant Fox: A Memoir. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Following the 1930 season, Gallant Fox was retired to stud with 11 wins in 17 races and over $300,000 in earnings.

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Gallant Fox returning to the scales after winning the 1930 Kentucky Derby. From Gallant Fox: A Memoir. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Beyond racing, Gallant Fox’s enjoyed considerable success at stud. In 1932, Gallant Fox sired Omaha, who would go on to be the third winner of the American Triple Crown in 1935. In 1933, Gallant Fox sired Flares, the second American horse to win the Ascot Gold Cup, a race narrowly lost by Omaha in 1936.

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From Gallant Fox: A Memoir. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail 

There are five striking oils depicting foxhunting painted entirely in black and white in the National Sporting Library & Museum’s permanent collection. The technique is called en grisaille (pronounced “ohnˈ griˈzɑ yə”), a French term meaning in gray tones. Created with mixtures of black and white pigments, these types of paintings date back to the Middle Ages.

George Wright (English, 1860-1942), A Treed Fox, oil on canvas, en grisaille, 17 x 25 inches, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008

Created by George Wright (1860-1942), the paintings were among fifteen important British sporting artworks donated to the NSLM by Felicia Warburg Rogan in 2008. Surprisingly little is known about Wright’s life and teaching. The artist, however, left behind a considerable body of work and was acknowledged as one of the top sporting artists of his day by circa 1900.

Many of Wright’s en grisaille subjects are believed to have been produced early in his career for reproduction as illustrations. Working in gray tones was a practical choice for these types of works. There was no need to use expensive color pigments if they were not intended to be seen. Painting in grayscale also allowed for better control of contrasts, shades, and tones. As an example, NSLM has a sixth painting by George Wright done in color that is an almost identical scene to the monochromatic A Treed Fox. This allows the opportunity to make a direct comparison of Wright’s color and black and white techniques.

George Wright (English, 1860-1942), A Treed Fox, oil on canvas, 13 1/2 x 20 inches, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008
Left: Detail of Treed Fox, color version; Center: Detail of Treed Fox, color version converted to grayscale; Right: Detail of Treed Fox, en grisaille painting

On the left is a detail of the color painting; in the center is the color version converted to grayscale; and on the right is the actual black and white work. The composition in color is more painterly with a nuanced palette and brushstrokes. Reproduced in black and white though, it becomes muddy, and the details are difficult to see. Where the reproduction fails, the painting on the right succeeds; it has a refined illustrative quality with crisper lines and higher contrasts.

The obvious and purposeful difference between the way Wright painted the two versions reinforces the idea that the en grisaille works were intended for reproduction. To-date NSLM’s compositions have not been found reproduced, but they tell stories in their own right. Two are the same size and bear inscriptions on the bottom left corner, “In at the Death” and “The Kennels.”

George Wright (English, 1860-1942), In at the Death, oil on canvas, en grisaille, 18 x 27 inches, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008

In the first, the huntsman presents the brush (fox’s tail) to the lady wearing a bowler hat and riding aside. The recipient of the trophy was chosen by the Master of Foxhounds to reward participants who were skilled riders and kept at the head of the hunt field. The tradition of presenting the fox mask and brush has today become censured, but it is worthy to note that it was done with a sense of deference to the fox.

“Poor Reynard [“reynard” is French for “fox”], his day is done! No more wild raids on the sleeping countryside; no more slaughter in hen house or rabbit warren…Off from your horse, Mr. Huntsman, for the trophies of so gallant a beast are worth the saving,” wrote B. Fletcher Robinson in Sporting Pictures to describe a painting titled Killed in the Quarry by George Wright. (This 1902 folio sized art book held in the NSLM’s F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room was published in celebration of English country sports with works “reproduced in colour by the newest and most perfect process of chromo-lithography.”)

George Wright (English, 1860-1942), At the Kennels, oil on canvas, en grisaille, 18 x 27 inches, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008

The second en grisaille painting in the NSLM’s pair, “At The Kennels,shows the hounds obediently following the huntsman to the kennel gate, as the Master looks on and a groom has charge of the horses. The likeness of the huntsman is similar to the one depicted in The Treed Fox discussed earlier and two other en grisaille works in NSLM’s holdings. These all show instances in which the fox is just out of reach of the hound pack.

George Wright (English, 1860-1942), Out of Reach, A Fox at Bay on a High Wall, c. 1884, oil on canvas, en grisaille, 16 x 24 inches, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008
George Wright (English, 1860-1942), Closing In, c. 1884, oil on canvas, en grisaille, 16 x 24 inches, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008

Wright is believed to have hunted with the Surrey and Old Burstow, and it is quite evident from his works that he had an intimate understanding of foxhunting and its human, equine, and canine participants. Whether or not he intended for the figures to be likenesses of recognizable individuals is unknown. He included them in other hunt scenes over time. The allure of George Wright’s en grisaille compositions evoke nostalgia for a bygone era and a sport that at the same time remains universal and timeless for those who still participate in it today.


pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org