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‘Deceive and Distress Your Adversaries’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement 2

Posted on 11/02/2016

The first release of Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement 2 from the American Antiquarian Society, 1801-1819 includes a two-volume compilation of an 1808 magazine parodying culture and politics, a book of rules and improvements to various recreational pastimes, and “a new and complete system of fortune telling” published in 1817.


Salmagundi (1808)

Salmagundi, subtitled The Whim-whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq. and Others, was a satirical periodical lampooning New York City culture and politics. The authors, Washington Irving, his brother William, and James Kirke Paulding, produced 20 issues between January 24, 1807, and January 15, 1808, before the magazine was discontinued due to a disagreement between the writers and the publisher. Articles appeared under a variety of pseudonyms including Will Wizard, Launcelot Langstaff, Pindar Cockloft, and Mustapha Rub-a-Dub Keli Khan.


Each issue begins with the following lines of mock Latin and their translation:

In hoc est hoax, cum quiz et joksez,

Et smokem, toastem, roastem folksez

Fee, faw, fum.



With baked, and broiled, and stewed, and toasted,

And fried, and boiled, and smoked, and roasted,

We treat the town.


The June 27 edition contains a story about a young man named Tom Straddle.

He was a young man of considerable standing in the manufactory at Birmingham…was the oracle of the tavern he frequented on Sundays, and could beat all his associates (if you take his word for it) in boxing, beer drinking, jumping over chairs, and imitating cats in a gutter, and opera-singers.

It is in this anecdote that Washington Irving first attached the name Gotham to New York City.

Straddle was equally successful with Giblets, as may well be supposed; for though pedestrian merit may strive in vain to become fashionable in Gotham; yet a candidate in an equipage is always recognized, and like Philip’s ass, laden with gold, will gain admittance every where. Mounted in his curricle or his gig, the candidate is like a statue elevated on a high pedestal, his merits are discernable from afar, and strike the dullest optics. – Oh! Gotham, Gotham! most enlightened of cities! – how does my heart swell with delight, when I behold your sapient inhabitants lavishing their attention with such wonderful discernment!


Hoyle's Games Improved (1817)

By Edmond Hoyle

This updated edition of Edmond Hoyle’s collection of games and their rules includes directions for various games as well as strategic hints to improve one’s play. Following a description of the game of Whist are sections titled, “Games both to endeavor to deceive and distress your adversaries, and to demonstrate your game to your partner” and “Calculations, which direct with moral certainty how to play any hand at Whist, by showing the chances of your partner’s holding certain winning cards.”

Alongside more esoteric games such as Matrimony and Brag are the rules of Cricket, Tennis, and Chess. The last of which, according to Hoyle:

Is the most ingenious game ever yet invented and in which chance has so small a share, that it may be doubted whether a person ever lost a game but by his own fault.

In addition to describing the rules and laws of chess, Hoyle includes an essay titled The Morals of Chess. It begins:

The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions. For Life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effects of prudence or the want of it.

The Morals of Chess also offers guidance in proper etiquette:

If your adversary is long in playing, you ought not to hurry him, or express any uneasiness at his delay. You should not sing, nor whistle, nor look at your watch, nor take up a book to read, nor make a tapping with your feet on the floor or with your fingers on the table, nor do any thing that may disturb his attention. For all these things displease; and they do not show your skill in playing, but your craftiness or rudeness.



The Book of Fate (1817)

The introduction to The Book of Fate contains elements still employed by alleged psychics and mediums nearly 200 years later. It begins by noting the prevalence of frauds and hucksters who have sullied the reputation of divination by publishing books “for the purpose of deceiving the credulous, and augmenting the wealth of individuals interested in supporting the delusion.”  It goes on to present anecdotal evidence and hypothetical situations to demonstrate the authenticity of the art of true divination before turning to the fantastic biography of a “genuine” mystic.  

We have now occasion to remark that the philosopher, the fruits of whose labor we are now about to present to the awful tribunal of public examination, was a man the most eminent for his learning and deep researches into the bosom of nature of any man in India, of which he was a native and an ornament, and he spent a life of upwards of one hundred and ninety years in the most exemplary manner, being as remarkable for his virtue and great abstinence, as for his immense and unwearied applications in diving into the secret Book of Fate; and he was perhaps more successful in making extracts from the scrolls of destiny, than any other man who hath either preceded or succeeded him in this important and intricate science; that he was universally caressed and admired, ought to excite in us no kind of surprise, when it is considered how very, very few men are capacitated to dip into the great ocean of future occurrences ordained to take place on this sublunary globe…

Readers who still hope to learn the arts of dream interpretation and palm reading, rules to revealing the temperament of any person, or how to tell fortunes by the grounds of a coffee cup will have to peruse The Book of Fate themselves.

For more information about Early American Imprints, Series I and II: Supplements from the American Antiquarian Society, 1652-1819, including pricing, or to request a trial for your institution, please contact

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