Tuesday - 25 November 2014

The board game that 'taught kids to be anti-semitic'

04 April 2013Written by ATG Reporter

Although offensive to 20th century mores, ‘The New and Fashionable Game of the Jew’ was deemed a suitable pastime for children at the turn of the 19th century.

First published by the London printer and games specialist John Wallis Snr of 13 Warwick Square, on June 16, 1807, the aim of this simple dice and board game was to collect as many counters as possible to emulate the stereotypical Jewish banker pictured in the centre of the board with his money bags.

The Broadway composer and collector Stephen Sondheim has laconically described it as a game that "taught kids to be anti-semitic" - but he owns a copy and many other games collectors aspire to own one too.

The example offered by Brightwells (17.5 buyer's premium) of Leominster on January 9 was part of a collection of hand-coloured 19th century board games consigned by a local history teacher.

Elements of the collection had proved valuable teaching aids - and provided a decent retirement nest egg to boot. His copy of The New and Fashionable Game of the Jew  was not the very best (the top of the paper slipcase was damaged and the playing surface was heavily foxed) but it sold at £720.

Geographical Games

Wallis's New Geographical Game Exhibiting a Tour through Asia  sold for the highest price at £1200. Published from the Map Warehouse, Ludgate Street in 1803, this is a scarce variant of the 'grand tour' game made popular by John Wallis at the end of the 18th century.

The playing spaces across the linen-backed board include the regional capitals, the battle sites and commercial centres of a dozen delineated geographical areas that include Persia, Chinese Tartary and Indoostan. Again the pictorial slipcase was damaged but again the price was many times the £130-150 estimate.

Teaching geography, history, science and religion through play became a favoured method of Georgian and Victorian education.

Historical Pastime or a New Game of the History of England from the Conquest to the Accession of George the Third  plots more than 150 squares around a spiral with Adam and Eve and the start and a portrait of George III at its centre. Published 'by J. Harris and J. Wallis as the Act Directs, 1803', the framed and glazed copy sold here (minus its slip case) at £300.

Pyramid of History

On much the same theme was William Sallis's New Tee-To-Tum Game. The Pyramid of History by the Author of Why? What? and Because, or the Road to the Temple of Knowledge, sold at £650. Here Queen Victoria forms the apex of the pyramid that begins at square one with The Creation.

Sold at £440 was British and Foreign Birds. A New Game, Moral Instructive and Amusing, Designed to Allure the Minds of Youth to an Acquaintance with the Wonders of Nature published by William Darton in 1820, while Peter Parleys Victoria Game of British Sovereigns from William the Conqueror to Victoria the First (probably by Darton, c.1840) took £120.

There was considerable interest in a hand-coloured paper and card peep-show panorama c.1830 entitled Theatrorama or a Peep at the Playhouse that showed a theatre interior with dancers on stage. Examples of this early date, that pre-dated the 'golden age' of peep-show panoramas by a generation, are rare in any condition. This very well-preserved example achieved £1000.

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