Vanderbilt University Preserves USPC Book Collection
The United States Playing Card Co. collection of approximately 1,000 books has found a new home. Some of the rare volumes date from the 15th to the 20th centuries. USPCC purchased the bulk of the collection from the English playing-card maker George Clulow in 1898 and have augmented and enhanced this collection over the past 100 years. Also included in the accumulation are archival records that document the development, design and manufacture of playing cards in America.
Vanderbilt alumni stepped up to buy the collection for the university from USPC to be properly preserved and its content made available for study. Subjects from the collection that lend themselves to teaching and research include the economics, mathematics and social consequences of gaming, as well as the legal ramifications. Art students will be interested in the art of playing-card design, and students of mathematics and statistics will appreciate the tracts on the ambiguities and science of games of chance. In addition, there are theological diatribes and literary treatments related to gaming. Along with nearly every edition of Hoyle’s Game of Whist and strategy books on poker, bridge, patience, quadrille and skat, there are first editions of literary works in which gaming or gambling play a significant role, such as Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Rock and William Makepeace Thackeray’s Orphan of Pimilco. Another noteworthy item is an important 15th-century manuscript with the earliest recorded mention of Tarot cards. “The Tarot manuscript itself is worthy of a dissertation,” said Lynn Ramey, an associate professor of French who studies games and gaming theory. “I can think of all sorts of ways the collection could become the focus of a class as well as faculty research.”
The Clulow–United States Playing Card Collection was described by Catherine Perry Hargrave in A History of Playing Cards as “one of the most complete and scholarly collections that has ever been gathered together.” Mike Slaughter, CEO of The United States Playing Card Co., is excited that Vanderbilt has become the home for the collection’s preservation. “We think of card games as entertainment—and they are—but this collection shows how games have shaped our world and influenced the way we think about so many things from mathematics to the arts,” Slaughter said. “We are grateful for the commitment and passion of Valerie Hotchkiss, who made the relocation of this hugely significant collection possible. Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, who invented bridge as we know it, would be proud.”
The Special Collections Library at Vanderbilt hopes to catalog the collection and make it fully accessible in the very near future.
Special thanks to Ann Marie Deer Owens, Vanderbilt News for excerpts from: Vanderbilt now home to extraordinary gaming collection | https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2017/08/25/vanderbilt-now-home-to-extraordinary-gaming-collection/