[N.p. N.p.], 1879-81.
Provenance: The January 1879 printing is Dodgson’s own copy with his autograph emendations. The other two printings are the copies of Dodgson’s child friend Agnes Caroline Smith: the February 1879 printing is signed by her (evidently the hand of a child), and the 1881 printing is inscribed to her by Dodgson. Agnes Smith was the daughter of Charles Smith (d. 1869), vicar of Tarrington, and his wife, Frances Elizabeth (née Boddington) (b. 1834). Dodgson writes in his Diaries of the day he met Agnes and her family on 6 September 1877: “Met Mr. Dymes with a friend (over from Brighton for the day) Mrs. Smith, with two girls (Agnes and Gracille, 10 and 8) and a boy, Reginald: Agnes is beautiful.”
A unique collection comprising four extraordinarily rare documents relating to Dodgson’s invention of Lanrick, a chessboard game for two players. 1) First edition, dated 16 January 1879, with the title A Game for Two Players. Only one other copy of this earliest printing is known, that in the Parrish collection (see Williams & Green, The Lewis Carroll Handbook, 1970, no. 135). Dodgson records the receipt of ten proof copies on 11 February 1879, “in nearly its final state, I hope”. The sheet is annotated by Dodgson, who added the game’s title, and made corrections in manuscript in his customary violet ink: “Lanrick. ‘The muster-place be Lanrick mead’”; Rule 1 was altered from “The men are set alternately, on any border-squares” to “The Players set their men, in turn, on any border squares”. 2) Second edition, dated 20 February 1879. This variant is unknown to bibliographers (no other copy recorded). The alterations made by Dodgson to the first issue are printed here. 3) “Second” (i.e., fifth? – see below) edition, inscribed presentation copy from Dodgson to Agnes Smith, with “July 1881” inscribed to verso in violet ink (presumably in Dodgson’s hand). The “second” edition appeared in the August 1881 edition of Charlotte Yonge’s Monthly Packet. 4) A cyclostyled copy of the manuscript for the game, dated 25 October 1880, and written by Dodgson in violet ink.
Dodgson invented this game in 1878. It is first mentioned in his diary on 31 December, 1878, where he calls it “my new invention, Natural Selection, afterwards called Lanrick.” Dodgson was well acquainted with Darwin’s theory, having served on the reception committee for the scientists visiting Oxford in 1860 for the famous “apes and angels” debate (which he may well have attended). In 1874 Charles read Mivart’s Genesis of Species (1871), “a most interesting and satisfactory book, showing, as it does, the insufficiency of ‘Natural Selection’ alone to account for the universe, and its perfect compatibility with the creative and guiding power of God.” “Charles made a modest bow toward “Natural Selection” when he invented a chessboard game that, in 1878, he called first by that name (he later changed it to Lanrick), and in which of course the winner is the survivor of the fittest” (Cohen, p. 352). The name Dodgson finally settled upon derived from “The muster-place be Lanrick-Mead,” a line in Sir Walter Scott's poem The Lady of the Lake. Lanrick Mead, a valley in the Scottish Highlands, was the place at which the poem’s tragic hero, Sir Roderick Dhu, gathered his men for the battle against the King of Scotland, James V. Lanrick Mead thus echoes the “rendezvous” which play an important role in the game (see below).
The game is played on a chessboard, each player having five men; the other requisites are a die and dice box, and something (such as a coin) to mark a square. The interior of the board, excluding the border squares, is regarded as containing six rows and six columns. It must be agreed which is the first row and first column. In the earliest printed version, the rules are given as follows:
1. The men are set, alternately, on any border-squares.
2. The die is thrown twice, and a square marked accordingly, the first throw fixing the row, the second, the column; the marked square, with the eight surrounding squares, forms the first “rendezvous”, into which the men are to be played.
3. The men move like chess-queens; in playing for the first “rendezvous”, each Player may move over six squares, either with one man, or dividing the move among several.
4. When one player has got all his men into the “rendezvous” the other must remove from the board one of his men that has failed to get in; the die is then thrown for a new “rendezvous”, for which each Player may move over as many squares as he had men in the last “rendezvous”, and one more.
5. If it be found that either Player has all his men already in this new “rendezvous”, the die must be thrown again, till a “rendezvous” is found where this is not the case.
6. The Game ends when one Player has lost all his men.
The rules of the game changed significantly in subsequent iterations. In a letter to one of his child friends, May Forshall (1867-1937), Dodgson wrote:
Do you ever play at games? Or is your idea of life “breakfast, lessons, dinner, lessons, tea, lessons, bed, lessons, breakfast, lessons” and so on? It is a very neat plan of life, and almost as interesting as being a sewing-machine or a coffee-grinder. (By the way, that is a very interesting question—please answer it— which would you like most to be, of those two things?) To return to the subject, if you ever do play games, would you see how you like my new game ‘Lanrick’? I have been inventing it for about two months, and the rules have been changed almost as often as you change your mind during dinner, when you say “I'll have meat first and then pudding—no, I'll have pudding first and then meat—no, I'll have both at once—no, I'll have neither.” To return to the subject, if you can think of any improvement in the Rules, please tell me. Do you know the way to improve children? Re-proving them is the best way.
(Gardner states that this letter was written in 1870, but this must clearly be an error; possibly 1879 was meant.)
The printing history of the game has not been fully elucidated. On February 11, 1879, Dodgson received the first proofs of his single-page anonymous leaflet, “A Game for Two Players,” dated January 16, 1879 (item 1). The game’s name is not printed on the sheet, but two months later Dodgson issued an expanded set of rules in a two-page anonymous pamphlet titled Lanrick. A Game for Two Players (item 2). Gardner includes an illustration of another two-page version dated March 1, 1879, in which the list of rules has grown from six to ten. Gardner also illustrates a version with Carroll’s name printed at the end, dated December 1880 in manuscript, in which we are back to six rules. In July or August 1881 a slightly reworded two-page version, again with the same title, was issued anonymously (item 3); this is stated to be the “second edition”. Finally, Gardner illustrates a two-page version dated October 1881, unsigned, and stated as the “third edition”. Possibly our items 1) and 2), and Gardner’s version dated March 1, 1879, are unpublished proofs, the first publicly available edition being Gardner’s version dated December 1880. The game’s definitive version was provided in the booklet Syzygies and Lanrick: A Word Puzzle and a Game, published in 1893 with Lewis Carroll’s name as the author. A second edition, with small changes, came out later that year. Both parts of the book are reprinted in The Lewis Carroll Picture Book.
Williams–Madan–Green–Crutch 135; 142; Cohen, Lewis Carroll: A Biography, 1995; Gardner, The Universe in a Handkerchief: Lewis Carroll’s Mathematical Recreations, 1996.
Together three single sheets and one bifolium (some light foxing and creasing, the bifolium with some chips and tears to extremities). Housed in a black linen chemise and black quarter morocco and cloth slipcase.