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A Game of Authors – Literary Card Game from 1861

A very cool find today. Bookish, but not quite a book. A Game of Authors is a card game from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Put out by a few different firms, including such familiar names as Milton Bradley, who have a 1940 set and a set from about 1910, and Parker Brothers, whose sets range from 1893 up to 1943, as well as an unfamiliar (to me) name – Russell Manufacturing, who put out the set pictured at top left, in approximately 1915. The object of the game is to gather complete sets of the four cards of the works of each particular author. The winner is the player with the most sets. One of our booksellers, Mac Donnell Rare Books explains a bit about the game’s origins:

G. M. Whipple & A. A. Smith of Salem had published the game as early as 1861, and the game became immediately popular, and was widely published under various names, with widely differing groups of authors included, and decks as small as 20 cards and as large as 100. Whipple’s original edition was followed by one published in 1873 by West & Lee. Noyes, Snow & Co. (Boston & Worcester) took over from West & Lee within a year, and E. G. Selchow produced another version in 1874. Parker Brothers began producing a version in 1875. Kaplan notes that Milton Bradley produced a GAME OF AUTHORS as early as 1872, but I do not know when they added Twain to their line-up of authors.

The set pictured at top contains 32 cards of the following authors: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Booth Tarkington, Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, J.M. Barrie, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

There are more modern and still beautiful sets of author card games put out by Thomas C. Clarie II – they include the standard Authors card game, featuring Mark Twain on the box, Children’s Authors Card Game, an American Authors card game (there’s Papa Hemingway), an American Women Authors card game, and more. The series includes scientists, explorers, scientists and more, but we like to stick to the literary where possible.

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