February 24 - May 14, 2016. "The Royal Game of the Goose: 400 Years of Printed Board Games." Curated by Adrian Seville.
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February 24 – May 14, 2016
The Royal Game of the Goose: 
Four Hundred Years of Printed Board Games
Curated by Adrian Seville

The Royal Game of the Goose is one of the earliest printed board games, going back to the Middle Ages – and one of the simplest: just roll the dice and move along its spiral track. The graphically vibrant Grolier Club exhibition of the same name brings together more than 70 of these games, almost all from the rich international collection of curator Adrian Seville. These beautiful and striking printed games are hardly known in the U.S., and Mr. Seville’s unique exhibition provides deep insights into the cultural history of Europe, with some fascinating glimpses of America, too.

This classic game has been used as a template for thousands of variant games throughout Europe. They range from the earliest educational games of the seventeenth century to games of advertising, politics and propaganda of the modern era.
Its name originates from the symbol of a lucky goose on the favorable spaces, while the unfavorable spaces, each on their characteristic numbers, symbolize the adversities of human life. The winning space in the classic Goose game is on the “climacteric” number 63, reflecting medieval numerology. And if you hit “death” on space 58, you must begin again!

The images in these games illustrate the themes. Thus, in a game about the 18th-century Navy, the death space at 58 might show a shipwreck, while instead of a favorable goose, there could be a favorable wind.
Though the games are simple to play, most are not for young children. Indeed, several princes of Europe are significant in its early history. For example, on display is one unique early 17th-century print of the Game of Cupid, from the fabled rue Montorgueil in Paris, whose numerology represents the union of male and female – and whose track is laid out on a fine crowned serpent to warn against sin! Another French print, the Gifts of Youth, is a party game with forfeits: a young man landing on “inconstancy” must submit to being tied to his chair with his partner’s garter.

Some games celebrate science and invention: here is Benjamin Franklin in Paris witnessing “the first balloon raised in the atmosphere by means of inflammable air;” there is a Dutch game of the nineteenth century showcasing Edison, prominently surrounded by his electric lightbulbs. 

Others are from the early days of advertising. A game in the shape of the newly-built Eiffel Tower promotes luxury French dolls but warns against buying a cheap German import – the broken doll appears on the “death” space, an early example of “knocking” copy.
One section of the exhibition is devoted to “Images of America.” A meticulously engraved game of the mid-seventeenth century shows remarkable images of the early Native American peoples. Another celebrates the running of the Southern blockade by British ships during the American Civil War. And a truly incredible novel by Jules Verne provides the basis for the Noble Game of the United States, in which the possible benefactors of a Chicago millionaire’s will battle for the money by competing in a gigantic Goose game ranging across the States of the Nation.

The final case of the exhibition presents some games of human life arranged for play – do you have what it takes to progress from Errand Boy to successful Banker and Valued Citizen?
As befits the Grolier Club, there is a full range of printing techniques, from early woodcut to fine engraving and modern lithography. Some games were issued as broadside sheets, others are folded on linen or on pasteboard. Not all the games follow the classic template exactly, but all can trace their existence back to the parent Game of the Goose.

A FULLY ILLUSTRATED COLOR CATALOGUE accompanies the exhibition, designed by Rob Banham (Reading University, England), with an introduction by William H. Helfand, Past President of the Grolier Club. The 151-page catalogue is available in person at the Grolier Club, or can be ordered from Oak Knoll Books: 302-328-7232; orders@oakknoll.comwww.oakknoll.com

The Royal Game of the Goose is on view at the Grolier Club, 47 E. 60th Street, New York, NY, from 24 February to 14 May 2016, with the exception of holiday closures. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM. Open to the public free of charge.

PUBLIC EVENTS scheduled in connection with the exhibition:

FREE GUIDED TOURS will be offered every Tuesday from 1:00 to 2:00 PM throughout the run of the exhibition. For details, please contact the Grolier Club at 212-838-6690.

COLLOQUIUM: “Some Beautiful Board Games: Half-Day Symposium on the Art and History of Printed Board Games.”
Tuesday, 5 April 2016, 1:00-5:00 PM. Reception to follow.

This colloquium complements the exhibition by showcasing the great diversity and appeal of board games through the ages and around the world.
Speakers; Irving Finkel (British Museum); Ann Dunn-Vaturi (Metropolitan Museum of Art); Alex de Voogt (American Museum of Natural History); Adrian Seville (City University, London); Andrea Immel (Cotsen Library, Princeton University); Margaret K. Hofer (New-York Historical Society).

Registration is $75 per person; $25 for full-time students.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION please contact Exhibitions Manager Jennifer Sheehan at jsheehan@grolierclub.org or 212-838-6690; OR PR Consultant Susan Flamm at sflamm212@gmail.com or 212-289-2999.
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