The Goose Gets Loose at Grolier

The Pleasant Game of the Goose, a 1640 hand-colored Italian woodblock print. In the center, a fancy family dines on one! Courtesy: Morgan Library

The Pleasant Game of the Goose, a 1640 hand-colored Italian woodblock print. In the center, a fancy family dines on one! Courtesy: Morgan Library

The geese are running wild inside the historic Grolier Club on Madison and 60th Street – part of the tribute exhibition organized by curator-collector Adrian Seville, The Royal Game of the Goose: Four Hundred Years of Printed Board Games, running through this weekend.

The show is an historical overview of one of the most replicated and popular board-game entertainments of the Western world — The Goose, a board-game design that has existed since the Middle Ages.

It’s remarkable to see over 70 examples including hand-colored woodblock prints, games from copperplate engravings, chromolithographs, and commercially printed folding boards spanning the 1600s through today.

Most feature some form of The Goose. The Goose board is designed as a single track in which players move their markers toward the finish based on a dice roll. Sound familiar? The rules have been around since 1600.

Detail of The New Game of Aerostatic Balloons, a 1784 French hand-colored engraving depicting the early history of ballooning

Detail of The New Game of Aerostatic Balloons, a 1784 French hand-colored engraving depicting the early history of ballooning

Wildly popular across the European continent, the Goose game has survived and depicted the French Revolution, the fall of Napoleon, the various configurations of royal marriages, WWII, and the evolution of social mores.

After the French Revolution, Goose games appealing to the middle-class appear, providing graphic lessons about reading music notation, the Parisian theater, ethnicity in America states, and countries you’d visit on an round-the-world voyages. A late 18th century French game depicts the history of ballooning, featuring Ben Franklin’s witness to a spectacular liftoff in Paris.

At the end of the 19th century, the games featured subjects like British ships running the Union blockades in America’s Civil War, monuments of the world, and significant inventors like Edison and Roebling (complete with a picture of the brand new Brooklyn Bridge).

Game pieces for The Game of the Great Blockade, produced in 1863 London about the British ships that were helping the Confederacy by running through the Union blockade during the Civil War

Game pieces for The Game of the Great Blockade, produced in 1863 London about the British ships that were helping the Confederacy by running through the Union blockade during the Civil War

Commercials creep into the mix, too, but what else is new? The Grolier has again hit a home run with chronicle of Western culture’s time spent around a table, hanging with friends, and rolling the dice.

Click here to view some of our favorites in our Flickr album.

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