A milestone in American game publishing

[Anne W. Abbott, designer] / Published by W. and S.B. Ives, THE IMPROVED AND ILLUSTRATED GAME OF DR. BUSBY , Salem, Mass., 1843 .
20 playing cards (in 4 suits of 5 each), each 3 ½"h x 2 ½"h, bearing a hand-colored wood-engraved illustration, and consisting of a printed card mounted on a blue paper backing. Housed in a green cloth-covered sleeve with printed title label on the front and printed directions on the back.

Rare early edition, and possibly the first overall, of the first card game published in America.

The Game of Dr. Busby consists of four suits (mortar & pestle, pan of milk, eye, and spade), representing respectively the Busby family, the family of Doll the dairy maid, the Ninny-Come-Twitch family, and the family of Spade the Gardener. The simple rules were as follows:

“The starting player begins by asking the player on his right for any card not in his own hand. If that player has the card he calls for, he gives it to him and the starting player may call for another card and so on until he calls for a card which the player doesn`t have. Then the next player takes his turn, but must first call for those cards which have been called for and obtained by the first player. Thus it becomes a game of memory since any incorrect call ends a turn. When a player has called every card from the player on the right (thus putting that player out of the game), he may continue to call from the next player on the right. At the end of the game, the winner will have successfully called all the cards into his own hand.” (boardgamegeek.com)

The game was developed by Beverly, Massachusetts native Anne W. Abbott (1808-1908), a game designer, author (primarily of books for children), editor and literary reviewer. It was published by the Salem, Massachusetts firm of W. and S.B. Ives, which was founded in 1823 by the brothers William and Stephen Ives and operated at least through 1853. The Ives brothers were printers, binders, booksellers and publishers, and their publications included among others the Salem Observer newspaper and Mansion of Happiness, often credited as the first American board game. They first advertised The Improved and Illustrated Game of Dr. Busby in the Salem Gazette for March 7, 1843. The game was wildly successful and purportedly sold 15,000 copies in the first eighteen months. It ultimately went through numerous editions well into the 20th century, many printed by the Ives firm but bearing the labels of game manufacturers such as Milton Bradley and the McLoughlin Bros.

Boardgamegeek.com mentions a variant edition of the game:

“In the May 1843 Boys and Girls magazine, the components of the first edition were described: a gold embossed thumb-hole cloth (maroon) case with printed instructions card (yellow) and four sets of 5 cards, each set outlined in a different color: brown for the Busby family, red for the Doll (the dairymaid) family, yellow for the Ninny-come-twitch family, and blue for the Gardner`s family.”

Boardgamegeek.com gives priority to this 21-card edition, but I am not convinced: The relative simplicity of the 20-card edition offered here, as well as its relative rarity (two examples on OCLC versus seven for the 21-card edition) suggest that ours should be given precedence.

OCLC gives only two examples (883713946-American Antiquarian Society and 84665887-Winterthur) of the game with the directions printed on the case. OCLC 5108325 gives seven institutional holdings with the variant bearing the directions on a 21st card. Most background from boardgamegeek.com, with information on Ms. Abbott from Wikipedia.


Minor soiling and staining to cards. Labels each with a vertical crack, that on the "Directions" somewhat obscuring several words.