Geographic game of “The Five Navigators”

Published by William Spooner / Printed by Lefevre & Kohler, A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY; OR, THE FIVE NAVIGATORS. AN ENTIRELY NEW GAME.  259 Regent Street, Oxford Street, London, 1836.
Lithograph, 20 7/8”h x 17 3/8”w plus title and margins, fine original hand color. Segmented, laid on linen, and tipped into cloth-covered pocket folder with paste-on pictorial title label and rules affixed to inside of front board.

A rare and attractive nautical game entailing a dangerous voyage through an imaginary archipelago.

The game is designed for up to five players, each of whom is assigned to the Prince of Orange, Frigate; Green Emerald, Frigate; Royal Purple, Sloop; Red Rover, Ship of the Line; or the True Blue, Frigate. The navigators begin their voyage at the Mermaids Rock, each following their own track. Their movements are governed by the “Navigating Compass,” a dial which is spun each turn to determine how far each player can move his vessel (This “Compass” is not present and indeed is extremely rare, though a photocopy may be viewed here.

Along their journey through the imaginary archipelago the navigators will—among other things—meet natives both friendly and hostile, do battle with pirates, catch turtles on the beach, be sucked into whirlpools and dashed on rocks, harpoon a whale, and barter for gold dust (Each of these adventures is illustrated by a tiny, charming vignette on the map.) The more pleasant encounters entitle them to draw from a pot, the unpleasant ones require them to pay in. The first to land on “Out” wins the game and the remaining contents of the pot.

The game gained a mention in the The Court Journal for December 5, 1835:

“A New Christmas game entitled, ‘A Voyage of Discovery, or the Five Navigators’, has just been published by Mr Spooner of Regent Street. It is an ingenious game, which can be played by two, three, four or five persons; and afford such amusement and instruction to our youthful friends, who feel inclined to follow the tracts of the five navigators. The elegant manner in which it is got up, the ingenuity of the design, and its extreme cheapness, will no doubt procure for it an extensive circulation.”

The British Museum describes William Spooner as a “Print publisher, specialising in lithographs of a semi-popular and humorous character.” He was active in London between at least 1833 and 1847 and published a number of other geographic games, including A Voyage of Discovery or The Five Navigators, The Pirate and Traders of the West Indies, and The Journey or Cross Roads to Conqueror’s Castle.

Whitehouse, Table Games of Georgian and Victorian Days, p. 64, 70 (illus.) OCLC gives examples at Bristol University, the British Library, Princeton, Toronto Public Library, and the University of Chicago. Others are held by the Victoria & Albert Museum and in the collection of Adrian Seville, item #132.


Scattered light soiling to map, folder a bit rubbed, bumped and cockled. Spinner and playing pieces not present.