Geographic game by Leon Saussine, with vibrant chromolithography and in superb condition

Twelve cardboard playing boards, each ca. 6 ¼”h x 11 3/8”w, bearing a pasted-on chromolithographic map of a different region, and each featuring 8 recessed windows with small black-and-white illustration representing that region. Accompanied by original drawstring pouch containing 96 numbered chromolithographic tiles corresponding to the windows in the playing boards, and a second pouch containing circular counters on heavy card. Housed in fitted cardboard box with chromolithographic cover. Complete and remarkably well preserved.

A rare early 20th-century geographic-educational game by prolific publisher Leon Saussine, featuring a profusion of chromolithographic maps and other images, all in superlative condition. Simultaneously delightful yet offensive to modern sensibilities, revelatory as it is of traditional Euro-centric conceptions of racial superiority.

The game consists of twelve numbered playing boards, two for each inhabited continent and another two for Oceania.  Each board bears a pasted-on pictorial map richly illustrated with images of native inhabitants, indigenous flora and fauna, and national flags (with British, Dutch and French flags flying over their imperial possessions throughout Africa and Asia).  The North-American boards, for example, depicts among other things Native Americans, beaver, a polar bear, gold mining, what appears to be an Aztec pyramid, and the Flatiron Building.  Each board also has eight die-cut recesses revealing an image of a native inhabitant or animal.  Each of the 96 openings is individually numbered and corresponds to one of the numbered tiles.

The whole is housed in a cardboard box with three fitted compartments and a stunning chromolithographic cover combining images of the peoples, flora, fauna and landscapes of the world.  The central vignette features five figures representing the inhabited continents, with Europe seated at center and the center of attention as she reads from a book and holds forth. This is in essence an updated version of the allegorical figures of the continents seen adorning world maps of the 16th-19thcenturies.

No instructions are present, though a comparison with other sets suggests that none were provided.  It appears however that this was a simple game of chance, somewhat similar to our “Bingo” but with an educational component:  The boards would be distributed among the players, one of whom would draw tiles at random from the sack, with each tile claimed by whomever held the board with the corresponding opening.  The first to fill all the openings on his or her board(s) would win the game.

The game was published by the firm of Leon Saussine, a

“creator and producer of a wide variety of games including race games, strategy games, puzzles, card games, questions and answer games, games of skill and shooting, and shadow theatre. He exhibited at the world fair in 1878 as an educational and parlour games publisher. The company continued after his death in 1896 into the early 1900’s run by his widow and then his sons.” (Board Game Geek)

The profusion of images, the vivid chromolithography, and the “retro” quality of the imagery render this a most appealing and interesting artifact.

OCLCgives holdings at Boston Public and Monash University only, with the former lacking tile 75 (March 2019).