“The Game of Fortifications”

Inventé et dessiné par Gilles de la Boissiere Ingenieur ordinaire du Roy, LE JEU DES FORTIFICATIONS. Paris: Chez Daumont rue St. Martin pres St. Julien des Menestiers, [ca. 1710.]
52 playing cards, each 3 3/8”h x 2 1/8”w, plus title and instructions &c. Printed from a single plate on a sheet of laid paper, 19”h x 26 ¼”w at neat line, uncolored. Plate number in manuscript at upper right.

An early, attractive, and scarce sheet of playing cards designed for military education.

The sheet comprises 52 illustrated playing cards numbered sequentially, with a 53rd panel labeled “Place Complete.” The cards employ the French suits, each bearing an illustration depicting some aspect of fortifications along with a brief explanatory text. Along the top of the sheet additional panels list the game’s rules, a panel at left contains an index of terms, and a final panel, framed by drapery, features a long dedication by publisher Daumont to the heads of the Royal Military Academy.

The cards could be dissected for use as a traditional deck of cards or left intact for use as a board game, using the rules printed at the top. These appear to be fairly straightforward, involving the rolling of dice to determine one’s moves, the victor being the first to land on the Place Complete. Additional rules add spice to the game; for example, anyone landing on panel number 10 (“Triangles”) must give a payment to the other players, but in return gets to advance to panel 38 (“Place D’Armes”). By progressing along the board, players are exposed in sequence to the various aspects of fortification, beginning with geometric principles and basic defensive layouts and moving on to the fortification of islands, arsenals, castles &c.

This military card game was first published in Paris by J. Mariette in or around 1668 (Cary #693), while our Daumont edition appeared ca. 1710 (Cary #694 and 2577), and Pierre Mortier issued another French-language edition in Amsterdam at about the same time (Cary #777). German-language versions were issued under the title Das Festung Baues Spiel by Ulrich Stapf in Augsburg and Peter Schenck in Amsterdam (Cary #779 and 1021).

These publishers also issued a “Game of War” (Jeu de la Guerre / Das Kriegs-Spiel), also designed by Boissiere and employing a similar card-game format.

Cary Playing Card Collection 694, 2577. Not in OCLC, which does list several examples of the German-language editions by Schenck and Stapf, most located in European institutions.


Hint of creasing and toning along old folds, lower left margin reinstated where trimmed for binding, with a 2 ½” tear into image neatly mended.