Cincinnati: Devol & Haines, 1887. 300pp. plus five plates (including frontispiece portrait). Original gilt pictorial blue cloth, spine gilt. Spine slightly faded, spine ends and corners a bit worn, rear hinge cracked but still holding firmly. Very good. Item #WRCAM54895
The true first edition of this classic memoir of the notorious 19th- century gambler, George Devol, who was the bane of suckers and sharpers throughout the rivers and towns of the Mississippi Valley. This is "the genuine original edition and not to be confused with the re-issue of 1892 or subsequent publications. This is the personal privately printed narrative of the author's myriad extraordinary experiences" - Eberstadt. Howes notes that some copies have a New York imprint. As he explains in the lengthy subtitle, Devol could steal cards and cheat the boys at eleven; stack a deck at fourteen; he bested soldiers on the Rio Grande during the Mexican-American War; won hundreds of thousands from paymasters, cotton buyers, defaulters, and thieves; fought more rough and tumble fights than any man in America; and was "the most daring gambler in the world." Born in Marietta, Ohio in 1829, Devol was running a keno game by the time he was fourteen, and quickly built a small fortune by running games and taking his cut. He moved on to three-card monte and other card games on Mississippi River steamboats, and claims to have made friends with slaves at some of the big plantations along the river, so that he could impersonate the plantation master if he had to get off a boat and out of a tight situation in a hurry. His work is equal parts a boasting memoir of a colorful career, and an apologia for a life lived in the shadows of polite society. It is one of the most important memoirs of a 19th-century American gambler. CLARK III:297. HOWES D295, "aa." GRAFF 1071. EBERSTADT 105:108. Jackson Lears, SOMETHING FOR NOTHING (New York, 2003), pp.121-24.