New York: George H. Devol, 1892. 300pp. plus frontispiece portrait and four plates. Original green cloth, gilt. Cloth moderately rubbed, light edge wear. Previous owner's signature and presentation inscription on front free endpaper. Titlepage partially torn at gutter, not affecting text. Lightly toned. A very good copy. Item #WRCAM55515
Rare presentation copy of the second edition of the classic work on riverboat gambling, by one of the few sharks to write his memoirs in full. The first edition was published in 1887, and copies are found with Cincinnati and New York imprints. In the present copy, a former owner writes on the front free endpaper that this copy was "Presented by the Author (Geo H. Devol), at the Monmouth Park Race Track July 8th, 93." Though this is a secondary inscription, presentation copies of any kind of Devol's works are exceedingly rare and highly desirable. George H. Devol was a notorious 19th-century gambler, and the bane of suckers and sharpers throughout the rivers and towns of the Mississippi Valley. As he explains in the lengthy subtitle, Devol could steal cards and cheat the boys at eleven, and 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." George Devol was born in Marietta, Ohio, in 1829, 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. "Rarely did he comment on anything not directly associated with his vocation. His description of the Wilson Rangers, a cavalry company of New Orleans gamblers who attempted to defend that city against General Butler in 1862, contributes little to military history, but it is interesting reading" - Clark. One of the most important memoirs of a 19th-century American gambler, and especially desirable as this copy was given to the original owner by Devol himself. HOWES D295. CLARK III:297 (ref). GRAFF 1071 (ref). EBERSTADT 105:108 (ref).