«Ludica. Annali di storia e civiltà del gioco», 15-16, 2009-2010

introduction to the monographic section

Giochi di principi, giochi di villani

Jeux de princes, jeux de vilains

Spiele von Fürsten, Spiele von Gemeinen

[Games of princes, games of peasants]

Study Day. Paris, 28th April 2009

The Study Day Games of princes, games of peasants was organized in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, part of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, at the instigation of Sabine Coron and under the direction of Ève Netchine. Contributions reflected the development of studies in this sector and the increasing awareness of the “seriousness” of games as a fitting subject for scientific research.

The growing number of exhibitions, lectures and publications is evidence of a tradition which is especially strong in France, where games already enjoyed the status of university study in the 1960s. All these activities show, however, that the complexity and diversity of the ludic universe require an approach which is international and embraces multiple viewing points.

Of the many and various papers presented we have chosen to publish those which correspond to the programmatic framework and editorial policy of «Ludica. Annali di storia e civiltà del gioco». Historically, and considered in general, they deal with the discourse of games and those who play them, and a number of elements that are fundamental to our knowledge and understanding of ludic activities. They discuss how people in earlier times approached these essential cultural practices and how they interpreted them. The Middle Ages, for example, produced various myths linking the origins of games with legends that glorified some and demonized others. In the XVI century inveterate games players such as Girolamo Cardano and Paschasius Justus Turcq published works that can be considered milestones in progress towards our present understanding of gambling addiction and the problems associated with games and gaming. Games also invite dialogue with other forms of culture. Writing and printing, for example, contributed to the process of codifying games, and certain books became transformed into ludic instruments. That games were considered to be a phenomenon worthy of description and analysis in the erudite world of the Siècle des Lumières is confirmed by the fact that Diderot and d’Alembert did not disdain to devote several pages of the Encyclopédie to games and gaming, to their psychological and mathematical implications and to the “spirit of games”.

Manfred Zollinger