The following text offers general information about this game. To find out about each example in the Museum collection, click on a picture at the bottom of this page.
The origins of bagatelle are entwined with the antiquity of many other games. Its roots are at a time when people tossed or rolled rocks and pebbles on the ground in the outdoors, eventually confining this aimless play to a defined targeted area marked out on the ground. It has been reported that the ancient Egyptians played a game on a grass course, with a targeted area laid out in the shape of a diamond. A "ball" was used to knock down "pins" in the targeted area.
By Greco-Roman times rocks had long given way to handmade leather or carved wooden balls, and pebbles evolved into something akin to marbles. One ancient Roman version of this outdoor game became Bocce (a Italian form of what the British refer to as Lawn Bowls, The photograph at the left is a 19th century wooden lawn bowl - with an ivory insert - in the Museum collection).
Minor versions of outdoor bowling games (which used the evolved pebbles) became the many marble games which children continue to play today, and these evolved into certain table-top bagatelle games. Full-sized bowls became a number of other bowling games which people play today.
When people began to adapt the outdoor games to the indoors - initially they moved them to a very special indoor place - public taverns or pubs. At first, game play may have simply been on the floor of a pub, and these games evolved into the indoor game of Bowling and all it's derivatives such as Tenpin Bowling.
One variation introduced sticks and arches (or wickets) into the outdoor bowling game as early as the 14th century and this modification evolved into the modern outdoor games of Shuffleboard and the game of Croquet - and indoor games such as Billiards and Snooker.
Eventually people made use of fabricated defined targeted areas which could sit on a table or stand on the floor on four legs. In time, floor standing games became Skittles, and table-top games became Carom and Crokinole games. To see information about these other games, click on an item in the left panel menu.
References to indoor European billiard tables appear sometime during the late 15th Century, with notable owners such as Louis XI of France and in the next century by personages such as Mary Queen of Scots. These early billiard tables featured "arches or wickets" as targets. These targets later became the pockets on a modern billiard table. Nonetheless, people began to experiment with the billiard table over the next two centuries. One type evolved into the standard pocket billiard table (3' to 6' wide by 6' to 12' wide) used today, and a second developed into the smaller pocket-less Carom Billiard table. A third type became known as Bagatelle.
There are many variations of the game of bagatelle. Nineteenth century bagatelle floor standing tables required cue sticks to propel ivory balls. Although floor standing bagatelle tables have (in-the-main) given way to pinball machines, the game is still played in some pubs and taverns, and often bought on the antique market today by game collectors to use in their own homes. The Museum has two typical 19th century examples in its collection. Modes of play and scoring for these tables are offered on a detailed page concerning the game. Click on the image of the floor standing Table on the right for a page about this type of Bagatelle Table.
Twentieth centry Table-Top Bagatelle games feature a spring loaded plunger which generally propels marbles. Some of these games have few target areas, but some are quite elaborate and are enclosed in glass. The mode of play and the eventual outcome varies from game to game. Any number of players may participate. Usually players play in rotation collecting points. There are a number of these games in the Collection.
|Gold Star||Jungle Africa||Steeplechase|
|Maple Leaf||Diamond Board||Baffel Board|
|Rollett||Wild West||Playing Card||Poosh-M-Up|
Last update February 25, 2010