Tag Archives: Art & Architecture Thesaurus

Lottery puffs and uncontrolled vocabularies

It seems to me that I had heard dribs and drabs about the surprisingly long history of lotteries before starting work with the CLIR project.  I had not, however, come across the term “lottery puffs.”  The phrase came to my attention while reviewing the work of one of my peers (as per our workflow).  David had cataloged a broadside of a décret by the Convention nationale, the verso of which is a sheet of lottery ticket proofs for the Loterie de piété (Case oversize FRC 10427 no. 8).  Not long ago, I cataloged a similar broadside: Avis aux tuteurs, administrateurs et parens des pupilles et interdits (Case oversize FRC 27593) which has tickets for the Loterie royale printed on the verso.

Case oversize FRC 27593, recto and verso

The tickets themselves look like this:

Ticket proofs for the Loterie royale de France (Case oversize FRC 27593, verso)

All French Revolution Collection (FRC) materials are given a genre/form designation in the bibliographic record.  (In the online catalog, if you switch to “Staff (MARC) View,” these are found in the 655 field.)   Such designations must be drawn from controlled vocabularies; we most frequently use the Art & Architecture Thesaurus and Genre Terms: A Thesaurus for Use in Rare Book and Special Collections Cataloguing.  Most FRC materials are simply “pamphlets,” but there are also plenty of “satires,” “comedies,” “broadsides,” “librettos” (recently changed, midstream, from “libretti”), and — in the case of these two broadsides-plus-lottery-proofs — “lottery puffs.”

Strictly speaking, however, they are not puffs.  Puffs are bits of puffery — hyperbolic handbills, particularly suitable for lotteries and nostrums.  For a lovely introduction, see Gill Short’s blog post on lottery puffs in the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera at the Bodleian Library.  The Newberry, too, has a collection of such early 19th-century, English lottery puffs.

So why categorize our exemplars as “lottery puffs” and not “lottery tickets?”  Because a controlled vocabulary is a strict mistress.  “Lottery puffs” appears in AAT, and no other term comes close.  Better close than nothing at all — proving once again that cataloging is a fascinating, frustrating mix of science and art.