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Post 18. Mr. Harold Thorne and his “Bridge In 20 Minutes” little book. Monday 3rd September.


I’ve devoted a chapter to Mr. Harold Thorne but some details are still unknown to me.   For many years I believed Mr. Thorne was English because I know he had a Bridge school at “35 Marsham Street, London”.   Some little booklets, aide memoires really, that he produced have “Schools” (rather than “School”) printed on the covers.   I would like to be more precise about when the booklets were published - at the moment I have it as about 1933 but that may be incorrect.   Recently I noticed a photo on the internet in Getty Images where he’s playing a game with Mr. Culbertson, Mrs. Elizabeth Clark Boyden and Mr. Shepard Barclay - they all look wonderfully smart. That photo has some text attached - I show just the first part :

      The world’s bridge and backgammon authorities met the public at the formal opening of the Thorne (text actually says “Torne”) Bridge and Backgammon Club at the Barbizon-Plaza Hotel here. The club named for Harold Thorne, its president and author of “Contract Bridge in 20 Minutes and Backgammon In 20 Minutes”.

The book is a little gem and elevates Mr. Thorne to someone’s hall of fame - maybe he’s already in one - I don’t know.  The American first has orange covers and looks very ordinary.   The British first is quite another thing and extremely scarce.   I believe my copy is a first edition but I’m not absolutely sure. Apparently, there is just a single copy of the British first in Copac, the national library database.   When I next go to the British Library (whenever SouthWest Trains do another £15 return day) I hope to compare my copy with theirs.   it has the following collation :

[1930] ?, Harold Thorne, Contract Bridge in 20 Minutes With An Introduction By Ely Culbertson, Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 1st edition ?, 10.5x16.6 cm, ix+(1)+38 pages.

Later issues had either the edition or the number of copies sold printed on the covers.   On the rear cover of the 1932 book “Advanced Contract Bridge Simplified Including Duplicate Contract Bridge, Eyre & Spottiswoode, London” it states that his very first book - “Contract Bridge In 20 Minutes” - has reached its “sixty-fifth thousand”.   On the cover of the 1949 edition it states “303 thousands sold”.    There’s a 1954 edition too !

I suspect Bridge books today sell in a few thousand, evenless !   But here’s a book that did so much to open the Bridge world up to thousands of people and that’s why Mr. Thorne and his little book are “immortals”.   Sadly, like so many, Victor Mollo passed him by.   Surely, immortality is not just about system and card playing technique.

BW, Ken in Bournemouth.

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