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219 Years of bets at Cambridge

by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander on October 7th, 02008

The Cambridge Betting Books, From England 08

While visiting the UK last week my wife and I were invited to high table dinner at Cambridge’s Caius College by a friend who is now a fellow there.  Touring the grounds was stunning, that all of those gorgeous buildings and ancient libraries could be there for you as a student is so impressive.  High table is where the fellows (professors) like Stephen Hawking eat at the college — Harry Potter style overseeing the students.  When not in term, as it was for us last week, they eat in a separate set of rooms.  After dinner we retired to the “desert room” which was built around the 1300’s I believe, and was paneled in wood from one of Her Majesty’s famous wooden ships.  After some port and claret was served, we were told about the “betting book”.  Apparently since the late 18th century they have kept a book in this room to record predictions and bets made at the table as people like like Francis Crick got drunk in the wee hours.  In the room they only had the most recent book, which had more recordings of presentations of bottles of wine than bets and predictions.  But the following day I went to the library and saw some of the older texts.  Unfortunately time was limited so I did not get a chance to look through them all (I would love to find a student there to help catalog it!).  But I found a couple good bets while looking through…

A page from the second oldest betting book I came across, From England 08

This bet from March of 01817 reads “W.White bets Mr Standby that if a Person call a woman a Wh—e they may have a Remedy of Common Law.” I am not at all sure, but it seems like the W word is Whore, and they are referring to a way someone might avoid having their mistress receive common law marriage rights to property.

And the below image is of the first entry in the oldest betting book I found. It reads “March 10, 1789, On the memorable day in which the Parliament was opened by commission after the Kings Recovery.

The first entry in the oldest betting book I found, From England 08