Books : The Greatest Game – and Ivanhoe

The Greatest Game
The Ancyent & Healthfulle Exercyse of the Golff

The Greatest Game – The Ancyent & Healthfulle Exercyse of the Golff is a  book by Hugh Dodd & David Purdie with foreword by Colin Montgomerie. Published in 2010, it explores the real and fictional history of the game from its foundations in ancient times to the present in humorous prose and brilliant illustrations.

The Greatest Game is available from all quality booksellers in two editions:- The hardback popular edition ( ISBN 9780951447079) at £25
The de luxe Edition, limited to 150 copies (ISBN 9780951447086)  has a higher quality paper and casing, a loose-leaf limited edition print of the cover image, and is signed by both authors and Colin Montgomerie. Cost; £150.


David and Hugh sitting with the book

Foreword from The Greatest Game

There are many books on the subject of golf, but I suspect there have been none quite like this one. The game is governed by strict Rules and also by Laws inexplicable to science, Books, however need no such regulation and it is refreshing to find the authors prepared to base historical statements on firm facts where available, and on equally firm powers of inventions when not. They have attempted nothing less than to fill the many gaps in our knowledge of the game, and they have done so with scholarship, much humour and glorious illustration.

Playing golf can be a serious business, as I know, but the game has a healthy habit of standing back from time to time and taking a wry, sideways look at itself, at the incongruities of its institutions and eccentricities of its devotees. This book does just that. No area of golf escapes the surgical probing of David Purdie’s pen, or the equally deft touch of Hugh Dodd’s paintbrush. The book takes us from the invention of the warning Fore!, apparently by the army of Imperial Rome, to the European Union’s help with the banana slice, GPS-linked tagging of club members to combat slow play, and finally to the extraordinary assertion that Wm. Shakespeare Esq. was probably a strolling player in more senses than one…

But overall, what emerges is the authors’ love of the game. It is a game which they both play and whose traditions we all cherish as the bedrock of one of the finest outdoor pursuits to have been conceived by the mind of Man; the indeed ancient and healthful exercise of the golf.

However, to describe it any further here would be, to misquote Mark Twain, a good read spoiled. Enjoy.

                                                                            Colin Montgomerie


Copies are available from
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Sir Walter Scott’s

 An Abridgement and Adaptation for the modern Reader
by David Purdie

Published  October 2012 by Luath Publishing ,Edinburgh

The paradox of Walter Scott is that he remains much respected as a literary figure and admired as an innovative author – but little read. The collected works of Scotland’s greatest novelist adorned the bookshelves of our grandparents, the attics of our parents and the pulp mills of today – and that is a pity.
The Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels (EEWN) was completed in 2010 in Scott’s home city and issued from the press of his old University. It is a triumph of scholarship and the definitive edition of his prose, not least Ivanhoe, superbly edited by Prof. Graham Tulloch of Flinders University in Adelaide, S.  Australia. However, the books lie in the bookshops at a price beyond the average reader of today’s times of austerity.
The general opinion has grown up that Scott, as novelist, is ‘difficult.’ This impression seems to be generated by the fact that he wrote at a time when the printed word was the central means of communication, when attention spans were longer, distractions fewer and the historical novel a brilliant innovation.

Scott is still studied in College and University courses both in the UK and in continental Europe where his seminal contribution to romance literature is secure. However, the non-academic educated reader seems to find him prolix in dialogue, rambling in description, meandering in plot and, well, just too long. Hence the present abridgement, or redaction, or condensation of Ivanhoe, although the classic Greek term of ἐπιτομή, our epitome, is perhaps nearer the mark. As its Greek etymology suggests, an epitome cuts away any extraneous matter, leaving the kernel or marrow of the work intact and open to inspection.

In the present edition, the tremendous, driving storyline of Ivanhoe has been preserved, as have the sights, sounds and smells evoking the Middle Ages. Intact also are Scott’s portrayal of buildings from peasant hut to noble castle, his description of the forested countryside of Yorkshire and Leicestershire and his depiction of the dress, speech and attitudes of the times. Social conflicts, always central to the plot in Scott’s fiction, abound in Ivanhoe; the collisions of Norman and Saxon; Monarch and Pretender; Cleric and Layman; Freeman and Outlaw; Jew and Gentile; Master and Serf give the work its very heart and soul. The civilian and military conflicts of 12th century England are conserved intact in the present edition, as are Scott’s characterisations. Many of the dramatis personae, such as Gurth the swineherd, Wamba the jester and Robin the hood, are supplied with a delightful dry and ironic sense of humour. Noble Saxon and dastardly Norman fight it out alternately with sharp words and sharper weapons, while in the intellectual Rebecca of York we are in the presence of perhaps Scott’s finest female portrayal.

In developing this epitome, descriptive passages have been held to their essentials, paragraphs have been contracted, sentences shortened, double adjectives singled out – and literally thousands of commas consigned to oblivion. The words, however, remain Scott’s except where the passage of nearly 200 years has altered a word’s meaning sufficiently to obscure its sense in context. Where the shortening of a sentence mandates a punctuation change, this has been silently effected. The base-text used was the Magnum Opus edition of 1829-33 the last to be prepared by Scott in his lifetime. However, the editors of the EEWN have detailed the many errors that crept into the original edition of 1820 from Scott’s manuscript text, during the process of transcription, typesetting and proofreading. Where such an error materially alters the sense of the passage, it has been corrected. The resultant text runs to some 96,000 words, about the average for a modern novel.

I am braced for criticism of the very concept of such an abridgement. Whatever the motive, no-one adjusts the text, or the musical score, or the brushwork of a master and escapes with impunity, scaithless as Scott himself would say. However, if the present abridgement literally and metaphorically epitomises this great novel; if it leads modern readers back to the original masterpiece in the Edinburgh Edition – and indeed back to our greatest novelist himself, it will have served its purpose.

Prof David Purdie , Edinburgh , 2012.

Also available is Sir Walter Scott’s Heart of Midlothian. Published by Luath Press in 2014 .