A. Books published in the 19th century:

French authors.


1. Teyssèdre (1827) 2. Mingaud (1830*) 3. Berger (1855) 4. Un amateur (1860) 5. Lemaire (1865) 6. Lalanne (1866) 7. Garnier (1880) 8. Mangin (1881) 9. Graveleuse (1881) 10.Vignaux (1895). Are also part of the collection for this period, the books by: Anonymous (1810), Bouvard (1818 and 1823*), Coriolis (1835, republished in 1990), Charrier (1837), Cosson (1851*), Mangin (1876, 1880), Faraill (1879?), de Beauvais (1883*), Bédoc (1889*), Arnous de Rivière (1891) and Garnier (1891). For more details, see Section F. Lists.
* = personal facsimile.

Some of these authors are renowned billiard teachers or amateurs who show shot diagrams of the game with three balls on a table with or without pockets as it was practised in France at the time. See examples below.

1837 CHARRIER. One of the first known champions. (*).


The cue ball performs two consecutive bricoles and caroms the other two, preventing a ball from falling into a pocket of the table and cancelling the point.

1855 BERGER Claudius. First player of his time. He perfected the game of series

[i]. ......... ..(**)

Note that the billiard table above, as well as those shown below, have no longer pockets.
Removing pockets enables you to play the series freely. So the French free game probably started around 1850.
Berger successfully introduced the French free game to the United States in 1862
[1]. In the same year an illustrated book, in which the American game was written by Phelan (***) and the French game by Berger, was published in New-York.

1865 LEMAIRE Désiré. One of the great players then [1]. He was a teacher held in very high esteem in the castles of France at the time [2].

All billiard balls of the book are coloured by hand !

1881 MANGIN Eugène. The most complete master before Vignaux [1].


After the cue ball hits the ball frozen to the wall, it follows a curved path.

This book was also published together, in one volume, with...

1880 GARNIER Albert
(Berger's student) [1]. Winner of the first world championship (French free game) for professionnals 1873.


One of the first billiard books with colour diagrams.

The author has also written: Nouveau traité de billard destiné aux amateurs. Ed. Sirven, Toulouse, France, 1891.

1895 VIGNAUX Maurice
(he studied with Ubassy, the latter being considered the best Parisian player in 1869 ]3]).THE master. [1]. Winner of the first American championship (French free game) for professionnals 1874.

..... (**)

The French free game of series made great progress in the 1870s thanks to the 'American series' (****), which consisted of first gathering the three balls near a cushion and then moving them along it by multiple short strokes, sometimes more than 1000!

In 1880 a memorable 4,000-point match took place in Paris between Vignaux and George Slosson.

The latter was considered the best player in the United States and great specialist of the American series.

On the first day Slosson recorded a wonderful series of 1103 caroms.

On the next day Vignaux won the match and maintained his reputation of invicibility by responding with

a series of 1531 caroms (points).


To break the monotony of this game, GRAVELEUSE Edmond, an excellent amateur [4], suggested (in his 1881 book) drawing lines parallel to the cushions on the billiard table (see below) at distances (D) of about 12 or 15 cm, so as to delimit zones (future balk spaces) where more than two strokes were prohibited, the central zone remaining free of constraint. The first tournament introducing such restrictions was held in Chicago in 1883 with D = 20 cm. Jack Schaefer Senior won with an average AV of 23 points per shot and a high run H of 220 and Vignaud finished in second place ( AV = 22 and H = 246). The balkline game was born! Other tournaments followed with D rising up to 45 cm in 1896 to make the game still more difficult. Note that these restrictions were quickly circumvented by the line series where the two carom balls were brought astride a line and moved on it by proceeding in the same way as the American series [4].



Some of the strong players who have not written books are:

  • the French

PAYSAN, nickname given because of his appearance [4]. He invented the "series" [2, 3] and called himself "The Napoleon of billiards" [4]. According to a newspaper of the time, PAYSAN was recognized by his exceptional talent of gathering the three balls so as to complete, without moving them away, a series of caroms leaving the adversary the only leisure to ask for 'the Moniteur' (= Gazette). [2, 3, 6].

NOEL, known for his spectacular massés [4]. Great opponent of Paysan.
SAURET, elegant, talented man, who never made billiards his profession. Inventor of "Side English" [5]. See [1, 6], too.
BURGER Charles, Berger's rival. Mangin's book [5] contains biographies and letters of both players planning a match together in 1858 that eventually never took place. See [1, 6], too.
, Berger's pupil, who became a specialist in amazing massés [1, 5, 6].
UBASSY, called "le Furet", teacher of Vignaux [5 who also taught in the Unite States.
PIOT Lucien, the only French professor who was able to fight Vignaux [1, 5].

  • the Belgians

, strongest player in his country for 20 years [5].
GOFFART Léon, professor with a 'forest' of hair, specialist in fancy shots [5].
VALET, the then strongest player in his country [5].

Let us remember that the 19th century revolutionized the game of billiards
with, at the beginning, the great invention of the leather tip by MINGAUD (*****). This made it possible to apply English (draw, massé, follow ...) to the cue ball. Hence the game of the series. the balkline and the '3 cushion' games followed and all three are still played today.


[1] ARNOUS DE RIVIERE Jules (Berger's student), Traité populaire du jeu de billard. Ed. Marpon et Flammarion, Paris, France, 1891.
[2] TROFFAES Georges, Le billard et l'histoire. Chronique des temps passés. Ed. Laguide, Paris, France, 1974.
[3] ALBOUKER Robert, Autour du billard. Découvertes. Gallimard N°162, France, 1992.
[4] MARTY Jean, Billards, Ed. du Garde-Temps, Paris, France, 2002.
[5] MANGIN Eugène,
Complément du nouveau traité du jeu de billard, Paris, France, 1880 (see above).
ANONYMOUS, La physiologie du billard par un amateur. Ed. Ledoyen, France, 1860. This very rare book (on the right) is interesting as his author, a billiard fan, describes the period 1800-60 during his lifetime.


(*) For more details, see Section D. Rare books and Details.
(**) This diagram shows how to gather three balls into a small space (see circle).Other examples can be seen in this book as well as in other books also dealing with the French free game.
(***) Michael Phelan is both the author of 'Billiards without a master', first American billiard book (1850), and the best player in the United States at the time.
(****) This game style, initiated by the two Canadian brothers Dion [2], was known by Mangin, Garnier and Vignaux.
(*****) See Section Q. History(Cues).


[i] Wikimedia Commons.