An extract from "Roberts on Billiards" 1869 by English Billiards Champion, John Roberts (Snr)
Francois Mingaud - the inventor of the leather cue tip
To the same Frenchman who gave us "tips" is due the credit of the discovery of low twist, or, as it is more commonly termed, screw. Some time before Carr astonished visitors to Bath, Mons. Mingaud, a well-known professional, was a political prisoner in Paris, his incarceration having been caused by a too free expression of opinion.
In his place of confinement was a billiard-table, to which Mingaud had access and daily turned his attention, the practise serving admirably to while away the long tedious hours. In time he became skilful, but frequent disappointments through his cue sliding off the ball caused him to set his wits to work, and ultimately to devise the leather tip. Then followed discoveries consequent on the invention, until his power over the balls became surprising even to himself. When almost perfected in the management of the cue, he sent it forth to the world, but kept to himself the more important features, and did not disclose them until after his release.
A few years later he became known as the great master of the game. He could nurse a break, screw, and cause his ball to follow with the utmost nicety and certainty. Happening once to be travelling through the northern part of France, he entered a café, where he found a player relating his adventures in Paris to an admiring and attentive group. His successes had been great at billiards. He had met Mingaud, who was a very fair player, but hardly the expert he had presumed he would find. Probably Mingaud could give him three in twenty-one. He had improved himself in Paris, and would show them the latest strokes.
Then came a waiter with the balls, and the narrator proceeded to attempt, and lamentably fail in the demonstration of, certain hazards. After laying aside his cue, Mingaud quietly advanced, took it up, and struck the white ball, which, after contact with the red, recoiled upon him. Affecting extreme horror, he dropped the cue, and summoned the waiter, to whom he explained that when he had pushed a ball forward it ran backwards. The spectators were incredulous, and, in reply to their entreaties, Mingaud attempted another stroke, but with the same result.
The balls were seized, and condemned as "tormented by a devil," and the waiter proceeded to obtain a new set. During his absence, Mingaud proposed a trial with the new-comer from Paris, who, only too happy, agreed to play, and, being the "crack" of the district, to give five points' start. At first he was allowed to win, became exultant, and eventually was bold enough to express an opinion that the great Mingaud would be but a poor match for him.
Suddenly the tables were turned; Mingaud played him at evens, then gave points, and eventually beat him with a start of fifteen in twenty-one. The spectators were interested at the outset because their townsman won, then amazed at the curious strokes exhibited by the stranger, who now screwed, now followed, and continued scoring, sometimes the full game, without allowing his opponent more than a single stroke.
And now, Monsieur," said Mingaud, addressing his discomfited adversary," do you feel equally certain of your ability to encounter the best player in Paris ?" "I defeated many experts there. You must be the devil. None other could posses so entire a mastery over the balls. I shall play you no more."
"No," replied our discoverer," there is no need for any further exhibition on your part. But before we part I would impress on you the great disadvantage of not speaking the truth."
"Monsieur, I do not comprehend, I ....."
"Quiet! There is no reason for a noise. My explanation is very brief. I am called Mingaud, and I think you will admit my skill is somewhat above yours. Had you not boasted so outrageously, I should have contented myself with remaining a spectator."
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