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The Cotgrave Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611) has this definition for the word Babillon:

Babillon: m. The players that hang to the port of a bitt.

Can anyone shed some light about what bitt means here?

Can it be that bit (horse)? or something else related to a beard as I suspect the French word is a variant or a typo for barbillon?

What players might this be about?


Cotgrave definition

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II. That which plays.
✝6. A metal pendant to a horse's bit. Obs.
1598 FLORIO, Saliutra,.. among riders the plate whereat the players that hang in the mids of a port are fastned. 1607 MARKHAM Caval. VI. (1617) 57 He shall haue Snaffles of all shapes..with small rings in the midst, and sundry sort of small players fastned to those ringes, which to a trauel- ling horse breedes pleasure. 1611 COTGR., Babillons, the players that hang to the port of a bitt.

[ NED/OED1, "player" ]

So those are "loosely attached thin plates in the center of the mouthpiece [of a horse], for example", also called key bits, and are/were used for mouthing and increased salivation. A ported mouthpiece has a curve in the middle. So the former is attached to the latter. Can't find an exact image for both but consider this antique breaking bit with keys ("A wire loose ring straight bar snaffle with three players or keys"):

enter image description here

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Merriam-webster defines bitt as

a post or pair of posts fixed on the deck of a ship for securing lines

If you google "bitt images" you will find plenty of pictures of them.

port is the left-hand side of a ship when facing forwards, so "to the port of a bitt" means on the left hand side of a post that you attach ropes to.

I can't find any references to player, but I would guess that it is something to do with ropes.

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Here is the actual meaning thanks to the OED1:

Player
...
II. That which plays.
6. A metal pendant to a horse's bit. Obs.
1598 Florio, Saliuéra,..among riders the plate whereat the players that hang in the mids of a port are fastned. 1607 Markham Caval. VI. (1617) 57 He shall haue Snaffles of all shapes..with small rings in the midst, and sundry sort of small players fastned to those ringes, which a traueling horse breedes pleasure. 1611 Cotgr. Babillons, the players that hang to the port of a bitt.

So Bitt is an old spelling for a horse bit, port the part of the bit located in the horse mouth, possibly its curved center, and players are metallic thingies hanging to the port designed to "entertain" the horse and make it drool.

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