Friday 19 February 2016

Chess Variants

Here are details of two rare pamphlets on chess variants.

1. Game of Eagle Chess Introduced and Published by Henry Tichauer. 

Front cover

The title page states: Invented by Herbert Henry Tichauer; (Patent applied for); Copyright 1943 by Herbert Henry Tichauer, Oxford.

Title page lists a pamphlet held by the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library with the title Game of eagle-chess by Henry Tichauer, published in Buffalo, N.Y. 1941. This has 7 unnumbered pages with a height of 23cm. My pamphlet also has 7 unnumbered pages (plus the title page) with a height of 21 cm., however, this is almost certainly the same publication. No copies are recorded at either the Cleveland Public Library or the Bibliotheca van der Linde-Niemeijeriana at The Hague.

Eagle Chess is played on a 10 x 10 board with the addition of two new pieces: the Eagle, which moves one square in a straight line, either horizontally or vertically, and two squares diagonally, for example from e3 to g6 or e3 to h1; and the Grand-Bishop which can move either as a knight or as a bishop. From a central square the Grand-Bishop can move in any of 12 directions and is therefore more powerful than a Queen.

Page [6]

This variant is not recorded in The Classified Encyclopedia of Chess Variants by D.B Pritchard, completed, edited and published by John Beasley, Harpenden 2007. This book is available online at

2. Crompton's Chess; Double Sided Partnership Chess by George Crompton. 

Front cover

This was printed in the United States of America in 1960 and page [4] gives the author's address as 54 Mill Street, Framingham, Massachusetts, U.S.A. 

Inside front cover

This pamphlet is recorded on pages 313/314 of the aforementioned Classified Encyclopedia of Chess Variants where the peculiarities of this four-player game are explained.

Page [1]

I can find no record of this pamphlet, of 4 unnumbered pages, in any library catalogue although it is recorded on page 171 of the Catalog of Copyright Entries Third Series January-June 1960 which is available for viewing at Google Books. 

                                       © Michael Clapham 2016

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Staunton's Chess-Player's Handbook (part 3)

Chess-Player's Handbook, 1847 Frontis

Some book dealers imply that the 1847 first edition  of The Chess-Player's Handbook is scarce or even rare. 

Bookseller's note inside first edition of The Chess-Player's Handbook

However, while the first edition certainly appears much less frequently than the edition dated 1848, there was, in fact, a very large printing of the first edition.

The Notices to Correspondents on p266 of the The Chess Player's Chronicle for Saturday August 21, 1847 (volume VIII) include a reply to "Aros" as follows: `The first impression of the Chess-Player's Handbook was a very large one, and there is not likely therefore to be a demand for a second edition just yet´.

Interestingly this followed a reply to F.R.S.; `To command anything like a remunerative sale, a Chess Work must be adapted to the taste and capacity of the multitude. A book for "finished players" would be a ruinous affair both for author and publisher´.

However, on the very next page (267) is the letter previously mentioned in my article of 1st January 2016 from Oxoniensis which begins `As Mr Staunton's Handbook  has deservedly met with such success that a second edition will soon be called for by the public, it will be an object to make it as perfect as possible....´

Chess Player's Chronicle Vol VIII title page

Page 306 (September 1847) of The Chess Player's Chronicle volume VIII has a reply to correspondent N.T. `The Chess-Player's Handbook can be got of any bookseller in the kingdom´ and page 346 (October 1847) of the same volume includes a reply to J.G.T., Hon. Secretary; `With respect to the Handbook, the success more than equals our anticipations; it has already reached a larger sale than any chess book ever published...´

Regarding the actual numbers sold we can refer to The International Chess Magazine volume IV, 1888 where Steinitz writes on page 15: `For I have positively ascertained that the above number [50,000] was sold of Staunton's Handbuch which first appeared about 35 years ago.´ (should be 41 years ago).

International Chess Magazine 1888 page 15

Steinitz amplifies this on page 309 of the same volume, when discussing the forthcoming publication of his Modern Chess Instructor, New York 1889, (which at the time was envisaged to be a book of about 500 pages). He stated:

`As regards the financial prospects of my forthcoming work, I may state that the probable estimate in our last January number from the reputed sale of Staunton's Handbook first published in 1844 (should be 1847) apparently falls far short of the real mark. For the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News of London has since positively stated that no less than 45,000 copies of this work were sold in the first year of its publication alone, and the book has had an excellent sale ever since´.

The Modern Chess Instructor detail from cover

The relative scarcity of the first edition compared with the second edition is no doubt due to the short time during which the first edition was printed compared with the second edition which was printed with the 1848 publication date right up to 1861.

                                        © Michael Clapham 2016

Saturday 13 February 2016

Books on chessmen published in English

This article is dedicated to Brenda.

It is perhaps surprising that, despite the abundance of books on all aspects of the game of chess, and the great variety of chess pieces used over the centuries since the game was invented, no book, published in English (or any other language as far as I can tell), was dedicated to chessmen until 1937 when Chessmen by Donald M. Liddell, with the collaboration of Gustavus A. Pfeiffer and J. Manoury, was published by Harcourt, Brace & Co., New York. The book was also published by George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., London 1938. 

Liddell title page

Frederick S. Copley had published a small pamphlet of 12 pages with illustrations, in New York in 1864, entitled Copley's improved geometrical & universal chess-men, adapted for every game on the checker-board...and containing Hoyle's rules and laws for playing chess. This, however, appears to be a booklet describing just Copley's own design of chessmen (of which none could be traced by Liddell).
A copy of this very rare pamphlet is held by New York University Libraries but not, apparently, by either the Cleveland Public Library or the Bibliotheca van der Linde-Niemeijeriana at The Hague.

Some historical works had discussed chessmen to a greater or lesser degree, and, in particular, H.J.R. Murray’s A History of Chess, Oxford 1913, was a significant source of information for later writers. There had also been many articles, exhibition and museum catalogues, and books on ivories with sections on chessmen; but no comprehensive work had been exclusively devoted to chessmen until 1937. 

It is in the nature of books on chessmen that they are all profusely illustrated with, not only chess pieces and sets, but also boards, paintings and manuscripts etc.

Plate from Liddell

Liddell’s book has 171 pages of text plus nearly 100 pages of plates in black and white. In addition to the chapters on the history and variety of chessmen, there are other interesting chapters such as Napoleon at the Chessboard, Famous Chess Resorts, Chess in Art and Archaeology and Chess Automata. There are also appendices listing Mediaeval Chessmen, Museums Containing Renaissance and Modern Chess Materials, a Bibliography on Chessmen and Ivories and Names of the Pieces in Various Languages. 

Hammond dust jacket

The next book to appear in English was The Book of Chessmen by Alex Hammond, published by Arthur Barker Ltd., London 1960. Hammond was, at the time, one of the world’s best known collectors of chessmen and the book describes and illustrates some two hundred chess sets from his collection. The book has 160 pages including 63 pages of black and white illustrations. There is no bibliography as the author states “reliable works on this subject are non-existent”.

Plate from Hammond

Plate from Hammond

A small paperback of 38 pages entitled History of Chessmen by Emile Katz was published in 1963 by Hugh Evelyn, London. I have not seen this, although it is readily obtainable, and the next substantial work was Chess; the Story of Chesspieces from Antiquity to Modern Times by Hans and Siegfried Wichmann, published by Paul Hamlyn, London 1964. It is difficult to show a good representation of this book as the front cover is plain black cloth and my copy does not have a dustjacket, and the title page is very sparse, I therefore show the spine and contents page.

Wichmann spine

Wichmann Contents

This is a translation of Schach, Ursprung und Wandlung der Spielfigur, Munich 1960. The book has 328 pages arranged as follows; 70 pages of text are followed by 200 pages of plates many of which are in colour. A further 50 pages of Notes on the Plates give detailed descriptions of the illustrations.  Several illustrations of chess themed paintings are also included. A five page bibliography listing around 250 items completes the book.

Plate from Wichmann

Plate from Wichmann

The following three books were all published in 1968:

Chessmen by A.E.J. Mackett-Beeson, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London. 120 pages and a similar number of illustrations many in colour.

Mackett-Beeson front cover

Chess: East and West, Past and Present: A Selection from the Gustavus A. Pfeiffer Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 178 pages and around 135 illustrations, eight in colour.

Chess east and West front cover
Plate from Chess East and West

Chess Sets by F. Lanier Graham, Studio Vista, London and Walker, New York. 84 pages, around 90 illustrations of which only two are in colour and one of these is reproduced on the dustjacket

Lanier-Graham dustjacket

The next major work was Chessmen by Frank Greygoose, published by David & Charles, Newton Abbot 1979. After 32 pages of introductory matter there follows 122 pages of illustrations, 45 of which are in colour, showing chess sets and pieces many of which are from the author’s own collection. The Bibliography lists nine books.

Greygoose dustjacket

Plate from Greygoose

The only other work up to 1988 was Chessmen for Collectors by Victor Keats, published by B.T.Batsford Ltd., London 1985. This is a substantial quarto volume of 240 pages and the chess sets and pieces described and illustrated are organised by countries and regions. The book is profusely illustrated throughout including 32 pages of colour plates. There is a Bibliography listing 30 items, although none of the previous books on chessmen are mentioned; suggestions for Further Reading, which does include Hammond's and Liddell’s books; and a comprehensive Index.

Keats dustjacket

Plate from Keats

I conclude this article with an advertisement for a lecture by Dr. Emanuel Lasker which he illustrated `by means of Mr. Peter Toepfer's patented "Exhibition Chessmen."´

Lasker lecture advert
                                        © Michael Clapham 2016