Wednesday 4 May 2016

Howard Staunton on previous chess writers

Following on from the article on 3rd May:

Although Staunton had not discussed in detail previous chess writers and players until he wrote his final work Chess: Laws and Practice, London, 1876, he had an extensive knowledge of all of the main authors that preceded him and he made numerous references to these in his first book The Chess-Player's Handbook, London, 1847.

In the Preface to The Chess-Player's Handbook Staunton states;   `Adopting the common basis founded by the earlier writers, Lopez, Salvio, Greco, Cozio, Lolli etc., and super-adding the important discoveries brought to light in the works of Bilguer and Jaenisch, I have aimed only at producing an instructive compendium available by the large majority of English players to whom those works are inaccessible.´

Staunton lists the leading works to be consulted for each opening and includes works by Damiano, Lopez, Selenus, Greco, Cozio, Lolli, Ponziani (a particular favourite), Stamma, del Rio, Bertin, Salvio, Gianutio, Carrera, Philidor, and all of the authors from the early years of the 19th century including Sarratt, Silberschmidt, Horny, Mouret, Lewis, Bilguer and der Lasa, de la Bourdonnais, Ghulam Kassim, Jaenisch, Walker and Bledow.  

There are far fewer references to other chess works and writers in Staunton's next two major treatises, The Chess-Player's Companion, London, 1849 and Chess Praxis, London, 1860.



The Chess Player's Companion, (which has a particularly attractive title page and frontis in the first edition) mentions, in the section On Odds at pages 380 et seq., Damiano, Lopez, Carrera (by Lewis), Salvio, Cozio, Traité des Amateurs, Trevangadacharya Shastree and Alexandre, while various previous writers are referred to in the discussion on the laws of chess in Chess Praxis at pages vii to xii. 

It is clear that Staunton had access to a substantial library of chess books although some of the information from earlier works could have been gleaned from later writers.

                                           © Michael Clapham

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