Sunday 8 January 2017

Chess book collecting in 2016

2016 was a particularly fruitful year on the book collecting front and I acquired around 1,200 chess books mainly from two large collections.

The books are generally run-of-the-mill titles with many duplicates of items already in my collection, but what fun it was sorting through them initially. Some of the more interesting books added to the library last year are as follows:

Handbuch des Schachspiels von P. R. von Bilguer (v. d. Lasa), Berlin and Leipzig 1922. 

My struggle with foreign languages is the greatest handicap to my interest in chess literature and I have generally steered clear of non-English works. The main exceptions being bibliographies which I collect in most languages. However, von Bilguer's Handbuch des Schachspiels should be a cornerstone of any serious collection and I finally succumbed last year and bought a copy of the very last edition published in 1922, nearly 80 years after the first edition of 1843. 

Paul Rudolf von Bilguer died in 1840, aged just 24 (five days before his 25th birthday), and the work was completed by von der Lasa. Although this book has always been ascribed to Bilguer, partly in honour of the young author's pioneering work, in reality this was von der Lasa's book. He probably contributed as much if not more than Bilguer to the first edition, he almost certainly wrote the extensive section on the history and literature of the game, and von der Lasa was the sole editor of the next four editions published in 1852. 1858, 1864 and 1874. 

The 1922 edition was edited by Carl Schlechter, although he had died in 1918. However this  final edition was originally published in eleven parts between 1912 and 1916. This is a mighty tome of 1,040 large pages plus a 51 page  Erg√§nzungsheft (supplement)  by Jacques Mieses. 

A Selection of One Hundred and Seven Chess Problems composed by F. C. Collins, London 1881.

This book is inscribed by James G. Cunningham, a regular contributor to The British Chess Magazine from 1883 to 1900 as London correspondent. 

The List of Subscribers includes just 74 names indicating a very small initial edition, and this book is certainly quite scarce. The subscribers included many of the leading problemists of the era and some prominent players such as Charles Gilberg, William Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort.

The Chess World: A Magazine Devoted to the Cultivation of the Game of Chess, volume III,  London 1868. I now have the first three volumes and just need volume IV to complete the set. The editors of this periodical are not named but Howard Staunton is known to have been the chief editor. This was the most expensive purchase of the year.

Common Sense in Chess by Emanuel Lasker, London and Berlin 1896. This is the scarce first edition of the important first chess book by Lasker. The preface is dated July 1895 so there must have been some delay in publishing. Betts 11-6 states that this book has 139 pages, but all copies that I have seen have had 141 pages.

The Preface states that this book is an abstract of twelve lectures given before an audience of London chess players during the spring of 1895. These lessons included general instructions and basic opening theory, together with annotated games by Morphy, Anderssen, Tarrasch, Steinitz, Zukertort etc., plus examples from Lasker's own play.   The advice given has stood the test of time and this book has been reprinted many times up to at least 1965.

Games Played in the London International Chess Tournament 1883,   edited by J. I. Minchin, London 1883. 

The London 1883 tournament included the World's top nine players, according to The Oxford Companion to Chess, and this beautifully produced book includes all of the games from the main tournament plus a selection from the Vizayanagaram tournament, named after the Maharaja of Vizayanagaram whose son had sent a financial contribution to the organisers.

At the time, this work held the record as the fastest produced tournament book, being published just five months after the event.  The value of this book is enhanced by the elaborate notes provided by the winner Johannes Zukertort and the runner up William Steinitz to their own games. James Mason and Henry Bird also assisted in the production of the book.

David DeLucia states in A Few Old Friends, 2nd edition, page 195, that the very attractive bindings of the first edition were printed in brown, red and blue. However, I know of one collector who has a first edition bound in green. Are there other colours?, and which is the scarcest?

Mr. Blackburne's Games at Chess, Selected, Annotated and Arranged by himself, edited by P. Anderson Graham, London, New York and Bombay 1899. 

While not an uncommon book, this is a particularly fine example with all of the gatherings unopened indicating that this book has never been read.    

This book usually has a catalogue of works published by Messrs Longmans, Green & Co. at the end which is dated at the bottom of page 32. I have two copies with catalogues dated 9/99 and one with a catalogue dated 1/01. 

I will present some more of last year's acquisitions next time.

 © Michael Clapham 2017

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