Monday 12 November 2018

A Short History of Chess by H. J. R. Murray

A Short History of Chess, by H. J. R. Murray, Oxford 1963.

Further to the brief reference to this posthumous publication in the previous article, Dr. Tim Harding has provided some intriguing information on the evolution of this work, ascertained from research carried out at the Oxford University Press in 2005. Letters seen by Harding in the archive file on Murray at the O.U.P.  give a fascinating, behind the scenes, glimpse of the difficulties in producing this book.  

The following comments are provided courtesy of Dr. Tim Harding and the Oxford University Press:

"Whether the posthumous ‘Short History of Chess’ did much for Murray’s reputation must be doubted. The original manuscript or typescript is unavailable so I cannot confirm yet whether the date of composition (1917) given in the publisher’s note is certain, probable or unreliable. Nor, in the absence of any correspondence from the author relating to it, is it clear for whom exactly this work was composed."

"From some correspondence I have been allowed to see in the Oxford University Press archive, the original idea, after Murray’s death, was that Goulding Brown (a some-time contributor to ‘British Chess Magazine’) would write a final chapter to bring the story up to date, but the editors at the Press were unhappy with what he produced. It was decided that Brown’s chapter would continue Murray's work up to about 1930 only and Harry Golombek was commissioned to write a second extra chapter, although Brown was unhappy about  this, judging  from letters in the file from the Press to Kathleen Murray [H. J. R. Murray's daughter]. (At the same time Golombek was working on his own chess history for another publisher, but this was a popular work based on secondary sources.)"

"Ultimately, after the project had hung fire for some years, the Press gave Golombek a deadline of late 1962 to finish his work and this must have spurred him into action since the book appeared in 1963. There must have been a compromise with Goulding Brown, too, because in the printed book his chapter goes up to 1945 and overlaps with Golombek, who starts with Alekhine and the decline of the hypermoderns. In the O.U.P. file there is even a mention that a new edition was being considered as late as 1976 but, so far as I am aware, it was never proceeded with – just as well because it would have been even less a genuine Murray work than the first edition."


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