Thursday, 13 October 2016

Will H. Lyons. Purveyor of chess goods

William Henry Lyons (1849-1932), of Newport Kentucky, was probably the world's foremost chess literature dealer for around 30 years at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. He also wrote a treatise on chess problems; Chess-nut burrs: how they are formed and how to open them, which he published in Newport in 1886.

I was very much intrigued by the footnote on page 172 of R. B. Swinton's Chess for Beginners and the Beginnings of Chess:

Swinton's accusation that Will H. Lyons had `ransacked the bookstores of England, Scotland, various German States and several other countries´ is in fact substantiated in Lyons' own catalogues. 

His Catalogue No.7. Chess Requisites and Works on Chess, issued in 1897, in which he claims to have the largest stock of chess goods in the world, states:

`My agents in the book centres of Europe constantly supply me with Rare and Out-of-Print Works´

`No pains or expense have been spared in seeking for and securing rare and out-of-print works.´

`All that was of value has been purchased.´

`All languages are represented, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin, German etc. etc.´

`The largest collection of Chess Magazines ever known is offered.´

`I have searched the World for books and have "cornered the market" in the old and scarce works´.

`I have made America the great source of supply for Chess literature.´

etc. etc. 

Lyons' 80 page catalogue, which lists around 1,000 items, certainly backs up these boasts, and he undoubtedly offered the greatest selection of chess literature ever assembled in one catalogue. Lyons' catalogues were only surpassed when Bernard Quaritch also `cornered the market´ by buying up most of the Rimington-Wilson collection sold at Sotheby's in 1928, and offered them in his Catalogue of Rare and Valuable Works relating to the History and Theory of the Game of Chess issued in 1929. This included 1,657 items.


Some sample pages from Lyons' 1897 Catalogue will give an indication of the quantity and quality of his chess literature stock.

Notwithstanding this treasure trove of chess literature, and his world wide network of customers, the chess book trade at the time appears to have been rather slow. Lyon's Catalogue No. 10. Chess Requisites and Works on Chess, issued nearly twelve years later in July 1909, has 96 pages and circa 1,240 items, including many previously listed in Catalogue No. 7

Lyons no doubt replaced sold items but it is clear that many items offered for sale in 1909 were unsold from 1897 as can be seen from these pages from the 1897 (left) and 1909 (right) catalogues.

Today most of the items in Lyons' catalogues would be snapped up in a jiffy, and, going round second-hand bookshops these days, I nearly always find that a Will H. Lyons has been there before me.  

                                         © Michael Clapham

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Robert Blair Swinton and his chess book

Chess for Beginners and the Beginnings of Chess, by R. B. Swinton, published by T. Fisher Unwin, London 1891.

Title page, first edition

Frontispiece, first edition

Betts 10-47 states that this was originally published by Little, Brown in Boston in 1890, however, other sources, including the Cleveland Public Library, date the Boston edition as 1891. A second edition (simply a reprint) was also published in 1891 and a third edition, another reprint with a two page index, was published in 1897. This had a slightly amended title Chess for Beginners and the Beginners of Chess. Betts 10-59 implies that this was an error but Swinton may have intended to change Beginnings of Chess to Beginners of Chess as he uses this phrase elsewhere in the book (p119).  Betts 10-61 gives details of a third edition published in New York 1898 but I can find no collection or library possessing this and it may be a phantom (or very rare).

Title page, third edition

This was the only chess book written by Robert Swinton about whom virtually nothing is known. and record that he was born in 1829, worked for the Madras Civil Service, married Elizabeth Dorothy Rundell in 1858, had seven children and died in 1912. Swinton wrote two other books; The Proceedings in the case of the Earldom of Mar: 1867-1885, London 1889, and An Indian Tale or Two, Blackheath 1899. He also wrote articles for the Dictionary of National Biography.

Chess for Beginners...aimed to provide a clear summary of the elements of Chess together with a knowledge of the history and literature of the game. Part I (94 pages) is the instructional section written in an informal chatty style, and Part II (104 pages) includes eight chapters on chess history and literature. 

The book received mixed reviews in The British Chess Magazine and The Chess-Monthly. The British Chess Magazine for January 1891, page 16, offered a few snippets of praise in an otherwise negative review.


While the review in The Chess-Monthly for January 1891, page 136, was more enthusiastic although written in a sardonic manner.

I was particularly intrigued by Swinton's footnote on page 172 and I will comment on this at length next time.

                                    © Michael Clapham 2016

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Chess Texts printed before 1850. Part 3

This is the final instalment of the main chess publications in English recorded in Chess Texts in the English Language, printed before 1850, by Whyld and Ravilious, covering the years 1836 to 1849.

This period saw the advent of the first chess periodicals, and the publication of George Walker's historically important Chess Studies in 1844, which included over 1,000 games played during the previous fifty years. Howard Staunton also emerged as England's foremost chess author and his publications quickly became the standard chess reference works replacing the manuals and treatises of Sarratt, Lewis, Walker and others.  
I have made many notes in my copy of Chess Texts and some of the observations that I have noted follow:

1672:1  The Famous Game of Chesse-Play   by Saul / Barbier.   Both Murray, in A History of Chess, Oxford, 1913, page 841, and Schmid in Literatur des Schachspiels, Wien, 1847, page 122, list an edition dated 1673. Murray also lists a 1676 edition but does not mention the 1680 edition recorded in Chess Texts.

1793:2 Benjamin Franklin. Another early occurrence of The Morals of Chess is in The Sentimental and Masonic Magazine for January 1793.

1830:1 The Bibliographical and Retrospective Miscellany. The list of works on the game of chess was compiled by George Walker as explained in my article of 15th March 2016.

1832:2 Encyclopaedia Britannica with John Donaldson's Treatise on the Game of Chess. In The Philidorian, 1838, George Walker states on page 232 that "a few copies were printed for private circulation"  

1836:10 The article on Stroebeck, taken from Lewis's Second Series of Lessons, London, 1832, was previously included in The Penny Magazine for 1st June 1833, page 216.

1841:6 The Year Book of Daily Recreation and Information by William Hone. Several items on chess are listed in this Chess Texts entry, however all of these, and more on chess, are included in  the first edition of Hone's Year Book published in 1832. The chess content of this volume warrants a separate article.

The main chess publications in English from 1836 to 1849:

1836:12 Walker, George, Chess made easy
1836:13 Walker,William Greenwood, A selection of games at chess
1837:2   Alexandre, Encyclopedie des echecs
1837:9   The Philidorian
1837:13 Walker, G., Chess: the match played by... Paris and Westminster
1838:3   Lewis, The chess-board companion
1839:1   The chess-players handbook (Handbooks for the million)
1840:4   Huttmann, Curious chess problems
1840:5   Huttmann, Games of chess
1840:13 Huttmann, The Palamede
1840:14 Pinnock, A catechism of chess
1840:22 Walker, G., Catalogue of writers on chess
1841:2   Dearborn, The chess-player
1841:3   The chess  player's chronicle
1842:2   Pierson, Chess exemplified
1844:1   Brown, Chess problems
1844:6   Lewis, A treatise on the game of chess
1844:10 Walker, Chess Studies
1845:6   Kuiper, One hundred and twenty problems
1845:13 Tomlinson, Amusements in chess
1845:15 Williams, Souvenir of the Bristol Chess Club
1846:1   Alexandre, The beauties of chess
1846:2   The American chess magazine
1846:6   The chess palladium and mathematical sphinx
1846:8   Stanley, Thirty-one games at chess
1846:9   Walker, The art of chess-play
1847:3   Jaenisch, Jaenisch's chess preceptor
1847:4   Kenny, Charles, The manual of chess
1847:7   Staunton, The chess-player's handbook
1848:1   Agnel, Chess for winter evenings
1848:2   Beeby, An account of the late chess match ... Staunton and Lowe 
1848:12 Vogt (Lewis), Letters on chess
1849:5   Kling, The chess euclid
1849:6   Staunton, The chess-player's companion
1849:7   Staunton, The chess-player's text book  


1837:9 (from facsimile edition, 1987)






                                       © Michael Clapham 2016

Monday, 3 October 2016

Chess Texts printed before 1850. Part 2

Chess Texts in the English Language, printed before 1850 by Ken Whyld and Chris Ravilious, Olomouc, 2003.

Chris Ravilious wrote a long article "Working with Ken" detailing their collaboration on this project and this can be seen at the Ken Whyld Association website here.

Further to my previous article I list below the main chess publications in English from 1819 to 1835. The listing of these main works on chess does not imply that the other items recorded in Chess Texts lack importance. On the contrary, due to the scarcity of dedicated chess manuals at the time, many people relied on works such as the games compilations by Hoyle etc. and articles on chess in journals etc., for their chess knowledge. Furthermore this list only includes works in the English language and there are many works in several other languages.

I mentioned that chess articles in encyclopedias were surprisingly omitted in Chess Texts and one example of a long and interesting article excluded by this policy is the ten page entry on Chess in Pantalogia. A New Cyclopedia, published in 1813. This includes an essay on the History of Chess, followed by comprehensive Directions to be attended to in playing, General maxims and Laws of Chess. Some sample pages:

1819:7   Lewis, Gioachino Greco on the game of chess
1819:11 Montigny/Kenny, Analysis of the game of chess, by A.D Philidor
1819:12 Pohlman, Chess rendered familiar by tabular demonstrations
1820:2   Hunneman, Chess: A selection of fifty games played by the automaton
1820:4   An easy introduction to the game of Chess, C. Bingham, Boston, Mass.
1820:14 Bingham J.S., The Incomparable game of chess (Ponziani)
1821:4   Sarratt, A new treatise on the game of chess
1822:4   Lewis, A treatise on the game of chess (Carrera)
1822:6   Cochrane, A treatise on the game of chess
1822:7   Gardiner, Chess: being a series of games
1822:8   Lewis, Elements of the game of chess
1822:12 Short, Bob, A treatise on the game of chess  
1825:7   Lewis, The first and second games of the match, (London v Edinburgh)
1827:8   Lewis, Chess Problems, being a selection of original positions
1828:5   Lewis, The games of the match played by London and Edinburgh clubs
1828:6   Lewis, Solutions of chess problems
1829:2   Edinburgh Chess Club, The games of the match at chess
1829:6   Ghulam Kassim, Analysis of the Muzio Gambit
1830:2   The games of the match at chess played by London and Edinburgh 
1830:9   The whole art of chess and draughts
1831:2   Lewis, A series of progressive lessons on the game of chess
1831:3   Particulars of a match at chess played at Cambridge
1831:8   Walker, G., Chess: new variations on the Muzio Gambit
1832:4   Lewis, Fifty games at chess which have actually been played
1832:5   Lewis, A second series of lessons on the game of chess
1832:7   Madden, Historical remarks on the introduction of chess into Europe 
1832:10 Walker, G., The celebrated analysis of the game of chess (Philidor)
1832:11 Walker, G., A new treatise on chess
1834:4   Head, The new game of social chess
1834:7   Roy, The accomplished chess player
1834:11 Wood, A new guide to chess
1835:2   Lewis, Chess for beginners
1835:3   Lewis, A selection of games  (de la Bourdonnais v McDonnell)  
1835:4   Walker, G., A selection of games at chess actually played by Philidor etc

1819:11 Analysis of the Game of Chess by A.D.Philidor

1819:12 Pohlman, Chess Rendered Familiar

1820:14 The Incomparable Game of Chess, Ponziani/Bingham

1822:6 Cochrane, A Treatise on the Game of Chess

1832:4 Lewis, Fifty Games at Chess

1832:10 Walker on Philidor

1835:2 Lewis, Chess for Beginners

1835:3 Lewis, A Selection of Games at Chess

 © Michael Clapham 2016

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Chess Texts printed before 1850

Chess Texts in the English Language, printed before 1850: An annotated bibliography, compiled by Ken Whyld and Chris Ravilious, Olomouc, 2003, is a comprehensive, but not exhaustive, bibliography of chess literature, and references to chess in literature, from 1475 to 1849. 

The scope of coverage is much wider than either Douglas Betts or Andy Lusis included in their later bibliographies, and a large number of the entries relate to chess articles, and references to chess, in general literature. Games compilations with chess content, such as the works by Edmond Hoyle, Charles Cotton and Richard Seymour, are also included.

In addition to the standard bibliographical details, most of the entries have additional explanatory information, and the whole work is written with the aim of being "the bibliographic equivalent of a good read"

Ken Whyld had previously published a list of Chess Texts in the English Language, printed earlier than 1850, in his Christmas Series booklet for 1999. This included 369 items. All eighteen of Whyld's Christmas Series booklets have been collected together and published as Chess Christmas by Moravian Chess, Olomouc, 2006, and this is also a good read.

The editors consulted an extraordinary number of sources, both printed and online, to trace all possible chess texts, but many casual or irrelevant references to chess were excluded. The overall stategy was to include everything of interest to chess literature collectors, and it is therefore somewhat surprising that chess articles in encyclopaedias, dictionaries and almanacs were also generally excluded. 

The main part of the book includes 671 entries in chronological order, 3 from the 15th century, 19 from the 16th century, 39 from the 17th century, 154 from the 18th century, and 456 from the first half of the 19th century. However, of these, 321 are chess related articles or references, often very brief, in general literature and journals, 110 are games compilatons with a section on chess, and 90 are later editions or reprints of previously recorded works. 

This leaves 150 works devoted wholly or mainly to chess, and by the further exclusion of satirical, allegorical or moralistic publications, books explaining the workings of the Automaton, club rules, and other items of a peripheral nature, we are left with just 108 conventional chess books. These being instructional and historical works, games and problem collections, and chess periodicals.

Below is a list of these mainstream publications, with the Chess Texts reference and brief details, up to 1818 (I will list the others later). Today's chess player would no doubt find it remarkable that, in the 16th and 17th centuries, you had to wait around 50 years for a new chess book to appear.

1475:1   Caxton (Cessole), The Game and Playe of the Chesse
1562:1   Rowbothum, The Pleasaunt and Wittie Playe of the Cheasts Renewed
1597:1   G.B., Ludus Scacchiae 
1614:1   Saul, The Famous Game of Chesse-Play
1656:1   Greco, The Royall Game of Chesse-Play
1735:1   Bertin, The Noble Game of Chess
1745:3   Stamma, The Noble Game of Chess 
1750:1   Greco, Chess Made Easy
1750:2   Philidor, Chess Analysed
1761:1   Hoyle, An Essay towards making the Game of Chess easily learned
1764:2   Lambe, The History of Chess, together with short and plain instructions
1777:4   Philidor, Analysis of the Game of Chess
1787:7   Twiss, Chess, 2 volumes
1790:8   Philidor, Analysis of the Game of Chess, 2 volumes
1797:2   Chess Made Easy
1798:2   Mehler, The game of war, or, Improved Game of Chess
1799:5   Pratt, The Theory of Chess
1801:1   Christie, An Enquiry into the Antient Greek Game
1803:6   Pratt, Studies of Chess
1804:2   Pruen, An Introduction to the History and Study of Chess
1805:1   Blagrove, The Elements of Chess
1805:5   Twiss, Miscellanies
1806:4   An Easy Introduction to the Game of Chess
1808:4   Hoyle, A Complete Treatise on the Game of Chess
1808:5   Hoyle, Mr Hoyle's game of Chess
1808:9   Sarratt, A Treatise on the Game of Chess
1813:2   Sarratt, The works of Damiano, Ruy Lopez, and Salvio
1814:7   Tiruvengadacharya Sastri, Essays on Chess
1816:2   Seward, An Introduction to the Knowledge of the Game of Chess
1817:2   Cazenove, A Selection of Curious and Entertaining Games of Chess
1817:7   Kenny, Practical Chess Grammar
1817:9   Lewis, Oriental Chess
1817:12 Montigny, Stratagems of Chess
1817:18 Sarratt, The works of Gianutio, and Gustavus Selenus 
1818:2   Check, An Easy Guide to the Game of Chess
1818:5   Kenny, Practical Chess Exercises
1818:10 Lewis, Stamma on the Game of Chess

1597:1 Ludus Scacchia, from reprint of 1810
1614:1 Saul, from 1974 facsimile reprint
1735:1 Bertin, The Noble Game of Chess
1764:2 Lambe, The History of Chess

1790:8 Philidor, Analysis of the Game of Chess
1797:2 Chess Made Easy (1815 reprint)
1804:2 Pruen

1805:5 Twiss, Miscellanies
1806:4 An Easy Introduction to the Game of Chess
1808:9 Sarratt
1813:2 Sarratt

1817:13 Montigny, Stratagems of Chess, 2nd edition


1818:5 Kenny, Practical Chess Exercises

                                      © Michael Clapham 2016