Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Chess book collecting in 2016

Here is a further selection of books acquired last year:

The Problem Art, A Treatise on How to Solve and How to Compose Chess Problems by T. B. and F. F. Rowland, second edition, New Barnet and Kingstown 1897.

The first edition was published in Dublin in 1887 and this is an expanded version of that work. The  authors state in the Preface; "up to the year 1886, there was no known work on the Art of Solving, whilst those on Composing were few."

However, A Complete Guide to the Game of Chess by H. F. L. Meyer, published in 1882, has a short section entitled The Solving of Problems. The main work, in English, on the art of composition before 1887 was Samuel Loyd's very scarce Chess Strategy: a treatise on the art of problem composition, Elizabeth (N. J.) 1878, while Meyer's book also has another short section on Methods of Composition.

The Problem Art is an instructional work on problem composing and solving with around fifty problems sprinkled throughout the text to illustrate various matters.

W. W. Morgan published the second edition and at the back is an advert for the series of pamphlets in Morgan's Shilling Chess Library. This lists the first twelve of the series, a thirteenth was published in 1901 - A Selection of Games from...Monte Carlo, 1901. Book XI in this series was titled Blindfold Play.

All of these pamphlets were very cheaply produced and quickly became quite fragile. Consequently few have survived and original copies are scarce and difficult to find today.   

Choix des Parties, les plus remarquables jouées par Paul Morphy, by Jean Preti, Paris 1859.

This was one of a number of collections of Morphy's games published in 1859, shortly after his triumphant visit to Europe; others were by Dufresne, Frere, Lange, and Stanley. Frederick Edge's book on Morphy and D. W. Fiske's Book of the First American Chess Congress were also published in 1859. However, the first collection of Morphy's games was a 12 page pamphlet by Juiste Opgaaf: van twee merkwaardige partijen gespeeld door Morphy, benevens bizonderheden uit zijn leven published in 's-Gravenhage in 1858.  This translates as Two remarkable games played by Morphy, in addition to particulars of his life, published in The Hague in 1858. The periodical Chess Monthly, edited by Fiske and Morphy, also included some of Morphy's games in 1858.

The Preface in Choix des Parties was written by Pierre Saint-Amant and outlines Morphy's life and chess career. The Liste des Souscripteurs has 171 entries and includes Alexandre, J. Arnous de Riviere, F. Edge, D. Harrwitz, I. Kolisch and Saint-Amant. Gillet, the propriétaire du Café de la Régence, took 12 copies. I think that Edge and Thompson were the only two English subscribers.

The book includes 107 games arranged in four chapters for games played in America, England, France and games played after departing Paris. Notes to the games were taken from various sources, usually noted at the end of each game, including some of Morphy's own remarks, taken from Chess Monthly

All Change Here!, A Treatise on the Change-Mate Two-Mover together with A Collection of 325 Examples, by Philip H. Williams and Raymond Gevers, Stroud 1919. 

This is one of the few chess titles to include an explanation mark!

This book was produced very much in the style of Alain C. White's Christmas Series, and, indeed, Philip Williams acknowledges A. C. White's interest and assistance in the project, and dedicates the book to him. 

This is a collection of 325 two-mover change-mate problems by 105 different composers. The idea is that black is in zugswang, so white makes a key waiting move and mates after any black reply. Each position is also a mate in one for white if black moved first. Williams succinctly described this problem in duplicate as "a return ticket for a single fare".

The problems are arranged in order of the number of men employed, and problem 1 by W. A Shinkman, with six men, was thought at the time to be the only miniature change-mate in existence. Problem 325 has 25 men, getting on for a full complement.

Chess Chatter & Chaff by Philip H. Williams, Stroud 1909. 

This unusual book by Philip H. Williams, the problem editor of The Chess Amateur and author of three books on chess problems, is predominantly a literary work with a collection of chess stories, articles, anecdotes, essays and poems by the author. These were written in a humorous and jocular style, and, while much of this is still amusing, some of the content now just seems silly. There is also some discussion of chess problems with 50 examples.

Photography was another of the author's interests, and Williams took the opportunity to include several of his original photographs, including some countryside views and three shots of the interior of Ely Cathedral!

The article A Pseudo-Scientific Analysis is a clever parody of the works by Franklin K. Young.

A section of spoof adverts completes the book, for example:  

Finally, images of a few others bought last year.

Traité Eméntaire du Jeu des Échecs, by Barthélemy de Basterot, Paris 1852 

The Incomparable Game of Chess, by J. S. Bingham, London 1820 

Chess Player's Annual and Club Directory, edited by W. R. Bland, London 1882 

Stratagems of Chess, by Montigny, fourth edition, London 1818 

                                   © Michael Clapham 2017

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  Ergänzungsheft (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

Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Puzzler

The Puzzler was a weekly periodical which ran for 14 issues from 26th October 1933 to 25th January 1934. It was published by Thomas de la Rue & Co. Ltd. of London in a large format measuring 33cm x 23cm.

Betts 42-7 records this short lived publication in the Problems, Periodicals section, although the chess content is meagre. Betts does not name the publisher but notes that each issue had 16 pages with 2 pages devoted to chess problems. Betts also states that the editors' names were not given and that the issues were unnumbered, however, the first issue is clearly numbered.

Chess Periodicals by Gino Di Felice records this at no. 1910, stating that the publisher is unknown and repeating the information from Betts. Di Felice also states "no availability found." However, complete runs of this periodical can be found in The British Library, The National Library of the Netherlands and The Cleveland Public Library, although, curiously, none of them names the publisher.

The Puzzler is also recorded in Chess Columns: A List by Ken Whyld who adds that it was succeeded by The Sphinx at Play with Comins Mansfield as chess problem editor.

The chess content in the first issue consisted of problems by Edouard Pape and Z. Kolodnas, both specially composed for The Puzzler, details of a competition for problem solvers, a Play-Study and a Twin Three-er. An Interesting Game, from Russia, is given between Clemens and Eisenschmidt, and the second page announces a Grand Composing Tournament for two-move chess problems to be judged by Comins Mansfield.  

While no editors are named, there is a strong connection throughout issue one with Hubert Phillips, the prolific author of books on problems and puzzles. There is a long contribution from Phillips in the Contract Bridge pages, the Footprints in the Snow problem, which takes up another page, is from Phillips' 1932 publication The Week-End Problems Book, and four of the large adverts, including the whole of the back page, are for works by Phillips. 

I only have the first issue of this magazine; the vendor from whom I purchased this collected only the first issue of each periodical and no others!

© Michael Clapham 2016

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

William Shelley Branch and Pruen's chess book

W. S. Branch (1854 - 1933) was the evergreen chess columnist in Cheltenham newspapers for over 40 years from 1890 to 1933. He conducted the chess column in The Cheltenham Examiner from 1890 to 1913 and then in the Cheltenham Chronicle from 1914 up to his death in January 1933. Branch's chess columns reflected his special interest in the history and literature of the game and, having recently leafed through some of these newspapers, I can report on some matters of interest to chess bibliophiles.

William Shelley Branch was born in Hastings in 1854 (Shelley was his mother's maiden name). He was a professional photographer in the 1870's and 1880's in Lewes, Sussex and continued this profession when he moved with his family to Cheltenham in 1888, although he appears to have given up photography for journalism in the mid 1890's. Branch was one of those indispensable, but often under appreciated, chess organisers. He helped to form chess clubs in Brighton and Lewes and re-established the Cheltenham chess club soon after his arrival in the town.

W. S. Branch took over the reins of the chess column in The Cheltenham Examiner in November 1890 when Isidor Gunsberg, the previous incumbent, sailed to New York for his World Championship match with Steinitz. The columns initially consisted of local reports, a game and a problem, but these eventually expanded to include anecdotes and biographical information about chess personalities.

Later articles would often cover two or three full columns of the broadsheet newspaper and commenced with a chess related poem followed by a problem or two, (occasionally one of Branch's own creations), local news and results, answers to correspondents and a game. Chess intelligence from other papers and periodicals, including American publications, also frequently appeared. Branch was in his element in answering questions from correspondents of a historical nature, and would often reply at great length to get to the root of the matter.   

W. S. Branch was a highly respected historian at the time; John Keeble declared  that he had a greater knowledge of chess history than any other man, with the exception of H. J. R. Murray, in his obituary in The British Chess Magazine in March 1933. Branch contributed a detailed history of chess in a series of eighteen articles to The British Chess Magazine in 1899 and 1900 entitled A sketch of chess history before the second revolution. This covered the history of chess from its origins in the sixth century up to around 1475. 

Branch was also a draughts expert and wrote a series of articles entitled The History of Checkers for the Pittsburg Leader in 1911 and 1912. These were reprinted in pamphlet form in a limited edition of 40 copies by Ken Whyld in 2003. 

The Cheltenham Examiner column for 29th August 1906 included a note to correspondent J. Keeble regarding An Introduction to the History and Study of Chess, by an Amateur, published in Cheltenham in 1804. 

Branch admits to never having seen this work, which must have intrigued him greatly, being a history of chess published in his home town.  Keeble loaned the book to Branch and, three weeks later, in his column for 19th September he described the book in some detail.  He was aware that the anonymous Amateur was the Rev. Thomas Pruen, Curate of Cheltenham. 

The book was, in fact, the most complete compendium of chess in the English language up to that time.  

The first three chapters gave a historical sketch together with many anecdotes taken mainly from the two volumes of Chess by Richard Twiss published in 1787 and 1789.  There were brief details of famous chess-players, notably Philidor, and descriptions of the works by Cessolis, Caxton, Ruy Lopez, Carrera, Salvio, Greco, Stamma, Philidor, Lolli, Vida, and Twiss. Other early writers were also mentioned in the text.

Chapter V included a detailed etymological description of the chess men and an explanation of terms used in the game. This is followed by Benjamin Franklin's Morals of Chess, then a Practical Description of the game including a table of the relative values of the pieces.

Chapter XIII presents the Laws of Chess as established under the authority of Philidor, rules for playing and general advice. The first part of the book is completed with a few practical examples of beginnings of games and four games from Greco.

The second part of the book, covering 150 or so pages, had its own title page and consisted of Philidor's analysis taken from the 1791 edition of Chess Analysed. Branch was disdainful of this "very partial analysis of a few openings", claiming that "it is all out of date now and only of antiquarian interest."  

Although rather dismissive of Pruen's book in his column of September 19th, Branch returned to this subject a few weeks later and thought the book worthy of being reprinted, he also commented that the book sold better in London than in the provinces. 

At the time this was the only chess book that had been printed and published in Cheltenham. There have since been others including The Fourth West of England Chess Festival published by Gloucestershire County Chess Association in 1928, and W. S. Branch's own book The History of Cheltenham Chess Club, privately printed and published in 1931.  Neither of these rare items is recorded in Betts' Bibliography, nor can they be found in the National Library of the Netherlands. However they are both in the Cleveland Public Library.

Incidentally, there are two variants of Pruen's book. Note the chess men in the frontispieces below. Both give the same publication date of June 12th 1804.

Biographical information for this article has been taken from the following sources:

The British Chess Magazine, May 1899 pages 188-189. (This interesting article is not referred to in Gaige's Chess Personalia)

The British Chess Magazine, March 1933 pages 117-118, obituary by John Keeble.

Professional and Amateur Photographers in Lewes (A-B), from the website

                                  © Michael Clapham 2016