Books on Chess Sets

Behrends, Rainer, (1963); Künstlerische Schachfiguren aus zehn Jahrhunderten, Insel Bücherei Nr. 752, Leipzig (GDR), hardcover, 67 pages with 45 black and white illustrations, text in german. Small but attractive volume illustrating ancient and 17th to 20th Century chess sets. The grand value resides in the index, which gives detailed information on every chess piece shown.

Fersht, Alan, (2010);  Jacques and British Company Chess Sets, Kaissa publications, Cambridge. Second edition. Details on labels, registration stickers and history about this “Rolls Royce” of playing sets. Very insightful section on dating of the various pieces, with useful illustrations.

Greygoose, Frank, (1979); Chessmen, Reed, Sydney,Wellington etc.  (printed in GB). 160 pages. Various later editions. Provides essentially another rundown of the history of chessmen, with an album of  opulent pieces from various quadrants – very good on Indian and Chinese pieces. Also has a large historical part dealing with medieval chesspieces, and their development. Cites both Mackett and Hammond, as well as Wichmann.

Hammond, Alex, (1950); The Book of Chessmen, first edition, Arthur Barker Ltd., London. 160 pages, including many  illustrations. Many subsequent editions. This book was written by an eminent chess antiquarian of the London scene. 

Linder, Isaac, (1994); The art of chess pieces, H.G.S. publishers, Moscow 1994, English, 288 pages, hardcover with dustjacket in form of chess board, reading strip, protective carton. One of the most beautiful books on chess pieces existing –  a fountain of joy for those lucky enough to own a copy. Hundreds of superb photos in colour and black and white. Linder traces the story of chess pieces from the oldest to the newest, reproducing many of the best chess sets preserved in Russian Museums and private collections – as well as part of the astonishing range of chess set made in Soviet times up till quite recently.

Mackett-Beeson, A.E.J., (1967); Chessmen, London 1967, George Weidenfeld & Sons, 97 pages. Many subsequent editions, also in other languages.  Copiously illustrated book, with many coloured illustrations. Presents a brief history of chess, according to the information then available, and presents ornate chessmen form various times and European countries, as well as China, Russia.  Many sets shown from the huge collection of David Hafler.

Wichmann, Hans and Siegfried, (1960); Schach – Ursprung und Wandlung der Spielfigur, Georg Callwey, Munich 1960, 331 pp incl. Regsiter and bibliography. Editions in English, French and other languages. One of the  most eminent and weighty tomes of modern days. An absolute treasure trove, includes a wealth of knowledge for collectors. Excellent photos, and well organised text tracing the history and development of chess pieces from the ancient East via the abstract forms of Muslim culture to the medieval west. The metaphorical figures of the middle ages, the entry of chess into western thinking via Jacobus de Cessolis, conventional chess pieces types – the loss of the former innate gaming destination in opulent chess figurines – all this and a lot more. Most likely non-german editions have been altered and abridged, or even shortened!

Williams, Gareth ; (2000); Master Pieces, Apple /Quintet, London 2000 (various other editions), 160 pages. If there is a single book no chess collector can do without, this is the one. Concise, with an immense horizon, it describes the development of chess pieces step by step with the history of chess, provides hundreds o lavish illustrations, all in a very readable text. In many different editions in various languages available.

Lanier Graham, F. , (1968); Chess Sets, Studio Vista, London 1968, 84 pages, hardcover with dust jacket. Small volume in a culinary / hobby series of books, sketching the development of chess pieces over time. Very good on modernist and designer chess sets. The author was curator of the design and architecture section in the NY Museum of Modern Art.

Liddell, Donald M. (with the collaboration of G Pfeiffer and J. Manoury), (1937); Chessmen, Harcourt, Brace & Co., New York 1937. Very rare book, one of the first in modern times on collecting chess. Reedition in 1976, and 2008. Photopied by Ishi Press.

Munger, Ned (1998); Cultures, Chess and Art, vol.II, The Americas, ed. Lisa Smith, Mundial Press, San Anselmo, CA 1998, 222 pp, lots of colour and b/w photographs, hardcover with ill. dust jacket, large format. In this volume Munger recurs  North and South America, with a large intermezzo in Central America. He actually managed to get chess sets from almost every corner, and the stories are of course most entertaining. Munger has no complexes or prejudices – he values a handmade South American set as much as resin home-industry set from the Upper States.

Munger, Ned (1998); Cultures, Chess and Art, vol.I, Sub-Saharan Africa, ed. Lisa Smith, Mundial Press, San Anselmo, CA 1996. 120 pages. Includes over 200 illustrations. Crowning a collector’s life, this series has been appearing irregularly since 1996, and mixes the copious collections of Ned Munger with the story of how he obtained his chess sets from all over the world, what is the background of these sets, and which role chess plays in the areas they come from. Chess and chess sets are shown to be a red thread to unravel the cultures, countries and times they derive from. The first volume is especially rich, as Munger has been all over Africa in teaching and advisory chores, and continues to have an intimate relation with the continent, especially Sub-Saharan Africa. Wonderful sets – and wonderful stories – some of the sets were ordered by the Professor, launching the craftsman on a  career as chess set carver!

McNab, Jessie and Charles A.Wilkinson, (1968); Chess: East and West, Past and Present, A selection from the Gustavus A.Pfeiffer collection,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY 1968, 108 pages. Various illustrations. Catalogue of this grand exhibit from the Brooklyn Museum, showing a part of the monumental  collection of Pfeiffer. Includes a variety of interesting photographs, superb selection of artistic chess sets.

Seipel, Wilfried (1998); Spielwelten der Kunst, ed. SKIRA, Milano/Vienna 1998, catalogue for exposition in the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum,  21.5. – 2.8.1998, cartoned/large format, in German language, 278 pages, with indices and bibliography, hundreds of illustrations. Superb catalogue, depicting the treasures assembled in this opulent exhibition of 1998, coinciding with the CCI congress in Vienna. Especially interesting include articles by Hans Holländer on chess pieces, and Barbara Holländer on chess and game boards.