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Forty chess problems.

Additional Title(s):

40 chess problems

Worcester, England, circa 1450.
Physical Description:
1 v. (10 p.) : ill. ; 23 cm.
Rare Books and Manuscripts
SK25 .T85 1450
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
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Archives & Manuscripts
The manuscript of chess problems is the third major text in a volume of manuscripts copied by John Porter, of Worcester, England (fl. 1445-1485). For more information on John Porter and the manuscript volume as a whole, click on the link to the John Porter manuscript provided herewith. The contents of the volume are as follows: Tractatus de armis, a treatise on heraldry, in Latin, by Johannes de Bado Aureo (p. 1r-36v) -- The craft of venery, a treatise on hunting, in English (p. 37r-40r) -- Annotations by Sir William Dethick, in Latin and English (p. 41r) -- Blank (41v-43v) -- Miscellaneous items in several 15th century hands, including tables for assessing quantities of wine, menus, recipes, and historical and Biblical treatises (p. 44r-55v) -- Forty chess problems, in English and Latin (p. 56r-60v) -- A chronicle of English history from 1066 to 1477, in Latin (p. 61r-68r) -- Miscellaneous texts (p. 68r-70v) -- A treatise on the plague, in English, ascribed to John of Bordeaux (p.71r-72r).
Provenance: John Porter; Thomas Mellynton; Anthony Reston; Thomas Hodgett; Sir William Dethick; Sir Edward Coke; Thomas Percy (Bishop of Dromore); George Baker; Sir Thomas Phillipps (MS 12086); Lionel and Philip Robinson (booksellers); Sotheby's, 28 Nov. 1967 (no. 107); Paul Mellon.
Reproductions of the chess problems, together with a partial transcription of the text, is available in: Murray, H.J.R. A history of chess (Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1913), p. 601-605. Murray analyzes the present text in the context of the three additional chess manuscripts of the Anglo-Norman group: Bodleian Ashmole MS. 344; British Library, Cotton MS. Cleopatra B. IX; British Library, Royal MS. 13 A. XVIII.
Binding: Bound in brown half russia and purple cloth, by Bretherton, 1848.
Murray, H.J.R. A history of chess, p. 601-605
Sotheby's (Firm). Bibliotheca Phillippica, Medieval manuscripts: new series: third part. 1967 Nov. 28, 107
Manuscript collection of forty chess problems, including diagrams and text. The manuscript was copied circa 1450 by John Porter, M.P. of Worcester, England. Diagrams and text are written in pen and dark brown ink, in Porter's hand throughout. The section on chess occupies five leaves (ff. 56r-60v) in a larger volume of collected manuscript texts. There are four diagrams on each page. Diagrams 1, 2 and 18 have no texts; the remainder have explanatory texts of up to ten lines in length.
The present manuscript has the distinction of being the older of only two known problem manuscripts with texts in Middle English; the other is Bodleian Ashmole MS. 344, probably written circa 1470. The problems in the two manuscripts are substantially the same and are believed to derive from an earlier collection with texts in Anglo-Norman, of which two manuscripts survive, both in the British Library. According to H.J.R. Murray (in his History of Chess, 1913), "the workmanship [of the problems] is of an early stage of European chess, but it is European, not Muslim." Of the diagrams in the present manuscript, Murray notes, "These have been copied very negligently; the diagrams are often incorrect, and the solutions to Nos. 7 and 8 have been transposed. In seven of the positions (Nos. 1, 2, 11, 12, 18, 19, 20--all of which are exercises) the men are denoted by numerals, and the text, if any, is in Latin. In the remainder, the text is in English and the names of the pieces are written on the diagrams, and the squares mentioned in the solution bear letters for the purpose of identification. This is the ordinary rule of the mediaeval problem mss." On the matter of a source text, Murray notes, "Both MSS. [Porter and Ashmole] are written in a Northern dialect, and there is good reason to believe that an older English text lies behind them, and between them and the Latin text from which Cott. and K are other selections."
Subject Terms:
Baker, George, 1781-1851 -- Ownership.
Bodleian Library. Manuscript. Ashmole 344.
British Library. Manuscript. Cotton Cleopatra B. IX.
British Library. Manuscript. Royal 13 A XVIII.
Chess -- Early works to 1800.
Chess problems -- Early works to 1800.
Coke, Edward, Sir, 1552-1634 -- Ownership.
Dethick, William, 1543-1612 -- Ownership.
Hodgett, Thomas -- Ownership.
Mellynton, Thomas -- Ownership.
Percy, Thomas, 1729-1811 -- Ownership.
Phillipps, Thomas, Sir, 1792-1872 -- Ownership.
Porter, John, fl. 1445-1485 -- Ownership.
Porter, John, fl. 1445-1485.
Reston, Anthony -- Ownership.
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