Page images


On the Introduction of Chess into Central Europe.

In the 9th, 11th, and 24th volumes of the Archeologia will be found some very interesting disquisitions on the origin of Chess, the names of the pieces, and the introduction of the game into Europe. All these essays have been reproduced in the first volume of the Chess Player's Chronicle, 1841, to which we refer the reader, as the Archæological transactions are perhaps less accessible. The paper on this subject in Vol. IX. is by the Hon. Daines Barrington, who is strongly inclined to confer the honour of the invention on the Chinese, to which we have only to say at present, not proven. The honourable gentleman's discussion on the games of the ancient Greeks and Romans is sound and satisfactory, proving that none of their sedentary games bore any resemblance to Chess. On the subject of the introduction of Chess into Europe, we think Mr. Barrington has been less successful. He appears to have adopted a very common but erroneous notion, that we received our earliest knowledge of the game from Constantinople, through the Crusaders, and that Italy was the first country in Western Europe where it became known. He seems to have altogether ignored the authority of our early chronicles

and romances; so that in fact he is three or four centuries behind in his reckoning. He also falls into errors from unacquaintance with the manner in which the game was played both in Asia and in Europe till the beginning of the sixteenth century. For instance, he says, "the piece of the greatest power was by the Persians styled Pherz, or General." This is a decided mistake; for the piece called by the Persians "Farz," or "Farzin," and by Europeans "Ferzia," "Queen, or Dame," continued to be one of the weakest pieces on the board—not worth half a Rook-till a little more than three hundred and fifty years ago.

Vol. XI. contains a very able paper, by Francis Douce, Esq., who was a very sound and sensible antiquarian, deeply read in early medieval lore. "The more immediate object of this communication," the author tells us, "is to bring under one point of view the various opinions concerning the European names of the Chess-men, to reconcile some of these, and to correct others." He falls, however, into the usual mistake respecting the introduction of the Queen into the European game, not being aware that the Queen and Archer form two of the pieces in Charlemagne's Chessmen, of which more hereafter. We have only to add further, that Mr. Douce attributes the invention of Chess to the Hindus, a conclusion at which every unprejudiced mind must arrive after perusing the writings of Dr. Hyde and Sir William Jones.

In Vol. XXIV. we have from the pen of Sir Frederic Madden, by far the best essay on this subject that has yet appeared, either in our own country or abroad. It occupies from pp. 203 to 291 of the volume, and is entitled, Historical Remarks on the Introduction of the Game of Chess into Europe, and on the ancient Chess-men

discovered in the Isle of Lewis; by FREDERIC MADDEN, Esq., F.R.S.1 It would be superfluous, and indeed presumptuous, in us to add a word more, respecting the merits of this dissertation. We shall have occasion frequently to refer to it as we proceed, chiefly with a view to confirm, or place in a new light, what the author has already stated.

I believe I shall be able, in this chapter, to show that the game of Chess was known in France at least eleven hundred years ago. I shall in proof of this, insert here the earliest Chess anecdote which I have yet seen in reference to Central Europe, and if the circumstance there related can be established not only as highly probable, but historically authentic, the correctness of all subsequent anecdotes, &c., respecting the game, found in our old chronicles and romances before the time of the Crusaders, will need no further confirmation. The story to which I allude is given by Augustus, Duke of Luneberg, in his great work on Chess,2 p. 14. It is extracted from an old Bavarian chronicle then in the Library of Marcus Welser, and states, that Okarius [Okar, or

1 A few copies were struck off separately for the author's own use, but these are now very rare.

2 Das Schach oder Koenig-Spiel, von Gustavo Seleno, &c., fol. Leipsic, 1616, pp. 495. Augustus (then styled Augustus Junior) Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg is better known to the collectors of rare Chess books as "Gustavus Selenus." Gustavus is merely an anagram of "Augustus," and "Selenus," is apparently a far-fetched Hellenization of "Luneburg," or "Lunaburgensis,” similar to the transformation of "Schwartserdt" into "Melancthon." Some copies of this "Chess or Royal Game" appear to have received a new title page, dated 1617, but the text is precisely the same in both. The greater part of it consists of a translation into German of the Treatise on Chess, by Ruy Lopez. I happen to possess a rare copy of the work in the original binding, having the Brunswick arms stamped in gold on the outside, together with the following superscription in large capitals. "Augustus Junior D. G. Dux B. et Luneb. Dono dedit. Johani Finx C. B. Z. Z. L. Anno 1624." The decipherment of the letters in capitals following the name, I must leave to antiquarians more learned than myself in such weighty matters. For aught we know, the worthy "Johan" may have been, in his own day, a distinguished Chess player. -Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona.

Otkar] prince of Bavaria, had a son of great promise residing at the court of King Pepin. One day, Pepin's son, when playing at Chess with the young prince of Bavaria, became so enraged at the latter for having repeatedly beaten him, that he hit him on the temple [with one of the Rooks] so as to kill him on the spot."

As the authenticity of this anecdote is of the utmost importance to our argument in determining the earliest appearance of Chess in Central Europe, let us examine it more fully. I here insert the original Latin, as given by the Duke of Luneburg, together with his additional references to other works in confirmation of the same.

"Okarius filium habuit, in curiâ Pipini, bonis moribus plus quam filius Pipini adornatum, quod Invidiæ fomitem administrabat; quoniam ex Fortunâ sæpe crescit Invidia. Et dum Filii dictorum Principum in Scacco luderent, Filius Okarii semper Pipini Filium vicit. Pipini tamen Filius de potentiâ Patris sui præsumens, Filium Ducis per tempora percutiens, interfecit."

"Okarius had a son at the Court of Pepin, who was more highly endowed with good qualities than the son of Pepin. This proved an incitement to envy; for envy often arises from good fortune. Now, whenever the sons of the said princes played at Chess, the son of Okarius always conquered the son of Pepin; this latter, however, presuming on the power of his father, struck the Bavarian prince on the temples and killed him.”

In further confirmation of this story, Augustus of Luneburg, cites the following passage from a work in verse by Metellus of Tegernsee, entitled Quirinalia, or the Acts of Saint Quirin, composed about A.D. 1060:

"Duci nempe tener filius extitit,

Urbanos sales, intra genus tum puer inbibit,

[blocks in formation]

The Latinity and metre of these lines may not be of the most faultless sort; but fortunately the meaning is clear enough. The duke then cites two other old chronicles alluding to the same subject, viz., Chronicon Bavaria Andrea Prebyteri, Ratispon a Marq. Frehero editum, p. 17, &c. Also another old Bavarian chronicle mentioned by H. Albrecht and H. Glarus, in which it is said that "the Bavarian prince was an only son, and that he was killed with the Chess board," not the Chess Rook, which in reality amounts to the same thing, so far as our

argument is concerned. As the passage is very short, we give it in the original, as quoted by the noble duke. "Die Zween Firsten, hetten nit mer dan einen Sun, der ward erschlagen, in seinen Jungen Tagen, mit einem Schach-Zabelpret, an König Pipinus Hofe von Frankrich, von einem andern Jungen Firsten."

1 The four middle lines in the above extract are quoted by Sir Frederic Madden in his Dissertation, p. 206. The blank (which occurs in Gustavus Selenus), in the last of the four, is filled up by the word "vulnus," which I have no doubt is quite correct. Sir F. by an oversight, gives the date of the composition of the Quirinalia, 1160, instead of 1060. The latter date is of some consequence, as it proves that we had Chess at least long before the time of the Crusaders. Another oversight made by Sir Frederic is of a more serious nature. It is the idea he attaches to the word "Roch," in the line "Et Rocho jaculans," where he conceives Roch to be the Bavarian prince's name; but I am strongly inclined to think that it means the piece which we call the Rook. The construction is "Et Rocho jaculans [illum, puerum vel principem, understood], that is, "smiting or aiming at [him] with a Rook, he mortally wounded him." A similar construction occurs in Ovid, viz., "Jupiter igne suo lucos jaculatur et arces." The importance arising from the express mention of the Rook here, is, that it proves beyond a doubt that the game played at by the two young princes was really CHESS; otherwise, the vague expression “Huic Ludo Tabulæ," &c., in a previous line might be construed so as to denote the game of "Tables," or Backgammon, which is frequently alluded to in the old romances, along with Chess, thus, "Puis aprist il as tables et eschacs joier,” as quoted by Strutt from the Romance of Parise la Duchesse.

« PreviousContinue »