|A Letter to Bert (3/8)|
A Letter to Bert (3/8)
BACK TO BUSINESS
I couldn’t tell you how many books we have in stock. In Billestedt my cellar is full of tournament bulletins. There are fifty of this one, two of this one, and so on. In Bergedorf the cellar is full of second-hand books and in the shop we cannot place the books in regular order, because of lack of space.
Ten years ago O’Connell visited me, when he began his career as a chess book editor, buying fifteen thousand marks’ worth of chess books. I had to make 53 parcels of five kilos each. A fortnight later Levy phoned and said “Mr Rattman, I suppose that Mr O’Connell has bought just about all your stuff?” “No”, I said, “Why do you think that? You can come and order the same amount”. Well, he came and found books for about five thousand marks, and still you couldn’t see there was anything missing. You may know the name of Labate, the American chess book dealer. He now seems to be the most important and biggest man in the United States. My son has been in touch with him for quite a while already. He bought new books and second-hand books for fifty thousand marks. Now I have a few empty spaces on my shelves, but I can fill them at once.
Lothar Schmid, with his huge library, visits me now and then and each time he finds a small box of things that he didn’t have yet. If Lothar Schmid’s library were to be sold, I don’t think anyone would be able to afford it. You know my age. If I were twenty years younger I would gladly buy a library like Schmid’s or Meyer’s or Meissenburg’s, but now I would hesitate, even if I had the money for them. My son has no interest at all in the second-hand books. He is only interested in the regular business as editor and dealer. I’ve told my friend Madler “Whenever you hear that something has happened to me, take your chequebook and a big car and rush to Hamburg and make Horst an offer for all the things he would otherwise sell as waste paper. When he sees that customers like O’Connell buy fifteen thousand marks’ worth of books, he realises that it is quite something. But he doesn’t think it worth his while to keep these books.
As Geuzendam, the author of this excellent article wrote:- “Kurt Rattman has seen the dream of many a chess addict come true. Over the last few decades he has managed to make his passion pay…” And even in his senior years he still expresses a wish to own a great chess library. I’m not sure whether he would sell it. I think not because dealing has been successful for him and a great personal library would be a final triumph. A delightful, witty man. The article appeared in ‘New in Chess’
Dr Bruno Bassi (1901 – 1957) Born in Venice and lived for some years at Upsala, being at the time a teacher of Italian language and literature at the University of Stockholm.
He was a great historian of chess, and possessed what was probably the greatest private chess library in the world, a library especially rich in the magazines of all languages. As the BCM 1957 p.63 continued:-“ But more than this; by his own system of indexing, cross indexing, and filing, he could immediately refer to any item of information in the pages of this vast literature. We have more than once been grateful to him for his prompt and courteous replies to our queries. In his last letter to the writer of this note, sent just before his return to Italy towards the end of 1956, he said, “I am now selling my library, probably to the USA or USSR”. We are left wondering where it went to. It is a treasure-house that demands safe keeping”.
Dr Niemeijer mentions him along with many others as being collectors but gives no details of his collection, in Schaakbibliotheken (1948). As a matter of interest he also gives the names of O. Nedeljkovi in Yugoslavia; G. Balbo, Gaston Legrain, F.Le Lionnais, Louis Mandy and Dr Jean Mennerat in France; H.Loeffler and H.Wagner in Germany; W.A. Foldeak and Ernst Bokor in Hungary ; Arturo Carra and Dr Adriano Chicco in Italy; Dr Bruno Bassi, Dr Hj. Mandal and B Borjesson in Sweden; E.G. Cordingley and Marshall W Paris in England; T. Edward Knorr and Robert Sinnott in America; Dr Jose M Christia in Argentina; S. Samarian in Rumania and Dr Tasso Motta in Brazil. In Holland, Dr P. Feenstra Kuiper in Hilversum; J.Selman in Scheveningen, Max H Bingen and L.G.Eggink.
Another reference to Bassi appeared in Chess, October 1949 p.14:-“ Dr Bruno Bassi, one of the world’s most famous chess bibliophiles, is seeking details of the death of “El Greco” the famous chess writer who flourished about 1620 and gave his name to the Greco Counter Gambit. He is supposed to have spent his last years somewhere in the Spanish Main (now West Indies) under the patronage of a Spanish nobleman. Can any reader help Dr. Bassi, c/o the University, Uppsala Swedeen, with details?”.
Jeremy Gaige still gives the accepted dates for Greco’s birth and death (1600 – 1634) so it would appear Bassi failed in this attempt. “El Greco” above is the great painter (1541 – 1614) His real name was Domenikos Theotokopoulos and he died in Toledo.If, as J.A.Leon writes in BCM March 1895 p.109 that Gioachino Greco left his chess fortune to the Jesuits in the West Indies, then perhaps their records may reveal more. (See BCM 1966 p.173 on Bassi and Chess in the Americas in the 1500’s) .
On Australian Collectors a phone call from Ian Rogers on 10 May 1996 revealed that the Grandmaster had donated quite a few of his books (especially Tourney Bulletins) to the M.V.Anderson collection. A lot of Informators have gone there. Ian’s collection is about 1000 volumes with some of sentimental value. He recalls one buying spree that he didn’t follow through when Berkelouws the famous Australian book dealers had the first 15 volumes of BCM for sale for $150. He told his friend Michael Courtenay of it and he quickly snapped them up. Michael has a huge chess collection in Sydney. He is a Bridge player and wrote a book on bridge as seen through a chess player’s eyes.
Robert Jameison sold his duplicates about 10 years ago but still holds a great collection. I believe it is the largest in Australia in private hands. The number is around 3000. Jim Jones of Canberra catalogued his collection in 1985 and issued it to local collectors. There were 1972 items. In 1994 this had grown to 2200. Jim’s collection is broken up into 11 categories titled as follows:- 1. Specific Openings – 99; 2. Openings General – 115; 3. Endings/Problems/Fairy Chess – 277; 4. Olympiads – 29; 5. Tournaments and Matches – 219; 6. Single Players – 208; 7. Chessmen, Laws, History and Reference – 41; 8. Computer and Correspondence Chess – 27; 9. Yearbooks and Magazines – 396; 10. The Rest – 539; Books on Order – 22. Making a total of 1972 items.
Peter Parr of Chess Discount Sales has a large stock of books for sale in his basement shop at 72 Campbell Street Sydney (near Central). There is also a large second-hand collection of hundreds of books. Peter had a good collection of Australian chess magazines at one time. He still holds a good run of the Australasian Chess Review and Chess World.
Neville Ledger of Burnie Tasmania is Australia’s busiest postal chess book dealer and held a very fine antiquarian collection purchased some years ago. This has now been sold and belonged to a Mr Spedding. Neville has a good private library but like Peter Parr, his livelihood is in selling chess products. (See TCM July 1989 p.72 for more on John Spedding)
Macolm Broun, the Sydney barrister and strong NSW chess player of the 1950’s and 60’s sold his collection recently and some went to the M.V.Anderson collection. Kevin Harrison strong NSW player and coach holds a fine collection in the high hundreds. Likewise Richard Torning, policeman and coach of junior chess players. His was in the high hundreds when last I had contact.
My own collection stands at 1100 bound books, 141 bound magazine volumes and 75 unbound magazine volumes. John van Manen’s collection is kept separate and there are 90 items in it. I bought about 75% of his collection excluding Australasian Chess Review, Chess World, Chess in Australia, NSW Chess Bulletin, Tasmanian Chess Magazine, Australian Womens Chess League Bulletin and other minor magazines. A copy of my catalogue up to 1981 appeared in “A Chess Miscellany”. I still buy at a rate of around 30 p.a.
Andy Lusis in his useful book “Chess – An annotated bibliography 1969 –1988” lists some other collections as follows:- Haupte-Katalog der Central-Stelle fir Schach-Bedarf, begrundet von Adolf Roegner; Robert Jameison and my collection are also given with Robert’s at around 500 volumes as at 1976 and mine at 570 items in 1977. Robert has gone a long way ahead since then. The Edwin Gardiner Chess Collection now housed at Boston Spa west of York has 891 ‘monographs’. These cover the years 1804 – 1960.
Albrecht Buschke (1904 – 1986) was another European collector who fled Germany in 1938. He issued his first catalogue in the USA in January 1940 and they continued at least until the 1970’s. I recall indirectly some contact other dealers had with him in the 1970’s when I bought in earnest. Dale Brandreth and Fred Wilson in particular. Buschke had his shop in New York and was a very prominent dealer. In March 1980 he wrote to the Australian “Chess Player’s Quarterly” that he had been collecting and later dealing in chess books for ‘more than 60 years’. In 1938 he issued a catalogue of his chess library which went to 178 pages. It must have been a very fine one. A reprint of the catalogue was issued by Dale Brandreth in the 1980’s.
Reginald George Hennessy. An edition of his library catalogue was issued in Los Angeles in 1980. The edition was limited to 200 copies and 2,272 items were described.
Leonard Raymond Reitstein (1928) a South African born in Capetown had a collection of over 2100 items. His catalogue was published in 1982.
Douglas A Betts in “Chess – An Annotated Bibliography of Works Published in the English Language 1850 –1968” lists other collections:-
Sir Frederick Madden (1801-1873) – the great English chess historian before H.J.R.Murray. Famous for his article “Historical Remarks on the introduction of Chess into Europe, and on the ancient Chess-men discovered on the Isle of Lewis”, in Archaeologia vol.24, 1832 pp.203-291. This article was reprinted in ‘The Chess Player’s Chronicle’ Volume 1 1841 commencing page 124 and finishing on page 320 of the same volume. I can imagine the excitement of the chess historians of those days when the Lewis pieces were found. Madden describes them wonderfully well and builds a good argument for their age which was supported by Michael Taylor of the British Museum in his booklet ‘The Lewis Chessmen’ 1978 and also by Neil Stratford in his 1998 work. Madden even mentions the colour of some of the pieces ‘Dark red or beetroot’ but that the action of salt water has removed most of the colour. In 1990 my wife and I visited the site and ended a quest of many years. I resisted the urge to start digging in the ‘church bull’s paddock’. As many would know, one version of the finding of the Lewis pieces was of a cow rubbing against a sand bank and exposing the pieces. We can recommend a visit to Stornoway, bed and breakfast and a hire car will take one to Uig quite quickly and a view of the site near the cemetery. It is a bleak land but there are many attractions:-the Callanish Stones, the Carloway Broch, Dalbeg beach,the peat and the crofters cottages where peat is still burned today for heat.
It would be very interesting to see these pieces radio carbon dated. Murray had some reservations of their age and Alex Hammond wrote on p.86 of ‘The Book of Chessmen’ “…and my friend Murray considers that they were made between 1600 and 1650 and mentions that Lord Crawford concurred in this opinion”.
Madden’s library was sold by Sotheby in 1873 and contained “numerous very rare and curious works on chess…” There were 100 titles listed approximately.
Channing Wood Whitman (1846 –1890) was born in Lancaster Ohio USA and educated at Harvard. He came to England ca 1870 and settled in Yorkshire where he played chess for the County team. In the 20 May 1871 match against Lancashire he defeated Mr Dufresne of Manchester. I don’t think this was Jean Dufresne and possibly it was a cousin of the great German master. He was considered a strong player. His chess library of 473 titles was sold at Sotheby’s on 15 May 1874. After which he gave up serious chess and became an exceedingly skilful lawn tennis player. On returning to the USA to settle his father’s estate, he contracted typhoid on the voyage home to England and died aged 44.
George Brunton Fraser (ca 1831 – 1905) was at one time Scottish chess champion and for many years lived at Dundee. As early as 1875 he issued a catalogue of his library which contained approximately 500 chess titles. He was very fond of correspondence chess and published a book in 1896 called “A selection of 200 games of chess, played by correspondence; with notes and critical remarks”. In 1895 the bookseller, James H Brown of Edinburgh offered 100 items supposedly from Fraser’s collection for sale. Fraser was a strong analyst and the ‘Fraser-Mortimer’ attack in the “Evans’ was partly of his invention. At the finish he had been out of active chess for some years.
The Westminster Papers 1 March 1877 p.203 wrote:-“Amateurs desirous of forming a collection of Chess Works, on easy terms, should attend the sale of a library which contains a large and judiciously selected collection of Chess works, ancient and modern, and we hope to see them fall into good hands”.
Unfortunately the collector’s name is not given nor is it in Betts. The Westminster Papers also gave the wrong date for the sale which was 1 March. There were 170 chess titles covering 10 pages of a 67 page catalogue of chess and other works for sale.
Henry Waite (ca 1820 – 1876). In 1855 Waite was treasurer of the London Chess Club in its new quarters in Finch Lane Cornhill. This was the famous club “Purssell’s”. In 1866 Waite was on the Committee of Management of the British Chess Association with Lowenthal as Manager. Another was the famous J.W.Rimington Wilson and no doubt there was much talk about chess books. Waite’s death at Bibbah-on-the-Nile in Egypt on 31 December led to the sale of his library on 26 April and again the Westminster Papers reported ;_”The sale of the late Mr Henry Waite’s books, which took place on the 26th ultimo, can hardly be considered an event of the Chess World, seeing that it attracted the attention of no Chess players. The library included a very fine collection of modern works upon the game of Chess, most of which were sold at ridiculously low prices”.
Professor George Allen (1808 – 1876) was the son of Heman Allen, a lawyer and member of the American Congress during the Presidencies of Jackson and van Buren. He matriculated from the University of Vermont at age 15, studied law under Judge Turner and was admitted to the Bar in Franklin County in March 1831. Happily married to Mary Wirthington, he took up theology and in 1834 entered the ministry of the Protestant-Episcopal Church, was chosen as a rector of the Parish of St Albans. In 1837 he resigned and took up a professorship at Delaware College Newark. In 1845 he was elected Professor of languages in the University of Pennsylvania which later concentrated on the Greek language and as Gilberg wrote in “The Fifth American Chess Congress” p.37:-“ a chair which he filled with extraordinary ability and success during the remaining thirty-one years of his life”. His chess interests came about through illness in the family and whilst he played little, his chief passion was in gathering, as Gilberg put it:-“ into his vast storehouse of books, a chess library that for a long period stood unsurpassed among the collections of the world in the number and exceeding rarity of its volumes”. He contributed many articles to the American Chess Monthly, Fiske’s Book on the First Chess Congress and most importantly of all a major biography of Philidor.
The latter is a marvellous book and whilst the First American edition was published in 1863 and is rare, Da Capo Press of New York reprinted it in 1971 in a blue hardback edition. There is a supplementary essay by von der Lasa on Philidor as a chess author and chess player and this was written by der Lasa in the winter of 1858/59 in Rio de Janeiro at around the time Morphy was coming to the fore. There must have been a great rapport between Allen and der Lasa as Allen writes most warmly about der Lasa’s grasp of the English language and of the “force and propriety” with which the great German expressed himself in English. What letters must have gone back and forth when der Lasa discovered the Lucena in Rio and about chess books in general. Allen’s great chess library of 1000 printed volumes, 250 letters and 50 engravings and photographs was catalogued by Allen’s executors Jackson and Keen in 1878 on 89 pages. The collection was broken up into 374 books in English; 290 in German; 195 in French; 74 in Latin; 54 in Italian; 54 in Dutch; and 27 in other languages. Totalling 1068.
In the “Complete Book of Chess” by Horowitz and Rothenburg (1963) in an article called ‘The Deluge of Chess Literature’ it is suggested that the J.G.White collection which stood at 14,500 titles was five to six hundred titles short of ‘everything’ written on chess. It broke the collection up into English 35%; German 20%; French 15%; Russian 10% and others 20%. It is remarkable how close Allen’s collection mirrors this. His percentages are English 35%; German 27%;French 18%;Latin 7%; Italian 5%; Dutch 5% and others 2.5%.
If the Allen collection was stated in percentages it would be English 35%; German 27%; French 18% and others at 19.5% and this is close indeed to the J.G. White excluding the Russian books.
From the 35% English chess books and bearing in mind the two catalogues of Betts and Lusis some sort of “guesstimate’ can be made at the total number of chess books in existence. There are 2760 items in Betts and Lusis contains 3231. There are some variations as to what constitutes a ‘chess’ book but an attempt will be made to define that. Lusis for example, left out, fiction with a chess theme or fiction containing chess passages and games derived from chess. Section 44 and 55 in Betts deal with these areas and there are 189 items. These are deducted from the 2760 leaving 2571 items. If we assume from 1850 – 1968 there were 2571 items published this gives a rate of 22 items per year with clearly the rate being lower in the 19th century to a higher rate in the 20th century. This covers a period of 118 years. Lusis only covers 20 years with a rate of 162 items per year. The latter book is far more complete than Betts because chess historians have given him greater detail on the local bibliography of chess. John van Manen catalogued all the chess books for Australia and New Zealand in his book “The Chess Literature of Australia and New Zealand” 1978 with supplements in 1983 and 1989. Lusis had access to all the editions. It could be said that the Australian figure is very close to all that has been published in chess in this country and possibly New Zealand. There were 254 Australian items and 61 New Zealand items as at the end of 1988.
Bibliographies for America, Canada and England?? They don’t exist. Of the 69 items to the end of 1968 in van Manen’s 1978 Bibliography, Betts got 23. For New Zealand Betts got 10 out of 22 items. He mostly missed programs and tourney bulletins.
If one assumes Lusis got all the Australian and New Zealand items there would be 164 Australian items out of the 254 published post 1968 –1988 and 39 for New Zealand. The percentage of Australian and New Zealand items as a guide in Lusis is 6% or all the other English language chess books in England, America, Canada and other English speaking countries total 94% for which no bibliography has appeared.
If we assume that both Betts and Lusis missed 50% of the books published in the case of Australia and New Zealand, then the total number of chess items is considerably larger than published.
The total number of chess books printed pre 1850 is under 100. It was 67 up to 1842 (See Walker’s 1841 Bibilography). The total number of items on chess in the English language is 100 (pre 1850) + 2571 (Betts 1850-1968) + 3231 (Lusis 1969-1988) giving 5802. To which we add the percentage factor of 50% (very conservative) yielding 11,600 chess items which is 35% of the grand total.
This gives a total number of chess items to about 34,000 to end 1988. It is probably higher but the figure assumes that the British Chess Magazine from 1881 to 1988 is ONE item.
Mr Egbert Meissenburg is not so sure. In a letter written to me November 11 1979 he wrote:- “…Mr Otto Dietze from the German Federal Republik says in 1973 that there are about 30,000 books on chess. I doubt in this number as no one has ever counted the total number. First of all: an item is any different edition; the three Philidors of 1749 are three different chess books. Any new translation, any new edition, a reprint, any version with changed publisher or date of publishing is one item. This is the kind of numbering. Papers in non-chess periodicals or books with chess parts are chess items. I should say in German “Schachschrift” (Chess writing), Titel; there are about 4000 Schachschriften from the beginning of printing up to 1900. To estimate the numbers of chess items from 1901 to 1979 is impossible. The output of chess literature after 1960 and moreover in the 1970’s is enormous. I would say up to 1950 about 5000 items and from 1950-1979 8000—10000 items including many tournament bulletins and the programs (95% of the programs have no value). This would mean about 20,000 items on chess. Any chess periodical is 1 item notwithstanding the number of volumes (the 128 volumes of Deutsche Schachzeitung are 1 item). The number of 20,000 increases if you count all chess typescripts and the chess manuscripts (especially the mediaeval chess mss..)”
We will come back to this subject!
Fiske writes in the Chess Monthly 1857 p 261 :_” By far the largest and most valuable Chess Library which has ever existed, outside Europe, is that collected and owned by Mr George Allen, Professor of the Ancient languages, in the University of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia. In less than four years Professor Allen, aided by an extensive and constantly increasing knowledge of caissan literature, has been enabled to fill his shelves with more than four hundred volumes devoted to the history, theory and practice of our game. In books published during the last half-century the collection is nearly complete. In periodicals it contains everything except the second and third numbers of Marache’s ‘Palladium’….” Fiske then describes the library over the next two pages.
The library was offered for sale for $3000 and eventually purchased by the Ridgway Branch of the Philadelphia Public Library for $2500 in 1884. Alain White wrote in ‘The Chess Amateur’ October 1907 p.38 that:- “ the splendid collection of the late Professor Allen is buried in the Philadelphia Public Library, and is becoming rapidly out of date, for lack of an endowment to support it”.
William Henry Lyons (1849 –1932) was one of the first American chess book dealers and published catalogues of books for sale and at least ten of them over a period from the 1880’s to 1909. He was also a problemist of skill and published an early book on problems called “Chess–Nut Burrs” (1886) which contained 19 of his problems, mostly 3-ers. There was one Australian problem by William Johnston McArthur, a 3-er. Lyons suggested that there are five key points to problem composition:- Originality, Difficulty of Solution, Beauty of Idea, Economy of Force and Neatness of Construction. This system was also used in Australia by E.L. Bailey of Williamstown Victoria and J.J.Glynn of New South Wales. It would be interesting to know who was the originator of this system. He was also considered a fair chess player but his specialty was in collecting and distributing chess books of which he had a fine collection which was sold ca 1927 to Herman Helms. An amusing letter of his sent to the BCM sent in 1925 and reprinted in BCM 1932 p.489 follows:-“ I am always in the market….Chess business is “jumpy”. An abominable week and then several days of big orders. The average is satisfactory. The queer thing is how many people want something you are just out of. You lay in a stock, and they no longer want it, but something else. I bought 15 copies of an out-of-print book once, sold two or three copies, then none for 10 years. All at once something started, and I sold all but one copy….The chess public can only digest a certain amount, and the rest are like pork to a dyspeptic..” Lyons served two terms in the Kentucky legislature and various public posts. He died after an influenza attack suffered earlier in 1932. An interesting man.
Edwin Dodds A catalogue of his books on chess, chiefly in the English language, was issued in 1896. Dodds who lived at Home House, Low Fell, Gateshead was treasurer of the Newcastle Chess Club that year. There were 500 volumes approximately.
Charles James Lambert A lawyer in Exeter England in the 1890’s. His chess book collection “most of which have been recently bound in half morocco” was offered for sale by James G Commin of 230 High Street Exeter in 1902. 112 items. He was a strong player and played Board 1 for the Exeter Club in 1902.
Frank Hollings A London bookseller. His 28th catalogue of works on chess, draughts and whist came out in 1899. His business continued until after the Second World War, but according to Ken Whyld, Hollings was not in charge of the shop after the 1930’s. Ken continued:-“ From my own memories I feel sure that Hollings had nothing to do with the shop after the Second World War. The manager of the shop was a chess enthusiast. He retired and at about the same time the business removed from off Kingsway to near St. Barts hospital. The new owner or manager did not know chess and they stopped specialising. My guess is that Hollings was still in charge in the 1920’s when they published chess books”.
The “Chess Book Salon” closed in April 1965 (See BCM)
Baruch Wood had some interesting reminiscences on the store:-“ It was no longer Frank Hollings as early as 1935. I went down to chat in my first few weeks with CHESS to find a fellow named, I think, Redman or Redway in charge. I was an even more innocent businessman then than now. Re-emerging after half an hour I suddenly realised I had not learnt a thing but had been pumped dry of information about my own ventures”.
The December 1940 BCM pp 393-394 had more:-“ The sympathy of all chess players will go out to Mr Redway, of Frank Hollings, the famous bookshop in Great Turnstile where lovers of chess used to congregate. As announced in our last issue, the premises were destroyed by enemy action. An H.E. bomb fell in the night, causing a fire, and a good half of the valuable stock was destroyed. On the same day, Mr Redway’s private residence in Richmond was damaged in another air raid. It took a month to repair it and to make it habitable again, when it was bombed a second time. Mr Redway then went to Bath to recuperate, when his house had a third and final visitation, a remarkable and typical example of thoroughness in the attack on really important military objectives. We wish Mr Redway a speedy recovery and express our appreciation of his dogged pertinacity in continuing business at 69a Great Queen Street, W.C.2 (off Kingsway) where his stock of books has been replenished in a remarkable manner”.
All this is from “Chess Notes” the 1980’s magazine by Edward Winter. Biographical detail on Hollings is thin as is information on his library.
Numa Preti (1841 –1908) and Jean Preti, his father (1798 – 1881) had a great library. Jean founded La Strategie in 1867 and after his death Numa carried on the magazine. There is a lot of detail in Niemeijer’s “Schaakbibliotheken” and there is also a wonderful obituary by Alphonse Delannoy in La Strategie 1881 p.3. Jean published quite a few chess books of which three were in collaboration with L’abbe Durand. He was also friendly with Morphy and was a fine musician. Delannoy writes of him as simple, affable and modest and noted that he was an honorary member of the Cercle des Echecs in Paris. Numa’s passing ended a wonderful family affair of over 40 years of editorship of the great magazine.
The 362 item library was sold by Sotheby’s on 1 February 1909 and the Chess Amateur of March 1909 copied an article from the Cheltenham Chronicle on the sale):- “The sale of the Chess Library of the late M.Preti, at Sotheby’s, was a financial disappointment to the vendors, as the whole fetched but £355. Many lots were sold at absurdly low prices compared with those charged by book dealers to private purchasers of the same works singly or in small quantities. Perhaps the sale was not well advertised, or early enough. The most modern half of the collection was not likely in any case to fetch much, but the rarer books realised much less than we should have expected – those especially of before 1740, and again those of the early seventeenth century and sixteenth. The fact that there were in the sale six copies of the rare book by “Gustavus Selenus” probably reduced the value of each; the best sold for £3.12s.The oldest book in the collection – the “Ringhieri” of 1551 – only £2.2s. Some much more modern works, with coloured diagrams, fetched better prices – one of them £13.5s and several modern problem books fetched 10s. and 6s. each”.
And who was waiting in the wings to snap up the majority of the collection to sell at a better time? Bernard Quaritch, who bought 224 items from the Sotheby’s sale and resold them just before Christmas doubtless getting good mark-ups.
Peter G. Toepfer (1857 – 1915) Dr. Niemeijer has a description of this collection in his book. Toepfer began collecting ca 1900 and by 1910 had issued a catalogue from his home town of Milwaukee USA which listed 450 titles approximately. By the time of his death this had grown to around 1000 titles. The Chess Amateur June 1919 p.266 has this article:-“GIGANTIC CHESSMEN – A daily paper notes this: “Gigantic chessmen, designed for tournament use, a library of about 1000 books on the game of chess, and a number of rare scientific books, the property of the late Peter G T(P)oepfer of Milwaukee, have been presented to the library of the University of Wisconsin. The ‘life-size’ chessmen, which range from 2ft. to 3ft. six inches in height, are made of aluminium, collapsible, and packed in a special trunk. Mr T(P)oepfer designed them for use in public contests, on large indoor or outdoor chess-boards, with a view to increasing popular interest in the game”. There was apparently a patent on the pieces”.
Harding S Horton-Chess Books and magazines: library of the late Harding S Horton, New York. Published in 1914-146 titles. This is from Betts 1-31 but I can add no more to friend Horton.
Eugene Beauharnais Cook has been mentioned earlier. His chess library was catalogued and contained some 1600 titles. It is in the Princeton University classed list Volume 6 – 1920 pp 3585-3608. It was later bound as a separate work. Betts 1-32
Charles Willing (1872 -1950) Had his chess library catalogue published in 1916 and it contained 250 titles on 25 pages. Betts 1-33. Is this one and the same person as F.H.Willing of 2132 Pine Street Philadelphia? Charles had his catalogue published in Philadelphia and he died there. The latter Willing had a great library of 1209 volumes of 752 titles. It even included the Lost MS of the Rev. Lewis Rou of Florence Italy 1902. It was bound with 5 other pamphlets. What a collection. It may well be true to say that Willing is not in the ‘big league’ but he was not far from it. 37 pages of choice items and when offered for sale in 1920 lacked very little. You name it, Willing had it. For example, Bertin, Beale, Careera, Hyde, Lolli, Cozio, Lopez, Philidors by the score, Gianutio, Salvio, Selenus with a collection of magazines in similar class.
John Henry Ellis-his catalogue was published in 1928 and contained 112 works on chess as well as many “rare and valuable books, comprising old English literature”. This could be the Rev. John Henry Ellis (1840 – 1912) who lived at 29 Collingham Gardens London and who was the author of the 1895 work “Chess Sparks”. The Chess Amateur wrote of him as a “lover of the game, a thoughtful combinative player, and a most pleasant opponent”.
H. Macdonald – the catalogue of his library was produced for private circulation in 1876. There were 300 titles listed. Henry Macdonald had one jewel in his library and that was a manuscript of 27 leaves that contained “Rules at the Game of Chess” and “Observations on the Ends of Parties” both signed by Philidor. According to Quaritch this MS is ‘probably’ in Philidor’s handwriting. Rimington Wilson got it at Macdonald’s sale. It had been bound in half vellum and had a newspaper dated 9 May 1783 included in which games between Philidor and Count Bruhl and Bowdler were given.
Arthur Jacob Souweine (1872 –1951)-born and died in New York USA. He issued a 187 item chess catalogue in 1928 published in that city.
Edgar George R Cordingley (ca 1905 – 1962) – Ken Whyld wrote a fine obituary of his friend in BCM 1963 p 46/47:- A skilful end-game player, whilst he started play in 1927/28 (Serious play), he qualified for the Surrey Championship two years later and in 1935 won the Ludlow Congress ahead of Wood, Watts, Coles and Keeble and the Surrey Championships in 1947 ahead of Hooper and Golombek.
His greatest love was chess literature and he published a very famous 18 book series of limited editions from Hastings 1932/33 to Budapest 1950. Most people would know “The Next Move Is” which I spent many of my early chess years struggling with, “Chess by Easy Stages” and “122 Chess Problems”. There was a Manuscript sequel to “The Next Move Is” and “Facts, Fancies, and Fictions of Chess”. A great pity the latter was not published.
Several chess writers, e.g. du Mont, were glad to use Cordingley’s fine library. It was started in 1924 with the purchase of “The Year Book of Chess”, 1913. He had thirty books by 1928, 252 by 1931, and 1,013 by 1939. Invalided from the Air Force in 1943 he continued to add to his collection until 1954 when painful arthritis led to his early retirement from business and chess. He then started a magazine for growers of alpine plants, using his second name George, although he was known as Edgar to his intimates. Deteriorating health soon stopped the new venture, and he was left with reading, and his second great love, listening to chamber music. His taste in reading was cricket, and more often, and more surprisingly, great murder trials. Although naturally charming and kind, he could be a vigorous and cutting critic of those who failed his own ideals. A man of culture and high intelligence, he cared little for success in the commercial sense and said that Lin Yutang well summarised his own attitude:-
Who half too much has, adds anxiety’
But half too little, adds possession’s zest.
Since life’s of sweet and bitter compounded’
Who tastes but half is wise and cleverest.
Cordingley issued two catalogues, the first in 1934 of 9 pages listed 177 tournament books from the first in 1852 to 1934. Betts 1 –41 states that the information given includes “author, title, date of tournament, number of pages, place and date of publication. Some entries are annotated with contents, notes and comments. Foreign works are included”.
His second catalogue issued over 8 sub-catalogues numbered 1-8A over the years January 1935 to September 1939 and contained a list of the books for sale, a brief description and prices. So Cordingley became a dealer of sorts. His collection must have been around 2000 at the finish.
Eccles Public Libraries- on behalf of the Public Libraries of Altrincham, Eccles, Sale, Salford, Swinton and Pendlebury, the Eccles Public Library issued three catalogues compiled by A Jones in 1956, 1962 and 1967. A list of 262 titles were listed in the final edition.
There was some interesting correspondence in BCM 1963/4 on a National Chess Library for Great Britain and Wilfrid Pratten in BCM 1963 p 237 made a plea to the BCF to set up the library. He was writing a history of chess from 1894 to 1937 and was struggling with sources. Partridge in the same issue advised that the Glasgow High School had a chess library of 100 books and issued a Bulletin. Henry Golding followed on p 272 with a suggestion that “a few of the leading British private collections of chess works” could be the nucleus of a reference library “ second to none”. He suggested ten thousand players subscribe a guinea a year and J.F.Bryon of the Eccles Central Library at Manchester advised that H Golombek had written a review to the 1956 catalogue above. Bryon also advised that “Your readers presumably know already that they may ask for any book on chess at their public library, and that if it is not in stock, an attempt will be made to borrow it from other public libraries in the Region, or, if not available there, from elsewhere in the country? We have for instance, borrowed books on chess from Holland and Germany before now”. Pratten, a FIDE International Judge continued in the BCM 1964 p 19 suggesting that a central library in London would be ideal and that the BCF might catalogue it and publish the catalogue. He felt that the BCF could not be asked to do everything. Perhaps it was Harry Golombek’s review of the Eccles catalogue that put in his mind the wish to donate his library for the common good of a national chess library.
David James Morgan (1894 – 1978) – the “Quotes and Queries” editor of BCM from 1954 to 1978 was a schoolteacher by profession. He retired in 1944 and in July 1957 he joined the Board of Directors of BCM for 3 years after which he retired to his beloved Wales. He was a solver problemist and knew all the problem greats through his membership of the Problemist of which he was President and his column in BCM. His obituary written by William Cozens and Alfred Maurice Reilly states that Morgan was “one of the kindest, gentlest and most helpful persons one could wish to meet”. And the genial photograph of him below the obituary suggests that.
He must have had a very good library to traverse the subjects discussed in ‘Q&Q’ and his wit was infectious. One could not help liking him. Here is a sample:-“There is nothing of real value in the list of books which you were ‘coaxed’ into buying. You say “I am a keen collector and have money to burn”. You just met your match of course”. (214)
“With Chess books, one is apt to become a hoarder rather than a collector. The latter demands the expert knowledge of the specialist”.(261)
“From whom can I borrow some chess books? From a pessimist: he’ll never expect them back”.(1504)
“How would Philidor be regarded today? As our oldest Grandmaster”. (2243)
“The man who does not read a good chess book has no advantage over the man who can’t read at all”. (3386)
“A chap writes that he can never read a chess book right through”. “It’s a disability shared by many reviewers”. (3505)
There’s a flood of chess books on the market. You can but make the effort to wade through them”. (3632)
“As for chess books and their worth, we recall the old saying: “Chess books should be used as we use spectacles – to assist the sight; some players make use of them to confer sight”. (3726)
“How much reading books is good for one? Like much eating – wholly useless without digestion”. (3802)
I feel sure he attended the Rimington Wilson sale in 1928 and purchased there George Allen’s ‘Life of Philidor’ which was Allen’s presentation copy to Lowenthal and later purchased by Rimington Wilson. This copy is not in Quaritch’’s 1929 catalogue. (179) In (1032) & (2204) he wrote of that sale and that it was all over in 3 hours, 2000 books were sold for £10,000. He called Dr Niemeijer, a bibliophile, bibliognost and bibliopole!
He had a fine collection of chess cuttings and his friendship with Mieses after that great player had to leave Germany in 1938 was written about. Mieses had died in 1954 and in 1976 Morgan was :”.turning out a big old drawer that had not been opened for a good many years. It was packed with letters, cuttings, game-scores, problems and much else – all the usual documentation of a long devotion to the game”. They had met in 1923 and went shopping together. A correspondence followed and then the 1938 meeting. Mieses was then 73. It was a happy reunion for both. Mieses later became a British subject. (3744)
The great Australian player Cecil Purdy and wife Anne visited the Morgans after the Nice Olympiad in 1974. There was a keen correspondence between them. As for his library it is difficult to come up with a number. There may also have been a collection of chess sets but of the Christmas Series he was missing only Robert Braune (2274) and in (1471) Morgan gave a list of 19th century magazines the first numbers of which appeared on January 1. I am uncertain how this detail could be known unless one held all the magazines.
The Problemist obituary by G W Chandler in the September 1978 issue advises that Morgan was the society librarian for 6 years until his retirement to Wales. Chandler finished with: “D.J.M. will be best remembered as the editor of the Quotes and Queries feature in the British Chess Magazine, which he conducted for 25 years, showing an extraordinary encyclopaedic knowledge of everything pertaining to the game”.
The British Chess Problem Society Library was formed probably from the first meeting in August 1918. When the Problemist started in 1926 the 4th issue of October commented on the ‘usefulness’ of the library and that it was a ‘splendid collection’. By the July 1929 issue a lecture by W.E. Lester on the library gave details on the 100 MS books of composers works. They were 6.5” x 3.75” memo books, about 100-120 pages, with 75 diagrams hand-stamped one to a page and room for solutions and comments at the end. By 1937 the books had been valued at £36/12/6 and were insured. There were continuing magnificent donations of books including one that year by Dr F Bonner Feast of ‘upwards of a hundred volumes’. By 1942 with war raging the Problemist continued the good work and F U Wilhelmy advised that there were now ‘about 150’ of the problem manuscript books. By 1942 the library still retained its 1937 value and again in 1943, 1944, 1945 and 1946 saw the addition of 12 books from Mr Nield’s wife on her husband’s passing. The late Professor J W Allan’s library was also bequeathed to the BCPS and Dr Niemeijer donated a copy of J Hartong’s book. The value was increased to £40/14/3. In July 1947 the Rev. J. Young of Oban donated 30 volumes to the library . It included 22 volumes of BCM. Part of the late George Hume’s library also came to the BCPS in 1948. In 1949 Dr Niemeijer donated a copy of his wonderful book “Schaakbibliotheken” to the library. Duncan Pirnie was doing a great job as librarian. At the AGM Nov. 1952 D J Morgan was elected librarian. He immediately started asking for ‘loaned’ books to be returned but there were still many marked “long overdue”. Morgan was quite friendly in this tricky area. A large parcel of duplicate Christmas Series volumes was offered for sale in the July 1954 Problemist as prices varying from varying from 2/6 to 10/6 but most were 5/-. In the July 1955 issue he included a list of 19th century problem books and advised that he had a four page description of all the Christmas Series volumes. There were 35 titles in his 19th century English problem book list.
The book stock was considerably increased in September 1955 and Morgan advised that the bookcases and their contents had been insured for £120. (Two bookcases) Vincent Eaton of the USA suggested a further 8 volumes be added to DJM’s 19th century list of British Problem works. Some of these were second editions. One very interesting item was “Curious Chess Problems” London 1840 by J H Huttman.
By September 1957 DJM advised that the Rev. N Bonavia-Hunt had given some “very desirable books” to the library. A “new and comprehensive Library Catalogue, with brief descriptions of the books” had also been printed. DJM’s work clearly. I do not have a copy of this. It was 10 pages and sixpence. Copies of “Chess Problems” by C M Baxter of Dundee 1883 and “Chess-Nut Burrs” by Will H Lyons of Newport Kentucky, 1886 were new additions to the library. There were further additions by January 1958 of the 1907-1914 “Year Books of Chess” and “1001 Problemas” by Arnoldo Ellerman, Buenos Aires, 1945 and “Adventures of my Chessmen” by G F Anderson, published by Chess Amateur in Stroud,1924. What a lovely title that is for Anderson’s book. My copy of this came from the BCPS in 1981 and its provenance included Arthur Mosely, Chess Editor of the Brisbane Courier. He sent it to William Ellis Keysor (1891-1939) of Kirkwood, Missouri USA for winning the 51st Solving Tourney in the Queensland newspaper. Now the book must have been purchased by Mosely originally which meant it came from England to Australia, then it went to America and after Keysor’s death in 1939 was sold and eventually found its way back to the BCPS in England and now it’s back in Australia! I paid $30.00 for it from the friendly book dealer of the BCPS Robert McWilliam. DJM resigned at the AGM held 11 October 1958 as the family were retiring to Wales. His parting word was to remind members with overdue books to return them to the new librarian Barry Barnes as soon as possible. He thanked the members for their interest over the 6 years he had been librarian.
The Russian composer E I Umnov donated 3 copies of his books to the Library as did F W Owen donate a valuable run of Problemists in May 1959. There was now an emphasis on foreign problem books and Barry Barnes was successful in getting donations of many items. Mr H G Thomas was the benefactor of some of these works. The Dutch Problem Society and Dr A M Koldijk also contributed some very fine Dutch books published during the 40’s and 50’s. There was by the early 1960’s a very good second-hand book offering from the Secretary of the Society Guy Chandler. Around the mid 60’s I started buying from him and came to look forward to his prompt letters whenever a good book was on offer. Chandler (1889-1980) was a stalwart of the Society and in the November 1956 Problemist a biography revealed some facets of his character that are not well known. He was a keen philatelist but also collected pictures and English landscapes. There were always children at his home learning about stamps and chess or playing kriegspeil. I am sure many collectors wrote to 46 Worcester Road Sutton Surrey as did I.
In the July issue was an amazing list of rare problem books for sale including “A Sketchbook of American Chess Problematists” for 20/-.
And in the March 1962 issue Ken Whyld received a pat on the back for the fair treatment given to a Society member who had brought books from him. The Society suggested everyone contact Ken at 39, Charnwood Avenue New Sawley, Long Eaton, Nottingham. John Joseph Warton took over library duties in October 1962. He was one half of the great composing brothers T & J Warton,. His brother had died in 1955. The late Duncan Pirnie (former librarian) donated his collection to the library and the Society benefited with a very large array of magazines, the duplicates of which were given to members for postage.
By the 1963 Balance Sheet the books and bookcases had been valued at £51.4.3 for the books and £16 for the bookcases. A large reduction from the 1955 valuation. The death of Cyril Kipping in 1964 caused major change for the magazine as he had been the editor since July 1931. He had taken over from T R Dawson and the demise of the great magazine the “Chess Amateur’ left him free to come over as editor. He also made many cash donations to the Society funds
For the promotion of problems. A bachelor, he had driving ambition for both the school students at Wednesbury High where he was a teacher and later Headmaster and for chess problems. After Kipping came John Francis Ling.
In September 1964 another fine collection was gifted to the Society-Colonel Thuillier’s. There were 600 bound books, scrap books and unbound magazines. Eight tea chests in all. There were a lot of duplicates and many were sold off in the column ‘Books for Sale’ in the Problemist.
In November 1964 Lu Citeroni became librarian and stayed in the role for 28 years. In March 1965 Lu made a plea to members on the location of 29 books. In the September 1966 issue a large list of second-hand books were offered for sale and sold in 4 days. The secretary Guy Chandler considered this ‘extraordinary’. And he would know as in the Chandler tribute July 1967 issue, it was advised that he had posted off 1200 books during the past 6 years and that the Society was the main supply source for problem books in Great Britain. Also that year Lu Citeroni compiled a 15 page library list which showed it contained 375 books and periodicals giving author, title, date and language if other than English. The works were housed at St Bride’s Institute London in the Society Library. The list was 2/- to purchase and was very favourably received at the AGM held in November. I do not have a copy.
The September 1969 issue saw another large list of second-hand books for sale belonging to the late J R Whalley. It included a full run of chess magazines such as ‘Chess’ and ‘Chess Amateur’ and the cuttings from ‘The Observer’ column from 1926-67. Brian Harley had been editor for the first 29 years. The Library also obtained the final Manuscript books belonging to T R Dawson kindly donated by R J Darvall. Dr E E Zepler also gave a large library to the Society for sale and in 1972 A S M Dickins kindly gave some of his fairy chess books. The balance sheet for that year showed the library valued at £51.21p and the book cases still at £16. Printing lists of books during the 70’s was done by way of a page supplement rather than a magazine article.
In 1977 John Beasley commenced an occasional column in the magazine called ‘Library Browse’. This was an attempt to turn up “some of the many good things” in the library and was appreciated by overseas members. I very much enjoyed it. It was pleasing to note that in 1976 the library had been revalued at £351.21p. A second supplement was issued to complement the first supplement to the 1967 library list in the May/June 1977 issue. The first supplement had been issued with the January 1972 Problemist issue.
And making a tally after January 1972 we can say that the number of volumes in the library had grown to 472. After May/June 1977 it had grown to 556 with the value at £551.21 in the 1978 accounts.
In March 1980 the Society appeared to take a new path actually purchasing the fine library of the late H W Grant. This library was quickly onsold to members. And in May Guy Chandler died. He was nearly 91 and had been Secretary of the BCPS since 1951. How many books he had packaged and sent off to new owners over nearly 30 years must have been in the thousands. He knew that old chess problem books had a good market and could be resold with profit to the Society. And he was always prompt with his replies to my wants. You could almost set your clock on the arrival of the familiar blue aerogram within a fortnight of posting. The tributes flowed in and many were published in the magazine. I wrote to the family rather late in September as in those days I got the Problemist by sea mail. The late Gordon Stuart-Green had told me of his death. As Comins Mansfield said “ Nothing has been too much trouble for him in fostering and spreading the love of chess problems, and his efforts have been largely responsible in helping to build up the renown, and consequently the circulation, of ‘The Problemist’ to its present figure of around 600”.
In November 1981 the familiar book sales lists that came to us up until recently from Robert McWilliam were quite new and novel. There were usually a treasure or two in these lists. A rather large number of duplicates came Robert’s way late that year and so the routine set up by Guy Chandler continued. His efforts over two years to mid 1982 saw well over £1000 go into the Society funds to help keep down subscription costs.
The move of the library from Room 18 at St Bride’s Institute to University College London, Watson Library, Malet Place was carried out 3 June 1983. An era had ended and “Under the watchful gaze of the Librarian and the Secretary, the Society books were packed into boxes and they and the two bookcases were carried down all those stairs and loaded into a removal van. At the other end the President and the Editor (joined for a time by the Vice-President) were waiting to receive them, having just taken delivery of a new bookcase ( in pine, dating from the 1870’s) purchased for the Society from a furniture dealer in Crewkerne (Somerset). The wait was a long one, as the removal team was somewhat tardy in its arrival. But eventually the three bookcases were set up in their new home in the Watson Library, right next to a pleasant book-lined room which the Society will hire for its meetings. Cans of beer were drunk to celebrate the event, marking the beginning of the Society’s association with University College, which we hope will be a long, happy and mutually beneficial one. Particular thanks are due to the College Librarian, Mr F J Friend and his deputy Mrs Czigeny, and to Colin Russ, Colin Vaughan, Lu Citeroni and Colin Sydenham for their efforts on behalf of the BCPS!”
A pity I hadn’t studied this article from the July 1983 Problemist as I could have visited in 1990 when we were in London. One amusing talk given by John Rice in the new rooms was “Read any good problem books lately?” I would have liked to have heard that. The September issue of “Library Browse’ by John Beasley was on the Good Companions “Our Folders”. This magazine is a treasure house of chess history, problems and the doings of the Good Companions Chess Problem Club. It closed through a lack of subscribers in 1924.
In July 1986 George Jellis was appointed Society Archivist. A new post which related to the supervision and storage of non-printed material relating to problem composition-manuscripts, correspondence, ephemera and collections of problems. The Society hoped that George would be able to stem the loss of valuable material and take the burden off librarian Lu Citeroni. The papers and problem collections of deceased composers were especially desired. There was a description of the Archives in the May 1987 issue and it was an imposing list.
The White-Hume collection of problems and their whereabouts; The T R Dawson Manuscripts; C E Kemp Ms; The Sussex Chess Problem Fraternity (forerunner to the BCPS) 37 Black Books” which should have been 130 books; Ms of Lectures given at the BCPS but incomplete; C S Kipping’s problems; N Bonavia-Hunt’s problems; T C D Rickett’s Papers; H A Melvin’s Papers; W H Cozens’ problems; F F L Alexander on Knights Tours; Cuttings from newspapers 1910- 1939 by R E Ryan; Brighton Society cuttings book 1902-3; Correspondence Chess problem section – loose 1957-64; Natal Mercury galley proofs 1914-16; Hampshire Telegraph and Post 1911-1916, 1919-21.
The January 1988 Problemist had a photo of long standing librarian Lu Citeroni. He had been librarian for 24 years and was much in demand as a tourney judge and a collector of two-movers. This issue also contained an obituary of Dr Meindert Niemeijer-87 years of age and founder of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague which stood at 28,000 items. Anthony Dickins (1914-87) was also gone. His library had been presented to Cambridge University Library in 1972.
George Jellis advised in the July 1988 issue of further additions to the Archives:- E Stevenson’s work on “Double Pin Mate after Black King Move”; 30 more “Black Books” making 67 in total; a book of cuttings from F K Markwick and other Essex problemists; an ancient cuttings book from H H Davis of Bristol; 350 problems of H W Butler dated 1880. John Beasley and Robert McWilliam also held various items relating to Mrs W J Baird and E J Winter-Wood along with Brian Harley’s cuttings and Schiffman theme problems- 240 of them. Jellis also held 3 notebooks called “Seventy-Five Retros”’ “Multiple Echos from Fairyland (1933) and “Seventy-Seven Helpmates” by C M Fox (1935). The Archives were building. The issue also contained a fine article by Paul Valois on the Founding of the BCPS. The November issue wrote of the lack of use of the library by members though it was accessible 5.5 days per week as long as a library ticket was held.
In the January 1989 issue George Jellis gave very good further information and a photo of H W Butler and his work with the Sussex Chess Journal from which the BCPS was given birth. And in the September issue Jellis had a great photo of the puzzle king Henry Dudeney (1857-1930). I had always wondered what he looked like and there he was with a hint of a smile looking at me and probably thinking that that chap Meadley couldn’t solve a problem if the solution was in front of him. He was right at times too; a good article on an interesting man. I was astounded to see Dudeney in the chair at the founding meeting of the BCPS in 1918. George Jellis is a research tiger and is just one of the wonderful people who got involved in the Society. Anyone reading the July 1990 issue p 259 on the change to computer production can see how dedicated they are.
The May 1991 Problemist saw further additions to the Archives. These included the Society Minute Book 1918-77, manuscript collections of J Nield and H F W Lane, a notebook of 50 of J J Burbach’s problems 1943-60 prepared by C E Kemp and finally correspondence between S N Collings and T R Dawson on geometry of all things. The July 1991 issue contained the 1915 libel case and judgement between Isidor (Arthur) Gunsberg and Associated Newspapers and others.
In the January/March 1992 issue is a photo of Robert McWilliam wrapping up a book to go to Indian member Abraham Moozhoor. We had been close to that room where Robert is shown working as Norma and I visited Lil and Bob on the Isle of Wight. Nice people with a very nice corgi dog named Sarah. The May issue gave another one of those reminders for members with missing library books. The reason?, another library move was under way. This issue also contained the first problemist supplement. In September the library moved to John Beasley’s home at 7 St James Rd Harpenden Herts AL5 4NX. It is still there today.
The Society was very grateful to Sue and John for taking the library under their roof and in reliable hands. John was a great choice as his articles on the library showed his love of problem books and he intended to open the library at least yearly for a gathering of problemists where formal talks, light competition and a buffet tea were the highlights. The first was held 24 July 1993. John had succeeded Lu Citeroni as librarian but Lu’s effort of almost 28 years would take some beating. John completed a catalogue of the library on computer and anyone sending a formatted disc could have the catalogue copied onto it. A new column in the Problemist called ‘In the Library’ was now possible and started in the May issue. Naturally John was author and it was a good idea to let readers know what was in the collection and encourage its use. The first book described was “Chess Chatter and Chaff” by P H Williams (1906). This is a very funny book and the library copy had been donated by PHW’s wife along with his collection. Immediately the advantage of the column was apparent. William’s collection is described earlier and at last it was known where it had gone to. The July column discussed an unpublished manuscript by T R Dawson of “Fairy and other chess problems by J A Lewis”. Lewis (1889-1944) was one of the leading members of TRD’s fairy ring and the Ms contained all his surviving work.
The Library meeting attracted 11 members to hear talks by John, Tony Lewis and John Rice. John spoke on the manuscript material:- 61 folders of Kipping’s problems; a 20 volume scrapbook of Mrs W J Baird; Rickett’s collection of model mates and more. It was also nice to read B D Stephenson, Editor of the Problemist supplement describing a recent acquisition to his library in the 6th supplement. The book “Sonatas in Chess” was a collection of C A L Bull’s problems by Donald McIntyre. A difficult book to buy and like BDS I never saw it for sale often. My copy was Frank Ravenscroft’s and it came accompanied by a letter from McIntyre to Frank dated 27 July 1960 only a month after the book was published. A nice introduction by Alain White written in 1947 showed the delay in publication with the book appearing 13 years later. The September column described “Ceske ulohy sachove” by J Pospisil (1887) another scarce volume. By the November issue the Library contained all volumes of BCM except 6, had regained a lost “Adventures of my chessmen” (1924) by G F Anderson – a manuscript copy and had gained Tomlinson’s “Amusements in Chess” (1845) and Murray’s 1913 History and Michael McDowell’s column in the Newtownards Chronicle and extracts from Lasker’s Chess Magazine.
The November ‘In the Library’ column described three choice volumes of ‘The Chess Player’s Chronicle” 1842/1846/1849. John concentrated on problem content. The Library gained all of the books and periodicals left by the late Dennison Nixon (1912-1993). He had been a great fan and supporter of TRD and helped with the Fairy Chess Review after TRD’s death in 1951. Another unique treasure was the personal scrapbook donated by the late R E Ryan’s wife. Brian Harley and he had three joint compositions. The scrapbook dated from 1923/36.
In the March 1994 column John wrote about the copy of “Amusements in Chess” the copy that had come to the Society only recently. The book is in three parts (I) History and Curiosities, (ii) easy lessons and (iii) problems. As John said the book significantly enriched the library but its purchase using members money could not be justified. I paid about £20 for my copy twenty years ago. John’s second Library Day on 2nd July included a talk on “Some Unpublished Manuscripts by TRD” and a small exhibition of chess sets. In his column was a description of another small unpublished manuscript, this time J.G.Slater’s work. This was one of the “Black Books” of which “some 40 remain”. I can’t quite reconcile that with the 67 in existence in 1988 but perhaps I made a mistake. Unfortunately someone had torn pages out of Slater’s Ms that may have contained his best work. Another fine unpublished Ms was that of G C Alvey’s problems. TRD had put it together in 1929 on Alvey’s death aged but 39. TRD wrote of him as “always cheerful, humorous, a genial friend ever full of good fellowship – solving problems from diagrams or mentally – setting up choice things with a circle round him”. This group led by TRD really did scale the problem heights and much of their early days is given in the Chess Amateur. Pleasingly I now have a full set of that after twenty years of collecting. The last few months during World War 1 were impossible to get and are in photocopy and that is an interesting story. I was photocopying away in the University of Sydney copying room when a young woman came up to me and asked me if I was a graduate of the University. I told her I wasn’t and at my age I was sure she wasn’t trying to pick me up and so I asked her if she was a graduate. “No” she replied “I’m a photocopy freak”. I was stunned – what exactly is that? She drifted away and all sorts of thoughts ran through my mind. Was she copying rare editions? Was she just hooked on the beauty of unattainable volumes? What was it? I’ll never know.
Norman Macleod’s books came to the library late in 1994. Another wonderful gift from the late Norman’s wife Daphne. In the November issue John described the lovely book on the Era Problem Tourney published in London 1857 with a preface by Lowenthal. A difficult book to buy and I don’t have it. That issue also contained in the Supplement No.15 an unusual biographical Christmas problem solving tourney. There were 9 problems and 9 biographies provided by John on the composers. But where did John get the bios? Well, from TRD of course and out of a solving tourney in the London Evening News Feb/March 1933. TRD wrote of himself that as he had been raised by his uncle, the late James Rayner, a famous chess player and problemist, he often used chess pawns as teething rings. The bios are of C D Locock, A W Daniel, C M Fox, C Mansfield, N Easter, TRD, E J Eddy, P G L Fothergill and H A Russell.
By 1995 John had become Librarian and Archivist and one presumes all George Jelliss’ material had now come to the library. The January 1995 issue had a description of “Zadachy I etudy (Problems and Studies)” 1927-29. The library holds four of the eight copies issued . What a wonderful talk John was preparing for the 1995 Library Open Day on 8 July. “The older books in the library” On reading that I wished I did live closer than 12,000 miles but oh well… There was also to be some delving amongst the shelving. Tim Sparrow described a priceless tome which was handsomely bound in red morocco, exquisite copperplate and compiled during 1808 to 1819. What a treasure and another of the unique holdings in this great library. The compiler was someone whose initials were H S. He was a pupil of Sarratt and his family crest was a squirrel embossed on the cover. A description of the famous book “The Chess Problem” by Andrews, Frankenstein, Laws and Planck (ca 1887) by John was another interesting item. My copy from Frank Ravenscroft’s library has a bookplate possibly belonging to the Australian great F J Young (Hobart) and a strong player. Franks always culled the title page or an end paper off his books if it contained his name. But that aside I was glad to have the book.
Norman Macleod’s books resulted in a near duplicate set of the Christmas Series for loan to members. That was a coup having two sets. John wanted to make the catalogue available over the Internet. It was 330Kb but would soon be 500Kb. Another interesting book reviewed in the May 1995 issue was “Brighton Chess: a history of chess in Brighton 1841-1993” by Brian Denman. It gave further information on the links between H W Butler and the BCPS. “In the Library” for May 1995 described Saochovy Bulletin 4-a collection of Bohemian two-movers edited by Frantisek Tesak, Chess Club of the Central Army Institute, Praha, 1968. John had found it in a second hand bookshop in Moravia. Tesak was 81 when the book appeared and John thought it deserved a place on the library shelves. The Kipping Archives were described in the July column. There are 60 chronological files and 14 thematic notebooks. John wrote:-I am sure there is gold here, but I doubt whether anyone will ever go to the trouble of digging it out. This is a pity, because Kipping’s best work deserves a better fate. If you are thinking of leaving your papers to us, please winnow them down to one or two files. It is sheer vanity to suppose that future generations will want to study every last problem that you have composed; they will be far too busy producing rubbish of their own”. And he’s right, it is difficult to know what to throw out. What though does the word “papers” mean? If it is just problem workings, fair enough it should be culled. But if it is historical, I’m not so sure.
The BCPS Library Catalogue was put on the Internet by the Department of Computer Science, University of Strathclyde. And to quote:-“It can be reached by anonymous ftp from machine in directory contrib/bcps as file libcat.220 (login as “anonymous” and give your email address as password); or on the World Wide Web at . Thanks were given to Ian Gent for arranging this (email ”
The November issue gave information on Ken Whyld’s gifts to the library including:- Lucena 1995; 100 Problems from Lolli; 50 problems from “Livre des Amateurs” of 1786; the problems from Sarrat’s translations of Salvio and Gianutio; and a scrapbook compiled around 1915 by the Rev T Hamilton ( Hamilton born 1865, graduated Oxford 1889 and was living at Witchford Vicarage, Ely Cambs.in 1915 and he contributed one of the “Black Books” (now lost)). A financial donation of £40 from A Spuris was to be used by John to buy an item of interest for the library. David Hooper donated a lot of books to the library including a bound set of EG Vols 1-6. The Library Acquisition policy was explained in that everything relevant to chess problems and endgame studies published in Britain was to be obtained and a representative selection of other overseas works. Members were asked to advise John on purchases in the latter category. At Auctions the Library would not knowingly bid against a member for a desirable item and members should let the Librarian know.
The lovely photo of John Montgomerie (1911-1995) looking at one on page 151 of the November issue with his books in the background, captures everything about chess. This delightful man was a success in his chosen career at the law. He was chairman of the Arts Council working party on the obscenity laws, stood for Parliament and lost, married with 3 daughters and loved chess in all its forms. His book “The Quiet Game” 1972 is a pleasant bag of reminiscences, games and problems. Below the photo is John’s column on the Lucena transcripts by Ken Whyld. The 500 years after revisit. Quite an impressive half-page.
In the January 1996 Problemist John advised of the debt owed to past members and their families by their bequests and donations and that many duplicates had resulted in the members collecting problem books as sold through Robert McWilliam. The Library was also improved by manuscript material for the archives and notebooks, scrapbooks, cuttings books and correspondence relating to chess matters but containing nothing of a sensitive nature were also very welcome. In his column John discussed “Chess Lyrics” the first Christmas Series book by Alain White (1905) and the early work of Arthur Ford Mackenzie (1861-1905) although it follows on from “Chess, Its Poetry and Prose” (1887) by Mackenzie himself. In 1896 Mackenzie became blind and his work suffered briefly but later he won many prizes. He was an amazing man.
The January issue discussed the sale of Pieter ten Cates Library of over 1200 volumes. The complete bound Good Companion “Our Folder” magazine was for sale at £400 and other volumes such as Robert Braune at £1500 were rather dear especially since a reprint of that work has appeared. But I understand that over half of the collection was sold at very high prices by March of 1996.
The Library day for the year was on 27 July and John’s topic was “Some of the off-beat items in the Library”. One of the books bought with the £40 donation from A Spuris was “Chess Problems” by C W of Sunbury (1886) and John discussed it and the Glasgow Weekly Citizen cuttings of 27 April-25 May 1895 chess columns featuring a very famous position of a Black Rook fighting a White Pawn ready to promote. Dr K W Stewart had sent it to John:-
8/2P5/1K5k/3r4/32-White to win after Black played first and
(b) move BK to al. Good and the cuttings showed the evolution of the study.
As for C W or Charles White’s book, my copy has White’s rank of Surgeon Major Army Medical Staff (Late Royal Artillery) crossed out and written above it in ink “Brigadier Surgeon Lieut Colonel- C White”. In 1895 the book had been owned by W Winckworth Esq. And the first 5 problems had been dated and solved on 11, 12, 18, 19, and 25 November after which there was nothing. This copy belonged to Judge Southerland of Delaware.
John could then supply a catalogue of the Golombek Library to anyone who sent a formatted disc. An exchange with Ladislav Salai resulted in “Mat-Pat” being completed and Kubbell’s “250 Chess Studies” (1938) used up all of A Spuris’ donation. Barry Barnes gave a lecture on Comins Mansfield that showed the Problemist going from strength to strength as the library.
The July issue contained useful information on “The Chess Problem” edited by R McClure 46 Empire Street Whitburn, West Lothian during 1942-8. John wanted to get photocopies of missing issues and as I have a few I dug them out and smiled at issue 81 which has two bootmarks firmly imprinted on the cover. As I bought them from the late George Campbell they were probably his boots. It is a good magazine with occasional hand stamped diagrams. But what about the library; it now held The Oxford Companion to Chess, the French “Le Guide des Echecs” (1993), the Czech “Mala encycklopedie sachu” (1989) and the Russian encyclopaedia “Shakhmaty” (1990). Anyone with queries about various problemists would also receive a response and that was a good idea to mutually share knowledge. Barry Barnes was guest editor for John’s column and wrote about the Overbrook “The Two-Move Chess Problem in the Soviet Union” (1942). It was published as Barry explained:-“…at a rare moment in history following the defences of Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad”. There were 3000 problemists in the Soviet Union in 1933. A mighty number.
The Library day was a success with 12 BCPS members and David Sedgwick BCF International Director in attendance. There was a nice photo of David Friedgood, Chris Feather and James Quah on the cover. John Beasley showed some postcards of the BCPS sent to Guy Chandler and TRD. There was one from Dr Felix Seidemann – very sad – dated 1938 stating that his family had to leave their home in Teplitz-Schonau and could he receive a salary for his problems?
A curious addition to the library was a set of ten beer mats each side of which contained a four man 2-er with the 11th mat giving the solutions. The set were called “Drink Problems” (First Series) selected by Marjan Kovacevic (Caissa Commerce).
The November “In The Library” column was by R C O Matthews and he described the contents of the Christmas Series book “A memorial to D J Densmore” Loyd’s son in law. It was interesting how the book came about as a result of the death of the Pittsburg Gazette-Times and in which the memorial tourney to Densmore had appeared. The January 1997 issue reminded members that the library policy was to hold “ everything relevant to problems and endgame studies that is published in Britain and a representative selection of what is published abroad…” John reminded members who wanted to write a column for "In the Library"”to do so without being asked. The Library policy for bidding at auctions was reaffirmed in that bidding members would not be bid against if the Librarian knew of them.
John described the famous “English Chess Problems” book by J and W Pierce (1876) and as I had Frank Ravenscroft’s copy this was of especial interest. Frank had bought it in 1910 and gave it to me in 1967. He had probably bought it in the J G Witton sale after Witton’s death that year. Frank wrote the date 26 October 1910 above J W Abbott’s problem which was the first in the book. A nice book but much more history on the individual composers would have been nice.