|A Letter to Bert (5/8)|
A Letter to Bert (5/8)
DEALERS I HAVE MET OVER THE YEARS
The great excitement for me as a teenager was getting an afternoon off in the late 1950’s to give blood at the Sydney Blood Bank. It was usually a Friday and I hitch-hiked to Lidcombe railway station and then to town. All the railway apprentices did it and we went to the York Street Blood Bank. The afternoon was ours and I usually went to coin or bookshops where Alekhine and Znosko-Borovsky were the authors of choice with Fred Reinfeld. I was 17.
I discovered Chess World a little later and bought many a book from Cecil Purdy. In 1963 I bought Murray’s “History of Chess” and “Chesslets” by Schumer was one of the older items bought from Cecil. I think it was at Chess World that I bought a few old copies of CHESS by Baruch Wood and noted the rare Chess Book Auctions that he was always conducting. I subscribed to the Problemist in 1966 and noted “American Chess Nuts” in the January 1967 issue of Chess No 521/522. Mr Wood reserved it for me for two weeks on 9 May at £7/10/-. The book arrived early August and Frank Ravenscroft was surprised to hear of another copy in Australia. Slipped into page 286 was a newspaper cutting of Dr Samuel Calthrop dated October 10 1915. He had played in the first tourney in America in 1857. Was this his copy? Later it became the property of the Glasgow Chess Club and eventually got to Mr Wood. I still own it though it is not in good condition.
Guy Chandler the honorary Secretary of the British Chess Problem Society was also a keen seller of the problem books of deceased estates willed to the BCPS and I was a keen buyer. Virtually all of my early problem books came from him. He was a most gracious kindly man who I was in contact with for over 13 years.
In June 1967 Baruch Wood offered me a large number of volumes of the Chess Amateur which I quickly bought at various prices from $9.75 US a volume down to $5.25. I managed to get every volume except 12 and 22. What a coup that was.
In February 1968 Frank Ravenscroft died and left me his chess books which today are still a source of wonder. I’d not appreciated what some of the old books were like and to have some of the Australians chessists of yesteryear as prior owners made them more enjoyable. To name a few:- Hugh Baron Bignold, Joseph George Witton, Francis Joseph Young (Hobart). The most astounding book of all was “The Twentieth Century Retractor and Chess Novelties” by Mrs W J Baird and printed and bound in lush gold edged leaf in 1910 by H Sotheran and Co. I bought its companion volume “ Seven Hundred Chess Problems” from the BCPS in 1969 for 32/-.
In 1969 Mr Chandler sent me out the BCPS copy of “Retrograde Analysis” and my wife and I hand stamped the diagrams and wrote out the text to complete a unique copy of this very rare book. He also sent out the Problemists Fairy Chess Supplement which I had photocopied and bound by D S Murray of the Gowings Building in Sydney. It is still quite good – a little faded but 30 years old now.
In 1970 I responded to Alex Sharpe’s letter in CHESS of some duplicates that he had for sale. I missed them but he did disclose some of the books in his library such as the 1735 Bertin, Lambe’s History 1764, Twiss 1787/9 & 1805, Verney’s Eccentricities 1883 and Walker’s Chess and Chess Players 1850. Some of his problem books included Baxter, Pearson, Thursby, Taylor, Pierce, Miles, White, Rayner, Kotre and Traxler.
I wrote to Luigi Ceriani but he had passed on and I got a nice reply from his wife Alba Ceriani in Italian. Yes, she would send her late husband’s two epic problem books “32 Personaggi…” and “Genesi…”. In the middle of the year came news from Baruch Wood that a full set of Hoffer’s “Chess Monthly”” were mine for $85 and a little later I got 27 out of 28 bids in one of his problem auctions. I missed “The Dux” 1914 which is an Australian problem book. Later in 1970 Alex Sharpe sent me another nice letter to say there was a “dearth of old books in this country now and I think they go to Holland and America”. He kindly gave me Dale Brandreth’s address of PO Box 6144 Stanton Delaware 19804 USA but it took me another 4 years to write to Dale.
In mid 1971 I sent Baruch Wood a list of wants but he could not fill many. This was a sparse period for buying and in late 1974 Alex Sharpe wrote me another lovely letter about my wants list:-“ I recently paid £50 on behalf of another collector for Hyde’s “Mandragorias” 1694 so I am afraid the works of Richard Twiss…….. would be rather high. Prices have doubled in the last 3 years, so your American Chess Nuts would now be quite reasonable at £7.50… Sorry I have nothing to offer at the moment, but having retired now have more leisure to travel round our antiquarian bookshops and live in hopes of coming across some treasures”.
On September 12 1974 I wrote to Dale Brandreth for the first time as a result of Alex’s letter of l970. What good fortune it was for me that I did write. Call it fate but a month earlier Dale had bought an extremely fine collection of the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware, Clarence Southerland and it consisted principally of problem books! Dale had been in the business 5 years and freely admitted that he normally did not have much problem material because over the board chess was his preference. I was lucky.
Through 1975 I purchased many hundreds of dollars of books from Dale. He wrote pleasant letters with good book information in them. His ‘Blue Moon’ catalogue of EXEN contained treasures that I had never seen. A Gianutio for $500 signed by George Walker, a 1564 Damiano for $850, the 1634 double Salvio set for $400 (I bought them), a 1584 Tarsia for $280, a 1745 Stamma (both of which I bought). I listed EXEN fully in “A Chess Miscellany” and to my then new eyes it surely was a ‘ one-off’. I also sent it to various collectors in Australia for their interest. Dale often sent photocopies of the great collectors letters and one from J G White to Eugene B Cook dated April 30 1898 has some nice snippets in it as extracted below:-“ I very much fear that Gilberg’s family will be unable to dispose of his Chess collection to a college library. You will remember what difficulty there was about Prof. Allen’s collection, and how they ultimately had to appeal to chess players at large to secure the requisite funds to keep the collection intact. I should think, however, that, by holding forth to some of your large New York Libraries, and more especially to one of the Chicago Libraries, the prospect of, by the acquisition of his library surpassing the Grenoble Library with Alliey’s collection; the Imperial Library of Berlin, with Bledow’s Collection; the Royal Library at The Hague with Van der Linde’s collection; the Philadelphia Library, with Prof. Allen’s collection; to, in short, of having the largest and best collection of chess books contained in any public library, would appeal to the pride of the managers of some of these libraries, and induce them to pay what should be paid….”
And in mid 1975 I wrote to Fred Wilson and bought from him “The Philidorian” by George Walker for $100 with Miron Hazeltine’s signature inside, a copy of Philidor 1809 for $35 which was James Magee’s copy, and a 1694 Hyde missing one plate for $300. It was the start of a bonanza from Fred.
My correspondence with the Cleveland Library started in September 1975 and Alice Loranth was kind enough to send me gratis a photocopy of the missing Hyde plate. I have always been fascinated by J G White’s death and the Rimington Wilson sale that year. We know White bought at the George Walkers sale in 1874 and had George Walker’s handwritten bibliography of chess. We also know that Rimington Wilson bought the majority of George Walker’s library and so the bidding war between the two was such that they got most if not all of Walker’s library at very good buying prices. Was it fate that the Rimington Wilson sale and the poor Sotheby catalogue resulted in Quaritch buying the majority and listing them on August 3rd 1928 for White’s attention and his death on the 28th of August? Was he in Jackson Hole Wyoming when the list arrived? White had sent his wants list to Quaritch in July 1928. All interesting to me.
In December 1975 my correspondence with Dr Meindert Niemeijer of Backershagenlaan 54 Wassenaar Holland commenced. And my first books came from him in early 1976.And on 29 December 1975 came the great news from Guy Chandler that an 1846 Alexandre “The Beauties of Chess” was mine for £11. The most beautiful book in my library and bound by Kaufmann.
Correspondence with the State Library of Victoria started with Ken Fraser the curator and continues to this day though Ken has retired.The State Library and I have exchanged books, photos and chess facts for about 25 years and it has been most pleasant like my correspondence with John van Manen.
Another interesting young man I had correspondence with at this time was Douglas Finnie of the Glasgow Chess Club. I was involved in an auction of BCM’s the club owned but missed them. Douglas helped with information on the great Australian chess player of the 1850/60 era, Alexander George McCombe. Douglas discovered McCombe working as a writer for Marshall, Hill and Hills of 41 West George Street Glasgow, a firm that was agent for the Family Endowment Society. He lived at 47 St Vincent Crescent. In Australia, McCombe was involved in ‘The Great Chess Frauds’ later in his career.
Dale very kindly sold me the double volume Twiss in mid 1976 for $165 and dear Guy Chandler continued to supply problem books. Fred Wilson replied to JvM’s translated article from Scaecvaria on chess book prices and also his “Bibilography of Australian Chess Literature”. He made some interesting comments on Dr N’s article:-“..and also for sending the xeroxes and translations of Dr Niemeijer’s piece on chess literature prices he was aware of up to 1961 (it is a very interesting piece though I would disagree with him about the relative scarcity of certain items today (1976), and of course, his evaluations have now “gone completely by the boards”…. It is interesting that he thought the 1930’s was the right time to collect chess literature, and that then, in 1960, things were expensive---though we know now that almost anything bought at 1960 prices has at least doubled in value so perhaps the chief assets of a chess collector should be both courage and foresight)”.
I wonder what Fred thinks now about books as an investment with CD’s, e-mail and electronic information storage? Could the fund-stretched libraries scan all their rare books onto disc and perhaps start selling them?
In August 1976 I bid for the first time for “A Sketchbook of American Problematists” and it was to be 22 more years before those two volumes came into my library.
In September I attended my one and only Christies auction in Sydney. The book I wanted was a non-chess book but a treasure called “Old Books. Old Friends, Old Sydney” by James Tyrrell. I did my homework going around to a lot of rare book shops in the area and examined the copy on auction which was in top order with a nice cover wrapper and autographed. The reserve was $55/65. The auction was in the Hilton Hotel and conducted by the chap who had recently sold Governor Bligh’s Journal in England to Maggs Bros who acted for the Australian Government. That price was $73,000. The Hilton room was impressive, the auctioneer was on a rostrum and he wore a very flowery striped shirt and suit. In front of him at a circular table sat all the major dealers of the Australian book world with we poorer types in comfortable chairs behind them. The bidding started and I soon realised that this was to be a very successful auction for Sue Hewitt the Australian agent for Christies. The prices were at their top and one chap bid $350 for an incomplete set of “Art in Australia” and wanted them so badly that he overtopped his own bid with $500!! The crowd were stunned as they knew he already had the bid. To his credit the auctioneer said to him “You already have the bid sir at $350”. There was a titter through the room. Was the bidder being subtle in frightening off everyone interested? The chap sitting next to me said that the books were up a couple of hundred dollars on the last time they were sold. He later got up and left as the ridiculous bidding continued. Item 242 was “Old Books…” and as I had deliberately limited myself by carrying only $60 I knew I couldn’t get carried away. I got one bid in at $55 and it finally went for $90. An interesting day for me. Later in discussion with Tim McCormick’s books I bought one from his wife Anne for $66- a little dear but I’d saved a few dollars. Auctions can be a good place to sell books and sometimes not a good place to buy them.
Fred Wilson made all my dreams come true by offering me some First Series Chess Players Chronicles for $250 and I couldn’t believe my good fortune. The fabled Staunton volumes were coming to Australia. Later he offered me some of the New Series and also “Chess Life-Pictures” for $30. I took them all. He also included an article by Dr Albert Buschke on Chess Libraries from the American Chess Bulletin May/June 1939. This was a useful article as Buschke spent ‘several weeks’ at Cleveland, in Princeton (E B Cook chess collection), in Philadelphia (George Allen collection in the Ridgeway Branch of the Library Company of Philadelphia and Richard Lloyd Willing collection in the Free Library), and in Cambridge Massachusetts (Silas W Howland collection in the Harvard University Library).
He examined the Cook letters – hundreds of them – over his long life – that covered the problem art, the history of chess and its bibliography. Cook’s correspondence with J G White covered nearly 45 years- can one imagine this? – what tremendous time these men put into building their libraries. They are in “nicely bound volumes, every letter pasted in”.
One letter discussed the tastes of collectors – Hoverbeck gathered variations of chess, Fraser- mediaeval chess, Linde-the history of the game, Prof. Allen the belles-lettres of chess. Cook replied stating that his first object had been repositieries of problems, then works relating to practical play, third-books of literary interest, fourth the old masters and fifth,American issues. Buschke liked to read of the evolution and tastes of other collectors.
Cook was an inveterate letter-writer and Charles Gilberg was also. Their letters with White are in Cleveland and Princeton.
Von der Lasa saw Cook and Gilberg’s collections in 1886 and in writing to White said that Gilberg concentrated on bindings and that Cook had neat extracts copied from books in which chess was occasionally mentioned.
Now comes the interesting part – Gilberg died in 1898 and his heirs held it together for over 30 years selling it about 1930 to a New York dealer who then sold it to Silas W Howland who enlarged it by acquisitions from the Rimington Wilson sale. In 1938 Howland died and the collection was bequested to Harvard. It had 2800 volumes. The Cleveland Library was then 12,000 volumes.
Buschke concluded his article by stating that “it was very worth while” to collect tournament books, or problem books, or bibliographical books –special fields.
A very good article. Dale Brandreth examined the Princeton collection in the 70’s and sadly reported that the bulk of the letters had been thrown out. As Dale said:”..the real secrets of US chess history, collecting, personalities, etc. all of which is now gone forever…”.
Dr Niemeijer closed 1976 for me with the grand news that a photocopy of his Schaakbibliotheken 1948 was on its way.
1977 – I had a letter from Lothar Schmid in early January requesting a wants list and a catalogue of my library. I replied sending the list. The news of Bill Whyatt’s death alone and unloved had upset me about this time.
In February Fred sent me an offer of Bignold’s “Australian Chess Annual” 1896-the only Australian annual of the 19th century. So typical that it should be in the USA and naturally I brought it home. It was a presentation copy from the author and $60 bought it. It was later bound by D S Murray.
I wrote to George Campbell of Aberdeen Scotland because he was a prominent dealer. But Fred Wilson kept on turning up amazing books. A complete set of the “Our Folder” magazine came my way for $200 plus the von der Lasa “Geschichte” and the Schoumoff for $100 each. I also made the decision to write a book on Bill Whyatt about June 1977.
In August Dr Niemeijer sent me a 1541 Vida for $115 and George Campbell sent 11 volumes of BCM. In September Jim Jones of Canberra emerged from anonymity with an 800 volume chess book collection, then the largest known in Australia. A letter from James E Gates with his beautiful bookplate arrived with Jim’s reequest for rare Australian material. He was to be disappointed. Fred Wilson sent me the 1955 Hague Catalogue for $30. George Campbell sent another 10 volumes of BCM. Research help on Whyatt was coming from Ken Fraser at the State Library of Victoria. And in late 1977 Fred came up with 3 more volumes of CPC – 1859, 1864 & 1878 at $20 each. He was trying to fill the gaps. As usual they arrived in a meticulously packed parcel. His amusing paragraph about wives and chess elaborated on serious married collectors whose wives resented the time and money spent by their husbands on their interest (obsession?) and other clients who never wanted a post card sent in case their wives found out they were buying chess books. Was it emotional jealousy? We never did solve that one.
In late December George Cambell’s old issues of “the Chess Bookman” arrived. He put out a choice catalogue.
Good Dr N. wrote on my query about Vicent 1495 that the whole of Catalonia had been searched for this book but “ alas…as yet not been traced”. George Campbell had the Vi(n)cent 1495 on his wants list in Catalogue No.7 p 10 and also a 1560 version of what appears to be a reprint of the earlier book.
And just before Christmas, Fred decided to give up the ‘evil weed’ for the 10th time ‘yesterday’ as he put it.
1978 – Mrs Alice Loranth of Cleveland Library advised that at least 54 items from the Rimington-Wilson library had been acquired after J G White’s passing and were purchased January 8 1930. White had done the selecting not long before his death. A result that would have satisfied White.
I had asked her why the collection did not hold a Caxton and the reply was:-“..I guess I can see why he never acquired it. You see, he had reproductions of the original edition and he often said that what he really wanted was an outstanding collection of chess research material. He was happy to have photographs and facsimiles of source materials and, being of thrifty New England stock, I am sure he would not have wanted to spend huge sums on a Caxton just to have a copy. He was not a bibliophile in the truest sense of the word as he did not collect for the sake of collecting. Even if you disregard the fact that Mr White’s financial resources could not be compared with those at the disposal of Mr Morgan, the two men’s collecting instincts were totally different. Morgan collected objects of all kinds, including books, for the sake of “acquisition” and “esthetics”. White collected written expressions of human knowledge restricted to those areas which interested him”.
In February we decided to buy the old home we rented from the Council and this meant a large downturn in chess book buying. I’d done very well over the past 4 years and it was sad writing to Dale and Fred that the end was near. Fred very kindly suggested that “The prices for desirable chess literature seems to be going up everywhere and, though I do think they should stabilise soon, some silly things are occuring. Even Dr Niemeijer is asking true market value for many items on his list 118, and occasionally even higher prices than me for the same item!..." Fred considered German collectors as being strong then with the ‘mark’at almost 2 to the US dollar. Four years ago it was almost 5 to the dollar. Dale too was sorry that I was opting out but that I was wise to invest in a house.
Dr Niemeijer sold me quite a few BCM’s around this time and also a Ringheiri for $135. This was a beautiful book recently rebound in vellum.
And I had decided to compile a chess problem book on Bill Whyatt; this took many nights of what was left of the year. An interesting task – once!
George Campbell found some loose months of the missing Volume 12 of the Chess Amateur and sent them to me.
The 1583 Actius in the State Library of Victoria had been looked at by me when we holidayed there in January staying at St Kilda with the family. It was a truly lovely book. Ken Fraser responded mid year with some terrific research proving the provenance of the book to be part of the Franciscan House at Montemaggio “Convento San Antonio” founded 1543. He also did some great work on CPC proving that the first issue appeared in May 1841. His full research will be published.
In July I wrote to Dr Adriano Chicco for the first time about the Venafro Chess pieces and received back a lovely reply in English supporting his view that chess was much older than Murray or Pavle Bidev thought due to Venafro. Today we know through radio-carbon dating that the Venafro pieces are not as old as thought and that Murray’s views still hold. Dr Chicco was a beautiful man and my wish to have known him personally grew with the years to follow. How mellow and kind he was in answering my fairly blunt questioning of his views.
Fred send me gratis a copy of one of Max Weiss’s 1915 ‘”Favorit Schachaufgaben” and it was great to see the Australian Arthur Charlick’s problems in this German work. An interesting series by ‘Otto Robert’. The 12 books would be quite valuable today though the paper is acid and brittle. I have No. 8 and No 10 the latter coming from Fred.
Egbert Meissenburg also wrote later that year and gave brief details of his own collection (over 8000 items). His main interests being chess bibliography and history). I sent him a copy of my article on the Anderson Collection with photos.
It was nice of Dale to want to reprint the Anderson article to let others know of the great library on chess in Australia of which we are all so proud. That a country of such small population has such a great chess library says volumes about the passion of one man Magnus Victor Anderson (1884-1966) and the commitment since then of the State Library of Victoria to keep the collection modern.
In October at Chess World in Sydney the proprietor Mrs Rosemary Shiel had the first batch of Chess Challengers in and had sold 11 of them at $400 each. I went under twice on level 3 and admitted to fascination both with the computer AND the price. I didn’t buy - some sixth sense told me that computer prices might come down but I did buy some books from this lovely lady as I had in years past when Cecil Purdy owned the store and up until the closure of her store in 1984. I owe my full set of ACR to her alone and that’s another story for later.
I had also called to see John and Inge van Manen on one of my rare visits to Sydney. They lived at Mona Vale then and Inge gave me a large slice of Dutch chocolate cake and made me a friend for life. John’s “Bibliography” had just been published and it was a happy time for him.
In October Mrs Loranth responded to my gift of the Anderson article and told me of the microfilm at $10.50 per reel of old chess columns. I was very taken with this and ordered 7 reels:-Bell’s Life, The New York Clipper, The Era, ILN and The Field. A constant source of pleasure today twenty years later.
And late that year Guy Chandler sent me “To Alain White” and Kipping’s 300 Chess Problems. I let him know the Whyatt book was ‘virtually complete’ and that it was on sale to him for $3.00. He was pleased to do the review and wrote:-“..the Whyatt book, which I hope to sell as long as I am spared to do it”.
1979 – Jeremy Gaige wrote me in January asking for birth/death details of Australian chess personalities and I sent him a few but this was John van Manen’s field which of course Jeremy knew.
My correspondence with Ken Whyld also started around this time with the ‘Captain Cook’ chess set. I have certainly learned a lot from Ken’s letters. See BCM Oct. 1978 Quotes and Queries No.3939.
And the Mitchell Library Sydney very kindly sent 37 photographic prints of the Ms “Australian Chess Club” to Cleveland. It was great to see some contact between these great libraries.
It was nice to get a brief note from Dr N sharing our love of the book together. I have always admired passion in any field and I told him of an American chap who wrote to Council where I worked wanting a set of dog registration tags. He was collecting them from all over the world. Not my cup of tea but one has to admire such enthusiasm. He wrote back to Council enclosing some American stamps. The other aspect is contact with people across all age groups. Chess, like many other subjects overrides vast age gaps.
George Campbell sent me a copy of that difficult book to buy “Chess Whimsicalities” by ‘Expertus’ (James Crake) and very kindly included part of my article on the M V Anderson chess collection in his catalogue. That certainly made the collection better known in the world. It was sad to read in a letter from him that Scots chess players took little interest in Scots chess history. I do hope that situation has changed today.
I had completed “A Chess Miscellany” and ran off 50 copies on the old stencil machine and got the local printers to do a flash cover. It was a surprisingly popular little book of 85 pages and included articles on various book collections and the Anderson library article plus a catalogue of my library and an article trying to prove Sir Joseph Banks was a chess player and Matthew Flinders who was, and various minor articles. It was pleasing to see it go all around the world.
And mid-year I sent off a near complete Whyatt for review by Guy Chandler as well as becoming a regular subscriber to BCM. I heard from Mr Chandler not long after in early July in which he advised that the BCPS would do its best to sell the Whyatt book and that he was happy with it. I was very pleased to read that. For any collector/player/chess enthusiast it is simple enough today to have run off a small number of chess books that doesn’t cost the earth and yet preserves for all time the research carried out. In 1994 I got 60 copies of Australian Chess Lore 6 done by Kwik Copy in Burwood Sydney for a cost of $200 which included stapling. The master had to be set out page for page as for photocopying and given to them. If it’s a success send the masters back for another print run. My thanks to Peter Wong for suggesting this.
Dale wrote me a response to my query about reprints of rare books reducing the price of originals. It is worth repeating:-“…But frankly, on something like a Selenus, the reprint makes very little difference because it is a simple fact that most collectors cannot really read the text of the early rare books they buy. How many people can actually read ancient Italian or German, in the use of the Selenus? Few English speaking people can even read old English from say the 1500’s without special study. But most collectors of early books really don’t buy the books for contents except in a rather casual way. After all, if the book has nice woodcuts, it is nice to look through it and admire them, but what else? In the case of tournament books, however, the situation is quite different because there are many-maybe most-people who actually use the books to play over the games. So in that case there is a difference, but it is often not disastrous. Other factors are involved, particularly if the reprint is complete (the BCM did a reprint of London 1883 which was not complete…. and I can still get $100 for a good copy of the original. There are still many collectors who want the original As issued.)
“You would need not only condition but other information as well in addition to a broader data base to make any real case on Selenus at auction. There is a lot of chance involved depending on who is at the auction. A few years ago I attended an auction in Philadelphia at which there were four good early chess books. Because there were two chess book dealers present----- myself and one other, and between us we bid a 1656 Greco up to $650. Had I not been there it would have gone at no more than $200 if that. Well, it is an interesting subject anyway.……”
I was sad when George Campbell decided not to produce any more of “The Chess Bookman”. It was a lovely job but he was subsidising it and chess dealing was his sole income.
And I sent a copy of John van Manen’s Italian translation of the Pietro Carrera article by Adriano Chicco to various friends. John spent quite a lot of time on that.
In October Michael Macdonald Ross sent me his catalogue which was a surprise as I thought George Cambell was the only British dealer. He had some good items for sale including a 1773 Philidor for £45 and a 1790 for £40.
The death of Cecil Purdy on 6 November brought to an end my dealings with him over nearly 20 years. I had bought books from most of his shops and a few sets and even a board that I fitted legs to and made a table from. The great man was gone.
The response from Michael Macdonald Ross was sad. Alex Sharpe had died and George Campbell was winding down his business. Michael was the only UK dealer putting out lists regularly. I missed those Philidors.
Another translated article on the Venafro chessmen by Dr Chicco came from Moya Gallagher, the late Cecil Purdy’s friend. This was sent around also.
In September of 1979 I met Jim Jones, a collecting rival, in Mrs Shiel’s Chess Centre in Sydney. She was having a clean-out and we were invited into the inner sanctum where no buyers are allowed. What a show! The problem was Jim was there and try as I might I couldn’t steer him away from all the choice items. He was too damn smart. Mrs Shiel got a fit of the giggles as we tried to outmanoeuvre one another from the good buys. Jim bought $300 worth and killed me off good and proper. We cruised around the room at least three times trying to decoy, feint and bluff but neither fell for the other’s ploys. Good one Jim-you done me.
1980 – Correspondence with Dale reminded me of a silly grudge I had against BCM until 1977 and I would not collect it. Now as I think back I can’t really recall why. It could have been something to do with rivalry with “The Chess Amateur” but it looks pretty stupid now.
Michael MR sent me a pro forma list of books in early 1980 and I sent him my list of wants.
Jim Gates sent me a nice letter in response to a copy of the Miscellany I sent him which follows:-“I was very interested to see that your friend (George Venz) had translated my article in ROCHADE. To bring it up to date, I now have approximately 14,500 volumes broken down as follows: Theory –3200 vols; Games Collections/Biography-1400; Tournaments/Matches –4000; Problems/Misc –3100; Magazines –2800. The translation was very good…. I particularly enjoyed Dr Niemeijer’s comments on book prices. They are very much out of date. Prices have skyrocketed in the last few years. I have been told that a copy of Ruy Lopez 1561 is now worth between $5000-$10,000!. I was fortunate in purchasing the only copy I have ever seen offered. From a collector in Argentina who sent it wrapped in one thickness of thin brown paper tied with a single strand of thinnest string imaginable. I almost fainted when it arrived in excellent condition. It was not even insured! I paid over $1000 plus about $100 in books for it in 1974. The Tarsia Lopez recently sold over $1000 in Sweden at auction last December. It regularly appears. The 1561 last appeared at a sale in Germany in 1975 at a price of $3500. I did not learn of this copy until recently….”
Jim made an accurate count of his collection a few weeks after the above and came up with 13,341 with a value of $204,769 US. He was deciding to slow down.
Fred Wilson offered me the 1887 Adelaide Jubilee Congress book for $200 and I bought it and had it bound by D S Murray of Sydney. It is one of the nicest items in my library.
Mid year Ken Fraser of Melbourne confirmed the dating of the British Miscellany and Chess Player’s Chronicle. It was originally a weekly commencing 1 May 1841.
And in July from Dr N came a remarkable copy of Duncan Forbes “History of Chess” 1860. It had been owned by the Melbourne Chess Club and was presented by a person whose name is scratched out of the book but the date of presentation was May 23 1870. The book is in poor condition but how did it get to Europe? Obviously someone in Victoria considered it a duplicate.
Michael MR flew to New York prior to September and bought £1000 of material from Fred Wilson’s massive catalogue. Michael felt that Fred charged more for rarity than significance. Fred would not disclose whose collection was being sold at the time. Fred took me to task about my views of the signed Stamma being the only originals and that unsigned ones were fakes. This is what he had to say:-
“..Stamma 1745 has only one printed edition (i.e. signed & unsigned are same typographically). I have been able to compare as a grubby signed copy with plate clumsily folded went to auction in NYC last week for $264 – plus 10% buyer’s premium) I have seen different physical sizes depending how closely the copy in question is TRIMMED (I saw a near pristine very tall copy in full orig. calf at a colleague’s last month which he bought in England for 10% off $450 – (it was a full inch taller than most copies). Really do you think the publisher made Stamma sign every copy? And how many copies did the publisher/printer run off for himself?? Couldn’t Stamma have had a cold or a hangover or something the week some copies had to be delivered somewhere?…”We also raised another matter about the Christie book of 1801 “An inquiry into the ancient Greek game, supposed to have been invented by Palamedes antecedent to the siege of Troy, with reasons for believing the same to have been known from remote antiquity in China, and progressively improved into the Chinese, Indian, Persian and European chess…” George Walker states that this James Christie was the auctioneer and presumably the ancestor of the present auction firm! The book was in Lowndes’ Catalogue of Scarce English Books. We never resolved if Christie the author was the auctioneer.
Michael Macdonald Ross gave his views on British collections with James Pattle, Dick Ford, and R G Wade respectively 1, 2 and 3. B H Wood and H Golombek following. The British Museum still had the best collection in public hands and of some books they have the only copy in the UK (eg Lucena)
I only found out about Guy Chandler’s passing in September. The grand old man had gone 28 May at the wonderful age of 90. It was sad to write to his family as the end had come to 13 years of correspondence. It was fitting that The Problemist had a memorial issue to this hard worker for chess problems.
Michael MR in his 22 November letter wrote:-“I can’t resist mentioning that I’ve just bought another copy of the 1656 Greco complete with portrait of King Charles. I can’t say where or how much, but I can say it’s another previously unknown copy. So much for the myth of “only 4 known complete copies”!! (if that were true, I’ve had ¾ of the world’s stock through my hands in one year) (my idea of a really rare chess book is Col. Teversham’s “The Second Player in the Chess Openings”, which to my delight I found in a Hastings bookshop for £1!)
In December I received my first list from Mike Sheehan and have bought a few books from him over the years. And Ken Fraser proved up ‘The Great Chess Frauds” and sent me a copy. A great piece of research.
1981- Michael MR had purchased D Murray Davey’s collection and as it had a strong emphasis towards problems I was rather interested. His copy of Twiss’s Miscellanies containing only the chess and draughts section I bought for £75.
Dale Brandreth bought Walter Korn’s collection of endgame and openings material and then Fred rolled in with List No 15 which was as good if not better than Dale’s EXEN list of 1975. It stunned me when it arrived in early February. No. 1 was the 1617 Carrera, a book which I had been in love with for years. The price $1750US. It wasn’t the dearest. That honour went to No 4 Ercol Del Rio 1750 at $2000US.
And correspondence with Dick Ford started in March and my first contact with Robert McWilliam the new book seller and dealer for The Problemist.
About mid-March came the letter from Fred offering me the Carrera over time payment of around $200/month which was all I could handle. That was great and I went for it. The book was from the James E Gates collection which Fred was selling on consignment and had been for 10 months. There were about 12,000 books to sell. Fred estimated 2/3 years to sell the lot. The old books made him “much money”, the modern material he lost on. In Catalogue 14, the Hyde, Actius, Greco, Salvio and Christmas Series went. It also turned out that the 1887 Adelaide Congress book came from Jim’s collection. A lot of the collection was sold privately.
Jim’s decision to sell was explained by Fred :-“ What happened was that Jim got tired of buying everything, and it became a burden to him……Jim was seeking a fair deal, I needed stock(!); he trusts me, and so this arrangement came about. He worked like a dog on his collection for about exactly 10 years, and wanted a rest! I think he was also tired of the responsibility of caring for it (& storing it), but certainly didn’t want to institutionalise it (smart man!). He is a good player (Class A, over here,) and now can find time to actually play chess! Jim, incidentally, does not need the money as he owns a big construction company. So, the slow liquidation of his collection, over 2, 3, 4 years is good for him tax-wise also.
Jim is a very fair and honest man who doesn’t believe in doing things by halves. He built a great collection and now wishes to dispose of it, after having catalogued it.”All or nothing” for him. We sometimes kid about the fact that since he is a collector ‘type’, he may start collecting again, when this is over. But he promises himself, if that happens, this time only rare, important items in fine copies, plus things he personally enjoys – then it will be much smaller, and much easier to liquidate if he ever chooses to do so!”
I did find it difficult to follow the reasoning for selling the old books if he wanted to rid himself of the responsibility of buying everything. If he had just sold the modern and not so old books he would have made a loss and that could have been beneficial tax-wise. Perhaps he felt the old book market was peaking and that with the coming of the computer etc that the value of old books would fall. Every collector thinks about that and he may have been before his time.
On insurance of collections Michael MR had this to say :-“ You raised again the question of insurance. Well, suppose your whole library was burnt or stolen. Then you would have to replace it at present day prices, irrespective of the price you originally paid for the books. Hence insuring for replacement is necessarily more expensive, but may be worthwhile (I do!). Of course if you sold the collection you wouldn’t realise as much! – but that’s irrelevant for the purposes of insurance”.
I wrote to Egbert Meissenburg trying to determine the number of copies of the 1617 Carrera there were in the world. I came to the conclusion that there were about 50.
And mid-year I decided to make an offer for “The Tablet” column of the author D Murray Davies from Michael MR. I could only afford a lay by system for the £123 due and Michael was happy with that.
Robert McWilliam the BCPS bookdealer offered me “Adventures of my Chessmen” by G F Anderson from the H R Bigelow collection in New York. He ran the chess column in the New York Post for many years. The price was £15 and the provenance of the book was of especial interest. Robert continued:-“The book seems to have travelled a great deal since on the flyleaf is inscribed:-“The Brisbane Courier 51st Quarterly Solving Tourney. Won by E Keysor Kirkwood No. USA –Arthur Mosely Chess Editor. So from Gloucestershire England to Brisbane, Australia, to Kirkwood USA, to New York, to London, England and now perhaps, to New South Wales!””. Robert offered it to me in front of others because of its provenance. I bought it.
Mike Sheehan weighed in with a 1916 BCM and Bird’s “Chess History”. I bought them.
Dr Niemeijer wrote that the Carrera was “a very rare book and during 55 years I have only seen 2 copies. I don’t know how many copies of this book exist today. It is difficult to say whether $1750 is too high a price or not, as I did not see the book offered since a long time…”
Robert McWilliam told me of Walter Jacobs offer of Christmas Series and Overbrook problem books (including some still boxed!) which “he has no further use for”!
Fred Wilson sent me a gratis copy of “A Picture History of Chess” in July and it was a pleasure to receive it. The Breslau Tournament photo on p. 64 shows an unknown shot of the very young Alekhine standing two behind the seated Tarrasch. He did not play but that is him for sure. A great book.
A letter from Vernon Burk of Dayton Ohio suggesting that a chess book collectors periodical be published on an occasional basis. It was a grand idea but withered on the vine for some reason.
Dr Chicco wrote congratulating me on purchasing the Carrera and advising that he had it plus the very scarce “Risposta” of 1635. He must have had a great library.
A nice letter from Dale in August on the value of problem and endings study for the top players is quoted from :-“..I honestly believe that there are very real limits to how far a player can go as a practical player unless he has some comprehension of the fantastic subtlety and range of ideas present in chess. Much of this is too far hidden and too seldom seen in the ordinary game, but if you notice Korchnoi’s games, he like Lasker, finds ways to complicate positions and to take opponents out of the territory they know to that where they have to fight on uncertain ground. In such positions the Korchnois, the Laskers, and the Fischers make mincemeat of the lesser lights. Problems and studies show new ideas and open new vistas for the players who are capable of absorbing such new vitality into their games…”
Dr Chicco came back on the Carrera in September:-“I don’t know how many copies of this book are in the Italian Public Libraries. A copy is in the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele in Rome. I bought my copy about forty years ago from Rappaport’s library in Rome, so that I did not need to look for the book in public libraries. I know that a copy was in Conte Sacconi’s private library, dispersed after his death (1968). Probably you are right about 50 extant copies. As I perhaps told you already, Il Giuoco degli Scacchi by Carrera is wanted because it is the most old book printed in Militello. The paper used for the print resulted very thin, what caused an easy waste of the book: no few copies had been destroyed. It is mentioned among rare books by G. Burgada ” Libri rari” Milano 1937 p.55”.
The good Dr continued:-“Carrera talks about his book at p 31 of Risposta (Catania 1635) in the following terms:-For his shame (that is for Salvio) I wish it to be known that Carrera’s chess work in France is greatly esteemed. Of that a bookseller in Palermo (who is alive today) bears witness; He was twelve years ago dealt through that kingdom and having some chess books of him (Carrera) sold them one ‘doppia’ each”.
In a letter to Michael MR I told him of one of those pleasing moments in life:- I bought a copy of “Among These Mates” the 1939 Purdy chess book from Dr N in Holland. It was pretty cheap as it was battered, $3 in fact. I managed to repair it fairly satisfactorily and when In Sydney rang Mrs Shiel the owner of Purdy’s ‘Chess World’ bookshop in Pitt Street and asked her if she had managed to buy one since my last talk with her 9 months ago. No, she hadn’t and I told her that I had one as a gift for her. She was thrilled and that gave me a kick too. On arriving in there on the Saturday morning Mrs Shiel had a large cardboard box for me to ramble through. Turned out there were quite a few rare Aussie chess items and these were given to me as a gift in return. I protested – but not too loudly. I bought another $60 worth of new chess books so we both parted satisfied. It was great to be able to help her as Cecil and Mrs Shiel were the best of friends. And I missed some of the long discussions we had on chess in that room and other rooms in other buildings”.
This will indicate to readers of these pages just how hard it is to buy rare Australian chessiana. It was printed in small numbers on poor paper and just did not survive in numbers sufficient to trade.
Clive Farmer wrote in October 1981. He had an interest in exchanges but also disclosed his love of the methods and styles of chess notation and nomenclature in the English Language.
On 13 November I sent off the final payment for Carrera. The Tablet arrived just before Christmas from Michael MR. There were 7 parcels in all and I spent four nights reading it all with an especial love for the letters of famous composers to The Tablet editors.
The Carrera also arrived from Fred Wilson and so the lay bys were complete and all was well in the world. The Carrera had a chess club stamp internally-Berliner Schachgesellschaft 1827 on the title page. Lothar Schmid had sold it to Jim Gates and it came on to me. It was to be my last valuable chess book purchase.
1982 – Mike Sheehan filled a long want with a copy of Verney’s “Chess Eccentricities”.
And in a trip to New Zealand with the family I tried to track down The New Zealand Chess Chronicle 1887/8 only to find the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington had No 1 of Vol 1 only. That library had the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and a Bignold. The library very kindly sent me a xerox of No 1 and that sent me on a chase to find out where in the world a full set was.
Michael MR was a great correspondent and wrote purely on chess without including book lists at times. His letter of 3 Feb is a sample of what can occur between collector and dealer:-“I can’t resist writing to tell you of my latest acquisition: a good set of the biography of Thomas Henry Buckle. It”s a typical 2 volume Victorian affair, with a frontispiece portrait to each volume, dark red-brown cloth with gilt lettering on the spine and black decorations on the boards. This is exactly the kind of book I most enjoy finding; it’s almost never in chess collections, & can only be got through the general book trade & only then with the greatest luck, for it’s very scarce. In fact I’ve never seen a set offered for sale before this one.
A fortnight ago I wandered into the University library with the idea of beefing up their purchases of out-of-print books, & in discussion with the Liaison librarians came to an understanding that they would save all catalogues for me, & I’d collect them from time to time & make suggestions as to what to purchase. Anyway the first catalogue they got was a History list from Howe’s bookshop. I went through it with a toothcombe and found the Buckle listed. No way was that going to end up in a University library! I scurried back to my room, picked up the phone & to my delight it was still available. It was pretty cheap at £23. I would have paid twice as much and still walked on air. Now it’s arrived.
After all this,the chess content of the book is, I must admit, a bit disappointing, being confined to the first chapter,& even then with no account of the 1849 tournament. The reason for this is an unfortunate gap in Buckle’s diaries and letters between 1840 & 1850 (but not 20 & 30). This gap biases the whole work, so that virtually the whole book is on the decade 1850-1860, including the “History of Civilisation in England”; volume two is almost entirely 1861 (when B died) plus appendices and index. There is a listing of chess sources on Buckle at the end; but so sad that the author didn’t talk to Buckle’s chess-playing acquaintances. Of course, a perusal of the DNB biogs of Staunton & Buckle shows the usual Victorian bias towards respectability & good public works. Staunton’s chess rates just a short paragraph, whilst his mediocre Shakespeare scholarship gets effusive treatment. Well, Buckle’s “History” is a better work than anything Staunton did on Shakespeare, but nevertheless it is nowadays almost forgotten. Too many sweeping generalisations! (rather like that other self-educated man, Spencer)
Still, the letters show what a decent & intelligent man Buckle was. They shine with that straighforward urge to help without being patronising; next to Darwin (whose “Life & Letters” should be read by everyone). I can’t think of anyone else of that age who shows so well his character in his letters. Today, the standard for letter-writing & biography is all too often the awful Bloomsbury set – a bunch of dreadful snobs & neurotics – well, no more on that subject.
I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned it before, but my interest in Buckle stems from us both being born in the same parish: Lee, then in Kent, now in London. (O C Muller played for Lee for nearly fifty years, but of course he wasn’t born there). The parish is the natural social group in English life, being taxed on the area one man could reasonably cover. You can walk to any part of Lee and back with no trouble. Now Lee is part of the giant Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham-¼ million people, an unweildy mass who lack the sense of belonging and place that the old parish system gave them…..”
What excellent stuff. And easy to agree with everything Michael has to say about Buckle especially if one has read G A MacDonnell’s “Chess Life-Pictures” p 81/86. Buckle’s famous sayings were:-The slowness of genius is hard to bear, but the slowness of mediocrity is intolerable” or “He is no player. Chess begins where he leaves off” or “He looks on a knight stronger than he can play”.
In late February Mrs Loranth replied with advice that Cleveland held the New Zealand Chess Chronicle in full and a photocopy cost of $33.25. I had again been lucky thanks to the great collecting zeal of J G White.
In April Ken Whyld sent me information that the Royal Library in Stockholm had acquired Professor Bruno Bassi’s library and that of author Frans G Bengtsson but that it was all printed material, mostly serials. Bassi’s manuscripts were not accounted for and the remainder could well be the remnants of his library after other items had been sold. Jeremy Gaige sent this information to Ken. The Cleveland Library had received a letter from the Royal Library at Stockholm about it.
Michael MR discovered Charles Darwin was not a chess player but a backgammon player and had played thousands of games, and, kept a record of the total scores. Erasmus Darwin, his grandfather played chess as did his son Erasmus Darwin Jr. There is a silhouette portrait of them playing.
In May 1982, I read an article by Roger Rosenblatt in Time (5 April 1982) called “Would you mind if I borrowed this book?” and it struck a remorseful chord in me. I wrote to Fred Wilson telling him that I’d just returned a book to its owner, a school mate named Kevin Barry who is 60 this year. I’d had the book 21 years! (I attended Kevin’s 60th on 1 May and have since struck up a correspondence with him-the book was mentioned) And so for all people reading this , I have warned you. That book was a collection of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories. The article by Rosenblatt brough forth some responses and the best was by Yeoh Ooon Chuan of Washington DC who wrote:-“While it is true that my heart momentarily stops beating whenever a visitor expresses an interest in one of my beloved books, I still continue to lend and share with others. Sometimes books do come back to you, even if it happens by pure accident. Once, I lent a book to a friend who lent it to someone else. Two years later, I chanced upon it in the house of another friend who thoughtfully asked me if I would like to borrow it. I told her yes and I brought it home”.
The Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington received the photocopy of the NZCC and a copy went to the MVA at Melbourne. At last the Chronicle was safe.
In May Fred Wilson wrote me that the 1763 Lolli was mine for $300. A lovely book. He also told me that the Library Company of Philadelphia housed the Allen Collection and that they acquired it a few years after it was originally offered for sale for $3000 for $600. If so that was one good buy. There were some bookplates of James Magee and Alain White on various books and it is one of the finest early chess book collections in the world but was not being added to or upgraded as far as Fred knew. There was also no published catalogue.
Robert McWilliam and wife Lil moved to the Isle of Wight in 1982 and I had a nice letter from Bob offering me some loose issues of “Our Folder” which I took up.
In July Dale wrote me an excellent letter on his views about the number of chess items in existence:-“..I think the number should be considerably higher than 20,000 but with a number of qualifications and questions. For example, what is a chess title? Is it only a book on chess published by a recognised publisher? If so, then one eliminates thousands of tournament bulletins which contain otherwise unpublished games by the greatest of players (I have over 4000 tournament books and bulletins myself, and many of these are not in the White collection.Some do not even give the name of the publisher/producer). The BCM, which now has over 1200 issues to its credit is counted as one item by the scheme Vella suggests, whereas 10 small pamphlets with nondescript material would count as 10 items! Most people would agree that such a scheme makes no sense. I suggest that the only sensible scheme is to count every issue of every magazine as one item. A bound volume of BCM with 12 issues becomes then 12 items bound in one. I also suggest that every article on chess or largely on chess or some aspect of chess (chess players, chess intelligence, etc) be counted as one item, though if 12 such articles are published together in a book they be counted as one item collectively, but that if published separately either originally or otherwise, they be counted individually. Newspaper columns would not count at all unless bound in a book with some continuity to the columns (a complete year, etc) Of course, even there some fuzziness occurs, but that is at least only a second order effect in that case. Well, you see what an argument one can get into. On my basis, I think there are upwards of 400,000 items. On Vella’s basis which I consider artificial and misleading, I think he is still or was far short because the White Collection has been quite unsuccessful in obtaining many of the ephemeral items and poorly distributed tournament bulletins appearing now on a worldwide scale. Still, on his basis, I would say that he is not off by more than 5000 items. Betts only covered titles of books in English and lacked thousands of ephemeral items such as policy manuals for local clubs, books of rules and regulations for various chess organisations, etc. By today I am willing to guarantee that on Vella’s basis one could find easily more than 40,000 chess titles. Proving it is another matter!”
An excellent opinion on the vexing question of the total number of chess books which has been considered earlier in this compilation. (See Professor George Allen’s collection ) The comments on Walter Vella’s views above refer to his contributions in “The Deluge of Chess Literature” chapter in “The Complete Book of Chess” 1963 by Horowitz and Rothenburg.
Fred returned to this subject in his July letter:-“..nor do I yet have a ‘good’ defence of my estimate of there being 40,000 chess books….I am still convinced I am right. I will point out that Sacharov admitted in some issue of Shakmaty v USSR that he didn’t include such things as Latvian bulletins of championships (local, national, club, etc) even in Russian characters as he didn’t feel such items published in numbers of 100 or less copies should be counted!! (my friend B Zuckerman, told me this). Also, I cannot explain to you unless you actually saw the Gates collection just how MANY ZILLIONS OF TOURNAMENT BULLETINS EXIST AND ARE BEING ISSUED EVERY DAY!! You really have no idea…and if my 40,000 is a little over today I guarantee you it will be correct in a very few (3/4) years. Also what is not listed in Betts (post 1968 US stuff would fill another book) Do you know there are well over 100 publications worldwide on the Fischer - Spassky match alone?….”
Michael MR wrote a great letter on subscribers to books:-“ I bought a copy of the March 1923 issue of “Our Folder” just to see what it was like & discovered it had a detailed discussion on the subscribers to Philidor’s 1777 edition. So I thought I’d look & see whether I had any subscriber’s copies (incidentally Magee makes a mistake in assuming that the list of subscribers covers the whole print run of those editions; certainly extra copies would be run off, though not so many as would be the case with post – 1830 books.) Well, here goes: 1749 (1st issue) bears the bookplate of Montagu Earl of Sandwich, who took 10 copies. He was a soldier who became three times the First Lord of the Admiralty (b 1718 d 1792) This book also bears a bookseller’s mark in Chinese?! Makes one wonder where it got to… 1777 (French ed) bears the bookplate of Baron Northwich who wasn’t a subscriber, but who was by far the biggest landowner in Harrow, Middlesex!! The book has travelled across the Atlantic at least once since then. One of the 1777 subscribers was Edward Gibbon of “Decline & Fall” fame. 1790 (English ed) bears the library ticket of John Rutherford of Edgerston, who was not a subscriber, & who is not in the DNB. Well, this seems to bear out the general impression that the social standing of chess came down at the end of the 18 C”.
In August 1982 I got my first chess catalogue from Barrie Ellen. It was to be and still is a long relationship.
Michael MR:-“,,I have a number of ladies’ chess bookplates for the period 1750-1830, suggesting that chess was more widely played amongst upper-class ladies then…On numbers & bibliography, Meissenburg is correctly reflecting the usual librarians and bibliographer’s view: serials count as one item. But I have long felt that chess was an exception, since so often single volumes are bought and sold rather than complete runs. I cannot believe anyone would list individual issues in any catalogue or bibliography; but if they did the numbers of items would climb dramatically.
BCM = 1 item (traditional bibliography and library practice)
= 100 items (you & I)
= 1200 items (Dale & Fred).
Likewise the Illustrated London News series could be one item or (at the other extreme)..it could be 6,000!!
Unless there is agreement on what an item is, then there will never be agreement on what the total is. Meanwhile, I shall take a pretty conservative view. We will reach more agreement if we stick to printed books, since the concept of ‘item’ is not so fluid. Still, I would want to know whether each issue counts as an ‘item’. The notions of ‘edition’, ‘issue’ and ‘state’ are gone over in the standard works on bibliography, but there is no general agreement as to how they relate to item number. In the absence of any other guide, I would list each edition separately, with issues and/or states noted but not numbered or given alphabetical postscripts, as 1223a,b,c & d. Well, to sum up, we need discussion of the methodology or framework for chess bibliography before we start making any serious estimates".”
During all these years correspondence and purchase of various microfilm or photocopy from the State Library of Victoria through Ken Fraser continued. I doubt that one could call the State Library a “dealer” but the library is a “collector el supremo” and sometimes discussion about rare book prices and bidding at auctions was the topic with promotion of the library as the chief aim.
Michael MR responded with information on his 1745 Stamma. It was signed “Philip Stamma” but unwitnessed. Michael though the spelling “Phillip” came from the French language editions which gave the name as “Phillipe”. But as he said:-“In any event, spelling in the 18th C. was not so completely standardised as now”.
Michael is quite passionate about chess typography and has given seminars on the subject. He was able (by late 1982) to be able to illustrate all stages in the evolution of printed chess literature from his own library with the exception of some rare early works and of those he had photocopies from Cleveland.
He also advised that whilst Stamma’s book was a landmark, algebraic notation had appeared in manuscripts some centuries before with a carry-over from Ms to print. At this time the Purdy book by Hammond had appeared. Michael:-”The Purdy book is full of interest, especially for readers like myself who come to the articles fresh. Purdy’s obsession with small scale tactics is really interesting; a lot more could be said about the ‘Lasker-Steinitz Law’ – I am very interested in such things- but so rarely do we see anything so intelligent in modern magazines”.
At the end of 1982 I wished Dr Niemeijer all the best for his 80th and got a letter away to Walter Counts of the Library of Congress on chess book exchanges.
1983 – Fred wrote that I had bought the Handbuch der Schaufgaben” by Lange for $65 and that he’d taken up running 4/5 miles a day. He was feeling great physically but that his typing (he said) was getting worse. It was always great to get a letter from Fred. I also got the 1860 Miles “Chess Gems” for $60.
Robert McWilliam sent me Tomlinson’s 1856 Chess Annual. He was proving to be a very good dealer for the BCPS and wrote nice letters.
Dale wrote in March that the Gates collection was “almost entirely dissipated”.
And this was the first of a new phenomenon where youngish collectors sold entire collections and departed the scene.
In April I sent off to Dale, Michael,Dr N, Dr Chicco, Barrie Ellen and Fred my article and photo of me in ‘Collectors Corner’. Michael responded very quickly even though he had just changed houses and offered me a 1944 BCM which I’d wanted for many years for £20. I bought it. Michael had been stimulated by the Purdy book to want all the ACR’s and Chess World. I gave him Mrs Shiel’s address. It was also nice to win a discount in Barrie Ellen’s catalogue by solving the cover problems.
By this time my views on buying had hardened to those on my wants list. It was the end of my major buying with Fred and Dale. My overseas letters were moving more towards research and it was nice to get a letter from Ken Whyld in which he wrote:-“ …I was at the new home of Michael MR looking at your photograph with running commentary about the layout of your den. I almost felt that I was there”.
In August I wrote to Hacker Art Books of New York to buy Murray’s “History of Board Games other than Chess” for $34.50 postage inc.
I ordered some very minor bits and pieces from Dale in September. He was as busy as ever with a ‘wealth of material’ to list. And I wrote to Dr N in October on his views on how many chess ‘items’ there were in the world today. He had sent me two lovely booklets on the great collection and his win of ‘the silver carnation’
The real excitement was the receipt of Jeremy Gaige’s “The Chess Historian” an occasional publication but which included Edward Winter’s address for “Chess Notes”. I was a year behind the rest of the world but soon subscribed. Mr Winter made the comment “I am not quite sure of the extent to which readers of CN share your interest in early chess history; curiously, very little has come up about it so far from correspondents”.
The book buying coup of the year was the purchase of the first three volumes of “Westminster Papers” from Barrie Ellen for $200. My final bid for 1983 was $350 for Dr N’s 1766 Cozio. It was not successful.