CESSOLIS, Jacobus de (fl. late 13th/early 14th century). De Ludo Scachorum, in German: Schachzabelbuch. Strasbourg: Heinrich Knoblochtzer, 1 September 1483.
Rare German edition of the first printed work on chess, the most universal of all board games. It is known in fewer than a dozen copies, all in institutions, and no other copy has been sold at auction in over a century. Goff C-418.
Chancery 2° and royal 4° (276 x 200 mm.). Without final blank, 16 woodcuts from 15 blocks illustrating table and chessboard, 13 orders of society and an empty armorial shield, woodcut historiated and ornamental initials, 2 illustrations and 5 initials touched with red (fo. f5 expertly repaired with a few words in facsimile). Modern reversed pigskin by R. Meuter of Ascona. Provenance: contemporary inscription describing Knoblochtzer as wicked (der trucker der das buch hat getruck der ist ein böser man) – [Donaueschingen, Fürstenbergische Hofbibliothek] – Robert Blass (sold Christie’s South Kensington, 8 May 1992, lot 9).
Fourth German, second Knoblochtzer edition. The Dominican monk, Jacobus de Cessolis, wrote his moral allegory, drawing parallels between the chess pieces and the genuine social order. The first book touches on the origin of chess and the reasons for its invention (‘to correct the evil manners of the king, to avoid idleness and sadness, and to satisfy the natural desire for novelty by means of the infinite variety of the play’); the next two books explain how the pieces represent different ranks of society, and the different social classes are then made the subject of anecdote and illustration. The fourth book concerns the game itself: the chess board is said to represent the city of Babylon; the initial arrangement of the pieces is explained; and there is a detailed description of the moves. The expressive woodcuts originally appeared in Knoblochtzer’s edition of c.1478, copied from Zainer’s first German edition. Of the dozen copies recorded in ISTC, at least 3 are imperfect. HC 4897; GW 6530; BMC I, 89; BSB-Ink I-14; Schreiber 4276; van der Linde appendix II, pp. 130-131; Schmid p. 37; Goff C-418.