Chess in Iceland and in Icelandic Literature with Historical Notes on other Table-Games

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Author: Fiske, Daniel Willard (1831-1904)

Year: 1905

Publisher: The Florentine Typographical Society

Place: Florence


ix+400 pages with frontispiece, one illustration and diagrams and index. Royal octavo (9 3/4" x 6 3/4") bound in original brown cloth with gilt lettering to spine. (Betts: 6-33) First edition.

Also published in New York, Stechart, 1915. Includes an account of chess in Iceland (chapters: Polar chess, Chess in the sagas, The story of Frithiof) whence it came from England in the 12th century, and it developed peculiarities in rule and nomenclature which existed until the 19th century. Only part (about on-seventh) of the book concerns chess, the remainder ("Stray notes") deals with the Europeans history of a group of other games: draughts, fox and geese, tables, merelles, or the morris game, etc.

Fiske was born on November 11, 1831 in Ellisburg, New York. He attended Cazenovia Seminary, New York and Hamilton college in Clinton, New York. During his sophomore year, he left Hamilton to study Scandinavian languages in Europe, supporting himself as a correspondent for the New York Tribune. He spent his last two years in the Uppsala University in Sweden, also supporting himself by teaching English. In 1852, he returned to the U.S. and took a job as a librarian at the Astor Library in N.Y. During his stay at Astor Library, Fiske began his personal library containing a collection of Icelandic books which would become the largest in America as well as other topics such as Persian texts and philological works. Fiske, an avid chess player, was approached by Hardman Phillips Montgomery, a former postmaster of Philadelphia, about staging a contest between the three best chess players in the U. S. Fiske liked the idea, but not known for thinking small and quite aware of the importance of the London International Tournament in 1851, he proposed instead a National Tournament at which players from all over the country could meet and test themselves, but also at which the leading chess players could establish an organization to promote and encourage chess in America as well as establish standard rules of play. And so through Fiske the 1st American Chess Congress was conceived. Through the Congress, he met and became a close friend to the chess prodigy, Paul Morphy. Afterwards he wrote what most chess scholars consider one of the finest tournament books, the Book of the American Chess Congress. For the next few years, he edited the American Chess Monthly, with Paul Morphy listed as nominal co-editor. When Fiske failed to receive an expected promotion at the Astor Library in 1859, he resigned and took a position as secretary of the American Geographical Society where he remained until 1861 when he was attached to the American Legation to Vienna, serving under John Lothrop Motley. Returning to the U.S. in 1864, he was made editor of the Syracuse Daily Journal until 1866, followed by that of the Hartford Courant. In 1868 Fiske traveled to Egypt and Palestine, acting as a correspondent for several newspapers and upon his return in January of 1869 accepted the position as Professor of Northern European Languages and as Head Librarian for the new Cornell University. Fiske held these positions until his resignation in 1883. In 1879 Fiske visited Iceland for his first and only time. He edited the first Icelandic Chess Magazine in 1901 (published in Venice) and donated thousands of chess books to the Icelandic libraries. In 1905 Fiske's famous book, Chess in Iceland and in Icelandic Literature was published posthumously.


Spine ends rubbed and bumped, corners bumped and gently rubbed else a very good copy.