Author: Jacobus de Cessolis (1250-c1322)
Publisher: Elliot Stock
lxxii++201 pages. Royal octavo(9 1/4" x 6") bound in quarter leather with gilt lettering to spine. Translated by William Caxton, with an introduction by William E A Axon. First written by Jacobus de Cessolis in 1275. William Caxton published the first English edition from the French in 1474. The second book published in English. Axon's 70 page introduction traces the biographical and literary history of the book and provides a useful bibliography of editions, reprints and translations.(Betts 43-15) (van der Linde-Niemeijeriana 4233) First edition thus.
Cessolis was a Dominican friar from north-west Italy. Somewhere between 1275 and 1300 Fràhe wrote Scachorum or De Moribus Hominum et de Officiis Nobilium Super Ludo Scaccorum which is Latin for simply About the Game of Chess or About the Customs of Men and the Noble Actions Involving the Game of Chess. This book is a series of sermons metaphorically using chess to depict the relationships between a King and the various estates of his Kingdom. The complicated metaphor was useless for those who didn't play the game, so the author gave detailed instructions concerning the rules of chess as it was played in the 13th century. For all its moralization, the main interest of the text today is these instructions.
It was during the 14th century that this book was translated from the original Latin into Catalan, Dutch, English, French, German and Italian. It was translated into French and printed in Toulouse in 1476. De Ludo Scachorum was first translated into French in 1347. In 1474, 2 years before it was printed in French, William Caxton translated the text from the French (of Jean de Vignay) into English and printed it under the title, The Game of Chess. The Game of Chess was the second book printed in the English language. The first book, also printed by Caxton was The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, also translated from French (of Raoul le Fèvre) and also in 1474. Caxton printed almost 100 books, and of these 20 were translations from French or Dutch into English. The Game of Chess has the second distinction of being the first book to be reprinted! The second printing of the book in 1483 had an interesting sidebar. It was printed in Westminster. The first edition was printed in Bruges where Caxton had been politically involved in the local merchant's association. He had ingratiated himself with Margaret, the Duchess of York, the sister of King Edward IV - in fact it was under her urging that he translated The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye to begin with. The book was dedicated to Edward's son and Margaret's brother - George, Duke of Clarence by his humble and unknown servant, William Caxton. Caxton set up a press in Westminster in 1476 and, when in 1483 he reprinted the book, he praises the book in the dedication for it's moral value and ...woodcut illustrations but doesn't mention George who happened to have been beheaded for treason in 1478. footnote: It seems possible, though not completely certain that Cessolis got his material from an earlier compilation of sermons written in 1252 called The Innocent Morality, supposedly written by Johannes Gallensis (aka John of Wales). But it's also been attributed to Pope Innocent III (where it gets it's title). The Innocent Morality, ironically perhaps was printed in French in 1470 and is the first time the term for Chess is seen in a printed book.
Former library with call number to spine and imprint on title. Corners bumped and rubbed thru, hinges cracked, spine taped, inner hinges cracked, over all a good copy.