08 January 2012

Ruy Lopez in Italian

My series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price is sometimes about comic books, as in Batman Plays Chess with the Joker, and sometimes about more serious works. The eBay item that I've captured in the composite image below was titled '1584 RUY LOPEZ Scacchi FAMOUS RENAISSANCE CHESS MANUAL BOOK Rare 1ST ITALIAN ed', received 37 bids from 20 different bidders, and sold for US $4250. The price more than doubled during the last day of the seven day auction.

The long description of the item pulled together details about the book's origin,

Printed by Cornelio Arrivabene, Venice, 1584. FIRST ITALIAN EDITION. Text in Italian (translated from Spanish by Giovanni Domenico Tarsia). Illustrated with woodcuts of the chess pieces and the chessboard. "C'est la seule édition italienne de ce livre fort rare." (Olschki, Choix de Livres Anciens, 320)

its impact,

López's influential Libro de la invención liberal y arte del juego del axedrez, first published in Spanish in Alcala de Henares in 1561 (that edition is now exceedingly rare!), was one of the earliest chess instruction manuals ever written, and the first major chess book since the 1512 work by Pedro Damiano. López decided to write his own chess manual after finding Damiano's book unsatisfactory. Being the first translation of Lopez's book into a foreign language, and the first edition printed outside Spain, this 1584 Italian edition was crucial in making the work popular in Italy (then an emerging chess power in Renaissance Europe) - and in the entire Europe.

its author,

López de Segura (ca.1530-1580) was born in Zafra near Badajoz, probably of Marrano Jewish descent, and he studied and lived in Salamanca. Considered by many to be the first world chess champion, as he won the first modern chess tournament in Madrid, he was certainly one of the leading players of his day. In 1559-60 he went to Rome to attend an ecclesiastical conference, and whilst there, he defeated all the best players, including Leonardo di Bona. In 1561 he proposed the 50-move rule to claim a draw and introduced the word 'gambit' (particularly, in relation to the Damiano Gambit). It was an important time in the development of the game in Europe when Kings, Popes and gentlemen become patrons of chess players and organised chess competitions at court. In 1574-75 King Philip II of Spain organised a tournament and invited all the top Italian players, though this time López de Segura lost to Leonardo da Curtie and Paolo Boi, though impressing the King by playing a simultaneous blindfold tournament.

and its physical presentation.

Quarto (dimensions of leaves: 20 cm x 14½ cm). Bound in 18th-century reverse vellum (reusing a Hebrew manuscript), with a hand-written title to spine. Pagination: [viii], 214, [2] pp. Signatures: A-Z4 *4 Aa-Dd4. Collated and COMPLETE. Printed in Italic letter with some use of Roman type. Illustrated with seven small woodcut figures of chess board and pieces in text, as well as a woodcut printer's device to title-page, numerous elegant historiated and foliated woodcut initials, head and tail-pieces. Dedicatory Epistle by the translator on leaves A2r-A4r. Colophon and register on leaf Dd4r (verso blank).

I found the 'seven small woodcut figures of chess board and pieces', also pictured with the item, especially attractive. You can see the Knight and the Rook in the bottom row of my composite.

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