29 May 2018

An 1886 Photoshopped Illustration

Earlier this month I posted about the 2018 CJA Awards Announcement, where I noted,

The [CJA's] revamped site has 'News', mainly minutes from past CJA annual meetings, an 'Awards Archive' with links to relevant material, and back issues of The Chess Journalist, which hasn't been published since 2014.

Since then I've been downloading old copies of The Chess Journalist (TCJ), wondering what chess news/wisdom could be gleaned from the publication. In preparation for a recent weekend trip, I copied seven years of TCJ (2000-2006; 28 issues) to my Kindle, then spent an hour each morning flipping through them.

The Kindle is my favorite tool for reviewing digital documents. Whenever I find a page worth further research, I can take a snapshot as a reminder that there was something interesting on the page. This is how I prepared the material for Early U.S. Ratings : A Summary and an Exercise (October 2017), which was another vacation project based on digital copies of Chess Life from the 1950s.

One of the TCJ pages I noted is shown below. It was the cover for the September 2001 issue and re-uses a well known illustration from the 19th century.

The caption says,

"The Sixteen Leading Chess Players of the World" from the July 17, 1886 issue of The Graphic. • Standing: Mackenzie, Kolisch, Winawer, Bird, de Riviere, Mason, Potter, Schallopp, L.Paulsen, G.A.MacDonnell, Gunsberg. • Seated: Blackburne, Steinitz, Zukertort, Englisch.

I'm the type of person who counts everything. If I'm culling a collection of 32 items and end up with 30 items, I'd better find two items in the deleted tray. If not, I spend time to locate the source of the error. In the case of this TCJ cover I couldn't help but notice that of the 16 'leading players' shown in the illustration, only 15 were named. Who was missing?

I found three copies of the image in my archive. The best copy showed that the 1886 original had the names and nationalities of the players listed outside the border of the image. The best associated text copied that information. Unfortunately, the names in that text didn't correspond exactly to the TCJ list. This turned out to be because two of the players in the top row were identified in the list of names for the bottom row.

Putting this together, I determined that TCJ's missing player was Rosenthal, who is standing between de Riviere and Mason. The information from the 'best text' gave the following list:-

J.H. Blackburne (England), W. Steinitz (U.S.), J.H. Xukertort [sic?!] (England), B. Englisch (Austria-Hungary), Captain George MacKenzie (U.S.), Baron J. de Kolisch (Austria-Hungary), S. Winawer (Germany), H. E. Bird (England), M. de Riviere (France), S Rosenthal (France), James Mason (U.S.), W. Norwood Potter (England), Emil Schallopp (Austria-Hungary), Louis Paulsen (Germany), and Rev G. A. MacDonnell (England), Isidor Gunsberg (England).

With the help of this list I located more copies of the illustration on the Web. The best is at Chess Pictures (chessbookchats.blogspot.com; June 2017), where the image is tinted and expands to a large size where the face of each player can be seen clearly. I'm no expert on photoshopped images, but the original illustration from The Graphic appears to have been made through some sort of copy/paste process combining different sources.


Later: Re that last comment -- 'I'm no expert on photoshopped images...' -- a note under The Graphic's original caption ('Leading Chess Players') says, 'A Portrait Group'. When I first saw this on a zoomed copy of the illustration, I thought I was reading it wrong because the letters are severely blurred on my copy; the legend 'A Group Portrait' would make more sense. Afterwards I realized that 'A Portrait Group' describes the creative process: made from a group of portraits.

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