07 June 2019

19th Century Chess Culture

While looking into what came After 'Le Palamede' ...

The first French periodical doesn't even bring us to the 1851 London tournament. What publications appeared afterwards? [...] I managed to find all of the above on Google Books.

...Google kept suggesting other French chess publications from the same era. Most of the suggestions were primers about how to play chess, but one of them was more interesting: 'Bibliographie anecdotique du jeu des échecs' by Jean Gay (1864). That title translates to something like 'Anecdotal Bibliography of the Game of Chess'.

Left: Title page; Right: Table of contents (1/3)

I started to flip through it and realized that it was a catalog of chess culture in the mid-19th century. The book is organized by country. Germany ('Allemagne') takes up 19 pages, the U.S. ('Amérique') 4 pages, England ('Angleterre', i.e. Great Britain) 24 pages, while France gets a whopping 89 pages. After the countries, there are 20 other topics ('Variétes') that take up almost 70 pages.

The material for individual countries is further divided into topics like historical anecdotes, clubs, periodicals, and celebrities. It would be easy to get lost in this material, so I'll try to limit myself to another post or two out of the 300 pages.

Who was Jean Gay? Collectors exchange (chess-museum.com), says,

Jean Gay was a professional bibliographer and book seller in mid-19th century Brussels -- same as his father Jules -- who edited most of his bibliographies in Paris. In toto, the bibliography of works edited by the Gays lists 82 editions! -- a lot of them are what today would be called erotic or pornographic literature of their days

The copy of the chess book on sale carried a price of $1400. Before discovering that paragraph, I wasn't aware that 'professional bibliographer' was a career choice.

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