<The Art of Chess
by Jim Weinheimer
Curator of the Chess Exhibition
[ed- edited to fit]
Eugene Beauharnais Cook was a well known American chess
problemist. He composed his first problem while still at Princeton,
and later published his problems in newspapers and magazines
around the world. No less important were his contributions to chess
history. Working closely with other important scholars and
collectors, he amassed the third largest chess library in the world.
At his death in 1915, his collection came to Princeton University.
It consists of early-printed works, a great number of chess
magazines, and a wide range of correspondence with the most
important chess figures of the 19th and early 20th century. He was
also one of the earliest chess organizers, and his collection is
particularly rich in source material for the early history of
William Spackman, class of 1927, was a novelist, essayist, teacher
and chess editor. In the 1940s he edited the respected journal The
Chess Correspondent and also compiled a major library. He left his
chess collection to Princeton in 1955.
This collection primarily consists of tournament books and
bulletins, along with many game collections. Dr. and Mrs.
Benjamin Levene have collected chess sets from all over the world.
They now have one of the largest collections in the United States.
The exhibition itself is divided by several themes. There are
several fine examples of incunabulae, including a manuscript by
Jacobus de Cessolis Libellus de moribus hominum et de officiis
nobilium super ludo scaccorum. Manuscript. France, 15th century,
and Cook's most notable acquisition, Luis Ramˇrez de Lucena's
Repetici˘n de amores & arte de axedrez. Salamanca, ca. 1497, the
first chess book ever published.
All the major early treatises are displayed, Damiano's Libro da
imparare giocare … scachi, et de bellissimi partiti. Rome? 1510?,
Greco's The royall game of chesse-play. London, 1656, Ruy
Lopez's Libro de la inuenci˘n liberal y arte del juego del axedrez.
Alcal , 1561, Arthur Saul's The famous game of chesse-play.
London, 1672, and many others.
Later works include Paul Rudolph von Bilguer's Handbuch des
Schachspiels. Berlin, 1843, and the first American chess books:
Chess made easy. Philadelphia, 1802 (with Benjamin Franklin's
essay) and The Elements of chess. Boston, 1805.
There are a few books from the Spackmann collection, illustrating
its strengths. Among others, the tournament books from San
Sebastian 1911, and Zurich, 1935 are on display.
Cook attempted to collect problems exhaustively, and just a few
examples from his vast collection are on display. Of printed books,
there are Philip Stamma's Essai sur le jeu des ‚checs. Paris, 1737;
William Lewis's Oriental chess. London, 1817. Aaron Alexandre's
Collection des plus beaux problŠmes d'‚checs. Paris, 1846, Cook's
own publication American Chess-Nuts. New York, 1868. is here,
and Sam Loyd's Chess strategy. Elizabeth, 1878 (affectionately
dedicated to Cook).
There are also a huge number of problems from Cook's papers.
Framed on the walls are several original manuscripts of Cook's
problems. Also of interest is a computer demonstration which
animates six of Cook's problems, including his first problem, and
his clever Atalanta, the Fleet-Footed Queen, which was performed
with live pieces at the New York Academy of Music, in April,
Cook's deep interest in chess history is shown in several beautiful
early printed books, such as the Gesta Romanorum. Strassburg,
1499; and Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Arabshah's Kitab ajaib
al-maqdur fi akhbar Timur. Leyden, 1636.
Also displayed are copies of manuscripts made by John White and
Tassilo Heydebrand und der Lasa. These include marginalia and
annotations by Cook, White, and Heydebrand und der Lasa.
The chess automaton is described and explained by several books
on the subject. Among them, Observations on the automaton chess
player. London, 1819 and Joseph Friedrich, Freiherr zu Racknitz's
Ueber den Schachspieler des Herrn von Kempelen. Leipzig, 1789.
Finally, but certainly the most popular part of the exhibition are the
wonderful chess sets on loan from the collection of Dr. Benjamin
Levene. The center piece is the humorous set by Doug Anderson:
Rock and roll vs. Classical musicians. The king of Rock and roll,
Elvis Presley, is accompanied by his Queen, Tina Turner, while the
classical side is led by Leonard Bernstein, with his Queen, Kirsten
Flagsted, dressed as a Valkyrie. Other sets include a modern Italian
puzzle set, a Waterford crystal set, and a rare Ivory set of mounted
chessmen from Germany.
The exhibition is free to the public and will run until September
21, 1997. Hours are: