The Book of Chess

Jacob de Cessolis

Translated & Edited
by H.L. Williams

Taylor’s Bookshelf. Midwest Book Review. March 2008
Reviewed by John Taylor

Ably translated and deftly edited by H.L. Williams, this Italica Press edition of Jacob de Cessolis’ “The Book of Chess,” was famous in its time and translated into several languages. De Cessolis was a Dominican friar in the Lombard region of Italy who gave a remarkable sermon (Liber de moribus hominum et officiis nobilium — Book of the Manners of Men and the Offices of the Nobility) that became better known to subsequent generations as “The Book Of Chess” and provided readers with a primer on the use of chess as a metaphor for the game of live, ending only in the ‘checkmate’ of the reader’s death.

It presents, through the analogy of chess pieces, a contemporary’s perspective of how medieval European social live and structure played out amongst the various classes that composed it, from the governed to the governors, and from the workers to the fighters. Beginning with an informative bibliographic essay, “The Book of Chess” is divided into four main sections: Background of the Game, The Noble Figures, The Commoners, Openings and Moves.

Enhanced with a series of woodcut images and a comprehensive index, “The Book Of Chess” is especially recommended for academic library, Medieval Studies collections in general, and non-specialist, general readers with an interest in medieval social structure in particular.

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