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English, circa 1870 - 1900
The box closed: Height 2.5” (6cm) Width 9” (23cm) Depth 4.5” (11cm)
Stock No. 9621
Literary references to the game of chess being played during travel date right back to the 12th century. In the tale of Sir Tristam and his lover Isolde it is written, ‘It was an essential portion of the equipment of the troubadour or minstrel that he should be a chess-player, and he carried the implements of play with him. Thus, Sir Tristam, travelling disguised as a minstrel…’ King Richard 1 (1157-1199) used to play chess whilst travelling on his crusades to the Holy Land. The 16th century traveller, Paolo Boi, who journeyed all over Europe playing chess against the best players of the time, was even said to have played the game with some Turks whilst riding on horseback as he was travelling through Hungary. Louis Xlll of France (1601 – 1643) also owned a chessboard ‘made of wool with spiked pieces made for use when travelling’. In the early 1700s, Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia, had a leather folding chessboard that is now housed in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and Napoleon also played chess on his Polish Campaign. Folding chess boards with a compartment for the pieces have been discovered from as early as the 1300s. The English travel writer Richard Twiss wrote in 1787, ‘Chessboards are now commonly made for the use of those who travel by water, or in a carriage, with a hole in each square, a peg at the bottom of every man…’
There are very few examples of chess sets from these earlier years, but, in the mid 19th century, the Jaques Company marketed the ‘In Statu Quo’ set in two sizes, 9” and 13” square. The smaller size was produced in two styles, one with additional holes for captured pieces and the other without. Each is highly sought after. All were stamped on the outside, top edge of the mahogany case with “IN STATU QUO” and “PATENT” or “PATENTEE” and carry the “JAQUES” or “JAQUES & SON” mark, the latter coming into use in 1860 when the son joined the partnership. It was the locking mechanism of these sets that was the unique feature, holding the pieces in place during travel and releasing them whilst play was in progress. The company filed an initial design patent in 1852 followed by the Statu Quo locking mechanism design being patented in 1853. The pieces are of a simplified, Staunton design. Most of the black leather slip-cases with bue velvet lining that were originally supplied with these sets are now missing.
The author, Lewis Carroll, noted in his diary of 24th December 1866, “Left Oxford by the 8.25 for Birmingham and so home by Derby and York. We had to wait an hour at Normanton, when I brought out my in statu quo chess-board and had a game with one of my travelling companions”.
Unfortunately, all the Jaques company records were destroyed during the Blitz in WW2.