FIRST ITALIAN EDITION OF A FUNDAMENTAL TREATISE ON CHESS

Il giuoco de gli scacchi di Rui Lopez, spagnuolo nuovamente tradotto in lingua italiana da M. Gio. Domenico Tarsia.

Venice, Cornelio Arrivabene, 1584.

£4,850

FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. (viii), 214, (ii). Italic letter with some Roman, small woodcut printer’s device to title, elegant historiated and foliated woodcut initials, head and tail-pieces; seven small woodcut figures of chess board and pieces in text, early marginal manuscript Italian annotations, underlinings and corrections sometimes making precise additions to the text. Title page a bit browned and dusty, small old repair to blank upper outer corner, some age browning and mostly marginal spotting, single worm hole to fore-edge of final leaf. A used but still good and interesting copy, in excellent modern natural morocco, covers bordered gilt, gilt olive branch corner and centre pieces, spine with raised bands and gilt fleurons, old yellow edges.

The first Italian translation, and second edition, of this fundamental treatise on chess by the Spanish Bishop Ruy Lopez de Segura. The very rare first Spanish text was published in Alcala de Henares in 1561. It was the first major chess book since Damiano’s of 1512. López de Segura was born in Zafra near Badajoz, probably of Marrano Jewish descent, and he studied and lived in Salamanca. Considered by many to be the first world chess champion, as he won the first modern chess tournament in Madrid, he was certainly one of the leading players of his day; there are still moves named after him such as the Ruy Lopez opening.

In 1559-60 he went to Rome to attend an ecclesiastical conference and whilst there he defeated all the best players, including Leonardo di Bona. In 1561 he proposed the 50-move rule to claim a draw and introduced the word gambit (specifically, the Damiano Gambit). It was an important time in the development of the game in Europe when Kings, Popes and gentlemen become patrons of chess players and organised matches at court.

In 1574-75 King Philip II of Spain organised a tournament and invited all the top Italian players. Although this time López de Segura lost to Leonardo da Curtie and Paolo Boi, he impressed the King by playing a simultaneous blindfold tournament. Curtie, who eventually won the tournament, received the princely prize of a thousand ducats.

Ruy López de Segura’s book starts with a basic description of the game and then gives detailed examples of plays and tactics. It has been the object of numerous studies and is considered one of the founding books of chess theory. It is also charmingly illustrated. An interesting copy of an important work.

BM STC It. C16. p. 393. Adams L1475. Palau 141991. Van der Linde 372.

L737

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