Tractatus de Ludo Scacorum

**Vit. 25 - Array (Madrid, Spain)

Alternate Titles:

The Play of Chess by Jacobus de Cessolis, Schachbuch des Jacobus de Cessolis, Liber de moribus hominum et officiis nobilium sive super ludum scaccorum

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

The Play of Chess by Jacobus de Cessolis
Schachbuch des Jacobus de Cessolis
Liber de moribus hominum et officiis nobilium sive super ludum scaccorum

Type
Extent / Format

100 pages / 17.5 x 11.5 cm

Origin
Date
1400-1425
Style
Genre
Language
Artist / School

Author: Jacobus de Cessolis

Illustrations

15 miniatures

Former owners

Cardinal Francisco Javier Zelada
Toledo’s Cathedral

Short description

The spell of chess has enchanted people since it came to Europe from Persia and Arabia in the Middle Ages. Treatises on chess enjoyed wide circulation from the 13th century onward. One of the first of these treatises that was concerned with the “royal game” was the chess book by Jacobus de Cessolis from the year 1330. The representation of the game of chess as an allegory of medieval society was widely distributed, sometimes in wonderfully designed manuscripts. The Spanish National Library in Madrid houses a truly splendid specimen that originated from Czechia at the beginning of the 15th century and enchants with its marvelous miniatures.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Tractatus de Ludo Scacorum

The spell of chess has enchanted people since it came to Europe from Persia and Arabia in the Middle Ages. Treatises on chess enjoyed wide circulation from the 13th century onward. One of the first of these treatises that was concerned with the “royal game” was the chess book by Jacobus de Cessolis from the year 1330. The representation of the game of chess as an allegory of medieval society was widely distributed, sometimes in wonderfully designed manuscripts. The Spanish National Library in Madrid houses a truly splendid specimen that originated from Czechia at the beginning of the 15th century and enchants with its marvelous miniatures.

The Famous Author of the Chess Treatise

Jacobus de Cessolis was an Italian Dominican monk from the 14th century. Cessolis published his chess treatise in 1330 under the title Liber de moribus hominum et officiis nobilium ac popularium super ludo scacchorum (Book of the Customs of Man and the Duties of the Nobles and Commoners via the Game of Chess). With this document – one of the first that concerned itself with the strategy game in detail – Cessolis obtained great fame and was known across Europe. His chess book was one of the most widely read books of the Late Middle Ages.

King, Lady, Peasant…

In his chess book, Jacobus de Cessolis assembled texts from sermons, in which the game of kings served as an allegory for society. The various ranks of medieval society were conveyed in an exciting manner: there is a king and a peasant, but various other professions play a role as well. In this way, de Cessolis wanted to emerge morally-didactically as an arbiter of value, employing the symbolism of chess for this. This societally critical aspect is probably the what lent his entertaining chess book such great popularity**. After the Bible, it was probably the most widely read literary work of this time period!**

The Grandiose Artistic Furnishings

Jacobus de Cessolis’ chess book also offered wonderful examples for illumination. Numerous fascinating manuscripts attest to that. An exceptional specimen of this these illustrated chess books was made in Prague ca. 1400-1425. The codex, which resides today in Madrid, collects impressive miniatures across 100 pages, which richly illustrate the Latin text. 15 mostly half-page miniatures present benign scenes of the game of chess before an elaborately designed gold background from both everyday life or with royal protagonists**. For example, the spell of chess is clarified in a depiction of wildly gesticulating players, who have assembled around a board. That the artist who created these miniatures was a master of his trade is evidenced by the exceptional quality of the paintings. An amazing spatiality characterizes the miniatures, whether they be interior scenes or the depiction of a city. The figures were tenderly characterized and appointed with a variety of colors. Thus the artist was able to lend the simultaneously entertaining and educational chess treatise of Jacobus de Cessolis an appropriately artistic framework.

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