An allegory for medieval society, hidden in a wonderfully illuminated treatise on chess

Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis

Amberg (Germany) — 1458

Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis

Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis

Amberg (Germany) — 1458

  1. The Dominican monk Jacobus de Cessolis' treatise on chess is an allegory for the medieval estate-based society

  2. This German edition from 1485 is one of the most beautifully designed specimens of this popular work

  3. This stylized iconographic program graphically shows what the text of the work cannot express

Schachbuch des Jacobus de Cessolis

Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis

The Queen

Jacobus de Cessolis used the game of chess as an allegory for medieval society, and one of the most important players in both was the queen. She is pictured here enthroned with her royal regalia, the symbols of her power: crown, scepter, and orb – all highlighted with gold leaf. With a serene look on her face, she is wearing a blue jacket trimmed with ermine and her beautiful pink dress has a wonderfully angular and stylized fall of folds in the Zackenstil or “jagged style”.

Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis

Alternative Titles:
  • Schachbuch des Jacobus de Cessolis
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis arose ca. 1330. It is the first treatise on the game of chess and is simultaneously an allegory for the medieval estate-based society. It is one of the most widely disseminated works of the Middle Ages. The German edition from 1485 contains 15 miniatures and numerous decorative initials, which illustrate the societally critical text.

Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis

Jacobus de Cessolis was an Italian monk of the Dominican Order who lived in the 14th century. He achieved fame through his Chess Book, which is one of the first tractates about the game of chess. It is a book about the customs of the people and the duties of the genteel and the base**, which he elucidates using the chess metaphor. This work is extant in over 100 manuscripts and represents one of the most widely disseminated works of the Late Middle Ages. The German edition of the document arose in Amberg in 1485 and is an especially appealing specimen with its 15 miniatures and numerous decorative initials.

The Game of Chess as a Metaphor

Based on the sermons of Cessolis, he uses the work to adduce the game of chess as an allegory for society. What is crucial, is that the noble figures, such as the king and queen, cannot accomplish anything on their own, and are dependent on the cooperation of the common figures, meaning the peasantry. These were even named with professional titles, including, among others, smiths, merchants, and doctors. As a result, the role of working people of the lower orders was emphasized. Not only did the people have obligations to the nobility and clergy, but also the other way around. The societally critical work did not lose its popularity over the following centuries.

Programmatic Miniatures

The German edition of the famous chess tractate contains 15 highly valuable miniatures. In the course of these there are not only individual pictures, but also iconographic programs. These stylized iconographic programs graphically show what the script of the work cannot express on its own. As a result, the miniatures serve not only as decoration, but also offer support for greater understanding of the work. Alongside the miniatures, the text is adorned by a total of 29 colored initials.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Schachbuch des Jacobus de Cessolis
Size / Format
138 pages / 20.3 x 14.7 cm
Date
1458
Style
Gothic
Language
Illustrations
15 miniatures and 29 initials
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Schachbuch des Jacobus de Cessolis

Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis

The Innkeeper

Here we see the sixth of eight peasants presented in this allegorical work concerning medieval society. Green and purple acanthus leaves grow from the blue “S” initial set against a burnished gold ground on the left margin. The red and white shield in the miniature indicates that his noble lords are Hapsburgs.

The innkeeper holds a tray with a cup on it, while a mass of keys hang from his belt. Both his facial expression and the gesture of his right hand are welcoming and friendly. He stands in front of his inn and is well dressed for a commoner, wearing black boots, red tights, and a pink tunic trimmed with blue frill on the sleeves. The bottom of the frame is left open, and it seems as though he might walk out from the page to greet you.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis“

Schachbuch des Jacobus de Cessolis
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Chess Book of Jacobus de Cessolis – Pal. lat. 961 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
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Schachbuch des Jacobus de Cessolis

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1988
Limited Edition
2980 copies
Binding
Leather
Commentary
1 volume by Chiara Frugoni, Giovanna Balbi and Anezka Vidmanova
Language: German
More Information
Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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