Chess: Its Origin offers the first English translation of De Ludis Orientalibus (1694), the seminal work on Chess history (in Latin and Hebrew) by Thomas Hyde. In the trilogy as a whole, numerous texts that are only briefly mentioned by Hyde or by the 19th century bibliographer Moritz Steinschneider are fully reproduced, translated and analysed.
An important theme of Chess, Jews and History is a new look at the references to games in Parthian and Talmudic texts reaching back to the time of Mar Samuel (3rd century AD), a contemporary of the first Sassanian Emperor Ardshir. These texts are cited to support the argument that Chess probably originated at a significantly earlier date than is generally supposed.
Further Hebrew Chess writings from the 11th to the 19th century, many extracted from rare books and documents, are examined against the background of Jewish cultural history. Notably, the manuscript The King's Delight (c. 1626), by Judah Modena, is presented in full (for the first time in English), and its richly allusive biblical language is elucidated with the aid of the Even-Shoshan Concordance.
In addition, Chess, Jews and History discloses Jewish contributions to Chess literature which, hitherto, have largely gone unrecognised. Examples of this are the "anonymous" Jewish translators working for Alfonso X of Spain, at whose behest the Libro del Acedrex (1283) was produced; the 14th-century writer Abu Zachariya, compiler of an Arabic Chess manuscript; and the converso Luis de Lucena, author of Repetición de amores y arte de Axedrez (1497). On the basis of new research, the last-named work is viewed in its full context in the Spain of the Inquisition, and its links with the Celestina are explored.
Chess among the Jews offers a translation of Oxford curator Steinschneider's authoritative work, first published in 1873. The original text is agreed to be unduly convoluted. The translation presents the material in a more accessible format and style, with a clearer ordering of references. Where suitable, it provides additional commentaries in the interests of easier comprehension.
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