The Book of Chess - Jacob De Cessolis


127 pages, paperback

CHESS IS LIKE LIFE. And “Checkmate!” like death. Whether the game and pieces represent war, court society, or the world at large, in a general way and simply seen, the game has come to symbolize the world and death.

This metaphor comes down from the thirteenth century when Jacob de Cessolis, a Dominican friar in the Lombard region of Italy, delivered a sermon based on the game. The sermon was so well received that his fellow friars insisted he write it out. His Liber de moribus hominum et officiis nobilium (Book of the Manners of Men and the Offices of the Nobility), now simply called The Book of Chess, was famous throughout Europe. It was translated into numerous languages and presents readers with a primer on the game and a look into a contemporary’s view of the structure and ways of medieval society.

From kings and queens, to farmers and gamblers, Jacob outlined the virtues and vices, obligations and inclinations of various members of medieval society: those who governed, those who fought and those who worked, playing out their qualities on the chess board.