Type I English Barleycorn Chessmen, 5″ King.
This offering is a fine example of a very early set of Type I English Barleycorn Chessmen, heavily adorned, fluted bodies on the Royal Pieces with fine acanthus leaf carving atop the King’s “fountain-type” finial. The English Barleycorn chessmen are all mounted atop smooth baluster stems with “cogged” circular bases.The chessmen are fabricated from natural and red-stained bone. True Barleycorn style chessmen have broad barrel-bodied Kings and Queens, and are normally fabricated from bone, rarely ivory. The King stands an impressive 5-0″ tall with a 1-3/8″ diameter base. The Rooks are massive, reticulated towers with fluted bases, cogged rings and a tapered staff surmounted with a ball finial. The characteristic flags are mounted atop the Rooks. The Bishops, Knights and Pawns are baluster mounted headpieces with cogged bases and collars. The chessmen are in excellent condition with a few repaired breaks. Very few Barleycorn chess sets would surpass this set in terms of sheer size, craftsmanship and ornate detail. The set was probably produced between 1820 and 1840. The pieces are similar to those depicted in the Jaques Pattern Book, shown opposite.
The term Type I English Barleycorn chess set is used to describe a range of Barleycorn designs which feature highly decorated, fluted bodies and fountain finials often with carved acanthus leaves atop the Kings. The better sets will often have copious leaf and rope carvings on the bodies of the Royal pieces and cogged cases. These chessmen were primarily fabricated from bone and were made in England during the 19th century. The Queens will have reeded spherical crowns, usually with small, simple finials. The Royal pieces will be pedestal mounted, often with reeded details and cogged collars. Rooks are normally stout towers, often sporting tapered staffs or secondary towers and flags. Bishops, Knights and Pawns are baluster mounted, often reeded. The English Barleycorn Type I chess sets first appeared at the beginning of the 19th century, which coincided with the advent of the ornamental lathe. These sets were produced by several manufacturers throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Although the precise manufacturer of this particular set is not known for certain, a page from the remnants of the 1860 Jaques Pattern Book on the left shows several similar Barleycorn sets produced by the firm and might provide a hint as to the maker of this particular set of English Barleycorn chessmen.