Antique Selenus Bone Chessmen

Lot #457. Antique Selenus Bone Chessmen

Antique Selenus Bone Chessmen.

Offered here is graceful set of Antique Selenus Bone Chessmen, natural and red-stained, circa 1750 – 1800.  The King stands 4.2″ tall with a 1.1″ diameter base. The chessmen, often referred to Tulip or Garden sets. are in excellent condition. The chess pieces are housed in a replacement wooden box, not shown. The Sandalwood and bone trimmed box shown is not included with the chessmen. A unique feature of this style is the unusual full-bodied “Rocking Horse” style Knights. This style of chess pieces was made in Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Northern Europe. The standard for these designs included delicate, slender, lathe-turned bodies and bases, fitted with circular tiers resembling crowns. The Kings and Queens were distinguished by height and number of tiers. These chessmen play and display best on a chessboard with 1-3/4″ to 1-7/8″ squares. A suitable antique chessboard for these chessmen can be fund elsewhere on this site. See:


The Selenus design was named after Gustavus Selenus, a pseudonym of Augustus the Younger, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Gustavus is a creative anagram of Agustus.  Selenus comes from Selene, Greek goddess of the moon, an obvious reference to Luneburg. In 1616, Augustus (Gustavus Selenus) published the first German chess book,  Das Schach- oder Königsspiel.  In addition to chess instruction, this book contained excellent illustrations of contemporary chess pieces. German chess pieces at the time tended to be slender with stacked floral crowns. The pieces became taller, thinner and more elaborate as time went on. Their floral motif has led to their being known as Garden or Tulip sets. The Selenus pattern sets were manufactured in Central Europe until around 1914. The Selenus design is one of the most elegant of the classical chessmen in use before the standardization of chess pieces ushered in with the advent of the Staunton chessmen. The revolutionary Staunton design was registered by Nathaniel Cooke and launched, in September of 1849 by John Jaques of London.

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