Calvert Type II English Playing Chess Set

Lot #347. Calvert Type II English Playing Chess Set

Calvert Type II English Playing Chess Set.

This offering is a fine example of a circa 1820s Calvert Type II English Playing Chess set, often incorrectly characterized as a Barleycorn-style chess set. True Barleycorn style chessmen have broad barrel-bodied Kings and Queens, and are normally fabricated from bone, rarely ivory. The chessmen here are natural and Cochineal-stained ivory. The King stands 3-1/2″ tall with a 1-3/8″ diameter base. The lack of a King’s cross finial belies its true size. The Cross finial can add as much as 1/2″ to the advertised height of the King. The bodies of the Royal Pieces lack embellishments similar to work seen on many Barleycorn Pattern chessmen. The Rooks are stout, pedestal mounted, reticulated towers with a howdah or secondary tower. The Bishops, Knights and Pawns resemble styles seen on typical Barleycorn chess sets.

This Calvert Type II English Playing Chess Set was produced by the firm of John Calvert, 189 Fleet St, London. John Calvert was a Master of the Worshipful Company of Turners (1819), and a leading chess maker in England from 1791 until his death in 1822, after which his widow Dorothy ran Calvert business until her death in 1840. Although the chessmen are not stamped,  the unmistakable Calvert Knight clearly marks this as a product of the John Calvert workshop.

Cochineal Dye. To create the red dye, Carminic acid is extracted from the female cochineal insects and is treated to produce carmine, which can yield shades of red such as crimson and scarlet. The body of the insect is 19–22% carminic acid. The insects are processed by immersion in hot water or exposure to sunlight, steam, or the heat of an oven. Each method produces a different color that results in the varied appearance of commercial cochineal. It takes about 80,000 to 100,000 insects to make one kilogram of cochineal dye.

Note: Several States have either enacted or have pending legislation restricting the sale or purchase of antique Ivory artifacts. Please check with your State Government before placing an order for any antique ivory from this website. International Trade in all forms of Elephant Ivory is strictly prohibited.


The term English Type II Playing set is used to describe a range of English Playing chess sets, primarily fabricated from ivory, and made mostly, but not uniquely, in England during the 19th centuryThis poplar chess set design is characterized by unadorned, narrow, tapered, ringed bodied Kings and Queens, mounted atop baluster pedestals. The Kings will normally have reeded crowns and may be surmounted by the traditional Maltese cross or other decorative finial. The Queens will have smooth spherical crowns, usually lacking finials.  Rooks are stout, usually pedestal  mounted towers, often sporting tapered staffs or Howdahs (secondary towers). Bishops, Knights and Pawns are baluster-mounted, not usually reeded.  Normally, the designs of the Bishops, Knights and Pawns are essentially identical to those found on Barleycorn and Type I English Playing sets. The English Type II Playing Chess Sets first appeared at the beginning of the 19th century and were in common use through the early 20th Century. Aside from Jaques, chessmen of this type were produced by John Calvert, William and Thomas Lund, George Merrifield, Fischer, Hezekiah Dixon and Charles Hastilow, among others.

Related posts