Jaques Library Staunton Chessmen
A set of Jaques Library Staunton Chessmen, circa 1895. The chess pieces are Boxwood and Ebony. The King stands 3-1/8″ tall with a 1-1/2″ diameter base. The Knights are of the Hartston style. Both Kings are stamped “Jaques London ” on the rim of the base of their bases. The Kingside Rooks and Knights are stamped with a red King’s crown on their summits. This King height is often referred to as the “Library Size.” The Knights are very finely carved. The Jaques Library Staunton chessmen are housed in their original mahogany slide-top box with the original yellow manufacturer’s label. These sets were produced between 1890 and 1899. The chessmen and box are in very good-to-excellent condition. The chessboard shown is not included, but is available.
The Staunton Pattern was first offered to the public for sale in the Fall of 1849 by the company of John Jaques of London. The original design was registered to Nathaniel Cooke in the Spring of that year. The chessmen design was named after the self-proclaimed world champion, Howard Staunton, an English Shakespearean scholar. Whether or not the design was actually the brainchild of Cooke is open to much speculation. It is relatively certain that the pattern was not designed by the egotistical Staunton, as he never laid claim to such.
What is known is that, on 1st March, 1849, Nathaniel Cooke, 198, Strand, London, registered an Ornamental Design for a set of Chess-Men, under the Ornamental Designs Act of 1842. At that date, there was no provision for the registration of any design or articles of ivory, registration was limited to Class 2, articles made chiefly of wood.
The right to manufacture such sets was acquired by John Jaques and he began to supply the retail trade on 29 September, 1849. On the same day, the following advertisement appeared Illustrated London News: AA set of Chessmen, of a pattern combining elegance and solidity to a degree hitherto unknown, has recently appeared under the auspices of the celebrated player Mr. STAUNTON. A guiding principle has been to give by their form a signification to the various pieces – thus the king is represented by a crown, the Queen by a coronet, &c. The pieces generally are fashioned with convenience to the hand; and it is to be remarked, that while there is so great an accession to elegance of form, it is not attained at the expense of practical utility. Mr. STAUNTON’S pattern adopts but elevates the conventional form; and the base of the Pieces being of a large diameter, they are more steady than ordinary sets.@ Illustrated London News, September 8, 1849.
The Library size is always unweighted. The Standard size came both unweighted and weighted (after around 1855 or so). The Small Club and Full Club sizes were always weighted. Ivory sets were never weighted.
The early unweighted wooden sets came in baize-lined mahogany hinge-top boxes as well as carton-Pierre caskets and had mechanically numbered labels. Later, the hinge-top boxes were replaced by mahogany slide top boxes with their labels on the top of the box. Weighted sets came in mahogany hinge-top boxes. Ivory sets came in carton Pierre caskets, mahogany hinge-top boxes and leather boxes (after around 1880), as well as large fitted Spanish Mahogany coffers. All wooden sets came with green (Orange-yellow, briefly in the 1850s and white in the early 1900s) labels with facsimile signatures after around 1850-1851. Ivory sets came with red labels. The earliest labels were white or pale blue and the first 1000 were hand-signed and numbered by Howard Staunton and had “Jaques London” impressed on their labels.