Lewis Carroll Status Quo Chess Set by Jaques of London Type III.
This is an example of a Jaques Type III Status Quo Portable Chess set, more commonly known as the Status Quo Travel Chess Set. This particular set was used by Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). It measures 12-5/8″ long by 12-5/8″ wide. The red stained and natural bone chessmen have a King measuring 3/4″ tall by 1″ in diameter. The name “Jaques London” is imprinted along one edge of the frame and was produced around 1870. The Lewis Carroll Status Quo chess set still has its original, somewhat worn, Black Leather slip case. The pieces are in excellent condition with some wear showing on the red stained army. The white side of the locking mechanism works well. The mechanism on the red side also works, but the portion of the plate under a few of the squares has been worn enough to allow pieces placed on those squares to be released. This wear is to be expected from almost 150 years of usage.
Lewis Carroll Status Quo Chess Set History.
This Jaques In Statu Quo Chess Set has a very interesting provenance. It was was used by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) during the period in his life when he was writing Alice in Wonderland. A copy of a newspaper clipping and a hand-written letter documenting the history of this set is included. The letter head reads:
Grosbrook House, Binfield Heath, Henley-On-the-Thames. The letter reads: This folding chess set was used by its owner Caron (?) Liddell to play chess with Louis Carroll during the time he wrote Alice in wonderland. Alice was in fact Alice Liddell his daughter. When Caron (?) Liddell died he left this chess set to Cuthbert Bush (?) Cuthbert’s father Bishop Bush (?) had originally been Caron Liddell’s curate at Jarrow (Jarrow was a Grammar School opened in 1911 located in Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, England). When he was a young man, Cuthbert Bush was killed in 1914 war, and his board was left to his cousin Mrs. M. E. Woods.
In Statu Quo Chess Set Information For Collectors
The Jaques In Statu Quo patent application is dated 1st July 1853 and was submitted on 2nd July. The patent was granted on 16th August 1853. The Status Quo, as it is often called, features a hinged folding board with an ingenious patented locking system. By depressing two bone buttons located at each half of the chess board, the chessmen, which have slotted brass pegs, are locked in place so the game can be halted midway and stored for a later date with the position kept in tact. An additional inside button unlocks the pieces. The Rosewood and Holly chessboard is housed within a mahogany frame.
Jaques produced In Statu Quo portable chess sets in four basic sizes of two configurations each. These were available in either Red-stained and natural Bone or African ivory. Each chess set came housed in a Black leather carrying case with a lockable flap covering the small end of the case. The lockable outside of the flap had a gold embossed Jaques manufacturer’s emblem. To facilitate remembering which side had the move when the game was paused, there was a slider on the underside of the flap which would show either a red or a white swatch. Each case originally had a pull-ribbon to aid removal of the chess set. Few of these ribbons survived.
- The most common size was 9-1/8″ x 9-1/8″, Type I, with bone or ivory chessmen having a King height of 5/8″ by 7/8″ in diameter. These came in two leather case configurations. One was a rather typical parallelepiped, the second had a rounded spine with a small lid atop the spine to insert the captured chessmen. It had a lockable flap covering the small end of the case.
- The next size and probably the most practical, the Type II, was 11-1/2″ x 9-1/8″ and used the same bone or ivory pieces as the smaller size. The major difference
between this and the smaller sets was the extra field at each end to secure the captured chessmen. Because of the extra space on the board for captured pieces, this set did not utilize the rounded spine Leather case.
- There were two larger sizes. The Type III set, like the item offered here, measured 12-5/8″ x 12-5/8″ with bone or ivory chessmen having a King height of 3/4″ by 1″ in diameter. These came in one leather case configuration with a lockable flap covering the small end of the case and pull-ribbon to aid removal of the chess set.
- The largest of the In Statu Quo Travel Chess sets was the Type IV. It measured 16-5/8″ x 12-5/8″ with space for the captured chessmen at each end of the chessboard. It utilized the same bone or ivory chessmen as the set above. These came in a rather distinctive leather case configuration It was a typical parallelepiped, but with its lockable flap covering the long face of the case. This is the set pictured in the “Death Photo” of World Champion Alexander Alekhine.