Large Type I English Bone Barleycorn Chessmen.
Offered here is very rare example of an unusually large set of very early Type I English Bone Barleycorn Chessmen, with broad, simple turned ringed features on the Royal Pieces. The Type I Bone Barleycorn Chess pieces are all mounted atop smooth baluster stems with simple circular bases. The chessmen are fabricated from natural and Cochineal-stained bone. This set is very similar to the chess pieces shown on a chess table with Paul Morphy on the frontispiece of Philip Sergeant’s Morphy’s Games of Chess. True Barleycorn style chessmen have broad barrel-bodied Kings and Queens, and are normally fabricated from bone, rarely ivory. This King stands a massive 6-0″ tall with a 1-1/2″” diameter base. The Rooks are broad, reticulated towers with cogged rings and tapered staffs surmounted with a ball finial and flag, The Bishops, Knights and Pawns are baluster mounted headpieces. The chessmen are housed in a period Mahogany slide-top box, possibly original to the set. The chessmen are in excellent condition. The set was produced in the U.K. around 1800.
A comparison of the King in this set with a typical type I Barleycorn King is shown in the adjacent image.
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.