Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España, MS Vit. 25-6

Madrid On the Game of Chess Facsimile Edition

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This curious treaty on chess, which entered the National Library Manuscript section in 1869, comes from the Cabildo Bookshop in Toledo's Cathedral. It had previously belonged to the Librarian Cardinal of the Vatican, Francisco Javier Zelada (1717-1801). On page 47 there is the name of Innocenzo Romano, who might have owned the codex before Cardinal Zelada.

An Example of a Work Today Forgotten

Its elegant gothic lowercase lettering, some of its abbreviation sign modes, as well as the characteristics of its delicate figures suggest an origin in the Bohemian Circle, which had its centre in Prague under Wenceslaus IV (1378-1419).

It is evident that our text has a relation to a work today forgotten, but that had an enormous popularity all around Europe by the end of the Middle Ages: the Moral Treaty of Chess, composed by a Dominican, whose name seems to be Jacobo de Cessolis, but whose life is hardly known, who wrote it in the late thirteenth century. However, despite the obvious analogy, the Madrid On the Game of Chess must not be considered an abbreviation or summary of Cessolis's work since there are important discrepancies. Therefore, a different source could be considered. Nevertheless, the model for the illustrations might have been some luxurious copy of the book by Cessolis.

A Glimpse into the Spirit of Medieval Times

The work is representative of a whole state of spirit in the medieval man and contains fifteen brightly colored miniatures, some of them full page, divided into two or more scenes which illustrate the text. They represent court scenes, game scenes and others like war or works and tasks, all of them moralizing.

It contains eight chapters with the following titles: I. Of its invention; II. Of how the chess board represents the city of Babylon; III. Of how the chess board presents two kingdoms in opposition; IV. The meaning of chess figures; V. Of how the location of chess figures teaches how to set up a camp; VI. Of how the movement of chess figures represents straight and praiseworthy actions; VII. Of how the movement of the chess figures represents the way of organizing the armies in the line of battle; VIII. How the ulterior movement of chess figures represents the meeting of the armies.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Madrid On the Game of Chess": Tractatus de Ludo Scacorum facsimile edition, published by Siloé, arte y bibliofilia, 2008

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Manuscript book description compiled by the publisher.
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Tractatus de Ludo Scacorum

Burgos: Siloé, arte y bibliofilia, 2008

  • Commentary (Spanish) by Hermoso Cuesta, Miguel; Pérez de Arriaga, Joaqín
  • Limited Edition: 898 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Madrid On the Game of Chess: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.


Leather binding in wooden-glass case.

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