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OHESS IN ICELAND 



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CHESS IN ICELAND 



AHD IN 



ICELANDIC LITERATURE 

WITH HISTORICAL NOTES ON 
OTHER TABLE-OAliES 



WILLAED FISKE 



FLORENCE 
THE FLORENTINB TYPOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY 



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PREFACE 



The story of its compilation may explain, although it may not excuse the 
mongrel character and untidy arrangement of this Tolume. Many years ago, 
at an age when neither the author's acquaintance -^ith Icelandic literature 
nor his familiarity with the game of chess was in any wise commensurate 
with his interest in these subjects, he wrote and published two brief articles 
concerning chess-play in Iceland. * The periodical of very restricted circu- 
lation in which these essays appeared has long been out of print, and is 
rarely to be found either in private or public collections of books. Certain 
circumstances determined the writer to reprint them for limited distribution 
in Iceland. Upon reading them in the printer's proofs, their meagreness and 
defects became markedly evident ; thereupon some omitted incidents in the • 
history of the game in the northern island were hurriedly written out, and 
added to the earlier matter. Subsequently, in the same planless way, further 
passages illustrative of the subject, discoverable in the older or newer 
literature, a number of notes on the terminology of the game, especially 
as it is represented in Icelandic lexicography, and various other items of 
greater or less interest, were likewise appended. While making these 
hasty studies and additions, the knotty question of hnefaiafl, or hnott<tfl, 
came up, and led to a desire to ascertain what that mysterious sport, 
mentioned at such an early period, really was, or, at least, what it was 
not. Editors and commentators of the old northern monuments are, in the 
first place, divided in opinion as to whether the word just cited represents 
the same game or two different diversions ; in the second place, they have 

* Compftre pp. 1 and 10 of the present volnmo. 

Ed. 



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PREFACE 



explained or translated these vocables in many varying ways — as chess, 
draughts, backgammon, fox-and-gecse, and so on. In order to learn whether 
any of these still practised sports resemble the extinct northern one (or ones), 
it was deemed essential to devote, preliminarily, a few pages to the history 
and nature of the different table-games which were introduced during the 
early ages into Germanic Europe. It was found, however, at the very 
outset of this investigation, that, except in the case of chess, the historical 
accounts which had been compiled, in any country, in regard to those games, 
were of the slightest character and of little note or value ; from this sweeping 
statement are only to be excluded the contents of the second part of Thomas 
Hyde's noteworthy treatise, "De ludis orientalibus," which saw the light just 
before the close of the seventeenth century. But that scholar devoted com- 
paratively brief space to the games in vogue in central and northern Europe^ 
confining his enquiries, for the most part, to the lands of the East, and to the 
two classical countries of the Mediterranean. Other tractates on Greek, La- 
tin and Asiatic games are, like Hyde's book, very generally in Latin, and 
have thus not been generally available to the compilers of manuals treating 
of these pastimes. In addition to the not inconsiderable bibliography of 
printed literature in connection itith this topic, the remarkable manuscripts 
relating to mediaeval table-games, now known to be preserved in several 
European libraries, had, in a casual manner, come to the cognizance of the 
writer. Their existence was, for a long time, a sealed fact to most scholars ; 
few indeed had examined their pages — brilliant with the highest art of the 
illuminator — and of these few, none, so far as is known, had carried their 
studies beyond the portions devoted to the venerable game of chess. It is, 
moreover, less than half a century since the groups of codices at Rome and 
Florence, in some respects the most important of all, were alluded to in any 
printed publication, while the one housed within the monastic walls of the 
Escorial, which owes its execution to Alfonso the Wise of Spain, had never 
been critically treated, even as to its chess section, until within the last de- 
cade or two ; while its accounts of other table-games in use in the thirteenth 
century have remained up to now a field untilled by the investigator. 

The author, in pursuit of his purpose, began a cursory examination of 
such of these documentary relics as were within his reach, and of such prin- 
ted sources, hitherto unfamiliar to him, as might cast any light on his subject. 
The result was that a considerable amount of material, little of which had as 
yet found its way into manuals of games or into encyclopiedias, fell into his 
hands. To all this it seemed essential to add some slender notices of the 
mode or modes of practising each variety of these old amusements, in the 
hope that the changes which they had undergone, from time to time, might 
be traced, and a fairly complete idea of the terminology used in connection 
with them, at difierent periods, might be gathered and studied. "For it is 
from a comparison of the technical terms belonging to them, the precise signi- 



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PREFACE 



fioations and probable etymologies of such words, that we can hope to derive 
more thorough infonnation as to the origin, development and spread of the 
game ; and, despite his own light sncoessy the writer is still convinced that a 
closer scrutiny of these elements, and a more carefnl search into their rela- 
tions to each other, at various ages and in various languages, will not only 
enable us to clear up, partially at least, the many lacunse in our knowledge 
of the beginning and growth of this social diversion, but will result in a val- 
uable contribution to universal folk-lore, as well as to our knowledge of a 
not uninteresting field embracing both oriental and occidental linguistics. 

The interest of the writer in these new researches, as they went on, was 
greatly spurred so that he wholly abandoned for a time the theme with which 
he had set out, and suddenly devoted himself to this otlier which had obtruded 
itself upon his notice. So absorbing did the novel subject become that, in the 
end, it has grown to occupy the whole remaining part of this first volume 
and rendered a second necessary, if so be that the author is to complete the 
treatment of Iceland's part in chess history and chess letters. The absurdity 
of the extraordinary and extravagant course thus pursued is quite plainly 
evident to the author himself. It is as if a cook, starting to make a pasty and 
having partly completed it, should end by turning it into a pudding, or as if a 
scribbler, having begun a poem on love or some other fine emotion of the 
heart, should suddenly try to transform it into a dissertation on affections of 
the liver. 

The specially regrettable thing in regard to the work is that neither of 
the two matters discussed has been handled with proper fullness and thor- 
oughness. This is partially owing to the way in which the compilation has 
been made. From the beginning, whenever an amount of copy sufAoient 
to fill a printed sheet was prepared, it was at once sent to the press ; and 
this inconsiderate and eccentric method of composition is the cause, to a 
great extent, of the repetitions and other imperfections which will be found, 
thick-strewn, in the following pages. The author, then, cannot pretend 
that he has presented a satisfactory sketch of Icelandic chess ; nor does he 
flatter himself that he has done more for the other table-games than to 
call attention to certain historical sources, which demand investigation by 
younger and less occupied haiids. These games, always of a minor import- 
ance when compared with chess, but most of them nevertheless as old as 
civilization, and as widespread as human culture, have hitherto been dealt 
with, as to their historical position, if so dealt with at all, by scholars who 
had little practical familiarity with the games themselves, or by professional 
compilers who were utterly unoonversant with the ways and means of scholar- 
ly research — in other words by investigators who were not players, or by 
players who were not investigators. In fact, if we exoept chess, no table-game 
has had any adequate notice given to its origin or history except by writers 
or in writings not easily accessible to the general litt&ateur. Lexicology, 



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VIII PREFACE 



especially, as this book abundantly shows, is rich in singular errors, and 
striking by equally singular omissions, in its attempts to illustrate the 
technical words and phrases belonging to these widely disseminated re- 
creations. 

The second volume will contain, it is hoped, a detailed account aiid 
discussion of the hnefatafl matter ; a list of Icelandic chess proverbs and 
sayings ; notes on the carved chessmen and other chess objects found in the 
Museums of Scandinavia and England, commonly regarded as the pro- 
ductions of Icelandic workshops ; reprints of Dr. Van der Linde's article 
on Icelandic chess, published in 1874 in the Nordisk Skaktidende, of two 
brief articles relating to chess in Iceland for the Deutsche Sohachz^tuug, 
and of the complete Icelandic text of dlafur DavlQsson's paper on chess in 
his ''islenzkar Skemtanir^' ; and will close with a Scandinavian chesft 
bibliography with notes, compiled in Icelandic but never yet published 

[WlUJ^KD FiSKE] 



Thus far the preface, written in the last weeks of the author's life. 
An additional pencilled memorandum indicates his intention to acknow- 
ledge with his thanks the help and counsel which he had received from 
various sources. May this brief mention reach those friends whom he had 
in mind ! 

The proof sheets of the present volume were examined by Mr. Fiske 
through page 344. During the summer of 1904 he was engaged on the 
preface, and at the time of his death, Sept. 17, 1904, he had compiled a 
portion of the index, and had corrected the first proofis for the final pages. 
The work has been concluded with the assistance of Mr. George W. Harris, 
Librarian of Cornell University, and Mr. Halld6r Hermannsson of Beylgavlk, 
who were testamentarily named for this purpose. The latter has revised 
and completed the index itself. 

A reproduction of the latest photograph of BCr. Fiske, taken in April, 
1904, forms the frontispiece. The original frontispiece selected by the 
author, who had not even placed his name on the title page, directly pre- 
cedes the text. An eminent English authority on chess, Dr. Harold J. B. 
Murray, identifies it as appearing on the title page of an Italian work 
published at Milan in 1829, and entitled: '' Volgarizsamento del libro de' co- 
stumi e degli officii de' nobili sopra il giuoco degli soacchi di frate Jacopo 
da Cessole tratto nuovamente da un oodioe Magliabeohiano''. The preface 



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PRBPACE IX 

of thia work states that the iUnsirfttions were copied firom an older edition of 
the same work entitled : '' Libio di ginooo di Scaochi intitolato de costiimi 
degP hnomini, et degli officii de nobili. Impresso in Firenie per maestro 
Antonio Misoomini Anno MCCGCLXXXXIII. " Dr. Murray also quotes Van 
der Lindens description of the aforesaid work in his " Gesohiohte und Lit- 
teratur des Schachspiels", 1874, I., Beilagen, p. 123. 

Some of the material already collected for the second volume may appear 
later in the annual publications relating to Iceland, to* be issued by Cornell 
University on the foundation left by the author. 

It is further the purpose of the undersigned, as literary executor, to 
publish a collection of reprints of the tales and sketches composed by Mr. 
Fiske in 1857-61 for the Ckmi MonHUp ; and in a memorial volume which 
has been planned, some account will be given of Mr. Fiske's devotion to 
the game of chess and his efforts to advance its interests. 

HOBATio 8. Whitk. 

Villa Landob. 
Florence, March, 1905. 



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CONTENTS 



Polar Chess 1 

Chess in the Sagas 9 

The Story of Frilhiof 25 

Stray Notes : 

MagnAs 6lafs80D*s Latin Poem on Chess 33 

Two Witnesses. 34 

The Chess Lays of Stettn 6Lafiwon 37 

Among the Lexicographers 43 

Dr. Van der Linde and the Spilabdk 61 

A Orimsey Legend 68 

Tables and Hnefatafl : 

Tafl 69 

Chess and Draughts 92 

Mdrelles or Morris Game 97 

Foz-and-geese 146 

What was "Tables"! 157 

Backgammon 175 

Conolasions 357 

Index 365 

Corrigenda 399 



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THE GAME OF CHESS 

IN THE 

LAND AND LITEEATUEE 

OF 

ICELAND 



1. -- Polar Chess. 



The island of Iceland is an anomaly and a marvei--an anomaly in its 
natural history, for almost everywhere in its domain we And the living 
fierceness of volcanic heat coping with the death-like desolation 'Of Arctic 
cold; and a marvel in its political history, which exhibits the spectacle of a 
pagan people, at an age preceding the morning o( modern civilization on the 
mainland of Europe, building up, without any aid from the jurisprudence or 
polity of Rome, a complex but consistent code of laws, and a remarkable 
system of self-government, in which both the rights of the individual and 
the general good of the community were cautiously cared for. In the ingen- 
ious minds of its early lawmakers originated the existing form of trial by 
jury— that palladium of personal liberty; while the people themselves, sprung 
from the best blood of mountainous Norway, whose inborn love of freedom 
had sent them to the distant oceanic isle, created, as if by an impulse of in- 
stinct, a representative parliament, the yearly sessions of which took place, 
almost without a break, for nearly nine hundred years ; so that its legiti- 
mate successor— the present Althing—may boast of being, by some centuries, 
the oldest legislative body in the world. The classic writers of the Common- 
wealth thus established, bequeathed to posterity many delightful pictures of 
the wonderful life of the unique insular nationality, and of that of their kin in 
the other Scandinavian lands— narratives scarcely excelled in literature for 
minute and characteristic detail. The old Icelandic poetry, too, from that sub- 
lime mythological and legendary epic, the so-styled Elder Edda, down to the 
elaborately wrought longer Skaldic lays, and the briefer, metrical impromptus 
and epigrams— witty, dashing, biting— scattered throughout the sagas, mark- 
edly displays the fact that the imagination is not alone excited by the genial 
air, the spicy perfumes and the luxuriant nature of the South, but glows with 
fervor even in the rocky, treeless, icy North. Like the very earliest blossoms 
of the Northern temperate zone— such as the winter-born trailing-arbutusand 
the modest hepatica — the flowers of poesy bloom even amid the snows. 

< Sw the Ctuss Monthly, (N«w York 1857), I., pp. 201-205. 



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CHESS IN ICELAND 



In the chronicles, the romances, the poetic productions of Iceland there 
are many allusions to chess. Certain of the romancers do not hesitate to put 
allusions to chess, or some similar game, into the mouth of all-father Odin 
himself. * Archueologists, who have made the island's antiquities an object of 
their research, travellers who have visited the country, and various native 
authors themselves are all agreed in the assertion that the game has been, 
for several centuries, esteemed and practiced in the land of the Geysers. The 
Icelandic chess-nomenclature indicates— as will be more particularly noted 
hereafter— that a knowledge of the sport reached the island, at a very early 
day, by way of Of^t Britain, while the variations introduced into its prac- 
tice—such as giving^ different values to diflercnt sorts of checkmate— show 
that it soon became a favorite winter-evening diversion in the farmsteads of 
the Northern land. From one of the best-known books of travel in Iceland,^ 
published in the last century, and the more trustworthy because its authors 
were natives of the soil they traversed, we are able to glean some particulars 
relative to the peculiarities of the Icelandic game. 

' In Ihe famoiu riddles of the *UIervmrar smga,'* propounded by Uie disguised Odin. The 
game referred to is hnefatajl, 

' This woric, not only well known, but even yet the best record of travels relating to 
Iceland— the best, because it was the work of two broadly lutelilgeut natives of the island- 
is : — *' Vice-Lavmand Kgg'ert Olafseus og Land-PfaysicI Biarue Povelseus Relse Jgienuem 
Island, foranstallet af Videnskaberues Soclskab 1 Kiobcnfaavu, og beskreven af furbemeldte 
Kggert Olafsen, med dortll h0reudo 51 Kobberst0kker og et nyt fcrfacrdlget Kart over Island. 
Soree, 1778. " The whole narrative was written by the first-named of the two travellers, 
Kggert Olafsson, scientist, economist, poet, patriot— in many ' respects the most notable leo- 
laudio figure of the eighteenth century, whoso comparatively short life was one of great 
activity. He and his oompauiou, Bjarni P&lsson, surgeon-general of Iceland, spent the years 
1758-1757 iu visiting every portion of the country, a task undertaken by coniuiaud of King 
Frederie V at the instance of the Danish Academy of Sciences. The appended " Flora Islan- 
diea '* was prepared from their collections by the Danish botanist, Johan Zoega. The map 
(dated 1771) waa elaborated by the care of the famous Icelandic scholar, J6u Kiriksson (1728- 
1787), an ornament alike to his native country and to Denmark, in which much of his la- 
borious life was passed, with the aid of the Danish historian, Gerhard Schfining. The latter 
wrote the brief preface to the first volume. The German translation by Joachim Mluhat'l 
Geuss ('* Keise durch Island ") appeared at Copenhagen in 1774-76. The French version (" Voy- 
age en Islande "), consisting of five octavo volumes of text and a quarto atlas, was trans- 
lated In part (volumes I-III) by Gaulthlor de La Peyronie, and in part (volumes IV- V) by 
K. Bjernerode, and was published at Paris in 1808. The Kuglisb, greatly abridged, version 
(" Travels In Iceland *') was printed in a slender octavo at London in 1805. The translator signs 
his notes : F. W. B. A second German edition forms the nineteenth volume of a " Samm- 
lung der besteu und ueuesten Reisebeschreibungon,*' and was Issued at Berlin 1779. These 
travels contain almost the only description of chess, as it was developed in the isolated re- 
gion of Iceland, which has been accessible In a printed shape until within the last few years. 
The too brief section relating to the game is to be found In the first volume of the Danish 
edition (pp. 468-64). The original Danish text is as follows, the orthography of the Icelandic 
terms having been modernised: —'" 8kaKspill have Islieuderne lagt dem mcget efter fra gammel 
ttid af, og endnu Andes iblandt dem store spillere; istcr have Vcsterlaudets indvoancre ord 
derfor, og det saavel bender, som de fornemme. De tage derved i agt de samme hoved- 
regler, som bruges i audre lande, nogle faa ting undtagne, og beholde end I dag alle de 
gamle danske og uorske navne og talemaador, som dette spill vedkomme. Matadorer eller 
oflRciererne kaldes Afenit og 8kakm9nn\ Konwigur^ kougen; Fru og DroUning^ domeu ; BUkupy 
bispen, oiler l0berea ; Uiddari^ springeren ; Hrokur (en kloempe eller fribytter), llgesom I 
det franske sprog, taarnet eller elephantcn. Knegterne kaldes Ped ; 8kdka og Mdta, at 
sntte skak og mat. Stanz og JafnUfii, eller jsevutavl, kaldes det, naar dot er llge leeg paa 
begge aider, da deu eno spiiler ikke kan komme nogen vei, undtageu med kongen, som man 
aldrig er skyldig at traskke, uden han bllver sat skak med det samme; og hvis han da el faaer 
mat i det samuiei, er spillet ude, og det regnes for lugen vindlug for nogen af parterne, men 
heller for en ukyndighed af dem, der bar giort standsen. Beri^ det er bart oiler blot, kaldes 



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POLAR CHESS 



SUk, SkAktafl. 

The name of the game in Icelandic is etymolojiieally aimilar to that cur- 
rent among the central occidental nations, originating in the speech of Per- 
sia. It was also often styled, by Icelandic writers, tafl (pronounced tabl), 
although that word was, and is, properly a generic term applied to all games 
played on a board or table— usually with round pieces or men^the term 
itself being a corruption of the Latin tafmla. It corresponds to the early En- 
glish and French tables, as in Chaucor^s lines (^* Death of Blanche,** 1. 51): 

For mo ihoKhte it bolter play 
Than playe at cheaRO or tablen. 

In its generic use it might mean either chess, draughts, backgammon, fox- 
and-geese (in Icelandic refsMh^ that is, fox-chess), nine-men *s-roorri8 (Ice- 
landic mylna, frequently called in America iwelve-nien-morris), or any game 
for which a plain surface and men, or pieces, or figures were necessary. With 
the word tables may be compared the German brettspiel (from 6r^«= board and 
spiel=gSLme) signifying literally any game played on a board, with men. Skdk- 
tafl would be, therefore, a precise designation signifying cA<?s.v-t«6tev, or that 
kind of tables which we call chess. There were other words of the same sort, 
such as hnefatafiy hnettafl, hnottafl (these throe, being possibly variants of 

den mindete viudins:, da den eenes mandskab er ganske borttagot, og dog kongen Ikke sat 
mat : bvis ban •nites skak i del aamroe er del /uUU Bert ; hvis Ikko kaldet det litla Bert. 
ITeimamdt. hiemmeroat, Pedri/ur^ knegte-mat, og Blddtitt, kongsknegtemat, holdet for de 
S st0rsto enkelte viudinger, og haanligito for den der tabor. Det f0 rate skoer, uaar kongen 
siettes akakmat i bcgyndolnen af Mplllel, aaaledes, at den hvcrken er bloven sat akak 1 for- 
▼elen, og et belter bar r0rt aig af stcdet. Det audet akakmat faaer kongen af een af knieg- 
teme : det tredte, naar ban faaer mat af den kniegt, som tUb0rer den anden kongo, og endna 
Btaaer paa sin rspkke. Utkomumdt er nipst dUae det Rt0rtte, og regnes dog ikkc for haanligt. 
l>ct beataaer derl, at kongen sspttca mat med det satnme en knipgt koramer tid, eller 1 det 
tnek, som giar en knsegt til matador. Don mindate fuldkomno vinding or Frtiamidt, naar 
der a«ttes mat mcd damen. Den starste dobbeite vinding er fold, og aielden dorover; dog 
akal det viere en stor apnicr, og hana mod«tauder knn lidet erfareu, naar matene kunne drives 
saa vidt. I andre lande er man forn0let mod enkelt akakmat ; men ber siettcs kongen saa 
mange akakmat, aom man baver mandakab til ; dog akal aplllct vmre bragt i aaadan en orden 
i forvelen, at i det kongen aiettea det fdrato mat, da fnlgi: do andre atrax derpaa, uden at 
der maae akce andre trak Intel lem, eller at kongen kau sHppe fra nogen af disse mater 
imidlertid ; men 1 denne omgang kan den mindate foraeelae tabe beele apillet. Oodo aplllere 
kande aaette 6 til 7 alige akakmat ad gangcn, cndakient det andet partie veed alio reglerno, 
og er evet deri. I akakaplU lagca her gierne aecundanter, og Iblandt gaacr det Skko af uden 
fortnsd eller bidalghod, hvllket kommer meeat af de dobbeite vtndinger; tbi det kan gtere en, 
is»r den, der I forvelen er tungstndct, lorgerllg dorover, at ban akal i lang lild Jagea med 
kongen from og tilbage, tilllgemed eon af biaperne eller leberue, hvilken som den mindat bin. 
derlige offlcier, overmanden gicrue lader den anden beholde, knn for at faao deato sterre og 
anseeligere seier over bam. Delto bar maaskee andre natloner sect paa, i det de bruge 
meest Ikknn enkelte vindinger, bvorved Icegen bliver rolndre kicdsomroelig. Alligevel vilser 
det en stor knnst, at knnne Jaevnlig glere mange dobbeite vindinger ; thi det kommer baade 
an paa en dyb eftertanke, og at holde tankerne beatandig samlcde. Skak spilles vel I Island 
paa fleere maader, som bliver for vidtlvftigt at fortnlle ; men denne er den rette, aeldate og 
almindeligste. De andre, aom er lettere, meer foranderllge og mindre kunaUge, synes at yiere 
de nyere tliders paaftind.** In bis "Gesrhlchte des Schacbspleia " (TT. pp. 177-178), Dr. A. van 
der LInde reproducea tbia paaaage from the German tranalatlou of the leelandie travollera* 
narrative (p. 24A), Interaperslng It with brief eomments, aomo pointed and proper enongb, 
others less so. He has copied the Danlib text in bis series of articles on ** Skak paa laland^** 
wbieh will be foand In an appendix to this volume. 



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CHESS IN IGSLANb 



the same word),^ interpreted by some as draughts, by others as fox-and-geese, 
(but perhaps more likely to have resembled the former), boddata/l, Freystafl^ 
and kotrutafl (backgammon, also simply styled hoira). The indefiniteness of 
the word tafi has given rise to much confusion. Not a few of the passages 
in the old writings, to which references arc often made as allusions to chess, 
really relate to draughts, or some other game resembling it, rather than to 
chess. The pieces, or higher figures, have the common name menn (men), 
and hence chess is occasionally spoken of as manntafl or mannskdh, to dis- 
tinguish it from draughts and other sorts of tables. 

Xonunsrur ; Drottning, Fni. 

So the Icelanders designate the two chief pieces of the chess-field. Kon- 
ungur (abbreviated kongur) is cognate with our word King; of the last two 
words, droitning is the genuine Icelandic equivalent of our Queen, while fru 
means lady^ and its former use in Icelandic chess is probably owing to Danish 
influence. The usual name of this most powerful piece is now drottning, 

Hr6kur ; Biakup ; Biddari ; PeO. 

The first word is, of course, the very early Eastern appellation of the 
Rook, a term hopelessly disguised by the popular etymologies given to it in 
the various countries through which it has passed— one of its phases being 
a confusion with the fabulous bird (roc) of the ^^Arabian Nights,'" a process of 
etymological obscuration repeated both in England {rook, the chess-piece and 
rook, the bird) and in Iceland, the form hrdkur being ascribable to the in- 
fiuence of the older word hrokur, a rare Icelandic name of a bird. The 
name of this piece is sufficient evidence, if there were no other, of the En- 
glish origin of Icelandic chess, since, in the other Scandinavian dialects, the 
rook (in accordance with the German nomenclature) is known as the ** tower " 
(Swedish torn; Danish taam). — Biskup \s out Bishop, English and Icelandic 
being the only languages in which the piece bears this ecclesiastical title (Ger- 
man Idufer; Swedish, lopare; Danish, Softer— literally "runner," but in the 
sense of "herald" or " courier"), although its Polish name is pop (t. e. priest). 
In English its earliest title was alfin (Arabic al=Xhe, and /t/= elephant),^ and 
so it was called by Caxton (1474) :— " The manere and nature of the draught 
of the Alphyn is suche that he that is black in his propre siege is sette on 
the right side of the Kyng, and he that is whyt on the left side." The appel- 
lation was occasionally used in England as late as the sixteenth century, for 
Rowbothum, the translator of Vida*s " Scacchia" (1562), says :— " The Bishoppes 
some name Alphins. ^^—Riddari is the ordinary translation of our word knight; 
and it is worthy of note that while the Swedes call this piece, according to the 
older dictionaries, the " horse " {hast), or like the Danes adopt the German word 
springer (Swedish, springare; Danish, springer-^from the springing or jump- 
ing character of its move) their fellow Scandinavians of the Northern island 

^ * Thia la denied by the leelaadle arcluBologItt, Slgurftar Gu^undMon, who, In hia flrat 
report m director of the Arehasologloal llnaenni at Reykjavik (KaapmannahOfti 1868, p. 89), 
Btatea that "in onr andent wriUnga two kinda of Ublea** are mentioned, knoOafi or hneUt^, 
and hnsfaU^fi or kn^ft^fi'-tLa aaaertion to which we ahall return on another page. 

• The extatlng ItaHan {aljter*) and Spanlah {alJU or arJU^ natnea of the Biahop have the 
same etymology. 



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retain the mediaeval term (derived either from the Romance cabcUlus =:ihoTee, or 
ft'om the Germanic verb, ride, reiten, or else borrowing the form of the Germanic 
knechu knight) signifying a military leader or (hor8e)soldier of rank, and cor- 
responding to the one employed by the Italians (cavaliere), Spaniards and 
Portogaese (cavallo)^ French {chevalier), and English {knight). It is to be re- 
marked that, although the Germans and the continental Scandinavians possess 
a word cognate with the Icelandic riddari (German reiter\ Danish, ridder), those 
w<^rd8 are never employed in chess. — Pe^ comes from the Middle-Latin pedes 
(witlfthe inflectional %iem pedon-) meaning foot-soldier, thus having the same 
etymology as the English Pawn, the French pion, the Italian pedina and 
the Spanish peon. — The names of the chessmen used in England and Iceland 
not only reveal the track pursued by the game in reaching those countries, 
but betray the fact that chess in the Middle Ages was especially a diversion 
of the court and the cloister. But much more light might be thrown upon the 
story of chess in Iceland by a careful study of the nomenclature employed, 
at present and in the past, by the chessplayers of the island — if underta- 
ken by an investigator familiar alike with the story of chess and with Ice- 
landic philology and letters. 

8k&k (akika) ; K&t (m&ta). 

Here the first word is the English chess and check {skdka being the verb, 
to check). The varying forms of these words, in all the European tongues, are 
derived from the Persian shdh (or schdch)^ signifying ^* King "'—the game 
thus owing its name to its most important— all important— piece. The En- 
glish *^check I '' (interjection) is in Icelandic skdk! As in English, the exclama- 
tory phrases, skdk ^er i (check to you I) and skdk konginum ! (check to the 
King I) may likewise be used when attacking the opponent's chief piece.— Afd< 
is the English '^ mate '' {mdta being the verb, to mate). The origin of both 
— being virtually the word used by every nation— is the Arabic md<=dead (or, 
according to recent investigators, the Persian md<= surprized, confounded) ;<^ 
*^ checkmate, *' therefore, means simply: *^the King dead,'' or *'the King is 
dead" (or ^*the King is confounded"). The Icelandic renders '* checkmate" 
by the phrase skdk og mdt (t. e, *^ check and mate "), the verbal expression 
being skdka og nuUa. 

' Dr. A. VM dar LInde, in bU " Qaelloustadfea sar QeMhiehte dM SchaohspleU " (1881, 
pp. 14-15), eltOB the latMt authoritiea, the OrtonUIUU Ond«melitar »nd Doxy. The former, 
In an article In the "Zeltiebrift der deatachen Morgenlftnditehon Qeeellaebaft" (Z XVIII, 
p. 8M) eayflt^ *< In $MhmAt die Baeammeneelannff einee peraSaeben aabataaUTa mlt einem am- 
blaaben perfeet in nngewdnlieher wortatalinng nnd bedeatong .... aasnnemen, aolite man den 
einbeimiaeban lexikografen llberlaaaen. Mdt lat Tlelmehr mlt Mfrsa Kaaem Beg ala adjeetiv 
in der bedeatung verbUiffl, nithi au» noeh «i» witaand sa faaaen, da die bel den Persern 
gebranebten aynonyma wie mUkrd/M, b^aUgt, an Aomiabi w^fdkig adjeetfra aind, nnd der 
apraebgabraaeh dafttr aprlebt.** Tb« latter, In bla '^Sapplament aaz dletlonnairea arabea" 
(I8V8. I.) eolneidea with OlldemeUter: — •*GoaTaioea par lea obJeeUona de M. Qildemelater 
Je Be Tola pina dana le mot wtAt le yerbe arabe qui algnlfle Ml eat mort'; Je penae an eon- 
traire avee In! et Mirma Kaaem Beg (dana le * Jonrnal Aalatiqne' 1851, II, p. 585), qa*ll efte et 
qnt merlle d*6tre eonanltd, que e*eat Tadjeetirqae lea Peraane emploieut dana le aena dVlomitf, 
aufprtfa.** Thla anawera all the pMlologieal objeetlona to the nae, in one hybrid phraae, of 
tbo Peraiaa anbetantlTO aMU and the Arable Torbal form mdl. At the aame time it makea 
the action performed by the checkmate more logical* The eTer«ezlating, all-eaaential ebeaa- 
klng la no longer eoualdered aa dead, bnt aa merely "anrpriaed** or " eon/oanded ** by the 
reatrainta or roatrlettona, which hfa adveraarlea have plaeed npon hia morementa. 



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Jafatefli, Stanz ; {>r&tefli; Patt. 

Those are the terms for various sorts of drawn games. Jafntefii (even 
table, even play, or even-manned) and Stanz (standstill, stopping) are posi- 
tions which are drawn by reason of lack of mating force on either side.— ^rrf<<?/li 
(the former element derived from the adjective ^rdr^ stubborn, obstinate, per- 
severing, the latter a derivative of iafl) is the Icelandic expression for a game 
drawn by perpetual check. — Pati^ the equivalent of our English "stalemate," 
came into Icelandic from Danish. It is a word common to most of the Euro- 
pean languages (German patt^ French pat^ Italian patla)^ but its etymology 
seems never to have been satisfactorily determined. Both an oriental and a 
western (Latin) origin have been suggested. The word has always been 
wholly unknown in England. 

Bert ; Heimam&t. 

These are two of the simple mates or winnings. The first-named is reck- 
oned, according to Eggert Olafsson, the least honorable method, for the 
winning player, of ending a game. The term signifies bare of men, and an- 
swers to the French roi d^uilU. It is stated, somewhat obscurely, that, if at 
the time of taking his adversary's last piece, the winning player does not mate 
the other, it is called liila (little) hert; if ho mates simultaneously with the 
capture of his adversary's last piece or pawn, it is styled stora (great) hert. — 
The second term cited is literally " home mate, " and is a mate given at the 
first check, and before the King has moved from his square. We might per- 
haps paraphrase it by our "Scholar's mate" or "Fool's mate." 

PeSrifiir ; H16886tt ; '6tkomum&t. 

The former of these words describes an ending in which mate is given 
by one of the pawns ; instead of it may be used pechmdt or pe^smdt^ pawn- 
mate. Each piece, in fact, except the King, gives its name to the mate ef- 
fected by it, such as drottningarmdi (or fruarmdt)^ "queen's mate," hroks- 
indt^ " rook's mate," and so on. Blo^soii (that is, "dysentery") is a coarsely 
humorous appellation given to a mate efi'ected by the King's Pawn while still 
remaining on the King's file. Such a conclusion to the game is regarded as 
particularly disgraceful to the loser. Wwniumdi is one of the so-called 
complete mates, or double winnings. It signifies a mate given by a Pawn 
at the eighth rank at the very moment of becoming a piece. Others of the 
double winnings are mates given by two or more pieces, and increasing, of 
course, in difficulty as the number of mating pieces is increased. For it was 
a singular rule, before the modification of the Old Icelandic chess to make 
it conform to the modern rules in other lands, that the player might so con- 
duct his game as to be able, after giving a mate with one piece, to make 
another move, which should bring a second piece to bear upon the King so 
as to give, as it were, a second mortal blow, and by still another move to 
repeat the operation again with a third piece. These mates were to be 
given on successive moves; and it required the greatest caution to prevent 
the losing party, by interposition or capture, from avoiding any of them. 

Later on in this publication it will be seen that many more varieties of 
mate were practiced by'Icelandic chessplayers, so that, if a chess magazine, 
or chess column, had been formerly published in the far-off Thule, the edi- 



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tors thereof would have been obliged not only to note, at the beginning of 
each game, the title of the opening played, but also to designate the par- 
ticular style of ending brought about by the winning party. There are also 
enumerated, in accounts of the Icelandic game, many other technical terms, 
which, in this sketch, we have been obliged to leave unnoticed. It cannot be 
doubted, as has been already hinted, that an art having so extended a no- 
menclature must have been practiced by a great number of individuals through 
many generations. 

When Chess came to Iceland. 

In regard to the date of the introduction of the game into Iceland it is 
undeniable that the country's most distinguished son, Snorri Sturluson, was 
more or less acquainted with the game, when he narrated, in St. Olafs saga, 
the story of King Canute the Great and his retainer, Jarl Ulf the rich. This 
saga was composed not far from the year 12'^, but the incident related oc- 
curred two hundred years previous, so that, if we could accept Snorri's ac- 
count as absolutely correct, we might infer that the oriental sport had become 
an accustomed diversion at the courts of the Scandinavian North as early as 
the first part of the eleventh century. But it is more than probable that the 
game played between Canute and Ulf was another sort of ** brettspicl " (tart, 
or "tables"), while Snorri, knowing only chess, or deeming it, as it was 
in his own time, the proper court-game, uses the words shnhiafl (game of 
chess) and Hddari (knight)— the latter being the sole piece named. A sug- 
gestion has been made that a knowledge of chess might have been brought 
from England to Iceland, in the later portion of the twelfth century, by 
any one of three well-known men, or by all of them. They are not the 
only natives of the island who sojourned in Groat Britain during that period, 
but they are the most noted, and the most likely, from their surroundings, 
both in England and Iceland, to have learned and imported such an intel- 
lectual amusement. "^ The first of the three notabilities in question was I^or- 
lakur I>6rhalls8on, bishop of SkAlholt, Iceland's southern see {h. 1133 d. 1193). 
After his death he enjoyed the singular honor of canonization, not by the 
pope, but by authority of the Icelandic Althing, or parliament (1199)— an 
act popularly ratified in the Scandinavian countries and Britain (and even 
by the Icelandic colony then existing in Greenland), in which lands he was 
always styled St. Thorlak, and had many shrines erected in his honor. His 
appointed festival (Thorlaksmas) fell on December 23. Somewhat before 1160 
he went, for purposes of study, to Paris, and thence to Lincoln in England, 
passing six years in those two places. In his saga, one of the most interest- 
ing of the histories of the Icelandic Bishops, we are told in reference to his 
stay in the English city that ho "learned there great learning,'' ^ and returned 
home with a varied and extended knowledge. He was followed into foreign 
regions by the Icelandic notable, Hrafn Sveinbjarnarson, a man of many 
accomplishments — scholar, poet, artist, physician, jurist. His most impor- 
tant visit to the continent apparently took place before or about 1190. He 
went first of all to the Orkneys, whence he returned to Iceland, but subse- 

^ In eUboratiug this coujecluro I have been greatly aided by niy frieud, Mr. Bogi Th. 
Melate^, DanUh aaalaUnt-arvhivlst, and one of the moat prefuund living studeuts of luelandio 
bUlory.^ 

* "Ok nam t>ar enu ntlkit uim. ^* — Bukupa SCgur^ (Kaupmaunahcru 1858), I., p. 9X. 



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8 CHESS IN ICELAND 



quently crossed over to Norway, and passed on to England, where he paid his 
devotions at the sanctuary of St. Thomas-a-Becket in Canterbury, to which he 
offered as gifts specimens of his artistic skill, one being an elaborately carved 
walrus-tusk. Thence he sought the fl&mous shrines of St. Giles in Ilanz 
(Glion), Switzerland, and St. James at Compostella, Spain, and thereafter he 
proceeded to Rome, as the last and crowning goal of his pilgrim-tour ; then 
he went back to Iceland by way of Norway. Hrafn made at least one more 
voyage to the British Isles, and finally fell in a feud at home in I2I3. It will 
be noted that the ingenious Hrafn thus had an opportunity of familiarizing 
himself with chess, not only in England but also in Spain and Italy, its oldest 
seats in Europe, in which lands it had then been known for two hundred years. 
His saga is printed as an appendix to the Oxford edition of the Sturlunga saga, 
and also in the Biskupa sOgur. ^ More remarkable still was the third conspic- 
uous Icelander, who became acquainted, at that early day, with English life 
and manners. This was Pall Jdnsson (&. II55), bishop of Skalholt, the direct 
successor of Thorlak the Holy. In the years about 1180 he was at school in 
England. His elevation to the episcopate took place in lllM, and he went 
abroad again the same year to be consecrated by the primate of Norway at 
Throndhjem, but as Archbishop Eirikur, in consequence of a quarrel with 
King Sverrir of Norway, was an exile in Denmark, Pall proceeded to Lund 
(then a Danish city), where, by the authorization of Archbishop Eirikur, he 
was consecrated by the great prelate Absalon, who held the see of Lund. 
Both Archbishop Eirikur and Petur, bishop of Roskilde, Denmark's ancient 
capital, were present at the imposing ceremony. Bishop Pall went back to 
his diocese, and did noble work until he died in 1211. His saga says that 
when he departed from Iceland in his youth for foreign study, he stayed for 
a while at the court of Harald, Jarl of the Orkneys, and then went on to his 
English school, '' and learned there such a vast deal of learning that scarcely 
had there been a case in which a man had learned equal learning, nor of the 
same quality, in an equal space of time; and when he came out to Iceland, he 
was above all other men in the grace of his scholarship, in the writing of 
Latin, and in book-lore. He was also a man of fine voice, and a singer surpass- 
ing all his contemporaries in both melody and sonorousness.'' <<> Bishop Poll's 
great-grand- father was Iceland's early scholar, Saemund the Learned, whose 
name has been given to Iceland's ancient mythological epos (Ssemundar Edda); 
while his father was J6n Loptsson (6. 1124, d. 1197), the master of the historian, 
Snorri Sturluson {b, 1178, d. 1241), the very writer who first mentions chess. 
The bishop must have known Snorri well in the latter 's study-years in J6n 
Loptsson's house, during the decade before 1197, and must have told the youth 
much of what he had seen and learned during his own student life in Eng- 
land. And after 1197, when his able teacher, Jdn Loptsson, was dead, 
Snorri lived, for at least two years, in the house of Bishop Pall's brother, 
Ssemundur J6nsson, which he left only on his marriage. It is noteworthy 
that in the Arons saga one of Snorri 's nephews, I^6rQur Sighvatsson, is rep- 

' "Sturlaoga Saga,*' edited by Dr. Gn^braudur yigfussoD, (Oxford 1878), II., pp. 295-311, 
and *< Biskapa S«gur/* I. pp. 889>676. 

* " Ok nam I>ar uwk mlkit Dam at trautt var dsenii til, at nokkurr mtihr heR)! Jafomlkift 
oim namlt n^ Jivilikt i jafnlangrl stund ; ok ftk er haun koin dt til islands, ]>a var hann fyrir 
511am mfinnum ddrum at kurteisi Iserdoma sins, Tcrtagjdr^ og b6kallBt. Hann var ok svAmlkiU 
raddmadr og sSngmadr, og af bar sfingr bant og r6dd af 6&rum monnum, ]>eiiD er voru honam 
Bvnii7>m,'* ■- Bvtkupa SGgur^ I. p. 187. 



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POLAR CHESS 9 



resented as playing chess wliitli another Icelander, Hrani Kodr^nsson, in 
Norway. ^^ The incident described took place in the autumn of 1238 while 
Snorri was still living. This is another piece of testimony tending to prove 
the great sagaman's acquaintance with chess. 

All these three observant and acquisitive students were in England, 
among men and youth who felt a keen interest in the revival of learning 
and the arts, at a time when chess had come to be extensively known— espe- 
cially in the convents and schools ; for it was about 1180 that the abbot of 
Cirencester, Alexander Neckam, produced his treatise, *' De naturis rorum,*' 
which had a special chapter—and a very remarkable one — devoted to an 
exposition of chess. This was the earliest chess-writing in England, and of 
course, before it could have been composed the game must have become 
widely spread and esteemed. 

2. — Chess in the Sagas. ^' 

In treating of some of the places in the Icelandic sagas where chess is 
mentioned, we shall pay heed only to those passages in which the word 
sfuik^ or skdkiafly or skdkborth, or the names of the pieces given, indicate that, 
in the mind of the writer at least, the incident recounted relates to chess, 
and not to some other game at '^ tables. '' The first citation is from St. Olafs 
saga, an historical record usually ascribed to Snorri Sturluson, but which, 
in any case, he edited, since it is a part of his great work, the " Heims- 
kringla"— the sagas of the kings of Norway, of whom Olaf the Holy (Olafur 
helgi) was one. But really the field occupied by Snorri's work embraces not 
only Norway, but Sweden and Denmark likewise, the author portraying, 
more or less fully, the stories of the kings of those lands during the period 
he treats. 

6laf8 Saga helga. 

Canute the Great {Knutur riki), the ruler both of England and Denmark, 
"Sovereign of five Realms*' as he is styled in the old British chronicles, 
once went to Southern Sweden — then Danish— to suppress a rebellion, which 
had been incited by his son Hardicanuto (HorZ^aknutur) and by Ulf Jarl 
(TJlfur jarl, or Earl WolO, a powerful chieftain and courtier. Rumors of the 
advance of the royal fleet having reached them, these latter deserted their 
followers and allies, among whom were the kings of Sweden and Norway, 
and hastened to make their peace with the monarch. The fleet sailed into the 
mouth of Helga river (Icelandic, din Jielga=ihe holy river), where a fierce 
battle ensued. The Anglo-Danish King's own ship was at one time in im- 
minent danger, but Ulf Jarl, at great personal hazard, succeeded in saving it. 
Canute now went to Roskilde, the capital of his Danish domains, where he 
arrived the day before the feast of St. Michael in the year 1027. Here Ulf Jarl, 
eager to wipe out his former offence, welcomed him with a siilendid banquet, 
and endeavored, by merry words and submissive speeches, to reinstate himself 
in Canute's graces. But all his efforts to please the incensed monarcli were 
futile; the latter continued to look grave and ill-natured. In the course of 
the evening the Jarl challenged his sovereign to a game of chess, and the chal- 

" "Peir I>6r9r ok Hrani litu at nkiktafli. '' — Stiirlunga Saga (1878), IF., p. 344. 
^ See the Che»$ Monthly, (New York 1838), II., pp. 194-195. 



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10 CHESS IN ICELAND 



lenge was accepted. During the game, Canute made a hasty move and left 
a knight en prise ; the Jarl captured it, but the King requested him to replace 
it, and either make another move, or else allow him (Canute) to recall his for- 
mer move. The Jarl refused, arose from the table in anger, overturned the 
pieces, and walked away. The King, with a bitter laugh, called to him and 
said : — '' Are you running away, you cowardly Wolf « " The Jarl turned and 
replied : — " You would have run much farther away at the Helga river, if you 
had been able. You did n't call me a coward then, when I came to your help, 
while the Swedes were slaying your men like dogs. " The next morning the 
pious sovereign, who rebuked his irreverent courtiers by the sea-side with such 
religious philosophy, and who had just returned from an humble pilgrimage 
to Rome, sent one of his Norwegian men-at-arms to the church in Ros- 
kilde, in which the poor Jarl had taken sanctuary, and had him slain in the 
choir. This adds another to the singular parallels of history, for Ulf Jarl 
appears to have been to Canute the Great what Thomas-a-Becket was to 
Henry the Second. *3 

Kn;^tlinga Saga. 

In 1157, something more than a hundred yeai*s after the death of Canute, 
another historic game of chess, and another royal violation of hospitality, took 
place in the ancient city of Roskilde. In that year the kingdom of Denmark 
was divided between three monarchs, Svend (Sweyn), Valdemarand Canute the 

^ For an KngliMh rendering of tbii episode see Bnorri Sturlason's Storiss of th€ Kinga of 
Norway, translated by William Morris and Klrikur Magudssou (Loudon 1894), II., pp. SS6-3S7. 
We transcribe bore the whole episode in tho original text : — ** Kuutr konungr reld upp til 
Urdlslceldu dag inn UKsta fyrir Mikjils-niessu ok mcA houum svcit mikil manna. Kn )>ar hafM 
gdrt yeizlu i m6ti honum Ulfr jarl, m&gr bans ; veitti Jarl allkappsamliga ok var allkatr. Kon- 
ungr var f&milogr ok beldr 6(r^uu-y jarl orti or^a Abann ok Icital&I t>eira in&lsenda, or haun 
vaelti, at konangi myndi beat ])ykkja. Konungr svarar fi. Pk spurM Jarl, et bann vildi lelka 
at skikUfll ; bann j&tti ^vi ; toku t>eir t>& skaktafllt ok l£ku. Ulfr Jarl var maftr skjototdr ok 
6vsglnn hscpl i or^um ok i Sllum 6drum blutum ok binn mestl frarnkvicmiSar-maSr um riki sitt 
ok beruaftr miklU, ok er saga mikil fr4 bonum s<Jgt> ; Uifr jarl yar maJbr rikastr i DaumSrk, 
l»egar er konunginu liddi. Systir I'llfs Jarls var Gy^a, er 4ttl GuT^ini jarl tllfnadrsson ok v&ru 
synir I>eira Haraldr Kngla-konuugr, Tosti jarl, Valt>j6fr Jarl, Mdrukari Jarl, Sveiuu jarl, Gy2»a 
ddttir I>oira, er &ttl Batvardr inn gdJih Kngla-konungr. 

Kn er |>eir I^ku at skiktafll, Kndtr konnngr ok Ulfr jarl, ]}& 16k konungr flngrbrjot 
mikinn; Jiisksek^i Jarl af bonnro riddara ; konnngr bar aptr tafl bans ok segir, at bann skyldi 
annat lelka ; jarl reiddisk ok skaut nVbr taflborMnu »t6b upp ok gekk i brot. Konungr maeltt : 
« rennr l»d nd, Ulfr inn ragi. " Jarl sn0ri aptr yib dyrrin ok maslti : *' lengra myudir l>d 
renna i Anni helgii, ef )>u kvinmir )>vi vi'b ; kalla&ir ])d eigi )>i Ulf inn raga, cr ek lai;&a til at 
hjilpa I>6r, er Hviar bSr^u y%r st-ra bunda " ; gckk Jarl ]>i dt ok f6r til svefns. Litlu sidarr 
gokk konungr at sofa. Kptir um morgoninn, pi or konungr kltnddisk, pa meltl bann vih 
8k6sveln sinn : *'gakk pu, seglr bann, til Ulfs Jarls og drep haun." Sveinuinn gckk ok yar 4 
brot nro bri?) ok kom aptr. I>4 maslti konungr: '< draptu jarl?" Ilann svarar: «eigi drap 
ek bann, pviat bann var genginn til Ldciskirkju." Ma5r h6t Ivarr bviti, norra:nn at kyni ; 
bann var l>i hlr^ma^r Kudts konungs og berbergls-madr bans. Konnngr moDlti til ivars: 
" gakk pd ok drep jarl. " Ivarr gekk til kirkju ok inn i kdrinn ok l^i par sverbi i gdgnum 
Jarl ; fekk par ^Ifr Jarl bana. Ivarr gekk til konungs ok baf^i sverMt bld^ugt i hendi. Kon- 
ungr spnrdl: " draptu ndjarl?. *' Ivarr svarar: " nu drap ek bann. " '* Vel gerMr pd p4*^ 
kvai^ bann. En eptir, p4 er Jarl var drepinn, I6tu munkar liesa kirkju. I>4 var pat sAgl kon- 
nugi. Hann send! manu til munka, htub pi lata upp kirkjn og syngja tiMr ; peir gerdn, sera 
konungr baa?). Kn er konungr kom til kirkju, pi skeytti bann JarMr miklar til kirkju, svi at 
pat er bera)^ mikit, ok bofsk si sUdr mlklt si&an ; af pvi bafa pser Jar&ir par til legit sidan. 
Knutr konungr reid siAan ut til skipa sinna ok var par long! nm banstlt mcd alimikinn ber. " — 
** Heimakringla, ** (Noregs Konuuga Sdgur) by 8norri SturUison, edited by Fiunur Jdnsaon, II 
(eonUining the Ola/s ^o^a helga), pp. 370-87B (KMbenhavn 1896). 



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CHESS IN THE SAGAS 11 



Fifth. This took place, after years of contest between Svend on the one hand 
and Valdemar and Canute on the other. Each King was to rule over a third 
of the realm, and each swore before the altar to preserve the compact invio- 
late. But it did not last three days. Canute asked his brother monarchs 
to spend a few days of festivity with htm at Roskilde. Svcnd came with a 
crowd of soldiers. One evening Valdemar sat at the chess boani, where the 
battle waxed warm. His adversary was a nobleman, and Canute sat by Val- 
demar's side watching the game. All at once, Canute, observing some sus- 
picious consultations between Svend and one of his captains, and feeling a 
presentiment of evil, threw his arms around Valdemar's neck and kissed hini: 
— " Why so merry, cousin?'' asked the latter, without removing his eyes from 
the chess-board. "You will soon see," replied Canute. Just then the armed 
soldiery of Svend rushed into the apartment and instantly drew their swords. 
But when King Valdemar saw this, he sprang up from his seat at the chess board 
and wrapped his mantle about his arm to serve as a shield, because he, his 
opponent at chess and King Canute were all without arms, for no one expected 
violence. Valdemar was the first of them all to march towards his assailants, 
and plunged with such force against I*6ttleif, one of the assassins, that they 
both fell through the door; then another, T61i Hemingsson, struck at King Val- 
demar, wounding his thigh, but not deeply, for his weapon scarcely reached 
the bone ; he also received a cut on the thumb. But when Valdemar's men, who 
were without, suddenly became aware that he had fallen, they covered him with 
their bodies, and were all hewn in pieces. But he was thus enabled to make 
his escape, and lives in history as the powerful Valdemar the Great. Canute, 
however, was slain, and was sometimes called by his countrymen St. Canute. *<— 
Perhaps it will not be greatly out of place to note that in the following cen- 
tury chess again makes it appearance upon the historic stage of Denmark, 
though at too late a date to be recorded by any Icelandic sagaman. At that 
period, Eric Plovpenning or Ptoughpenny (so called because of a penny tax 

" "Annan dag epUr drukku |»oir allir, konangarnlr i «inu berl>ori?i, ok voru k&tir. Menn 
Rveins konnngs hoHSu torg ok iikumtan, ok leika ikti bja herbergjuautnt ok ilrifu Di«nn >augat 
til or herbergjunum, er aleiS daglun. ok potti uulnnum t>at k&tara, eiin at nltja ciuart vih drykk- 
inn; var ]>4 Ckii manna i horberghiu, nenia t>«ir konuugarnir ; l>i kumu |>ar ion in<5nn Svein« 
konikngii^I>6UI«irr EMarstou ok nokknrlr menn a<Vrir, ok h&knuTiu lit Sveins koniings. Hiinn 
st6d iipp i inoti ]>c1in, ok l31^^u■<<t ^o\r vi5 lilla bri& ok [>A leynilega ; siAan gokk Sveinn kon- 
UDgr lit mod |>eiin, baun gekk i hi'is eilt, ok byrgM sik ]>ar, «n P^lUoifr ok T61i Hemlngii«an 
ok V'ngvar kveisa ok a^rir Tirktampun SveiuH konuiigs nn^rii \>k aptr til herbergiH sins, par er 
t»eir Valdlroarr konungr tkm fyrir ok KntUr konuugr. Valdiinarr konungr Mk at skiktafll 
vid annann manu, en Kudtr konungr sat 1 palliunm bji houuro ; ok or )>«<c I>Attleifr geugn i 
dyrnar, laot Kuiitr konuuKr til Valdlmars konnngs, ok kysti bano. Valdioiar kouungr sA eigi 
af taflinoi ok ipur5i : bvi ertu nA sva bIi<Sr, mkjr. KnAtr konungr svaraM : vita ninntii l>at 
bratt. Sveins inenn )>a»tii ^k inn hverr at o^rum ok alHr a1vapna<!)ir, pc\r brug^u ]>egar svcr5un- 
um. Rn er Valdimarr konnngr sa |>at, hijop bann upp, ok vafM sklkkjunui uin hfind sdr, er 
hann bafM yflrsir, ]>Tiat]>eir voru v&pnlausir InnI, t>v{at eiigi vlssi 6frl(^arv:in. Valdiinarr kon- 
ungr hlj6p npp ok fram k gollU fyrst allra manna sinua; bann stiklaT^i rvk bart upp A PtUUeif, 
at I>(ilr folia hkb\r ntar fyrir dyrnar ; ]^k bj6 Toli IIoroingMsou til Valdiraam konnngs, ok kora 
t>at hogg i Iserlt. ok var tiat svGdiis&r og ekki hscttligt ; baun rurh ok sir k pumalfingrl. Ok er 
menn Valdlmars konnngs s&, at bann var fallinn, |>& Idg^ust )>6ir k bann ofan, ok voru |)ar 
saxaMri on Valdimarr konnngrkomst vi5 petitk, undan. I>4komHt P^ttleifr k f»tr, ok hjo l>egar 
6fgri bondi til KnAtii*konung8, ok var<l> |>at bo;;g sva mikit, at bann klaiif allt bSfuAit til bits, 
ok var ]>at bans banaii4r. Annarr nia^r veitli ok Kuuti konungi ivorka, r& er IIJ&IrosTiAarr 
b^t, Kni&tr konungr f6\\ 1 einn skorstoin ; segja Danir baun belgan.*' — Fommanna SOgnr^ piib- 
iisbed by tbo Royal Society of Nortbern Antiquaries, XI (containing tbe Knytlinga 8aga)j 
pp. Mf-367 (Kanpnannabdrn 1898). 



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12 CffESS IN ICELAND 



laid in his brief reign on eacli plough in the kingdom), had begun to rule 
wisely and well over the fierce and war- loving people of his realm— then a 
much bigger country than now. In the summer of 1250 ho was on his way 
to defend the town of Rendsburg on the Eider, against the attack of some 
predatory German bands, when he received an invitation from his brother 
Abel to visit him in Slesvig. The unsuspicious and opon-hcarted Eric ac- 
cepted. After dinner, on the ninth of August, the very day of his arrival under 
the fatal roof, he retired to a little pavilion near the water, to enjoy a quiet 
game of choss with a knight whose name was Henrick Kerkwerder. As they 
were thus engaged, the black-hearted Abel entered the room, marclied up to 
the cliess-table, accompanied by several of his retainers, and began to over- 
whelm the King with abuse. Finally the unfortunate P]ric was seized, 
thrown into chains, and basely murdered the same night. Poor King ! Little 
did he merit so cruel a checkmate, for the commencement of his career was 
full of promise for himself and his dominions. 

{>orgil8 Saga skarSa. 

Our next chess event took place in 1241-42 and is narrated in the saga 
of Porgils skarIJi (which is to say, I^orgils of the hare-lip). It chances also 
that this incident, like one already treated, has a certain relation to Snorri 
Sturluson, for Gizur I*orvaldsson--known as Earl Gizur (Gizur Jarl) in Ice- 
landic history — who appears in it, was the chief actor in the assassination of 
the great historian. Bo5var, the son of I^drOur Sturluson, and therefore the 
nephew of Snorri, after the conclusion of the political feud which termi- 
nated in his uncle's death, was obliged not only Ho take an oath of feudal 
lealty to Gizur, the enemy of his house, but to hand over to the latter as 
hostages his own son (l^orgils Bol)varsson, the one who afterwards became 
noted as I*orgils skarOi) and his own brother (Guthormur I*6rSar8on). I^or- 
gils was at that time only fifteen years of age, but sturdy of arm and will 
as became the race he sprang from. Ho spent the. first winter at Gizur's 
residence, called Tunga, and Grda, Gizur's wife, treated him most kindly. It 
happened, one day, that I'orgils and Samur Magnusson, a kinsman of Gizur, 
quarreled over a game of chess. Samur wanted to take back a knight^ which 
he had set e^i prise (t tipptuim)^ but I*orgils would not permit him to do it. 
Then one of Gizur 's retainers, called Marki^s MarOarson, advised that the 
knight should be allowed to go back to its old square, " and don't be brawl- 
ing at chess I " he added, torgils said that he did n't intend to accept either 
counsel or (;ommand from Markus, and suddenly swept the men off the table, 
and let them fall into their pouch ; then, standing up, he struck at the ear 
of Samur (with the pouch of chessmen, as the construction would seem to 
imply), so that the car bled. At the same time he exclaimed : — *^ It is much to 
know that we cannot venture to hold ourselves equal in anything to the kins- 
men of Gizur." Then there was a running out of the room to inform Gizur of 
the deed, and of Porgils' slighting remark ; Gizur entered and asked whether 
Samur did n't dare to avenge himself. Guthormur and Gr6a were sitting on the 
same settle, when Gizur came into the room, and they heard that he scolded 
the boys angrily; whereupon they drew near, and a priest with them. Porgils 
was answering Gizur in a way that was very provoking. Grda took her 
husband's hand and said: — *^ Why do you act in such an angry way? I should 



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CHESS IN THE SAGAS 13 



think that you are the persoQ to be reRponsible, even if he should do some- 
thing demanding legal compensation *'— meaning that Gi/ur was obliged by 
law to pay fines for acts committed by hosta<;es while in his household or 
charge. Qizur answered:— ** As to that 1 will not accept your judgment/* 
She replied : — " Then I will pay tlio fine, if we be adjudged. " With that they 
led torgils aside, and begged him to reply submissively to Qizur, but I*or- 
gils cried out that he would not do that. Various persons then offered their 
advice, calling the whole thing a childish affair. So the matter was allowed 
to rest, but after that Oizur was always colder towarif^ I^orgils.'^— This story 
is interesting in more than one way. It shows that even youth— of the better 
classes— were, at that day, acquainted with chess ; that the custom was to 
keep the chess -sets in pouches, or purposely -made bags; and that chess 
nomenclature thus early included a phrase equivalent to our eti prise. The 
young chessplayer, I^orgils, became in time a champion of high importance, 
warmly trusted by his friends and feared by his enemies, and of all Iceland- 
ers of his time stood highest in the regard of the Norwegian King, H&kon 
the Old. He was slain in a political flght January 22, 1258, only thirty-two 
years of age, and his saga- which is a part of the great Sturlunga saga — was 
written not many years afterwards. 

GhiBmundar SekgtL g68a. 

We have alluded, on another p.ige of this volume, to a bishop of Skilholt 
in Iceland who was popularly canonized and styled St. Thorlak. A like in- 
stance also occurs in the history of Iceland*s northern see — that of II61ar. 
QuSmundur the Holy, a most pious prelate, who presided over the H61ar 
diocese, died in the year 1237, and many were the miracles performed by him 
both before and after death. His successor was B6t61fur, a Norwegian, whose 
unauthorized consecration by the primate of Throndhjcm was not very grate- 
fully received by the Icelandic clergy and people who were thus placed under 
his jurisdiction. His life is contained in a short appendix (for he held his of- 
fice only eight years) to the saga of Bishop QuOmund, and it includes the 
following anecdote: — *Mt happened once in H61ar, at Christmas, that two 
deacons, or minor priests, were playing chess, one of whom was hasty of 
speech and quarrelsome. Bishop B6t6lf came into the room, sat down on a 
settle in front of the players, and interfered in the play by giving advice to 
one of the combatants, in whose favor the game soon began to turn, so that he 
was near mating his adversary, a feat which was largely the result of the 

^ '* SA atbnrdr varft, at }>4 ikllM k uni tail, I>orgll8 BClbvarsson ok Sim MaguiUiou fmnda 
Oisarar. vildi SAinr bera aptr rlddara, i>r bann haff^i telft i uppniio, en ]>orgiU I6t |>irl ekki nk. 
Pk lagM til Uarka« Marftarion, at aptr skUdi bora ridiarann, ' Ok latift ykkr ekki k tkilja am 
tafl.* I>orgfia sagMak ekki fyrlr bans ord muoda gGra ; ok tvarfaM taflinu, ok I£t i piiORinn ; ok 
at&b npp; ok laimt vlh eyra Kiml, svi at blAddi, ok mnUt vi^: * MIkit er ]>at at vit», at T^r 
sknllro dngan blut ))ora at halda til jafOH vift friendr Uixarar. * Pk var fram blanpit ok Hagt 
Gisuri ; ok kom banu Inn, ok spardl bv4rt Siror )>yrdi ei;(l at hefua tin. I*aa Gatbormr ok 
Oroa bdrba Betih k palli er Qlsarr kom i ttofu, ok beyr^u at bann andaakaM tveinana reiftalega; 
gengo >aa til ok prestr meb Jielin. I>orgllii ivarar Qisuri bridr akapraunar-tamllga. nr6a t6k 
i bOnd Olsuri ok mnltl : 'HtI l»tr )>A svi roll^ulcga? mir lintti |>A elga fyrir at nvara, )i6tt bann 
betM P$X> nokkud gOrt er b6t.))arfa vjcrl. ' (Jixarr ararar : *Kigi vll ek k pena piun d6m.* 
H6b svarar:* Bk akal p6 beta ef tiarf. ' Lciddu ]>au Porglla 4 brott, ok bifta )>aa banu vel 
•vara Gisuri ; en ]>orgil« kvesk )>at elgl niundn gOra. I^gl&u pk marglr til, ok kSlluftn petttk 
vera bernskii-bragd. ¥kl\ )>at pk nlftr ; ok var Olxorr fierri vid Porglia en kbr." — Sturlunga Saga 
(whiob Inolodes the pprgUa Saga •karda)^ edited by Ga^brandnr VIgittsaon, (Oxford 1878), 11., p.105. 



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14 CHESS IN ICELAND 



bishop's counsel. Then, naturally, the priest, whose game had gone so badly, 
became angry, and said to the bishop, without any regard to the latter's epis- 
copal dignity: — * It is better for you, brother B6t6lf, to go into the cathedral, 
and read over the talk you have got to make to-night, for what you said last 
night was all wrong ; moreover your predecessor, the holy bishop GuSmund, 
gave his attention rather to the saying of prayers and the giving of alms than 
to the schemes of chess.' Thereupon Bishop B6t6lf answered his deacon more 
wisely and calmly than he had been addressed : — 'Thanks, my good deacon, 
I shall take your wholesortio advice, and betake myself to the cathedral. What 
you say, too, is true— many things and great things distinguished the charac- 
ter of Bishop GuOmund, when contrasted with mine.' " The chronicle goes 
on to say that B6t61f was always thereafter a quiet and modest man— in fact, 
not severe enough for those he had to rule. Ho died on a visit to Thrond- 
lijem— which was called in those days NiOar^s— and was buried in the mon- 
astery of Helgisetur not far away from that episcopal city. *6 

Sr6ka-Be£i Saga. 

There is a brief Icelandic saga, the text of which, in its latest and best 
edition, fills only a little over forty not very large pages, which is known as 
the saga of Kr6ka-Rofur. It is the history of an Icelander, who received 
from his parents at his birth the name of Refur (— fox), which, on account 
of the character its bearer developed subsequently, became Kr6ka-Refur, that 
is "Refur the wily." The book is full of adventures, and the number of 
manuscripts of it extant evince the popularity it long enjoyed. It has hitherto 
been classed among the fabulous sagas, but the various later editors agree in 
recognizing not a little historical truth at the bottom of it, and consider that 
some of its events, which are recorded as liaving taken place in the tenth 
century, were really transmitted traditionally — somewhat distorted in their 
chronology — to the period when the saga was written down, about the middle 
of the fourteenth century. The scenes are laid partly in Iceland, Norway and 
Denmark, but in good part, too, in the fjords of Greenland, among the Ice- 
landic colonists, so that the saga belongs, in a certain sense, to the litera- 
titre which relates to the early Icelandic discovery of America. At any rate 
it shows that, three centuries and a half after the first voyages to the unexplored 
western hemisphere, the idea of commercial and friendly relations with the 
settlements in the new world, to which those voyages gave rise, was still, in 

^ *' Sv4 bar til oinn tima & HolattaS, at jolum, at tvcir dj&kuar tafldu sk&ktafl, var aunarr 
djakuinn Ororftr ok uppiv57).sliiiiiikill ; kom ]>» hcrra Rot^lfr biskup Itiii i atofuna, ok sottist 
uidur k elDii kiiakk ]>ar f ram an at sein klcrkarnlr tvirdu, lagAi lianu tit mcd 5&rum klArkinnm, 
t6k |)4 ad hallaat tatlit,Ava»t u^ruin var komit at iii&tl, mont af tlli6|(iiin biskupo; rolddlat klerkr- 
Inu, •& er vcrr gckk taflit, t\k tegjaiidi til biskup* : betra or l>£r. br6dir Dotdlfr! at fara tt 
til kirkju ok aj& yfir rasping pinn, or )^j!k &tt at loaa i n6u, pviat t>i& laat alll rangt i fyrrf n6tt; 
■Urfa&i ok (Su&muudr biskup, sera fyrir l>1k Tar, nieirr i bsnahaldi ok olinuragJOrl&uni en i 
taflbrogftum. Pk svarar berra Rutolfr biskup djiLkuanum aptr i gegn, betrok b^gvasrligar en 
til var talat: baf ]^«kk fyrir, dj&kni mlun ! potta ]>itt hoilricM tkal ek bafa, at fara til kirkju, 
•egir 1)^ l>at ok oatt, at mart ok iniktt miiu ikilja hcrra Giiftmnnd ok inik. Var berra B6t6lfr, 
biskup i dllum hhitum hogvierr ok HUIi&tr, ok kotn oigi itJ6rn k viti sina uudirmeun sein htofM ; 
var ok k bans dSgum Ittill gaumr at gefinn, at halda npp jarteguuui Utt4!>uiuudar biskups. Var 
bann Il61ab{akup nm vllj 4r, ok for uUn ok andaMst i NiAarusi ok bvillr at Helgiaotrl.*' — 
BitkHpa SCgur II. (containing the appendix, or Vidbatir, to the Oufimtmdar Saga hint gdda by 
Abbot Arngrimur), pp. 186-187 (KanpmanDahGfn 1878). 



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CHRSS IN THE SAOAS 15 



the minds of the Icelanders, a familiar one. Ref, having; killed a man in a 
fend— for feuds and liillinfrs were ordinary things in those days— is obliged to 
betake himself, as an outlaw, to Greenland, where he pets possession of some 
land in a not easily discovered and quite uninhabited region on-Uie upper 
shores ofaQord, which lay ftir North of the Yestri-byg?^, the remoter of the 
two districts of the Icelandic colony. This fjord is described with much detail, 
and has been supposed to be the Franz.-Joseph's Qord, rediscovered some thirty 
years ago by the second German Arctic expedition. ^ Later on. King Harald 
har0r4!)i of Norway sends another Icelandic voyager, B&rl^ur, to Greenland to 
bring him back some of the products of that country. In executing his com- 
mission B4r6 becomes intimate with Gunnar, the principal man of the colonists, 
and from him learns all about Ref^who has meanwhile got into fresh difliculties, 
not of his own seeking, and has been obliged to fortify his lonely dwelling on the 
distant inner Qord. Henceforward Bdrft seems to regard it as a special mission 
to bring Ref to justice. But with the many turns of Refs affairs— his clever 
evasions of his foes, his defences of his strongly guarded dwelling, to which 
he had even contrived to lead concealed water-pipes from the neighbouring 
mountains, his changes of name and abode^we have nothing further to do. 
Having assumed his final name of Sigtryggur, ho rose to distinction under 
the protection of the king of Denmark, who assigned him a residence, in which 
he lived for many winters. At last he made himself ready for an expiatory 
pilgrimage to the holy city {f>jo hafm ferih sinn ut i Roniaborg og sotti heint hinn 
helga Petur postula^ as they expressed it in the days of the saga-writers), but 
he fell mortally ill on his way back, and was buried in a rich monastery in 
France. t>orm68ur, his son, returned to Iceland after the fall of the Norwegian 
King Harald, who had pursued his father, acquired land at a place called 
Kvennabrekka, and married; from him, says the saga, have sprung many 
gifted men. 

The chess episode of this tale is a somewhat obscure one.*^ BarO, after 
we left him in Greenland, returned to Norway with a cargo, Gunnar seizing 

*^ *' Dio xweite deuUehe Nordpolarfabrt in den Jahrau 1869 und 1870 uutor FOhrung dea 
Kapil&n Karl Koldewey, Krater Baud. Loipalg 1879.*'— This reference U gtvcii by P&ltnl 
PiUson, editor of the Kroka-Refa Saga, in hli preface (p. xxxl), but it hai been impoaaible 
to Terffy it. lie apcaka of the identlile«ilon of Refa Qord with the Franz-Joaepb*a f}ord *a 
made by Dr. Konrad Manrer— tbe higbeat of all antborltlea on any matter relating to leo* 
land — bat In the two eaaaya on <*Or(>niand Im Mittelalter" and "Gr5nlanda Wioderentdeck- 
ung,** which Dr. Manrer eontribnted to the volume elted, no statement relating to aucb 
identifieatlon is to be found. In the same sentence Pilmi Pilaaon aiao citea tbe " Sturlunga 
Saga" edited by Dr. Gudbrand Vlgfdssou (Oxford 1878), in the " Proldgomeua '• of which 
(p. Izili), the editor saya of tbe '' Kr6ka-Ref8 Saga" that it "shows real local knowledge 
on the part of the author, so that Dr. Maurer haa even believed It possible to identify a firth 
which he deaeribes as the lately-discovered Franz-Joeeph's fjord.'* But Dr. Qu5brand Ylg- 
flksson glTes no reference to any of Dr. Maurvr's writings. 

is '« Gunnar sendir Haraldi kouungi ])rj4 gripi; t>a& var hvita-bj5rn fullli<^a og vandr 
i^«ta vel ; annar gripr var tanntafl og gert rae^ miklam haglelk ; ])ri9jl gripr var rottuugBbans 
me15 511ura (Snnam sinum, hann vsr grailnn iilir og vil^a rent i gulll ; tennurnar voru fastar i, 
faauainum ; var |>a9 alli hln mesta gcralmi. Bardr Ictr nil i haf og ferst vcl ; kom hann i }>Kr 
atd&var, aem hann muudi kjoaa. Hann fser&i HaralJi konuugi luargan grsoulcnKkan varu- 
iug igactan. Ferr Bar&r fyrir konuug einn dag og nisclli : "HJer er eitt tafl, herra, er y&r 
aeudl hinn gSfgaxti ma^r af GrsDnlandl, er Gunnar heitlr, og vill ekki f6 fyrir hafa, heldr 
viufeingi y^ar. Yar eg me& honum ij v«tr og rart m^r hann %6f>t drcngr; vill hann gjama 
vera vin y^ar.** I>aS var baelbl hneftafl og skiktafl. Koniingr leit k um hrift og baft hann 
hafa )»5kk fyrir, er slikt sendi, " skulu v^r vist vin4ttu vera k mdti leggja.*'— JTrt^fca-ifs/s 
Saga og Kr6ka-Be/» rimurj udgiven af Film! P4lsaon (KCbenhavu 1883), p. S3. 



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16 CHESS IN ICELAND 



the occasion to send to King Harald three valuable gifts of Greenlandic origin. 
These are a full-grown white bear in good condition ; a tanntafl, made with 
great skill ; and the skull of a walrus (or perhaps some object formed out of 
the jaws), having all its teeth, which were carved and, in places, enamelled 
with gold. When the tanntafl is presented to the King, BarSur accompanies 
the gift with this speech :— '* Here is a to/f, my lord, which is sent to you by 
the foremost man in Greenland, who is called Gunnar; he demands nothing 
for it except your friendship. I was with him two winters, and he treated 
me nobly; he will most gladly have your favor." Then the writer adds: 
— "*a^ var ha:H hneftafl og skdhtafir' This statement would be most in- 
teresting could we make sure of comprehending it rightly. Tanntafl (tann 
= tooth, or tusk) may mean:— 1, a set of men used in playing any game of 
tables, made of (walrus) teeth, or (walrus) tusk ; or it may possibly signify: — 
2, a board for such a game, made out of the same material ; or one may 
conceive that it might include:— 3, both the men and the board. This is, 
however, little more than guess-work, on account of the dubious signification 
of the word to/l, which we discuss elsewhere. It is also difficult to under- 
stand the final underscored phrase except by assigning to tanntafl the second 
of the three meanings which we have indicated. Literally the phrase reads: — 
'* It [i. e. the tanntafl] was both a hncfatafl [board for playing finefatafl] and 
a chess board. " Now wo do n't know precisely what s)fort of a game hnefatafl 
was, nor can we be certain that the writer intends to say that the two games 
were played on a board, marked or designed in precisely the same way for 
whichever game it was used. It may possibly be that the surfaces used for 
the two games were of quite unlike forms, and that the board was both a 
hnefahor^ and a shdkbor^, because ono was drawn upon one side of the board 
and the other upon the other, as one sees old (or even modern) chessboards 
having upon the reverse side a fox-and-geese board, or a twelve-man- morris 
board. Were the meaning that only a chessboard, with its sixty-four squares, 
was represented, and that it was used also for hnefatafl, it would go far to 
tell us what hnefatafl was, namely, that it was draughts (checkers), or some 
allied sport. There is little doubt that an Icelander writing in the fourteenth 
century would know all about the game: perhaps it was even so familiar a 
diversion that the author of the saga took no pains to describe it precisely. 

M&guB Saga. 
In the varied domain of the literature written in the speech of Iceland a 
special field is occupied by the romantic or knightly sagas. These are mainly 
translations, or paraphrases, of tales drawn from the mediaeval legendary 
cycles of western Europe. In their Icelandic form they date back to the 
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and are the work of writers attached to 
the Norwegian court. In one of these compositions, the long Karlamagnus 
saga, there is a casual mention of chess. It is stated— wc quote from both 
the extant manuscripts, one of which is slightly earlier than the other — that 
the renowned champion Oddgeir (Holger Danske) was playing chess with Glo- 
riant, a daughter of King Ammiral {pau Oddgeir ok konungs dottir Ichu at 
skdhtafli), when ill tidings were brought in, whereupon Oddgeir shoved the 
board from his knees and spake {Oddgeir skaut taflborHnn af hnjdm ser ok 
mcelti)*^ concerning the evil intelligence thus received. 

*' " Karlainagntis saga og kappa bans,*' edited by C. K. Ung«r (ChriBtiaiiia 1859), (• 111. 



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CHESS IN THE SAGAS 17 

There is a still more incidental allusion to the game in another of these 
^* sagas of the southern lands'' {sdgur Su^nrlanda)^ as they haye been styled. 
This is the ''Tristrams saga ok isondar''— a romantic narrative, remotely 
of Celtic origin, which exists very nearly in the same form in early English 
(the poem of "Sir Tristrem," written in the last years of the 13th century), 
in Middle High German (the metrical romance, ''Tristan und Isolde,'* written 
by OottAried von Strassburg early in the 13th century), and in Icelandic (in 
prose). This last was translated from the French by command of King Hakon 
Hikonsson (the Old) of Norway in 1226. The author of the version is stated 
to be a monk called Robert, who is likewise named as translator of another 
of these stories of the South, the '*Elis saga ok R6samundu." Fragments 
of the Tristrams saga are to be found in a vellum codex of the 15th century 
(including, as it happens, the portion containing the references to chess, 
which does not vary essentially, in this respect, from the later transcript) ; 
but it is complete only in a paper MS of the 17th century. The French poem 
on the same theme, which served as the ground-text of the three versions 
here indicated, is almost wholly lost. As to the Northern saga, whoever the 
friar Robert might' have been, his work was, at a later day, revamped by an 
Icelander in Iceland, but this production is inferior both in style and inci- 
dent to the Norwegian narrative. It was likewise transformed in Iceland 
into a popular ballad (the ''TristramskvseOi")."^ The hero of the saga, Tris- 
tram, at the date of the chess episode a boy of extraordinary activity and 
accomplishments-^precocious youths are common in these old sagas, an in- 
dication of the early development in strength and character of the Scandi- 
navian races— went one day with his fosterfather, his tutor and brothers, to 
visit a Norse vessel, which had Just arrived in the harbor near the castle 
in which he dwelt, laden with many strange and rare things from divers 
lands. Tristram, already skilful in the languages, talked with the merchants 
and sailors, and bought some beautiful birds, which he gave to his brothers. 
Then, the saga goes on, he saw there a chessboard, and asked if any one 
of the merchants would play with him ; one came forward, and they set the 
pieces, each staking at the same time a considerable sum on the game. When 
his fosterfather saw that he was sitting at the chessboard he said to him : 
—"My son, I am going home; your teacher will wait for you and accom- 
pany you, when you are ready." This master, who remained behind, was 
a courteous and gentle knight. But the merchants wondered at the youth, 
and praised his wisdom, his accomplishments, his beauty and agility, his 
quickness of wit and manly bearing, in which he excelled them all; and 
theyr thought that if they could carry him away with them, great gain would 
accrue to them from his expertness and proficiencies, and also that, if they 
chose afterwards to sell him, they might obtain a large sum of money. As 
the youth sat there absorbed in his game, they secretly hauled in the 
cable and anchor, and worked the ship out of the harbor. The boat had its 
awning up, and was moved along gently by the breeze and current, so that 

" For an abttraot of th«ttory m rewritten In Iceland see: — '* Die nordlache nnd die eug- 
litcheyereiM der Triatan-Sage,'* edited by Bogen K61bing (Heilbronn 187S-8S), I., pp. xv-zTi— 
For the " TrletramekTiBfti " see the ** Islensk fornkrsBdl/' edited by Sven GrundtTig and J6n 
Slgarteson (Kj0benhayn 1854-85), L, pp. 186-S07. lint the ballad,— which U printed from 
three varying M8S— doea not contain the cheaa Incident, relating only to the lovea and mia- 
fortnnea of Trietram and laSnd. 

3 



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18 CHESS IN ICELAND 



Tristram was not aware of the changed situation until they were at a dis- 
tance from the land. Then he said to the merchants:— "Why are you 
doing this?" They answered:— "Because wo will that you accompany us." 
Then he began to weep and to be distressed, and to bewail, as did also the 
knight, out of his love to Tristram, their sad condition. Thereupon the Norse- 
men took his teacher and let him down into a boat, giving him an oar. And 
now the sails are set and the ship is at full speed, but Tristram is sitting sad 
and sorrowful at the mercy of these strangers. ^^ Afterwards he wanders about 
—a Northern Ulysses — for a long time, meeting with many marvelous adven' 
tures. In the English poem, Tristrem, as he is there called, catches sight of 
a chessboard on a chair, and wagers with a sailor twenty shillings against a 
hawk; he wins six hawks, which he oflFers to his brothers; and his foster- 
father, Rohand, taking the fairest one, bids him good bye, and walks away 
with the other youths. Tristrem continues to play, and gains a hundred 
pounds by his skill, but suddenly noticing that the boat is moving, weeps 
sorely. Then his master is sent off with the boat and oar, and Tristrem is 
left a captive. 22 

A third one of these knightly romances, the "BragSa-Magus saga," has 
two long chess episodes, not unlike each other. King Jatmundur, by some 
called LoS6vikus {sutnar nefna hann Juliand^ er hann 16k heisaratign; en 
iner pikkir svo helzt til visa sd titull^ er af cefi keisaranna er skrifa^r^ at 
hann muni verit ha fa sonar son Karlamagmis keisara, ok svo segja flestar 
baskr^ at hann hafi Lo^ovikus heitit), who ruled over Saxony (Saxland), finds 
a princess captive in the hands of a Jarl, Hirtungur, and longs to possess 
her. He demands the amount of her ransom. The Jarl replies that he will 
only release her in return for three objects of great value belonging to the 
King. These three things the Jarl was to be allowed to select. After con- 
sultation with one of his counsellors, the monarch tells the Jarl that he will 
accept the terms, with the proviso that, if he choose, ho may subsequently 
redeem the three valuable objects by substituting for them two costly gold 
rings, which shall be deemed of half the value of the precious objects pawned; 
for the other half of the debt the Jarl and he are to play three games at chess, 
the winner to possess all the valuables in question. The Jarl agrees, and 

'* Beaidea the edition of tbls saga by Bugen KSlbIng, already cited, thoro is another by 
tbe Icelandic scholar, Qisli Brynjulfsson, *'Saga af Tristram ok is5nd samt Mdttuls saga" 
(Kj6beDhaTn 1878). The text of the passage cited is here taken from the edition of KGlbing 
(p. 18): — '*Si^an b4 hann liar, skiktaflsbor^ ok spurlM, ef nokkurr kanpmanna vlldi tefla 
vift hann, ok einn f6r til, ok settu t>eir ok 15g9u viS mikit f6. 8em f6strl bans sit, at hann 
sat at skaktaflsbordi, l>a mrelti hann til haps: 'Son mlnn,* scgir hann, 'ek geng heim, en 
nieistari t>inn bidi t>ia og fylgi ])^r hblin, ^k er l>u ert bAinn,' og dvaldist ]>i meS h&nam 
einn karteiss og htcverskr riddari. Kn kaupmenn undru^u ])enna unga mann og lofu(&a kuun- 
ustu bans, list ok fegrS ok atg6r9, vizkti ok nic^ferift, er hann upp \&k t>& alia, og ibugu^a 
pelr, at ef ])eir kacmi binum brutt med sir, at ))eim myndi mikit gagn af standa hsnskunn* 
ustu ok margfraslbi, Bvk ok, ef l>elr yilja seija hann, ]>& fi l>elr mikit f6 fyrir bean. Bern 
hann sat gcymandi luiksius, )»i drdgu }>eir upp sem leyniligast strengi sina ok akkeri ok idta 
lit bera skipit lir v&ginum. Sklpit var tjaldat ok rak fyrlr vindinum ok strauminum, svi at 
Tristram Tard ekkl varr vi^ fyr enn t>«ir v&ru fjarri landi; t>& maeltl hann til kaupmanna: 
-~*Uerrar,' segir hann, * hvi vili ^^r st& gSra?* I>eir aegja : — * I'yrlr l>vi at ver Tiljaro, 
at l)d fytgir oss.* Pi lok hann l>egar at grata ok ilia lita ok sjAlfan sik harmandi ok 8t4 
riddari un, sakir istseindar ; ok ]>4 t6ku Nordmeun meistara haus ok 16tu i hki ok fengu 
hkunm kr eina. Nu er nppi ECgilt ok skipit fuUskri^a, en Tristram sitr nil i ]>eirra yaldi i 
harmi ok bags6it.*' 

^ In the second volume of KSlbing's work is the English '* Sir Tristrem,*' of which Sir 



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CttRSiS Is THE SAGAS 



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says:— '*! need not go to your camp or treasury to select the three things 
I desire; I choose, as ransom for the maiden, the horse you now sit on ; 
the falcon which rests on your wrist : and the sword which hangs at your 
side." "Even if you had searched my treasury," replies the King, "you 
could not liave chosen three objects which I so unwillingly part witli; but, 
however that may be, I shall stand by our agreement." Ho then strips 
himself of the three rare possessions, and sends them by his man IIr6lfur 
to the princess that she may herself purchase her freedom. But he orders 
to be brought a beautiful chessboard which he owns, and declares himself 
already ready to play the three stipulated games. The two begin their 



Walter Seolt pabltshed In 18(H an elaborate edition, 
deteribe the carrying off of Tristr£in : — 



The following ttanaa*! (xxix-xxxiii) 



A ebeker he fond bl a eheire 
He aaked, who wold play. 
Pe mariner epae boualr : 
"Clilld, what willow lay?" 
"Ogaln an hauke of noble air 
Tventi Mhilllngefl, to lay : 
Whe|>er eo nates o^er fair, 
ISere hen bo}>e oway. ** 
Wlp wille 

Pe nariuer swore his faye : 
*' For tope, Ich held per title ! * 

Now bo])e her wedde lys 
And play |»ai biginne ; 
Yflctt he hai> |»o long asise 
And endred bep per inne. 
I>« play biginnep to arise , 
Triatran delel> fttvinne ; 
lie dede als so lie wise : 
He gaf has he gan winne 
In raf; 

or playe ar he wald bliiine, 
Sex hankes he gat and gaf. 



Rohand toke leae to ga, 
His sones he cleped oway ; 
Pe fairest hauke be gau ta, 
Pat Tristrem wan ]>at day. 
Will hin he left na 
Pans for to play; 
Pe narlner swore al so, 
Pat pans wold he lay 
An stounde ; 
Tristrem wan ]iat day 
Of htm an hundred ponnde. 

Tristren wan pat |ier was layd. 
A troNonn ]>er was made. 
No longer l>an ]>e malster soyd, 
Of gate nas )>er no bade. 
As |>ai best sat and playd, 
Ont of hanen >ai rade ; 
Open ]>e se so gray 
Fran |>e brines brade 
Oun flete: 

Of lod pal were wul glad(>. 
And Tristrem sore wepo. 



His naister ]>an |iai fand 
A bot and an are : 
Hyo seyden : " Zond Is pe land, 
And here schaltow to hare : 
Cheie on aijMsr hand, 
Wheper ^e leuer ware 
Sink or stille stand : 
Pe child schal wil> ons fare 
On flo<l 1 *' 

Tristrem wepe ful sare, 
Pal long and ]>ougt It gode. 

Those stanxas are In volume II of K61blng*s pnblication, pp. 11-12. Once more, In this 
old Knglish poem, rhess is mentioned. It Is when Tristram goes to Ireland. He hsd been 
severely wounded, but ho was still a man fair to gaze at (stsnr.a CX1I, p. 85): — 

An heyo man be was like. 
Pel he wer wounded sare; 
His gles weren so selllkc, 
Pat wontier pougt hem paro. 
* His harp, his eroude was rikc; 
His tables, his chcs ho bare. 

Here Is a distinction made between tabU* and e/iefc, as elsewhere in early Knglish. 



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20 CHESS IN ICELA NJD 



games. The first one is of long duration, but at last tlio King finds himself 
mated by his adversary's rook {Kanungr f^hk hrdhsnuU). The Jarl at once 
exclaims :— **1 have won the precious objects; I don't care to play any more." 
The King answers: — "We shall now play the second game." Then they 
played the second time, and that contest turned out much worse. The King 
had to submit to a mate given by a pawn. The Jarl said:— "Little conso- 
lation do you derive from the game of chess, for now I own your costly 
•objects ; methinks you must see by this time that you cannot play against 
me. Besides I would rather that you retain your beloved pieces of property; 
so we won't play any longer, since I do not care to oflfend you too griev- 
ously. " But the King cried out: — "Do you think you have me in your 
power ? We shall play the whole match as agreed upon. " " I merely wished," 
said the Jarl, "to save you from the most disgraceful of all mates." That ill 
speech made the King so angry that he could give little heed to the final 
game, which terminated in a mate given by the very pawn opposite the mon- 
arch's king at its first move. « The Jarl suddenly rose and rushed into the 
castle. The King was greatly enraged against the Jarl, and longed to get 
back, by any means, the treasures he had lost ; but the Jarl guarded his 
castle on every side, and went up into the tower and, looking down at the 
King, shouted:— "Thus do we play with over-bearing men I " «< And the 
princess was no more in the King's power than before he sent her his horse, 
his falcon and his sword. 

Before we reach the next mention of chess in the saga a new character 
comes upon the scene, namely, the fifteen year old Rognvaldur, a son of the 

** Tbo deflnitton of thit mate is not wy clear. It •eama to Im a mato giran hj the 
pawn of the adrertary wbJeh ttanda on the klng*s file, and whIoh>-ona of the weakeft of the 
cheMmen—Tentaree to nore airaight at the enemy** most ImporUat pieee. At least, this Is 
the definition found in the old lezleon of Oians Verelius, '< Index liagva reteris Scytho- 
Seandias •' (Upsalin 1691), pp. 91-99 aub voc*. The name of the mate, as glren in the text, is 
/relf/crlMmdl, a vulgar epithet, If talcen In its literal meaning. Bat Johan Fritsner, In his 
<* Ordbog over det gamle norske Sprog " (Sd edition, Kristlania 1866), I., p. 48R, suft ooce^ 
deelares ita real derivation to be from /er« (rr vixler), the mediseral name of the qaeeuohe 
refers to ▼. d. Llude*8 « Qesehiehte des Sehachspieis ** In this eonnecUon— and Its apparent 
relation with the leelandie verb frtta (of coarse slgnffioallon) to be thus only an InsUnco of 
erroneous popular etymology. See also his explanation of the synonymons Toeablp, fuAryltu- 
mdt, in which he rather complicates the matter. The truth Is that these terms are by no 
means the sole instances of sneh forelblo and ungentle expressions used to describe the mates 
possible in the now antlqnated style of chess-play in Iceland. For other examples, see the 
^KvseM eptir Stef4n 6lafsson,*' edited by Dr. J6n torkelsson, the younger (KaupmannahSfn 1886) 
IT, p. 49, as well as the essay in the present ▼olume by Mr. Olafur DaviScson. These vulgar 
appellations are now wholly oot of date among leelandie players. Bat consalt on all these 
subjects Tarions later pages in the present volume. 

^ ** Konungr l»tr Uka eltt igiptt tafl, er hann 4tti. Taka ^Ir pi Ul at tella, ok varS 
t>etta tafl mJGk langt, en svo l^kr t>elrra f milium at konungr f^kk hrdkamit. Jarl mcnltl : 
nnnit hefl ek griplna, ok blrftt ek elgl lengr at tefla. Konungr maelti : tefla skulam vlt annat 
tafl. I>elr tefldn nd annat, ok er tiat miklu akeromra, ok f^kk konungr pedsmit. Jarl moeltl : 
litlt traust ipegi pir hafa k tafllnu, ok a ek nd griplna ; ]>ikkl mdr pat nd reynt, attd tkM 
ekkl vi9 mik at tefla. Kd vll ek heldr, attd elglr einu griplna, ok teflum vlt eigl lengr, pvi 
at ek vll elgl angra hug plan. Konungr moeltl: hyggst }>d pi eiga vald i m^r? Skulam vlt 
tefla 611 158, sem moelt var. Jarl mcBlti : elgl mun l>at ok purfa at spara at gera pik s«m 
hrakllgastan i mitlnu. Vift ^at lllmoBli vard konungr rel^r, sro hann giftl ekkl at tafllnu ; 
gekk petu tafl skemmst af, ok fdkk konungr fretstortumit. Spratt Jarl snart i foefr, ok 
bafU slk Inn i borglna. Konungr var9 mJ5k reiSr Jarll, ok vlldl fyrtr hvetvetna fi aptr pi 
grlpt, er Jarl af honum tefldl. Jarl loetr nd aptr Idka dll borgarhllMu ; sidau gengr hann i 
turnlna, er yflr hllMnn var, ok moelU : svo emm v^r vanir at lelka ofiitopamenn.'* — firo^a- 
Mdgu§ Smgrn, edited by Gunnlangnr Mrtaieon <Kaapmaanah6lki 1868), pp. 18-88. 



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CHISSS IN THE SA GA S 21 



i&rl Amundi. Though still a boy, he— like Tristram, of whom we have just 
read -^ was an adept in all the accomplishments of the day, and it was whis- 
pered that King IxAi^vikus (Louis), though older, was filled with jealousy of 
the precocious youtlu Just then, as we are told, the King was keeping high 
festival, and he and all his ministers and men-at-arms drank deeply at daily 
banquets ; and there was a good deal of talk, says the sagaman, ^*as there is 
wont to be at drink." This talk turned one day on the many arts known to 
the King. In the course of it some of the retainers asked a man called 
Ulfur (WolO whether he thought it possible to find in the land any one who 
was the King*s equal in feats of skill ; of course, they added, there can be 
nobody who would not shirk playing chess with him. Ulf said it was not un- 
like that a person might be found who could play that game nearly as well 
as the King. The others asserted that there could be no one in the world 
able to do even that, and one of the men, Sveinn by name, added :~" We 
know that you are thinking that Rognvald jarlsson does n*t play any worse 
than the King.'* 'M donH say that,'* replied Ulf, ''but 1 do think that 
RiJgnvald plays well. ** Sveinn then said :— " It would be futile to put Rogn- 
vald before the King in regard to any sport or skill, but the King shall 
know what disgrace you are casting upon him and his rank. '* •' Repeat 
my words rightly to the King, and 1 shall not disavow them," retorted Ulf. 
Sveinn replied:— 'Mt will not need to report worse ones," and the company 
separated. Not long after, the King sent for tjlf, and said to him:— ''We 
learn that you declare ROgnvald jarlsson to be better at chess than we. " 
. Ulf said that those were not his true words, '' for 1 have never thought 
of underrating your strength at chess, or at any other art, but often I do 
not remember what I say over my drink." After some not very pleasant 
discussion the King said:— ''Two conditions 1 desh^ to lay upon you; the 
first is that ROgnvald must meet me at chess ; the second is that otherwise 
I must have you slain. " tu replied :— " Bold Is a roan when his life's at 
stake; if you make it a mortal matter, then I must try to get Rognvald to 
play with you. " Ulf then goes off to ask the yonng champion to come to 
his rescue by meeting the King over the board. The Queen, unhappy at the 
prospect of bloodshed, sends a message to Rdgnvald urging him to accept 
the King's challenge. ROgnvald declared that he consented— chiefly be- 
cause the Queen wished him to do so— on condition that the playing should 
take place outside the King's castle ; a grove near the castle, in which 
tournaments were held, was accordingly selected and the day for the com- 
bat fixed. Rdgnvald's father, a man of frank and upright character, pre- 
dicted much evil from the encounter, but all met at the appointed hour and 
place, including many courtiers of the court, and also the Queen. ROgn- 
vald told his men to see that the horses of himself and his brothers were 
saddled as soon as the chessplay seemed to be half over. On arrival he 
Umnd the King and Queen seated on chairs, of which there were two others. 
R(igBvald, after saluting the sovereigns, took one of the seats and awaited 
the King's pleasure. A chessboard was lying on the knees of the King, who 
began by saying:— "Is it true, Rognvald, that you have offered to play 
with me, and that you call yourself a better chessplayer than I ! " Where- 
upon Rognvald:— "That I have not said, but they have announced to me 
that you bade me come to chess with you to-day; although I do not 
know too much about the game, still I am willing to act according to 



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22 CffBSS TX IGKLA ND 



your wish and play, for I do not care even if I am mated by you {pott eh 
fdi mdt af y^r). " The King exclaimed:— "Your speech is ill, but not the 
less shall you now play; but where is your stoke?" Quoth Rognvald: — 
" I have brought no stoke, for 1 have no mind to play as a champion or 
rival," The King replied:— "On tlie chair beside you hang three rings of 
gold ; those shall I wager ; but if you have not other three rings, then you 
shall wager your head ; methinks, in that case, you will not spare your 
strength." To which Rognvald:—" I do not toke your jest in earnest, lord, 
and I will not let my head be stoked, for it is not a thing to be sold or bartered." 
The Queen interfered to make peace, but was sternly rebuked by her spouse. 
To spare her, Rognvald hastened to stote that he would play for his 
own head, or in any other way the King might wish, " for we are all your 
men. " Then the table was set up. The King claimed the Urst move as 
lord and master. They began to play at the hour of breakfast (nine o*cIock), 
and at noon the game was finished, and Rognvald won, though there was slight 
difference in the positions. He arose and said:— "Now liave 1 gained this 
game, but only because of the King*s carelessness, in that he has not chosen 
to display his real strength ; so 1 will not take the stake, for I think it more 
proper that he should retain it. " After this Rognvald resumed his seat, and 
tliey placed the men for another game, which reached its end before three 
o'clock ; the King had to yield to the rook's mate. Rognvald arose as before, 
but there is no need to repeat his words. The King, by this time, was filled 
with wrath. They sat down for the third game, but that came to an end 
not long after three, with a mate inflicted by a pawn {okfekk konungr pe^s- ^ 
mdt). The King, in his anger, upset the pieces, and swept thorn into their 
pouch. Everybody was unarmed except VI gvarSur, Rognvald's eldest brother; 
he carried a great battl»-axe, and, standing behind the King, while play 
was going on, stiffly held his huge weapon at guard. Rognvald's youngest 
brothers, one twelve and the other nine years of age, were on his eitlier liand. 
When the final game was concluded, Riignvald stood up and said:—" This is 
a case quite otherwise than might have been expected; 1 liave played with the 
King, and he has combated as a champion, putting forth all the chess arts 
which he has been able to acquire, and has lost these three games, together 
with the three gold rings which he wagered ; he has been miserably beaten 
in the final game, in that 1 have given him mate with a paltry pawn. 1 can- 
not see why I should willingly try any further exercises of skill with him, for 
it seems to me that he does everything worse and worse, and therefore shall 
we separate ; but I shall take the rings, and ho can take the scorn of all for 
his folly and vehemence. " By this time the King had 'got the chessmen 
well into their pouch, and said in reply to Rognvald's speech:— "Not thus 
shall we part," and springing to his feet, struck with the pouch full at the 
face of R()gnvald, so that the blood flowed from it. At the same time he 
cried :— " Take that with your stoke, until we can cover you with the greater 
shame, which you have so well merited. " Said Rognvald to the King :— " I 
do not take into account such small matters at this time ; 1 see that this must 
be a jest of yours." Then Rognvald and his two young brothers went to 
their horses. ^ But the oldest brother, VigvarSur, was nowhere visible. They 

^ "SiSan reiM ]>eir UfltL Konungr vlldi liafa ]>at fyrir rikin mnn at dratr» fram fyrri. 
]>e{r t6ko at tefla at dagmilnm, en t>*t var Ati at bidegt, ok varft enn litlt mnnr, ok blaut 
Rfigovaldr. Hann st^^ ]>4 app ok moBlti : nA beB ek hlotit tall l)«tta, ok er ))etta af Sngra, 



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CHESS ly THE SAGAS 23 



rode otr without finding him, but soon learned that he remained behind to 
some purpose ; for, enraged at the treatment of ROgnvald, he used his battle- 
axe to cleave the unworthy King's head. Thus this unhappy chess-match 
led to many woes. The Queen incited the emperor Carloman to avenge the 
death of her husband, but, after much fighting, the clever Rognvald was 
reconciled with the powerful monarch, married the beautiful Queen Ermonga^ 
and passed his last years in peace, encountering, as may be hoped, no more 
such stormy chess incidents as the one here recorded. <^ 

Other Sagas. 

In the Viglundar saga, one of the fictitious sagas, or wholly invented 
tales which came long after the close of the classic period, and are little 

nema athusaleysl konnngK, )>\i at bann heflr en;;! taflbrCgS sin me.tri frammi baft; nina ek 
ekkl helrota l>eita taflf^, l>vi at m«r pfkkir allvel konilt, ]>6tt bann bad. Bi^an settlst KGgn- 
valdr ni9r» ok settn )i«ir annat tafl, ok var t>vi loklt fjrlr n^n j f6kk konungr broksmat. ROgu- 
valdr Ktod pk upp mcd aama bcBltl ok fyrr, ok part t>at efgl optar at groina. Konungr varft 
nd harMa roi^r. l!»cUu t>eir taflil t>ri^ja; var ))at lokit |i4 nkanimt var af u6ul, ok fekk kun- 
angr pe'^smat. Konungr svarfar ]>& taflinu, ok berr i punginn. AIl!r nivnn vora ]>ar vopn- 
lauslr, nema VigTarftr ; bann gekk me9 dxi nilkla. Uann ttdS jafuan 4 bakl konungs, neftan 
]>oir tefldu, Tift rcldda oxina. Markvarftr sat a aftra b6nd Rdgnvaldl, en Aftal«arftr & aftra. 
Rognvalilr stuft ]}& upp ok uicelti : nu niun vita vi9 o^ruvi9, enn meun rauudu oetla ; ek bufl 
teflt vi^ kouuug, en haun bctir tvflt af kappi, ok lagt fram ull taflbrog^, l>au er bann ]>ikkUt 
kunna, ok bcAr baun uu liLtit t)ci*sl I)rju toll ok trj4 guUhringa, er bann bvflr vifi lagt, ok 
■TO vcflalliga yflrkomiuli i si^asta tafli, at baun fekk af m^r bit fdlasta pef»«m4t. Nu kann ck 
ei t>at sja a miqu r4di, at l>royla t>urfl vift bann floirf iliroUir, ))vi at ek l)]kkjttniat Tita, at 
bann kunnl allar verr, en pk niunu Tit at ]}vi skilja, ok mun ek bafa briuga |)C«*a, en banu 
muu bafa spott af ollum fyrir sina beimaku ok kappgirnf. Kouuugr baf^I 1*4 i borit taflili 
punginn. Hann moelti: ekki aknlum T^r at l>€a8a' skiljaat. Sprettr baun 4 fsetr rei^r, ok al«r 
meft pungluani framan 4 naair RagUTaldl, sto at bloft fell um banu. Konungr nioeltl : haf uu 
]M)tta met taflfdnu, ^ar til T^r mlftlnra )>^r meiri arivirMng, aen pd heflr til unnit. RdgUTaldr 
maelli : herra, ekki bregft ek mer 8To njjok Tift alikt at siuni ; Ann ek, at }>etta diuu Tera 
glcna yftTart. Uekk Rognvaldr 1)4 i brutt ok iTeir bra-ftr baua meft b4num ok til bestaalnna.*' — 
Bragda-Mdgu,* Saga, edited by Guunlangur l>drftar(ion (KaupmannabOfn 1S58), pp. 48-45. 

^ Anotber and earlier M8oftb1« aaga waa edited by Guataf Cederachidkl In bia "Forn- 
adgur Suftrlanda " (Lund 1881), pp. 1-48, tbo text of wbicb diflfera aomcwhat from the later 
one which wo have cited. In the Introduction to his collection, CederachiSld trcata intereatingly 
of the origin of the M4gua aaga (pp. Ixxx-lxxxvi). In the MS he uaea, tbo King, J4tmundur, 
who contended in the first chesa cpiMode with Uirting, is here ealled emperor, and Hirting ia 
introduced aa Irlngur, Jarl of Ireland. Tbo reault of the three gamea ia the aama, but aftar 
the first conteat, when bia opponent triea to doclino the pricelesa objecta, and to terminate the 
match, the emperor aaya : — "You can't be allowed to run away without having rec«lTed 
checkmate ; for now I intend to giTo you a moat acurriloua mate. " Tbo other, or Rdgu- 
vald epiaode, though more conclaely recorded, dooa not Tary much from that In the young- 
er tranacrlpt. The aaga exiata in both French (**Quatre flla d'Almon,** or "Renaud de 
Montauban") and Dutch (**Renout van Montalbsen"), the latter from the end of the thirteenth 
century. In both, the main incident ia the chcaa match between Rognvald (Renaud) and the 
King. The first of these productions waa well known to the Eugliahmaa, Alexander Meck- 
bam (Neckam), and ia mentioned in the chapter D« ScaccU of bia book, '<De uaturia re- 
rum," the date of which Is about 1180. In the course of the chapter the writer cxolaima: — 
**0 quot mlllia auimarum tranamisaa aunt oceaaione illlua ludl, quo Roglnaldua [ROgnvald] 
flliua Kymnudi in caleulo ludena militem gcneroaum eom illo Indentem in palatio Karoli magni 
cum uno acaccorum interemit!" Coderachiold opinea that If the author of the Icelandic Ter- 
aiou learned the atory outaldo of France it waa probably iu England— to which, aa we have 
aeca in anotber place, not a few Icelandera of literary ability reaorted In thia Tery twelfth 
century. Qaatoa Paria auppoaea that Neckbam knew the legend iu an Anglo-Norman ren* 
daring now loat. The atory of M4gu8 reached the North in the 13th century, and may baTo 
come llrat to Norway, but it la remarkable that all the MSS containing it are the work of Ice- 
landic hands. The oldeat one datea back nearly to the year 1800. 



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24 CHESS IN ICEL A ND 



esteemed, there is a not uninteresting allusion to chess. The principal man- 
uscript of the saga (Arnaraagnsean collection, 510, 4<^) dates from the close 
of the 15th century, and the text Is probably not much older. One of the 
characters proposes to another to play [chess], which they do. But the in- 
vited player, Orn by name, gives little heed to the game because he pays 
too much to the lady of the house (the wife of Ihe other player), and he was 
therefore about to be mated {at honum var komit at nulti). But the lady 
in question comes in, and advises him, in a metrical speech, to move a cer- 
tain piece. His opponent deprecates the interference of his wife, who counsels 
his adversary, and tells the latter that she does it only because he is younger. 
But Orn follows the advice given, and is able to make a drawn game (Oi-n 
iefldi pat er til var lagt og var pd jafntefli). Though chess is not mentioned, 
nor the name of any piece given, the expressions at mdii (towards a mate), 
at 6€hrum reiti (to another square), and jafntefli (drawn game) indicate that 
the game was chess. ^— The passage in the Hervarar Saga ok HeiDreks kon- 
ungs, in which the word skdktafl occurs, in one of the two oldest MSS, is as 
follows:— "Einn dag cr GuSmundr lek skdktafl, ok bans tafl var mjfik svA 
farit, pa spurdi hann, ef nokkr kynni honum rdD til at Icggja. t'a gekk til 
Hervardr, ok lagDi liila stund til, d?)r Gu&mundar var vaenna.'" It is these 
sentences of which Dr. Gu5brandur Vigfiisson says that the word slalk^ in 
skdktafl, proves nothing as to the age of chess in Iceland, since its use is 
here mythical. The passage from the original text which we have given is 
in the prose portion of the Hervarar Saga, in a fragment from one of the cod- 
ices (copied not long after 14(X)), called by a distinctive name:— *'Saga 
HeilJreks konun^'s liins vitra," and may be thus rendered : — **One day, when 
GuSmund was playing chess, and his game was going badly, he asked if no 
one could aid him with good advice. HervarOur then came forward, and 
gave the matter a little attention until Gu!Jmund was in better condition."— 
There are possibly a few passages in sagas that we have not mentioned, in 
which the writers may have had chess in their minds when using the word 
tafl. But they must be examined when the whole theme is titeated more 
thoroughly, and more intelligently, by future investigators. « 

"^ '*I>ikir mdr ad ri9, at vit •kemlim okkr ok teflim ; ok svo ger9a ^eir. Litt gMi Om mi 
toflluu fyHr hng ^eim er hann bafbi 4 hdafreyja svo at bonum var komtt at mitt. Ok i t>Ti 
kom hikafroyja i stofuna ok 84 4 taflii ok kv«» l)eona vi^ubelniDf : 



Bdndi leit til hen oar ok kvad : 



I>oka mandir t)i& l)andar 
X>innl tOflu hinn gj&fli, 
R49 era tjalda tr6»u. 
Teiir at ^rvau reitl. 



JBnn er Ddtsnain maiiiii 
Menlin i dag Bioum, 
Blnikta mi ueina elil 
Auftbaldr fri ])dr gjalda. 



Orn iefldi ))at er ttl var lagt ok var ]>4 jafntefli.'* --27dr^ar«aya Sna/elUdu, Viglundarsaga, 
edilod by 6u«brandr VigfAfsoa (KJebvnhavn 1860), p. 87. 

^* See the "Fornaldar aSgur'* (18S9), I., p. 583; and the <'Icelandic-BngUah Dlellonary** 
of Ga^brandur y)gfii8to%, anb voee «ilrdJic, as quoted hereafter In the payee devoted to eheee 
'* Among the Ltzicographere. " 



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THE UTORY OF FRITH I OF 25 



3. -The Story of Frithiof.'' . 

There is a romantic, or non-historical, saf^a, the action of which is largely 
laid in a tract in Norway, which is styled Frithiofs Saga. In it there is an 
episode describing a game at *Mables,*' of the sort known in ancient times 
as ^^hnefatafi,'' between two of the characters. The passage has been thus 
Englished : — *♦ They [the sons of King Bele] sent their fosterer to Prithiof to 
bid him come help them against King Ring. Now Frithiof sat at the knave- 
play [hnefaiafl] when Ililding came thither, who spoke thus: — * Our Kings 
send thee greeting, Frithiof, and would have thy help in battle against King 
Ring, who cometh against their realm with violence and wrong." Frithiof 
answered him nought, but said to Bjorn, with whom ho was playing:— 'A 
bare place in Ihy board, foster-brother, and nowise mayst thou amend it; nay, 
for my part I shall besot thy red piece there, and wot whether it be safe. * 
Then Hilding spake again :— *King Helgi bade mc say thus much, Frithiof, 
that thou shouldst go on this journey with them, or else look for ill at their 
hands when they at last come back.* *A double game, fosior-brother,' said 
Bjftrn; 'and two ways to meet thy play." Frithiof said: — * Thy jjlay is to 
fall first on the knave, yet the double game is sure to be.' No other out-come 
of his errand had Hilding ; he went back speedily to the Kings, and told them 
Frithiofs answer. They aske<l Hilding what he made out of those words. Ho 
said:— 'Whereas he spake of the bare place he will have been thinking of the 
lack in this journey of yours ; but when he said ho would beset the red piece, 
that will mean Ingibjorg, your sister; so give ye all the heed ye may to her. 
But whereas I threatened liim with ill from you, Bjorn deemed the game a 
double one; but Frithiof said that the knave must be set on first, speaking 
thereby of King King.' "3" * 

On the incidents of this Icelandic saga, Ksaias Tegnor, the foremost of 
Swedish poets, built, in the first quarter of this century, his immortal poem of 

^ See the CAe«« Monthly (N«w York 1851)), lU., pp. 265-S68. 

*> Thii EaglUh Tersion of the episode of the game at *' tables,** in the orlgiaal Baga of 
Prithiof, is from <* Three Northern I^oTe Stories,*' translated by Kirikur Magudsson and Wil- 
liam Morris (London 1876), p. 73. For another rendering see the Knglish version of Tegner's 
"Frithiofs Saga" by Qeorge Stephens (Stockholm 1839), pp. 7-8 of ibo introduetorj matter, 
which inelades the whole saga in Bnglish. The leelandie text is as follows :_Senda ]>eir 
Ililding fostra Ul Friftlijdfs og skyldl biftja hann ad fara til 11^ met kongunum. Frl^pjdrur 
sat aft hnefatafli, er Hildingar kom. llann mspltl svo : ** Kongar Torir sendu ]ijor kvetju og 
vlldu hafa lltslnui t>Ut til orusto i moll llringl kougi, er ganga vill a riki Jieirra met ofsa og 
6JafnaSI.** Frid^J^fur svarar bonum engu og mwiti til Bjarnar, er hann tefldi vit: '* Bil er 
l>arna, fdstbroftir, og mnntu ei bregma l)vi, heldur raun eg setja at hiunl rauftu Idllunni, og vita 
hrort henni er forH9. '* Hildingur mseiti )>i aptur : " Svo bat> livlgi konjrur mig segja l>Jer, 
FriS])j6fur, aft t>ii skyldir fara i herfor l)esea. efta )?u mundir stcta afarkostum, 1>4 er )>«ir 
kaemi aptur.** BjSrn, nisiltl )?k: ** Tvikostur er parna, fostbrudir, og tvo v^n fra aft teHa. '* 
Frift]>j6rur sagfti : *' I>& mun raft aft sitja fyrst aft huefanum, og luun ))a verfta 6lrauftur tvikost- 
urlnn. *' Eugan Qekk Hildingur annan urskurft siuna eriuda; for hann aptur skjolt til mots 
vift kongaua og sagfti l^elm svor Frift))j6fs. l*eir spyrja Ilildiug, hverja V^ftingu hann twki 
ijr liessum orftnm. Hildingur sagfti : " Par er hann rnddl um billft, l>ar mun hann k bil hygg- 
ja nm ]>essa ferft meft ykkur ; en ]>ar er hann IJest sf tja mundi aft fogru tOtlnnui, ]>sft mun 
koma til Ingibjargar systur ykkar ; gs?tift hennar vel svo vist; en ]f4 er eg lijot honum afar- 
kostum af ykkur, tiaft virtl BJOrn tvikost, en Friftl)j6fur kvaft, aft hnefanum moudl verfta fyrst 
lagt; paft mclti hann til Hriugs kougs. — &'ayan ocfc rimoma oat Fridpio/r Man /raknif 
edited by Lndvig Larsson (Kebenhavu 1899) pp. 5-6. 

4 



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26 CHESS IN ICELAND 



Frithiofs Saga. It may be styled a love-epos, composed of lyrics, in each of 
which the metre corresponds to the sense. As the commentators of his time 
rendered the name given to the game in the old saga by "chess," the poet 
was enabled, partly by paraphrasing the original account of the game, partly 
by availing himself of his knowledge of chess and its nomenclature, to 
construct, out of this portion of the saga, a lyric of striking interest. Thus, 
although the anonymous author of the Icelandic saga did not have chess in 
his mind, but quite a dififerent game, Tegn6r, by the sixth song or canto of 
his poem (" Frithiof plays chess ''), has managed to connect, by a new link, 
the art of chess with Icelandic literature. 3' 

The story of the poem follows closely that of the saga. The hero of the 
poem, as of the saga, is Frithiof, a Norse peasant- warrior ; the heroine is In- 
geborg, a daughter and sister of kings. These two were placed, when young, 
under the care and in the house of the same foster-father, Hilding, where 
their affections soon turned to each other. King Bele, who was on terms of 
intimacy with his bold brother-in-arms, Thorsteinn, the father of Frithiof, 
did not look with displeasure upon this disposal of his daughter's hand. 
But, unfortunately, Bele and his friend, Thorsteinn, died, and the haughty 
sons of the King came to reign in his stead. They had no idea of seeing 
the proud blood of Odin mingle with that of a peasant, and Frithiofs suit 
was sternly and publicly rejected. The disappointed hero retires to his 
estate, full of bitter thoughts against his sovereigns. But all at once a war 
breaks out between the sons of Bele and a neighboring monarch. King Ring 

'* Tegn^r Ant published lome eantos (XIX-XXIV) of hit poem in a literary Journal ** Iduna," 
In ite eighth (18S0) and ninth (18S1) parte. Thle magazine appeared at Stockholm, and wai the 
organ of the '* Gothic Union** (gdtleka f5rbandet)— a bellettrietlo eoeiety, which, drawing 
ite inspiration from the old Scandinarlan literature and history, and from patriotic themes, 
made a rcTolatlon in Swedish letters. " Frithiofs Saga** was issued in its complete form at 
Stockholm In t895, and has since gone through a great number of editions. Such is still its 
popularity that it Is not uncommon to meet Swedes who can repeat from memory the entire 
poem. It has been rcAdered into nearly all the languages of Borope— even the modern Greek 
and the ancient Latin — and into some of them by many different hands. Two Daniith-Nor- 
weglan renderings came out almost immediately-- one by J. O. Miller (Copenhagen 1826), and 
the other (Bergen 18S6) by U. Foss ; they were soon followed by sereral others. The Brst 
German version was by Lndolph Schley In 18S6 (Upsala) ; the first English rendering wss that 
of William Strong in 18SS (Loudon); the first French one was not Issued until 1845 (Paris) 
by Mile R. da Paget ; the first Dutch one was gWen to the publle in 1851 (Utrecht) by P. L. 
F. 0. Ton Biohstorff, and in the same year the poem appeared in Italiair (Verona), rendered 
by Alessandro Baszonl. The earliest Slavonic version was the Russian ouo of 1841, followed 
by a Polish one in 1856 — parts having appeared previously. Into Hungarian many portione 
of the work were translated at an early day, but the poem was issued complete only In 1867 
(Budapest). Later are the translations Into Finnish (1878), Bohemian (1891), and other tongues. 
The best Bnglfsh version — so far as it goes— is that by Longfellow, firnt printed in the « North 
American Review ** of Boston (n* alvl. July 1887, p. 149), but unhappily it eousisU only of 
fragments, and the chess lyric is not among them. The poem has been frequently illustrated — 
best, perhaps, by the Swedish artist, Malmstr(5m (Stockholm 1868), whose designs have been 
published with texts in Swedish, Danish, German and English — the last-named In Boston. 
The most recent illustrated edition Is the German rendering by Bmil Engelman (Stuttgart 1887), 
adorned with engravings from drawings by a group of noted German artists. Frithiofs Saga 
has been more than once dramatised, and all Its most popular cantos have been repeatedly 
set to music by Scandinavian and German composers. An excellent bibliography of the Ice- 
landic saga, and its poetical paraphrase by Tegn^r, was prepared by Gottfried von Leinborg 
(Sd ed., Frankfurt 1878) — fairly completo down to 1871 — and was issued, together with tbe' 
Swedish text, a German prose translation, very full illustrative notes, and a complete Swe- 
dish-German vocabulary ; it is to be regretted that Lelnburg's lists of editions, translations 
and comments, have not been continued. 



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THE STORY OF" FRITfflOF' 



27 



(for, in that day, Norway was partitioned among various sovereigns), and 
Prithiofs good sword and warlike sliill are needed. The Kings consequently 
send Ililding on an embassy to the affronted warrior. Hilding finds him 
playing chess with his trusted companion, Bj($rn. The indirect, allegorical 
way in which Frithiof contrives, by addressing remarks concerning the game 
to his adversary, to answer Hilding^s queries, is thus described by the poet. 
We translate literally, and do not attempt to preserve either rhyme or metre : — 



Frithiof plays Chess. 



BJorn and Fritliiof both were Hitting 
At a cheflsboard foir to gaze at ; 
Evory other flqnaro was tUver, 
Every other one was gold. 

Then came Hildlng in : "Be eeatod ! 
Take the fitting chair of honor, 
QnafT tliy horn till I the combat 
Finish, foster-fiither good ! " 

Hildlng qnoth : — " From iions of Belo 
Come I now to thee beseeching; 
Fall of eril are the tidings. 
And to thee the oonatry looks. '* 

Frithiof qnoth : — ♦• Be wise and wary, 
BJ8m, for now the King's in danger ; 
Sacrifice a Fftwn ^ and sare him, 
Fawns are made for saoriAoe. '* 

"Frithiof, ronse not Kings to angor, 
Stardy grow the eaglets* pinions; 
Though 'gainst King their forco be feeble 
Mighty is their power to thine." 

'* So my castle, Bjom, then threat'nest ! 
Fearlessly' I wait the onset ; 
Not so easy is its capture. 
Defended by my tmsty men. " 



Ingeborg in Ba]der*s garden 
All tlte day-long sits a- weeping; 
Cannot she to strife entice thee — 
The weeper fair with eyes of bine f " 

" The Qneen, Bjoni, then Tainly bnntest; — 
Dear to me in every oontest 
She's Uio ohessfleld's noblest flgnre, 
Howe'er it go she mast be saved." 

• • Frithiof, wilt then never answer f 
Shall thy foster-fiither leave thee — 
Unheard from thy tower departing 
Becanse thy doll-play will not endf " 

Frithiof then arose, and taking 
Jlilding's hand in his responded : — 
" Father, I've already answered. 
Thou hast heard my soars resolve. 

Ride and tell the sons of Bele 
What I've said ; they scorned my frienilship, 
Broken are the bonds that boand as, 
Never will I bo their man." 

" Well, follow then the path thoa choosost, 
I cannot thy anger oonsnre, 
GT«at Odin gnide all things aright ! *' 
Spake old Hilding as he went. "* 



The modern Icelandic translation of Tegndr^s poem was first published 
at Reykjavik in 1866 under the title of " Fri6pj6fssaga, " and was rendered 
in the original metres. It may, with truth, be said that the reading of this 
version affords even greater pleasure than the perusal of the Swedish original. 
In the first place, the rendering is very exact, and the melody of the verse 
most effectively reproduced, and, in the second place, not only the proper 
names and the old mythological terms, but even the incidents of the tale 
have an effect, when given in the language of the saga, which it is diMcult 
to match in any modern tongue. The translator is the Rev. Matthias Jochums- 
son (6. November 11, 1835), the foremost Icelandic poet of the present gene- 
ration, who has published many volumes of original verse, while among his 

^ The play upon words cannot be preserved in Biigllah ; bondey the Swedish voeable, sig- 
nifies both paum and pea$antt and Frithiof was himself a peasant. 

^ A freer translation Is that by the Rev. William I^wery BlaelcUy (Dublin 1857), though 



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28 



GUESS /Y ICELA ND 



translated works are four of Shakespeare's plays ("Macbeth," "Othello/' 
" Hamlet " and *' Komeo and Juliet "). We give his version of the chess- 



p«rhapii not the beat of the many Ragliah verslont. We qaoto it from the American reprint 
edited by Bayard Taylor (New York 1867), and we add, side by side with it, tlie Swedish 
text : — 



Prithiof plays Chess. 

Frlthiof sat with BJSrn the true 
At the chess-board, fair to view ; 
Stiuares of silver decked the fVame, 
Interchanged with squares of gold. 

Hiiding entering, thns he greeted : — 
*' On the upper bench be seated ; 
Drain the horn until my game 
I finish, foster-father bold. ** 

Quoth Tlilding : — Hither come T spccdiiif?, 
For King BeleU sons entreating; 
Danger daily sounds more near, 
And the people's hope art thou.'* 

" Bj5rn, '* qUoth Frithiof, " now beware ; 
111 thy King doth seem to fare; 
A pawn may free him from his fear. 
So scruple not to let it go. ** 

"Court not, Frithiof, Kings* displeasure. 
Though with Ring they iii may measure ; 
Yet eagles* young have wings of power, 
And their force thy strength outvien.** 

" If, BjSrn, thou wilt my tower beset, 
Thus eanily thy wile I meet ; 
No longer canst thou gain my tower, 
Which back to plaoe of safety hies.*' 

« Fngeborg, in Balder*s keeping, 
Passeth all her dayK In weeping ; 
Thtne aid in Mtrife may she not claim, 
Fearful maiden, azure-eyed." 

What wouldst thou, Bj5rn ? Assail my quocn. 
Which dear from childhood's days hafh been — 
The noblest piece in all the game ? 
ITcr I'll defend, whatever betide." 

<* What ! Frithiof, wilt thou not reply ? 
And shall thy foster-father hie 
Unheeded from thy hearth away, 
Because thy game is long to end ? " 

Thon stood Frithiof up, and Ia!d 
Hllding's hand In his, and said : 
" Already hast thon heard me say 
What answers to their prayers I send. 

<* Qo, let the sons of Bela learn 
That, tlnoe my suit they dared to spurn, 
No bond between us shall be tied, 
Their serf I never shall become.*' 

" Well I follow on thy proper path ; 
111 fits it me to ehide thy wrath. 
All to tome good may Odin guide," 
Hiiding said, and hied him home. 



Frithiof spelar Schack, 

Bjorn orh Frithiof suto bada, 
Vid ett schackbord, skSnt at ^kada, 
Silfver var hvarannan ruta, 
Och hvarannan var af guld. 

DSi ateg Hiiding in : " Sitt neder, 
Upp i hogbKnk Jag dig leder, 
Tom ditt horn, och lat mig alnta 
Spelet, fosterfader huld ! " 

Hiiding qvad : " Frun Beles seiner, 
Kommer Jag till dig med bdner, 
Tidutttgarue iiro onde, 
Och till dig st&r landets hopp." 

Frithiof qvad : "Tag dig till vara, 
BjGrn, ty un &r kung I fara. 
Fr&lsas kan ban med en bonde, 
Dej) &r gjord att offras opp." 

" Frithiof, reto Icko kuugar, 
Starka r&xa ornous nugar ; 
Fast mot Ring de aktas svaga, 
Stor iir deras makt mot din." 

" Bjorn, Jag ser du tornot hofar, 
Men ditt anfall liit Jag motar. 
Tornet bllr dig s?art att Uga, 
Drar sig 1 sin skGldborg in." 

" Ingeborg i Baldershagen, 
Sitter och fSrgriHter dagen, 
Kan hon dig till strids ej locka, 
Graterskan med Sgon bl& ? " 

'^Drottning, BJdrn, dn fuf&ngt Jagar, 
Var mig k&r frdn barudomsdagar ; 
Hon &r spelots b&»ta docka, 
Hur dot g&r, hon r&ddas m&." 

<' Frithiof, viU du fcke svara ? 
Skall din fosterfader fara 
OhSrd fr&n din gard, emedan 
RJ ett dockspel vill U slut? " — 

Da steg Frithiof upp oeh lade 
Hildings hand i sin och aade : 
"Fader, Jag bar svarat redan, 
Du har hOrt min sjftis beslui. 

Rid att Beles sdner lira 
Hvad jag sagt ; de kr&nkt min ara, 
Inga band vid dem mig f&sta, 
Aldrig blir jag deras man." — 

" VU, din egen bana vandra, 
£J kan Jag din vrede klaadra ; 
Oden sty re till det b&sUI " 
8ade Hiiding oeh fSrsvann. 



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TUR STORY OF PRITHIOF 



29 



canto from Ihe second edition of the " Fri»J)j6fssaga " (Reykjavik 1884), 
pp. 39-41: — 



FrOf^pjofur siiur a^ tafli. 



Sat rood fnekonm fiiAtarbr69ar 
Fri»t>Jufiir ad taHl hljo^nr ; 
Rpntlir silfri og raa^agnlli 
Kfdtir skiptoRt borM &, 

Hiiding )>4 f iitilla frengnr, 
Hod am fAfroar pnl^iir drenj^or. 
"Sit og iak vift nigra folH, 
P5etri kier, og tail rort t^. " 

" KveSJa ber eg Bela aiTja, 
BA»ir Fri»))j6f hjilpar bi^ja, 
Naa»flyn kn^r ]?& lifts aS leita. 
liuidlS gjurvalt treyatir t»6r. " 

Bragniog nifeltl : " BJorn, I)fn gspUa, 
BoSluDg er f 8t4>rri hmtta, 
B6ndina bonam bjiirg mA veita, 
B6adiao jafiian skoUp6iio er. '* 

" Egn ei, fuatri, nnga hara, 
(yhxask t>r<Mka«t J6din ara, 
IMtt ]>eir Hringi miftar loegi, 
Meiri bneftar era l>^r. " 

'* Bjom, 1 biptta brtik K> actur, 
Hetja valda skal eg betur, 
Hans )>tk franiar befor eigi, 
Hr6kor ino 1 skjaldborg fer. " 



" logibiurg i Baldarahftga 
Beiskan gnetar alia daga^ 
Getar )>ig ei ginot a5 mor^i 
Gr4tin micr me) angan bli T '* 

" Drottning, BJurn, tiii bifar eigl, 
Brt)»ar ^ fni teskadegl 
K)kki' eg, bAa or bezt A bor^i, 
BJarga l>eirri vlst eg mA. " 

" Skal eg JaAinipr IM t»6r fara, 
Frifttu^^fnr, t>A vilt el syara, 
Leikar eins eg ekkl vferi, 
<>bienheyr5an lietar niig. " 

Kappino app }?& MCA aS stnoda, 
Styrka Hiidiag r^btir monda : 
" Svfiram, fiVstnrfaMr kierl, 
Fall am hcf eg stemdan )>ifr. 

Belaannom svtir min tj^fto, 
Saklaaaan mig gylfar smilSa; 
£g er laas vift Jofra bAfta 
£g Rit aldrei ik t>olrra bekk." 

"^1% skal ekki t>ar am aaka, 
I>i) maut flJAlfar r&fi ^v taka; 
Alfaftlr skal ollu r&^a, " 
Aldinn kva5, og bruato gekk. 



Before the time of Bishop Tegn^i^ the poetical adaptability of (he story 
of Frithiof the bold (hinn fr?ckni), and his fair Ingebor«;, had been recognized, 
and not a few writers had sought to clothe it in a new dress. The earliest of 
these was the anonymous author of a versified composition in Icelandic, 
which was written down at least as early as the earlier half of the 16th cen- 
tury, for that is the date of the codex containing it in the great Arnamag- 
nsean collection of Icelandic manuscripts at Copenhagen (cod. 604, c. 4"). It 
is one of those productions called ^^rlmur*' (rhymes)— made up of a single 
'^rima'" (canto, song) or more— which have been composed in such great 
numbers, in all quarters of the island of Iceland, ever since the close of the 
classical period of Icelandic literature. These rimur are stories in verse 
— resembling somewhat in kind, if far inferior in degree, the narrative 
poems of Walter Scott. Their subjects are drawh from an infinite variety 
of sources— from the old sagas, from foreign history, from the biblical nar- 
ratives, from biographies of heroes, from legendary lore, and so on ; and 
until the present generation, they have enjoyed— the best of them at least- 
unbounded popularity. A few men— like the late SigurUur Brei^QOrtJ— have 
made themselves reputations as rimur- writers, but multitudes of these com- 
positions do not rise above mediocrity. They usually comprise, as has al- 
ready been said, one or more cantos (rimur), each introduced by a so-called 
mamdngur (literally "love-song"), defined in the lexicon of GuDbrand Vig- 
fusson as " lyrical introductions to the epic rhapsodies or ballads (rimur), 



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30 



CriFSS IN ICELAND 



for originally these were addressed to the poet's lady love/' These ear- 
liest "Friiipj6fsrimur'' — which lack the raansongup — are in five cantos. A 
notice of the work was published by Eugcn Kdlbing, ^ with some extracts, 
which are compared with portions of the Swedish poem, in order to prove 
the probability of Tegndr's acquaintance, not only with the ancient saga, 
but with this more modern metrical version. Dr. Kolbing's essay is of in- 
terest, but J6n I^orkelsson, the younger, considers that the Frit>pj6fsrimur do 
not rise, in point of literary skill, above the average of similar productions 
of an equally early date. ^ More recently these old rimur have been prin- 
ted in full at the end of Ludvig Larsson's edition of the prose Fri6pj<3fs 
saga, and carefully annotated. The' account of the game at hnefalafl oc- 
curs in canto ii, stanzas 12-22, as follows: — 



Fylkir snndi fncf^on maun 
Fri«]>juf lite aft kveftja ; 
Fyrftar sej^ eg aft fanda l>anu 
Fleygl Dciftra beftja. 

PrOftan kyodda plAta ninn, 
Pr^ddan handar skafli, 
ITvonij^n n&a I>eir hneni mnnn 
Hcrsi no Bjorn aft tafll. 

B&ra t>eir hcmi bnuftra orft 
Og bAftn hann liftinu aafna ; 
Oat eg hann fyr ylft falda Rkorft 
Fyaast 86r aft gamua. 

Talafti hann nm tallAina skil 
Fyr traustam hringa baldri, 
Lita vQ&KXxx BJom MA\, 
Bregftnm vift l>vi aldri. 

Frift])J5fl Hlldingnr b.-ctti H 
Horftn af fylkia arfa, 
Illnm koBtam iDmti fik, 
Annaft hyggst aft starfik 

Bjorn fhik eg telja tvlkost |»ann 
Treilnnr fyrir aft tefla, 
Hinn kvaft mnnda aft hneCaanm lagt, 
Jlolga yil eg ei efla. 



Ekki fengn crindi raonn 
Onnur hcldiir en ))es»i, 
Kappinn ])d fyr konga renu 
Meft klitlog orftin I>AA8i. 

Helgi npnrfti Uilding aft, 
nvaft alik orftin |>^fta, 
Groina md. eg, kraft garpnrinn, )>aft, 
£f gramnr yill til )>om hl/fta. 

Par or hann talafti nni tnflsina skil, 
Tiifla fagra eina, 
KJKKI^^ K^t ^Si l^r berai A bil 
Halda i drifti fleina. 

En or eg hrottl' af hendi \\n 
Ilorai yondam koati, 
Voik l>d lltt }»aft yornm sin 
Yopnameiftar og brosti. 

Bjorn gat tranftan tvikost sagt 
Tyeimnr fyrir aft styra, 
Hinn kvaft mnndn aft hnefannm lagt, 
Brings nafo osa vill sk^ra. 

Syo m&ttn fyr seima vift 
Systar ]>innar gseta, 
Hygg eg iDtla hersis nlft 
Hitta brAfti ma>ta. " 



In the present century the history of Frithiof has been twice similarly 
treated, but subsequently to the publication of Tegner*s work. The first is 
in the ** Rimur of FriSJ)j6fl frsekna,*' comprising seven songs, composed in 
1837 by Ami SigurOsson, of Skutar in North Iceland, a little-known rimur- 
writer. They exist, still jnedited, in the manuscript collection of the Ice- 
landic Literary Society (B6kmentaf61ag) at Copenhagen, with other rimur by 
the same liand. ^ They are little likely to see the light, since the libraries 

** '* Beilrftge rar vergleiehenden geschlchte der romantltohen poesle and prosa dea mlt« 
telalters" (Breslan 1876), pp. 207 -}17, being an eway " Ueber die vorschieienen bcarbeitangen 
der FrifttJ6fMaffe." 

* *<Om digtalagen p& laland I det 15. og 16. Arhandrodo'* (KMbenbavn 1888), pp. 148-li9. 

^ " Sagan oek rimorna om Prift])j6fr hinn frcekni," edited by Ladvig Lartsou (Kdbenhavn 
1893), pp. 101-10S. 

^ See *' Sk^rsia um handrltaaafn hinn islenxka b^kmcntaf&lags," by SIgurftar J6nasion 
(Kaupmannahfifti 1869), I., p. 117 (8" n* 38, rimaakver). 



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THE STORY OF FRITHIOF 



31 



of Iceland have, on their shelves, accumulated stores of similar productions, 
which, if they have had any publicity at all, have only obtained it by cir- 
culating from hand to hand in written copies. ^ The second work to which 
allusion has been made has, however, attained to the dignity of print. This 
is the "Rimur of FriCpjdfl fra?JLna," written in 1863 by LiiOvik Blondal, 
but only printed in 1884 (Reykjavilt). These rimur are in ten songs, in the 
third of which is to be found the account of Hilding*s mission and o( the 
game he witnessed.— Besides these productions in rimur form, the Danish 
poet, Johan Samsoe (6. 1759, d. 1796), wrote a romantic tale "Frithiof,"' pub- 
lished in the first volume of his " Efterladte digteriske Vtcrker *' (Kjeb- 
enhavn 1796), pp. 1-32, and subsequently translated, with two other tales 
from the sagas by Samsse, into Swedish— '^Frithiof, Hildur, och Ilalfdans 
Sdner. Trenne nordiska Sagor'* (Stockholm 1814)— a production which was 
very likely known to Togn<^r, but which appears to contain no mention of 

" There to little of poetical worth In the •* Rimar af Frl^l^Jofl frskna frortUinwynl," a« 
It it atyled in Ami Big urftMon'* US. The writer does not make hto peraonaset play cheaa, 
but holds to the hna/aUkJi of tho aaga, like hta 16th eentury predeceaaor, and In hia second 
rima, rersea 57-T4 (pp. 85-86), thua portraya the fame : — 



Tefldu branda bdrfarnir 
BJffre, Fri91>J6fur Ilka, 
Ilildiuf vanda hoHaan fcr 
Uveran iatandl fltfggaat t^r. 

Bar npp ikirast b6n um 119, 
BIrta nam af Hring!, 
A8 Tildl hiirum velta 6tt\^, 
Velgatir me^ rauglnti^. 

Styrkja hara hlitar d/r, 
Hara i fara mnggu ; 
Rngu avarar tjorgu tir, 
Til BJarnar hann m»ltl ak^r : 

Billna aufta bert i ata», 
Bregfta el muutd, vinur ! 
Vtl 6trau9ar — tekat m£r l>a»- 
Tdflunnt raaSu aetja aft. 

Hvort aft forftaft henni er, 
Ilelat mig girnir vita. 
Sendur korfta tir enn t6r : 
Tja akal orftia Helga )>6r. 

Hiiram fara ef hikar meft, 
Hit t>6r ofurkostum. 
^gja bara bragnlog rM; 
BJdrna kom rara audaTsreft : 

Tvikoat lita i tafll mk, 
Tvo fr4 vegl aft lelka, 
Til hnefans ita eg man 1>4; 
Byftlr riu m6i nam tj4 : 



Otraaftarl t>6 man )>ir 
I>ykja tvikoatarlnn. 
I{llding bara hurt aA fer, 
Bifta a vara gagnlauat er. 

F6r til baka, birti i aUft 
Braaftram Frlft])j6fa racftu, 
Hvaft orftUkift |>iftl [>aft, * 
I>elr allapakan fr6tta aft. 

Bllift l>iftir : baagaver 
• BIft 4 lff>tur verfta 

M«ft ykkur alrifta Hrlnga vlft her, 
Ilygginn akifta njotnr l^r. 

Taflan raiifta merkja ra4 
UaMa InglbJ5rgn, 
Best mun auftar beftju g4, 
Brodda hauftur mieiti |»a. 

I>«gar haeita l>nndl b6t 
I*t!kQgu af ykkar hcudi, 
BOrlun akeyta, best avo m«t, 
BJ6ru )>aft heita tvikoai 16t. 

Ifaeflun t>^ftir Hriug eg akil, 
Hvaft Frlft)>J6far meiutl. 
K6ogar l^ft ainn t^a til 
TIriluga atriftau heya bll. 

Lata frida frit — or tjeft — 
riytja i Baldnrshaga, 
DS aita bliftar mvyar meft, 
Margt t>»r pr^ftlr llnnabeft. 



8irhvor Ufla aouur kvaft : 
Siat Friftt>j6fur vogar, 
(IJSra vol i grifta staft, 
Goftunum vel el likar l>a?>. 

The title of the other modern work, now printed, In : — " Rimur af Friftl>jdfl fr«ekua, orkt 



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32 



CHESS IN ICELAND 



choss. Another Danish poet, Nicolai Bierfreund Sotoft (6. 1790 d, 1844), also 
left a composition— in dramatic form— taken from the same source. It is 
contained in his " Romantiske Digte " (Kjobenhavn 1815), pp. 1-180. It is in 
blank verse and is called " Skjon Ingeborg og Frilhiof, romantisk Skuespil," 
in five acts. The chess scene occupies a very scanty space, in the second 
act, and betrays no great familiarity with any game on the part of the au- 
thor. At the end of it, in response to Hilding's appeal for an answer, Fri- 
thiof starts up and exclaims:— ** Kast Spillet sammen ! spsend mig Bry- 
nien paa ! *' 



heflr Lii^vik Bldadal (18(>S)," (tteykjavik 1884). We copy the portion of the third rima devoted 
to the game of hnefatafl (Stanaaa 27-46, pp. 19-2«) : - 



Br«9ur vcudu vih am atund 
Vjelaray , *r meat pd akeyta ; 
Uilding aendu & Fri»t)j6r« fund, 
Fyl^d hsna b4du ajer ad velta. 

Bryujufa&tli beztan gat 
Daugaflcyi^l litid iuui, 
Hann a& taill hncfa sat, 
Il^r ]>6 e<gi akemmtaa aioui. 

Halt avo talar Uildiugur: 
"HingaS parfa mrolll vonia; 
I>Jer nu valinn I>or8tclu8 bur 
I>eDgnsarfar kve?ju aoiida. 

Uoti Hriugi bara H^ 

Hollaet bi^ija \>\e VLf> vita, 
Sto ei allngur flwml fri?, 
Fleiua i i&Ju ralJur avelta. 

I 

Hann peim aka^a heflr tje?>, 
Hugara^kl' er vaktl atranga, 
OJafnai&i' og of»a mcb 
A vlll riki telrra gauga." 

KappiQD efldl litid m 
LagM glldom fleinahara, 
Bj5ru hann tclldf v«skur vld, 
Vill ei Ililding neinu avara. 

Sto til BJariiar aag^M hinn 
Sverdablynur tlgnarlegi: 
«'BiI er liarna, br6&ir minn, 
Bregma vinor muuta elgi. " 

Helct otraudur hann 1*4 kva« 
Hugar meinam var oi skerftur : 
•< T6fla raulba* eg set aTi, 
Og avo reynl' ef for»a» verftar." 

Bendibodinn aagM l>i : 
<<6iu ]}6 haa hver aft gafU; 
I»etta atofta ])ig el ma, 
yd mant afar koatum tseta. 

Yiat ei QSlga vluir hjer 
yOakum dreng ]>6 aukfat bagi ; 
8vo baft Helgi aegja ]>jer.'* 
Svarar engu kappinn fricgi. 



Ilreyatiiega herkjum ))a, 
HJalift Bjarnar lir nam akera : 
*• Tvo mi voga toila' fri, 
Tvikoat tiarua met eg vera. *' 

Svorfta-auftuu avarar hion : 
" Setja' aft hnefa gaman vari, 
Pa olrauftau tvikoatinu 
Tel an efa, broftir kterl. *' 

Ilildiugs sotMi hugur m&, 
Harmapiou IJoiri aeldur; 
Anoau fn^r ei iirakurft ]>a; 
Aptur ainar Iciftir heldur. 

Sr^iriii mildiugs souuui iijott 
Scgja n&ir hann aft vonum ; 
lluiptin trylldi hugi akjolt 
lliyra pa i vaudroeftonum. 

Spurftu uiftiugs tamir trd 
T^rar korfta luanniun Mpaka, 
Hverja i^yfting ])j6ftin uii 
TTr t>«aaum orfturo megi taka. — 

" Litt eg bricddur leugi ajeat" 
— laufa yggur avarar kaetti, — 
" I>ar hanu ricddi um bilift beat 
Bil k hyggja' um lift hana m»tti. 

I>6lt aft anauftir vierum vjer 
Vit og liatir Frift|>j6r pr^fta, 
Taflan raufta eflauat er 
Ykkar ayatir bl6ma frifta. 

Aft l>elm atefndi' eg orftum ])4 
ITui aem gift! litt aft hirfta, 
Br4tt um hefndir brasftrum fri ; 
Bj6rn ]}aft nifti tvikoata virfta. 

'Utotti kneflnn merkja Ilring 
Meat aem kefur hugi granna 
I>anu in efa )>j6ftmscring ; 
I>etta gefur raun aft aanna. 

Ykkar masta ayatir aizt 
Sorgar byrinn ntti* aft kanna, 
Hennar gsetift vel avo viat 
Yondra fyrlr brfigftum manna. '* 



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STRA Y NOTES 



33 



4. — Stray Notes. 

Kagndfl OlaliBSon's Latin Poem on CheM. 

The reverend Magnus Olafsson, a posthumous son of a poor peasant, was 
born in EyjaQarQars^sla in North Iceland in 1573. His mother, in wandering 
about one winter night to beg food for her child, perished with cold, and 
was found, the next morning, with her living son lying upon her breast. He 
was adopted by the well-to-do Benedikt Halld6rs8on, who had discovered 
and rescued him, and who sent him, later on, to bo educated at the Cathe- 
dral school of H61ar, whence he entered the University of Copenhagen 
about 1590. He became a man of great learning, compiled what may pos- 
sibly be looked upon as the first printed Icelandic lexicon (^' Specimen lexici 
Runici,'* published at Copenhagen in 1G5()), served for a while as rector of 
the HOlar school, and died as priest of Laufas, not far from his birth-place, 
in 1636. He was a constant correspondent, on archaeological and philological 
subjects, of the distinguished Danish antiquary, Ole (Olaus) Worm, to whom 
he dispatched in 1627 or 1628, a set of Icelandic chessmen, accompanying 
them by two stanzas in Latin, whicli we here copy, with the author*s notes, 
as printed in Worm's correspondence, so making only some slight orthographic 
(or typographic) changes in the Icelandic vocables:— 

AD D. D. OLAUM WORMIUM 
De Skdkus ad eum missis. 



LairoDes ad litee 

Lodioraa hant rnden, 
CaroA claaaoa lev! 

Clare vir due in lares. 
Cnia oampam dari 

Cominas m promunt, 
Getioe gi-ares i-oiet 

Geus dincolor, onaea. 



TranstaUt in monatri 

Thyrao plectooda Cyrce, 
Sermone, sic, fornias 

SatelUtea. atro» 
rostqvam Yidat vir custiis 

Venn ceoinlt ierao, 
Forte qrod confertim 

Canam Ueseriut auaoi. 



8k&kU9 sivo Sl&kfMaur in 
yetori iingra Norvi^g. idem est, 
qvod Latro viatLeut (Scheoher 
ctiam Germ. Latro didtor,) itsm 
ad Skdka (inlhiitiv.) est InUr- 
fture, umic abusive utimur, In 
jurgio couvitio aliqvo moi-dsjci 
alterlaa famam vulneraro. Hann 
Bkilkar honam i. e. eonvitiwm 
dieit. Qvara mi hi Ludu$ non 
ScaehicE, sed Sehachi appellan- 
das vidctar. 

Y pro I matatio liiterie liccu- 
tia vetut) in hoc geoere Rliytb- 
mi, ut dire< Uo consonantiwqvam 
orfchograpbisu migor habcatur 
raLio. 



Talis forma Rhythmi generalissima olim fait in Lingva Norvcg. ut etiam 
Danica, qvam appellabant Drottqvieft, qu. rulgo caniabiie; Drdti enim turham 
significat. Hac etiam Heroum facta dccantabant. 



The peculiarity of this brief poem is that it is an attempt to reproduce 
in Latin the so-called* drdu/tror^, an antique Icelandic metrical form in which 
the very ancient skaldic verses, which appear in so many of the sagas, are 

** "Olal Wormil et ad earn doctorum virorum epiatolse** (IFavni^c 1761), pp. S56>3o7. 

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34 CHESS IN ICELAND 



composed— with its peculiar alliteration (the two or three emphatic sylla- 
bles of each couplet beginning with the same consonant, or with different 
vowels), and other characteristics. In his first note the writer commits the 
error— which, as we shall see, later and more pretentious lexicographers 
have done — of making the Icelandic skdk cognate with the German schdcher 
(robber), and of comparing it to the Latin latro of the same meaning — a 
word entering into the name of the Latin game, ludiis IcUrunculorum, which 
was regarded by the archeologists of an ignorant age as identical with chess. 
The reply of Worm to this letter, dated 1628, begins thus:— "Literas tuas 
una cum transmissis Scacchis probe accepi, Vir eruditissime, pro qvibus 
gratias ut ago debitas, ita occasionem do te vicissim bene merendi oblatam 
iri unice exoptarem. Literaturam nostram ut ot poesin elucidantia qvjo com- 
municasti, exosculor ; de lis enim libruni conscripsi, ut spero baud inutilem, 
in qvo suo merito et haec locum inveniont, non sine tui honoriflca mentione. 
Qvod si a te Rythmum Ih'otqvet [Drdttkvaett] antiqva nostra lingva,juxtaque 
poeseos vestrse leges conscriptum, in hujus commendationem impetrare pos- 
sem, magno me affectum beneflcio existimarem.'* These are not the only 
chessmen carved in Iceland which we hear of in connection with the cor- 
respondance of Worm ; we shall find another poet alluding, twenty years 
later, to a similar set.— Perhaps it is well to note also the acquaintance of 
the author with Vida's epical poem, ^'Scachei's,*' as evinced in the second 
stanza, showing that Iceland, in the 17th century, was not wholly destitute 
of foreign chess literature. 

It is proper to state that these verses by Magnus Olafsson were first 
printed by Worm in his "Danica literatura antiqvissima " (Hafniae 1651, 
pp. 176-77), in connection with an Icelandic imitation of the old dr6ttkva)(3i, 
also in two stanzas, and also by Magnus Olafsson. This latter is reproduced 
both in Runic characters and in the Latin letter. The Latin poem on the 
chess pieces is there preceded by the following lines from Worm's pen: — 
'' Quo fine Latinum qvoq3 subnectere libuit paradigma generis quidem 
Drbttqvaett, sed absq^ literarum intricatione et logogrypho, ab eodem au- 
tore concinnatum, et ad me, ante annos aliqvot una cum ludi Scachici in- 
cunculis affabre in Islandia ex ossibus elaboratis, transmissum.*' Magnus 
Olafsson's " Runic Lexicon," was a dictionary of the oldest Icelandic, chiefly 
as used in Runic inscriptions, and was, for its time, a remarkable work. The 
vocabulary was in Runic letters, and the definitions in Latin characters. 

Two Witnesses. 

The last years of the 16th century, and the last years of the 17th century, 
present the testimony of two foreign witnesses— of the most intelligent and 
trustworthy character— in regard to the cultivation of chess in Iceland be- 
fore and during those periods. The first of these is the learned Norwegian 
priest— a provost or rural dean— Peder Clausson Friis (1545-1614), the earliest 
of his modern countrymen to appreciate and translate the historical work of 
Snorri Sturluson— the monumental history of the Kings of Norway. Friis 
wrote, as far back as 1580, a tractate "Om lisland," which, towards the close 
of the century, he revised and enlarged. It was somewhat altered by Olaus 
Worm, the Danish scholar, of whom we have Just spoken, and incorporated 
by him with other writings of Friis, published, eighteen years after the au- 
thor's death, under the title of ** Norriges oc Omliggende 0ors sandfajrdige 



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STRAY XOTES 36 



Bescriffuelse'' (Kjobenhaffn 1632). The author not only knew Icelandic well, 
but was in a position to obtain the most accurate information as to the 
customs of the islanders in his time. The island, in his day, was still looked 
upon as belonging to Norway, rather than to Denmark. His work, as compiled 
and edited by Worm, on Norway, her colonies and islands, remained the great 
authority, until it was superseded by the topographical writings of a still 
greater man and a still better scholar, the Icelander, I^orm6{^ur Torfason 
— a life-long resident of Norway— better known in the learned world under 
his Latinized name of Torfjeus. Lately, the noted Norwegian philologist and 
critic, Gustav Storm, has published an admirable edition of the writings of 
Peder Glausson Friis, in which is found the treatise "Om lisland" in the 
exact form in which the author's final revision left it. From it we translate 
the following paragraph "Om Skag-TafTll:" — 

Concerning the Game of Chess, 

They [the Icelanders] have also in their country especially occupied 
themselves with the practice of the game of chess, which they are said to 
play in such a masterly and perfect way that they sometimes spend some 
weeks' time— playing each day— on a single game, before they can bring 
it to an end by the victory of the one or the other combatant. But of whom 
they first learned this art I have not read. ^ 



The other witness to whom we refer is the author of a book widely read in 
its day— both in English and French. It was styled ''An account of Denmark, 
as it was in the year 1692,'' and was published at London in 1694. A second 
and a third issue followed within a year, but the best edition is the later 
one of 1738. The author was Robert, Viscount Molesworth (6. 1656, d. 1725), 
who, besides having been sent as an extraordinary envoy to Denmark, was a 
member both of the Irish and the English parliaments, as well as of the 
English Royal society, an intimate friend of the great Earl Shaftesbury, and 
both the friend and adviser of Queen Anne and King George the First. He was 
the author of other productions besides the " Account of Denmark," but that 
is the book on which his literary reputation chiefly rests. In the first issue 
of Molesworth's work occurs (pp. 39-40) the following brief paragraph on 

Chess in Iceland. 

Island «^ and Feroe are miserable Islands in the North Ocean; Corn will 
not [will 5carc«— edition of 1738] grow in either of them, but they have good 

* "Satnlode akriftor af Pedcr Claaiiaen Friit.— Udglvne for den norske hUtorlike fore- 
« uing af Dr QusUr Storm*' (Kristiania 1881), p. 199, tho text, in the quaint orthography 
of the wrlter*B time, reading thuii: — 

" Om 8kag-TafflI.»' 

" De haffiier oo beaenderllgen der paa Laudett befllttet oo eflFuet nig paa dot Spill 
Skagetalfll eller Skagsplll, haUcbot der slgea at de kunde taa mesterligen oe fuldkommeli- 
gen loge, at de knnde nogen IJgers TIJd lege hver Dag paa et Spill, ferend de kande faa 
det til Knde oe den ene kand vinde den anden offaer. Men hnem de feret haffue faaet den 
.Konst aff, hafltier leg iehe lent." 

*^ In •nbsequent edition! (nee that of 173S, p. S6), this Is corrected to Ifland^ 



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3G CHESS IN ICELA ND 



Stocks of Cattle. No Trade is permitted them but with the Danes ; the Inhabi- 
tants are great Players at Chess. It were worth some curious Man*s enquiry 
how such a studious and difficult Game should get thus far North-ward, and 
become so generally used. 



The historian of chess, Antonius van der Linde— to whose profound and 
long-continued labors in a field not easily tilled the world is greatly in- 
debted—reprints, from the French translation of Molcswortlf s book, the pas- 
sage we have here cited, and endeavors to riddle it with his sharp critical 
shots.* As those who have perused his stupendous "Geschichte des Schach- 
spiels," and his series of articles on "Skak paa Island'' in the "Dansk 
Skaktidende," will have had occasion to observe. Dr. v. d. Linde's knowledge 
of Iceland and of Icelandic is too limited to enable him to treat Icelandic chess 
with the extraordinary accuracy and logical judgment evinced in his investi- 
gations into other domains. He does not seem to have seen Molesworth's 
original (English) text, but the French version is satisfactorily exact. He 
tries, first of all, to depreciate Molesworth's testimony in general, by saying 
(in allusion to the writer's use of the form *'Feroe") that he evidently regards 
'* Iceland and Feroe" as two islands ("die der^'erfasser fiir zwei insoln zu 
halten scheint I ") If Dr. v. d. Linde had looked a little more closely into 
the history of geography, he would have found that the English —and the 
French as well — have never been able to settle on a proper way of adapting 
to their own tongue the name of the island group which the Danes now call 
"Faerarer," but of which the official Danish orthography, in Molesworth's 
time, was "Faerae" (without the final r). The word is, of course, a corruption 
of the Icelandic "Fscreyjar" (i. e. sheep islands), and terminates with the 
Danish plural form (^ = island, 0er=islands), the singular of which, descended 
from the Icelandic, remains in the final syllable of our place-names, 'horsey," 
'* Guernsey," ^^Anglesea"— -not to mention the appellations of other islands. 
Some English writers haye tried to solve the difficulty by getting as near 
the Danish form as our alphabet will permit, and have written "Feroe" 
(like Viscount Molesworth), thereby running the risk of being charged by 
some too wise critics (like Dr. v. d. Linde) with considering the group as a, 
single island. Others have boldly added the English plural ending, and 
written "Faroes" (or "Feroes"), thereby running tlie risk of being charged 
with committing a grammatical solecism in the use of a double plural. The 
ignorance here is thus Dr. v. d. Linde's, rather than Viscount Molesworth's. 
The former next denies the truth of the latter's immediately following asser- 
tion, in regard to the good stock of cattle in Iceland, and states that the island 
has no cattle ('*auf Island werden im gegentheil nur schafe nnd kleine pferde 
gehalten"), while by a very little research— the briefest enquiry at the Danish 
statistical bureau, for instance — he could have ascertained that on this point, 
too, Molesworth was much better informed than himself. The fact is that in 
1703— a decade after Molesworth wrote— the cattle of Iceland numbered 35,860 
head— more than one to every two inhabitants. He passes by the English 
writer's succeeding statement, namely that the Icelanders are allowed to have 
commercial dealings only with the Danes, which was then, and for a century 

^ " Quelleoatadicu sur geftchlcbte det achacfasplela von Dr. A. ▼« d« Lind« " (Berlin 1881), 
pp. 311-912. 



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STRAY NOTES 37 



and a half afterwards, perfectly true. Finally, in a foot-note, he falls foul of 
the information given by Molesworth in regard to Icelandic chessplaying, 
saying that his remark merely sliows what was thought at Copenhagen in 
1692 about chess in Iceland. But at any rate it does show that, which counts 
for not a little, for in the 17th century, as both before and since, Copenhagen 
was the one European capital in which trustworthy accounts about Iceland 
and its customs were to be had. Then, as now, every year witnessed tlie 
arrival of Icelanders in Copenhagen, and the departure of Danes— merchants 
and officials— for Iceland; then, as now, there was always a considerable col- 
ony of Icelanders— numbering in this year of 1900 some seven hundred souls — 
resident in the Danish metropolis ; then, as now, there was always a body of 
intelligent young Icelanders— the number this year is sixty or more — from 
all parts of their native land, pursuing their studies at the university of Co- 
penhagen. What was thought about chess in Iceland at Copenhagen in 1092 
would, therefore, be apt to be pretty near the truth. ^ 

The Chen Lays of Steftn 6lafiMon. 

Next to Hallgrimur Petursson, the almost inspired writer of the "Fifty 
Passion Hymns,'' the most prominent Icelandic poet of the 17th century was 
undoubtedly Stefan Olafsson, born somewhere about 1620 and dead somewhere 
about 1688. The son of a country priest, he had half a score of brothers and 
sisters, and, a country priest himself, he became the parent of nearly as 
many children. Late in life (1671), he was made a rural dean. It is a fact 
worthy of mention that directly from one of his daughters were descended 
the two most noteworthy poets of the island during the first half of this 
century. ** Liice the priest, Hallgrimur Pdtursson, he was also a hymnologist, 
for besides composing original hymns he rendered into Icelandic many of 
those of the famous Danish hymn-writer, Bishop Thomas Kin^o. ^ He pos- 
sessed a layman's wit as well, and an abundant measure of wanton humour. 
Many are his still-remembered quips and epigrams and quaint and curious 
conceits. Ho was, moreover, learned in ancient lore, and a good Latinist, 
both in verse and prose. But wiiat we have to note in these pages is his 
three chess poemettes (if we may use the word), each of a single eight-line 
stanza— models of compactness, of hidden fancies, of sonant alliteration, of 
correct metrical form— indeed, in this last characteristic, they show some 
of the weaknesses of his age, and of the age of the rimur-writers, with whom 
sense had sometimes to give way to sound or rhyme. About the authorship 
of the third piece there is some dispute, though it is ascribed to his pen in the 
two oldest MSS. We first present the Icelandic text of the three as it is given 
by his latest editor. Dr. J6n I>orkelsson the younger, whose knowledge of the 
post-reformation verse of Iceland is unequalled. His edition is published by 
the Icelandic Literary Society. ^ 

^ It may perhapt be eousldcred, In Its way, a noticeable comment on Dr. v. d. Lindens 
disbelief In the leclandern* fondness for ohess that an Icelander, Mr. Maflpnus Smith, resid- 
ing at Winnipeg, Manitoba, is now the foremost chess'player of Canada, having won the 
eharopionship of Bnglish North America last summer (1899). 

^ Bjami Thorarensen (1786-1841) and Jonas Ilallgrimsson (1807-1845). 

^ Many of the hymns of this bishop of the Danish island of Fyen (1634-1703) are still 
kept In the hymn-book of the Danish chureh. 

^ "Stefan 6lafsson. KraeM'* (8 vols. Kanpmannshofb 1885-86), II., pp. 47-50. 



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38 CHESS IN ICELAND 

Taflvisur. 

I. 

Til Porsteins Magnussonar^ er skdldich misti mann % skdk. 

MflBli eg nm og mmli eg & 
AA inenn haon Steina falli 1 ntvA, 
Houam hrifl glettan gr&, 
Gefl i eina tvo og t>ijA, 
Gamla hrapi Qorina fr4, 
Fwikki nin reita pcMn smii, 
Falli |>anninn fnodnaknl, 
FAi bann mAlin Ug og M. 

II. 

J6n leiknr ak&r ak&k, 
Sk6k haun af m^r hvem hr6k, 
Biaknpinn f6kk nSrask, 
Riddarinn og peftsnidd, 
A gomin er komilb gaDgsvingI, 
Gm hdn ekki a» nA br«9. 
Kongarinn mfii forfang 
F6kk m&m oMt. 

III. 

Fallega Bplllir frillan akollana olln, 
Frtkin sti, aem l>li liefar ntk a& antia, 
Heinian Iseniist hamiu i sliBina skmiDl, 
Hr6k 6kl6kan kKikdtt t6k tkr fl6ka. 
Biddarion ataddar, reiddar, leiddar, hneddar 
RelSnr veSnr me^ 6geft a9 peTii, 
Biakaps'htekinn bloakrar nisknm htiska, 
Vis bekklnn gekk, bvo hiekkinn l>ekktr ekki. 

The following literal English prose translations, with their brief com- 
ment, are the work of an Icelandic hand, ^ and reproduce with all possible 
clearness the meaninoj of the originals: — 

Chess Lays. 

I. 

To Porsteinn Magnusson^ * when Vie poet lost a piece at chess. 

My malediction I utter-— May Stoini*s men fall in heaps 1 May my fear- 
ful incantations bewitch him so that peril shall beset two or three of his pieces 

^ Both the renderinfif of the lUDias and the comment hare been obligiugly made in 
Knttlieh by my fk-iend, Mr. 8IgfUa B16ndal, whose great familiarity with his own and other 
modern literatures Is well known. 

^ It is possible that the adviirsary at chess, to whom these lines are addressed, Is that 
I>orsteinn Magniisson (d. 1656), chief offlelal (syslamaftur) of Skaptafellssysla, the county next 
to that In which the poet dwelt, who wax the author of a description of the eruption of the 
vuleano Katla, which took place in 1635, and of other works still In MS. Or was he the 
I>or8teinn Magniisson, who. In 170S, wrote the *' Rimnr af Hr61fl Qautrekssyni '* (preserred 
among the Arna-Magn«an treasures) ? But the latter's home was far from that of Dean Stefan. 
Nothing is known, or surmised, of the poet's other opponent at chess, alluded to as " J6n ** 
In the aeoond piece. 



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STRA Y NOTES 39 



at once ! Biay the Old One ^ lose her life ! May the wee pawns grow fewer and 
fewer on the squares, and may he be mated both with the low and high mates ! 

II. 
John is the better man at chess ; he has wrested IVom me each rook ; 
the quiet of my bishop, my knight and my pawns is ruthlessly broken ; the 
Old One is moving about aimlessly, not seeing her prey when within reach ; 
my king is overmastered and completely checkmated. 

III. 

She is spoiling all beautifully, that damned jade, your queen, whom you 
are now moving; she steals away from her house, clever in her coarse boast- 
fulness, neatly picking the stupid rook from the throng. The knight, on 
hand, kept ready for combat, well guided, falls afeard despite his own 
wrath, and dares only attack sullenly a puny pawn, while the cowardly rook, 
fearful of the bishop's menace, keeps to his border line and thus evades the 
stratagems of the enemy. 



Comment. 



The text of the three stanzas is, in some places, very diAlcult of com* 
prehension, and possibly corrupted. The following notes may perhaps be of 
some use to the student : — 

I. 

moeli eg urn og mceli eg d. — Here two constructions are confounded : 
lYUxla um and leggja d, the meaning of both these phrases being <Ho pro- 
nounce and impose a magic spell ; *' the use of mcela d can only thus be 
accounted for, or defended. This sort of metaphorical confusion occurs 
sometimes in Icelandic, though hardly as frequently as in the classical liter- 
atures. 

faUi i strd^ literally *'fall in the straw;'* compare strd-drepa^ "kill a 
great number." 

grd ''gray, *' but used here in the same sense as in grdii gatnan^ ''dan- 
gerous," "dreadful." A kindred use is to be seen in Vulgar^ enn grd^ 
" the perfidious " (in the Njila), and in the compound ^r«7ynrfttr, "malicious." 

gefi i ei7iUy "give [to danger] at one and the same time." This is the 
only rational interpretation, as two or three men cannot be given up [that 
is, by capture, to the adversary] at one and the same move, but they can be 
simultaneously endangered or menaced. 

frceiNiskrd is simply "song," but here in the sense of "incantation." 

truUin Idg og hd alludes to the singular Icelandic custom, now obsolete, 
of arranging the men, or closing a game, in such a way that there might be 
a sequence of mates — the more numerous the better. The multitudinously 
mated player was hindered meanwhile from moving by the circumstance 
that every succeeding move of his adversary was an additional checkmate. 
The first three mates effected, uninterruptedly, in this manner were known 
as the "low checkmates", lag mdt; if more followed they were styled the 
"high checkmates," hd mdt. See the essay on chess by Olafur Davil^sson 

^ By the tUl« of the "Old One" the poet alludes to the eheat-queea. Tbla epitbeti in 
mediaeval cbeM, was sometimet applied to the bishop. 



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40 CHESS IN ICELAND 



in his *'Gatur, Jwilur og skemlanir," wherein the names of the different 
checkmates are enumerated— reprinted as the second appendix to this volume. 

II. 

skok^ "shook'' "wriggled/* "wrested.'* 

forfang^ can have but one meaning here, namely, that the king was 
overpowered, but its etymology is doubtful. Mr. Eirikur Magnusson, of 
Cambridge, points out to me that it may be the Danish forfang (Swedish, 
forf&ng) ; I believe he is right, and that it can possibly be used as Icelandic, 
in which case it is likely that it is employed in the sense of eiga fullt i 
fangi, or something to that effect —the meaning being nearly identical. 

ofldt. Mr. Eirikur Magnusson proposes the ingenious textual emen- 
dation offdu^ which, from a graphical point of view, seems probable; ofldu, 
"without treachery," that is "genuinely," "thoroughly", would yield an 
excellent interpretation. If, however, we read ofldl, the signification must be 
something like "shamefully or proudly treated by the adversary," (compare 
ofldtutigr); but as oflrH can hardly be brought into grammatical relation with 
any of the words in its vicinity, I feel convinced that something is at fault 
with the text— unless there be an unpardonable introduction, by the poet, of 
a meaningless word simply to furnish a rhyme, in accordance with a deplo- 
rably frequent usage of the period. 

III. 

frillan shoUans^ literally "the devil's concubine;" but, in cursing, the 
genitive form of the devil's numerous names is only used appositionally, so 
that the meaning would be "the damned harlot." 

hamin i, compare henija ("restrain"), ohetnja^ hamr, here with the 
sense of "skilled in." I suspect that Stefan Olafsson wanted to say tamin^ 
"educated in," but as this was impossible on account of the alliteration, 
which demanded a word beginning with h, he substituted hamin in the sense 
of the other vocable. Such unwarrantable substitutions are especially com- 
mon in the rimur. 

floki must hero mean "the press or thronging of the chessmen." 

biskups hdskinn, here the "danger arising from the bishop," not the 
"bishop's danger." Analogies are numerous in the poetry of the time. 

niskum hnska^ most probably the rook is meant, as the word hr6kur is 
often used in a bad sense, like /uV^Ai, and indicates sometimes a proud, some- 
times a corrupt person, the latter especially in the compound kvenna-hrokur. 

vi^ hekkinn can only mean that the rook kept himself close to the 
border of the chess-board— 6eAAr=roNd. 

hrekkinn pekkir ekki, that is " does not know the dodge, artifice, trick," 
"evades the stratagem or attack of the bishop."^ 



On account of its remarkable use of identical vocal sounds— carried as it 
is to an extreme— the third piece is often committed to memory by young 

^ The third of these pieces, as we haro stated, has other clalmalnts to Its authorship. 
One HS attributes it to Gu^mundur Bergi^orsson (166.)- 1705), a proliAc riiaur-vrriter; and 
there is a story which ascribes it to Kaguhcidur Brynjolfsdottir, the unfortunate daughter 
of tbu well-known and erudite Brynjolfur Svuinssoo, bishop of Skalbolt. An allusion to this 
talc is made by Mr. Olafur DaviCta^on, Su the article which wo priut later on. 



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STRAY NOTES 41 



Icelanders as an exercise in phonology, or as a curiosity of composition. To 
understand its extraordinary structure it is necessary to examine each line 
separately. Thus the first line is marked by a consUnt repetition of the 
double liquids U (a combination having the pronunciation in Icelandic of dl); 
they form the medial consonants of each word. In the second line, the empha- 
sis falls persistently on the long vowel w (with the pronunciation of the En- 
glish 00 in tool), which occurs five times. In line three, the middle consonant 
of all the vocables but one is m, preceded and followed by vowels. The 
fourth line presents the syllable ciA— all long— in five recurrences. Line five 
is that producing the most notable sonant effect, with five instances of me- 
dial dd. Lino six, in each of its fiwe words, has the dental ch (the English 
th in this). The seventh and eighth lines, the former with its recurrence of 
medial sk, and the latter with its harsh double consonants kk, are nearly as 
effective to the ear as the fifth. The sound of it all, when well read, is 
strikingly strange— being a kind of rattling jingle. Neither Homer, nor any 
other classic author, has produced anything quite like these cadences, while 
the only resemblances to them in English are found perhaps in "The Bells" 
of Poe. But alliterative oddities, somewhat similar, are not infrequent in 
the exuberant poesy of Iceland. There is a long lay called "Uattalykill 
rimna'' by a I6th century bard, Hallur Magnusson, in which the metres 
employed by the rimur-poets are enumerated, among them being one enti- 
tled "dyri hittur,'' of which the author gives the following example": — 

Stttttur, steyttur, duttar, fleyttr 
Fljott or breyttur, akjdtt her proyttr 
I>dkitiir Bkreyttur, h&ttur hreyttr 
Bxiti noittaTy msetti reittr. 

There is also a jingle by a modern rhymster, Olafur Gunnlaugsson Briem, 
portraying a ride on a stumbling pony : — 

Jog hlaui u9 stautttBt blaata braut, 
Bykkjon Bkrykkjdtt nokku^ ISoiik. -, 
Hi'iu Jiaat, htin hnaut; Jeg hraat i Uut, 
Og bnykk ined rykk & skrokkinD fjekk. 

Of real nonsense- verses there are no end— such as the stanzas of the priest, 
Ogmundur SigurSsson, known as the *'Syni rimnaskaldskapar," satirizing the 
extravagancies of the rimur- writers, of which we cite only the first three^': — 

Kjalars liet, jeg klunkara hlonkara tlimkinu 
Arka <vc kjarkiirs orte hull 
Ambara yauibara fram 4 voil. 

Hlninpani stompara hlampara trampura stampi 
Liftrings viSrings legg eg lU At 
LeiNJlfs hlei^61f8 ha<lda^a^ brdr. 

Mausoogft fungin glyiujara gougin gagara jag», 
rt am )>rdngin dnuhtfa draga 
DrakoiiB apongiu laga alaga. * 

As to the metre— Strictly so-called— of the little lyric in question there seems 
to be no term exactly defining it, but possibly one. might speak of it as a sort 

" ** Om digtningen p& Island." p. 366. 
« " Sn^t •• (Reykjavik 1866), pp. 878-79. 



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42 CHRSS IN IGKLA ND 



of **dr6ttkvseBa hrynjandi — the precipitating, dropping, or running sort, of 
dr6ttkv£e8a hattr**, alluded to by Eirikur Magnusson (of Cambridge) in the 
interesting introduction to his rendering of the medizeval religious poem, 
*'Lilja," (London 1870). » 

The following feeble attempt at a quasi-metrical paraphrase will pos- 
sibly give the English reader an idea, though a faint one, of those Icelandic 
verses. No effort has been made to adhere, with any exactitude, to the laws 
which govern the Icelandic alliterative system. The reproduction in another 
tongue of the complicated structure of Icelandic poetry — its hidden imagery 
and symbolic verbal paraphrases {kenningar)^ its combinations of rhyme and 
alliteration, its assonances and resonances of every sort, its great variety of 
metres— is impossible unless some of its striking features be omitted. Yet, 
with all its complex features, Icelandic poetry can hardly be called — at least 
in the most modern examples— artificial. Alliteration, so difficult in the 
other Germanic languages, which are now spoken, has become natural to 
the Icelandic ; and in no land is improvisation so common, or in appearence 
so facile — not even in Italy, in which, as a foreigner expressed it, there is 
no need of "an art of writing poetry," but only of "an art of not writing 
poetry.'' But licre are the versions which do such scant justice to their 
originals : — 

I. 

I adjure thee, fell fate, 

That Uiou fall foal of Steinn ! 
That thou try all thy treachery 

To trip up his troops ! 
That hU qaeen thoa make quail, 

And hia pawns quit their squares, 
Till his king be well-muzEled 

By a mnrdorous mate ! 

II. 

From the chesa-fleld John chases 

My champions, the rooks ; 
My knights and my bishops are badgered ; 

My pawns are battered and bound; 
My Old Woman has wandered astray — 

Witless and wild are her ways — 
And, majestic monarch no more — 

A mate has murdered her spouse. 

III. 

Your Queen's a doubly damuM jado ; 

She's dished my dastard mitred dolt, 
And stealthy, sternly stalking, striding 

To stem the stormy stir and stress, 
She's made my nobby knight afearod 

To nab a nimble ninny pawn. 
And kept my wretched rook a-reeling 

Boiling along the regal rank. 

Stefdn Olafsson, like Magnus Olafsson, of whom we have only just been 
treating, was a correspondent of the erudite Olaus Worm. In the latter's 
published correspondance, already cited, there is a letter from the Icelandic 

» «<LllJa'* (The Lily), edited and translated by BIrikar Magnuason, p. xxxiv. 



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STRAY NOTES 43 



poet dated from his parish, Kyrkjubser, September 15, 1648, in which the 
closing lines mention the transmission of a snuff-box carved out of a whale's 
tooth, and state that the young artisan who wrought it also made pretty 
chessmen of the same material,, and at a moderate price: — "His adjungo 
pyxidem, a quodam juvene Islando ex dente balsenio formatam, qua nico- 
tianam pulverizatam sternutamentis evocandis osservari voluit. Hicjuvenis 
pleraque artificiosa, quse oculis usurpat, imitatur, ipse sibi magister; in 
primis vero latrunculos scacchidis affabre format et mediocri pretio vendit/' 
Thus we have accounts, by two contemporary parish priests of Iceland, of the 
manufacture by natives of sets of chessmen — two centuries and a half ago — 
which does not look as if the Icelanders had so little fondness for the game as 
Dr. Van der Linde would have us believe. 

Among the I«exicograpliera. 

It is only by turning over the many volumes devoted to the elucidation of 
the extensive vocabulary of the Icelandic tongue, in all its periods of devel- 
opment, that we shall be able to acquire a definite idea of the words and 
phrases connected with the terminology of chess. In the course of our re- 
searches we shall doubtless come across some interesting facts and some amus- 
ing fallacies, and we shall especially learn how impossible it is to make dic- 
tionaries without a combination of philology and technology — without the 
assistance in every art and science, in every branch of human action, of a 
technical specialist, familiar with the exact significations and shades of mean- 
ing of all the terms used in the field in which he labors. The study of 
philology, and in particular of its department of etymology, shows how dif- 
ficult is the task of delving truth out of the deep obscurity which envelopes 
the early history of human speech, and teaches us how long and persistent is 
the life of an error, however often and forcibly it may be refuted. We have 
already observed that the studious priest, Magnus 6lafsson, working in his 
distant and lonely Icelandic parish, produced, in his *'*' Specimen Lexici Ru- 
nici,** the first attempt at any sort of an Icelandic dictionary which got itself 
printed, and we have learned what he knew about the philology of chess. He 
was evidently an admirer and practitioner of the game, but from its scope he 
could not well introduce any of its terms into his Runic glossary; yet we have 
been able to note, through another product of his pen, that he regarded the 
name of the game {skdh) as akin to the German schacher^ signifying "robber** 
—in the making of which unlucky guess he docs not stand alone, as wo shall 
find when we come to examine the work of the latest Icelandic lexicographers. 

But the earliest Icelandic dictionary of a more general character was that 
of QuOmundur Andr^sson (Qudmundus Andrese. d. 1654), whose "Lexicon 
Islandicum** appeared at Copenhagen in 1683— of course with notable omis- 
sions and with some errors, especially of arrangement. He interprets the 
word skdky by the Latin "Indus latrunculorum,** and derives it from a Hebrew 
verb— which he quotes— signifying "commovere, ludere etc.** Hebrew, it 
will be remembered, was the favorite tongue of etymologists (and the tower 
of Babel their great castle, or storehouse, of primitive sources) in the time 
when that famous chess-writer, Sir William Jones, had not yet introduced 
Sanskrit to the erudite world of Europe. The compiler of the " Lexicon Islan- 
dicum** proceeds to explain one of the technical meanings of sMk (in its 
sense of check) as "ejusdem ludi in regcm irruptio, undo at skdka^ id est 



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44 CHESS IN ICELAND 



insultaro regulo» duci latronum, vulgo pro scommatey'' the final word being 
intended for sMhnult (little used in Icelandic, the regular form being skdk og 
7n4t), or for the Danish skakmat. Mdt he defines:— "Nex, mors: sic vocant 
in ludo latrunculorum extremum reguli interitum, ceu csodem ejus, cum h me- 
dio tollitur," and hints that he does not know its origin unless it be from 
another Hebrew vocable, the meaning of which is "death" {mors). Of the 
chessmen, he treats only hrdkur, "longurio, latro, latrunculorum satelles, 
elophantes" — the last word evincing some little reading in chess history, and 
pechy "pedites in ludo latrunculorum,'' saying that it also means "boy,'* quo- 
ting a diminutive, peHingur, icatc— this final word, for etymology's sake 
perhaps. Pe^linyur, we may remark, is not a common form. He has reitur, 
"locus quadrangulus in ludu latrunculorum." Tafl he dwells on at some 
length, explaining it as "ludus Ulis aleu vel latrunculis structus: generali- 
ter enim hjec vox ista omnia signiflcat: qvim et ipsa simulacra, qvis iudi- 
tur"— about as good and as comprehensive a definition as can be found in 
far later works. It is followed by tafia, "orbiculi aleie" and iaflborcf>, " fri- 
tellus," whence, he says, the general verb tefla, "talis, aled vel latrunculis lu- 
dero"; and then he presents us with another verb not found, wo believe, 
elsewhere, at puiuja tafli^y "colligcre ct claudere simulacra lusoria" — the 
phrase being, he tolls us, an "adagium pro jactura." This word for "em- 
pouch," or replacing men, after a gamo, in their pouch, is significant, as 
we may understand, when we hear, in the sagas, of the noun punyur. Fi- 
nally the author cites taflnui^r mikiil, **vocatur qvi gnarus est ludere ita." 
These items about the Eastern game are few, but how many more relating to 
chess are to be found in any dictionary, issued anywhere, before the end of 
the 17th century, and particularly in one of not more than 2G9 not very large 
quarto pages ? Jlnefatafl, occurring so frequently in later works, is not given 
in any of its various orthographical forms. 

Much larger and much more pretentious is the "Lexicon Scandicum" of 
the Swede, Glaus Verelius, which saw the light eight years later (1691) at 
Upsala. But it yields comparatively less of matter having reference to chess. 
The definitions are in both Latin and Swedish — which latter we cite in paren- 
theses. There is first sTcdktafl as the name of the game (with a citation of 
the Olafs saga helga), "ludus latrunculorum" (skakspel), followed by tho 
verb skacka [sic], " stratagematibus in ludo isto uti " (skaka), the remainder 
of the rubric, relating by error to quite another verb, skahka. Under tafl 
(p. 252) and most of its derivatives, the explanatory words are generally 
chess terms, as tafl, "latrunculi" (skaktaflor), taflbor^y iaftbriig^y "viles et 
Btratagemata in lusu latrunculorum " (list och konst att spela skack i briide), 
taflspekiy taflfe. There are several references to old authors, especially to 
what is called the "Orms Snorrasons Book," an ancient codex which con- 
tained a number of "Sul^urlanda sogur" like the M&gus saga.^ At the end 
of the taflfe rubric, the author, singularly enough, puts the word mdt (written 

** This important MS, one of the many Icelandic book-rarftlei which reached Sweden 
In the 17th century throngh the Icelander, Jon Rairman, wan iiabacqnently lost becaato ■ev* 
eral oi 'he Swedish tcholan of that time, men like Vereliua, the elder Rndbeek, Loeeeniu 
and others*— or their heirs ^ were unable to make up their minds to render Csasar's thlnfs 
unto Ciosar by returning the book- treasures which they had borrowed from public collections. 
See that moat interesting and raluablo publication, ^'Fornnordlsk-Isl&ndsk lltteratar 1 Sve- 
rige, I. ** (Stockholm 189T) by Vllhelm GSdel, of whieh, unfoHoaately for the learned world, 
the socend part has not yet appeared. 



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STRAY NOTES 45 



maU)y and gives the compounds, rogstnatt (t. e* hr6k8m&t), pe^meit^ fretstertu- 
mdt^ with some passages, and derives the term from *' Ital. tnatto,"^ Removed, 
in the printer's make-up, from the compounds of mdl, and probably ap- 
plying to the last of them, is the definition ''stolidus,** and the quotation 
hrakligasturi taflinu. It is in Verelius that the term frets teriumiiu of which 
we shall hear too frequently hereafter, is first noted. Besides the above cita- 
tion, he has a separate rubric for it (p. 81), defining it:— "Est terminus et lo- 
cutio ludentium latrunculis,'' (Kallas, nar den bonden som star mitt mot [sic] 
kongen i skaktafiet, kommer honom sa nar, at han skakar, eller stanger 
honom, och fljs for nasan pa honum) — followed by a citation from the M^us 
saga referring to the third of the mates given by Hirtungur to the King. He 
gives the derivation of the first member of the word from the infinitive freta. 
His explanation in Swedish is the most deUiled, as well as the oldest in the 
dictionaries, and amounts to "a mate by tlie adverse kiig^'s own pawn." Of 
the chess figures he has only (p. 197) pe^ma^ir^ "pumilio," and 39^^, "latrun- 
culus lusorius," adding p^^^twri^ which he interprets as **exprobatio impe- 
ritije in collocandis et promovendis latrunculis." Ilrokur is absent from its 
alphabetical place, but on page 82 there is a reference to another vocabulary 
"in voce Hocco, turricula in latrunculis*'— there being perhaps an incom- 
prehensible omission of some kind. The work of Verelius is a solidly-print- 
ed folio of more than 300 pages, and, though the vocabulary displays a lack 
of care and orderly arrangement, the compilation is a credit to the scholarship 
of that day —but it is most probably, to a considerable extent, the work of Ice- 
landers then resident in Sweden. » 

*^ Following tbe story of Old-Northern philology, from it« beginning down to oar own 
dfty, It It impoHibl€ not to feel atlonfihment At the nnmbor of learned labonrem which a com- 
mnntty 10 small as the popalation of Iceland, has predtieed. As In the ancient days, when the 
sagaman reeonnted his tales and the skald recited his lays, nearly all the literary life of the 
North was hers~.whlle the other greater and richer lands of Scandinavia were well nUh bar- 
ren— so, In modern times, she has been the ehlef interpreter of her own crestlons, which 
embody the history, the mythology, the laws of the early Qothle world. It Is true that the 
island commonwealth possessed — to begin with — a splendid heritage. All the lore of the 
primeTal ages was hers. Her sons sUll spoke the langnage of those days In whieh there 
were giants ; to them the larger utterances of the gods were still household voices ; even the 
whispers whieh startled nature, at the dawn of our elvlllsatlon, they could yet repeat. The 
key of the treasures concealed by the mysterious runes— powerfhl as the seal of Salomon 
against the endeavors of other hands — was likewise in their possession. All the deities of 
the Odinie theology found their final reftige on Ieeland*s shores. Only among her icy moun- 
tains lingered, at last, the faint echoes of the songs of the heroes who battled, and battling, 
ohanted, in the twilight of our raee. On every Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday, and 
Friday, the morning breeses brought to her sons ^ and are bringing them yet — messages from 
tbe halls of Valhalla ^ messages which would be meaningless, even If they were not deaf to 
them, la the ears of the degenerate children of the Goth and the Saxon. The sturdy repub- 
lic which the oftpring of kings and vikings had built up amid the snow of glaciers and the 
6re of volcanoes, continued to be governed by tfie archaic codes established by the Moses and 
Solotts of the old Teutoale times. To these Insular Northmen, too, were alone known the 
stories of the years when their ships sailed over the Northern waters of the Atlantic to an- 
other world In the west— centuries before the keel of the Italian Columbus ploughed a way 
through Its Southern waters. The empires of the Boulh could see the setting sun In all Its 
glory, but only le^and knew of the lands of tho Hesperides beyond, or could guess what 
that sunset glory foretold. They f«lt, (00, the burden of the past, and the honours and du> 
Ues of long deeeent, for, in tradition at 6rst, In Inscribed Ubles afterwards, they could trace 
back from son to sire, from sire to grandsire, and from grandsire to the remotest progenitor, 
the story of eaeh household. These genealogies went back far beyond the Iceland-ward 
wanderloge of their people, while the narratives of the wanderings themselves had been 
transmitted with the detail of a diarist. The families that migrated In the »th and eth een- 



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46 CHESS IN ICELAND 



A long interval separates Olaus Verelius from the scholarly Icelander, 
Bjdrn Haild6rs8on, whose " Lexicon Islandico-Latino-Danicorum," edited by 
Rasmus Kristian Rask, was published at Copenhagen in 1814. Feeble as the 
work is, when compared with those which have superseded it, it was, in its 
day, a great boon to students of the ancient Northern literature— to the cul- 
tivation of which it gave a marked impulse. Rask was assisted, in his edi- 
torship, by several Icelanders then studying in Copenhagen; Danish defini- 
tions were added to the Latin ones of Bjorn Halld6rsson, and are here, as 
usual, cited in parentheses, while Icelandic terms are in Italics. The name 
of the game, sMk, is explained as ^'ludus latrunculorum'' (the better Latin- 

turUa from the soathern borderi of the North Sea, to the eoast of Kent, like tho«« that in 
the 17th eentary, croued the broader eeaa that separated Old Bngland from New England, 
took little or no paint to hand down to posterity the annale of their progresc; but the Ice- 
lander!, whenever the^^hose, could walk again In the recorded footstep* of their fathers, 
who, In the 9th and 10th centuries had left the Qords of Norway and the islands of Scotland, 
to take possession of the green ralleys that open to the ocean along the shores of their far- 
northern home. And as each of those valleys b^an to make its history, every Incident and 
accident, every gest and scene, was remembered and transmitted and described again and 
again to the descendants of the settlers unto the latest generation. But all this was not 
true of the home-land merely. Icelandic bards and story-tellers, champions and ramblers, 
brought back from foreign courts and camps accounts of the life of the outer world — the 
doings of kings and warriors, of courtiers and prelates, of soldiers and peasants — and told 
them afresh to Their children and their children's children. Then it happened, in the course 
of time, as was natural, that Iceland not only kept the old tongue, bat learned to wield the 
new pen as well— the new pen that Christianity brought with it Into the North. In the 
houses of her chiefs, in the cabins of her yeomen, In the cloisters of her priests, hundreds 
of scribes, through many lifetimes, wrote down the sound and the sense of the words that 
were vanishing, and the tales of the deeds that were fading. But for their seal — writing 
mostly under the pale sun and during the brief sunshine of winter — the most powerful peo- 
ples of the present worlds would long ago have lost, past recall, the knowledge of what 
their far-away forefathers thought and wrought ; of how they lived and laboured ; of whom 
they prayed to, and of what they fought for. Thus each great man's house, in the lapse of 
years — for there were seekers after rarities in those days, too— became a library rich In 
lettered wealth elsewhere unattainable — in the varied learning of the North-Teutonic bard 
and pilgrim and chronicler and rhymer and romancer. There could be read such legends 
of Germanic heroes as were not to be found In other Germanic lands ; such narratives of 
the Scandinavian kings as no other Scandinavian region possessed; such lives of Bnglish 
saints and Scottish island Jarls as Britain knew not of. Bat In the end the lore-loving little 
land was fated to lose much of this well-earned wealth and glory. The manuscripts on vel- 
lum and paper — so many that the number of them still extant seems incredible— were carried 
away— as Rome despoiled Greece of her marbles, as Napoleon despoiled Italy of her can- 
.vasses— to enrich and make famous the libraries of foreign lands, not a few of them perish- 
ing in transit by aoeidents of fire and flood. But It turned out that to the foreign despoil- 
ers the manuscripts were dumb. Their words were voiceless except to those who wrot« 
them. They were as unintelligible as were the hieroglyphs carved on the obelisks of Egypt 
to the Romans who pulled them down on the banks of the Nile to set them up again on 
the banks of the Tiber. Thus the children of Iceland had again to rescue from oblivion the 
records of our ancestral wisdom. They had to interpret to the duller generations of the old 
family the words their ancestors had formerly committed to stone and parchment, to reeon- 
stmct the monuments and muniments, of which their new owners proved to be unworthy keep- 
ers. It is to Icelanders that we owe the first grammars of the primitive speech, published 
at Ciopenhagen and Oxford. It is they who have been the compilers of dictionaries, and the 
commentators of the classic writings. But even before the outflow of manuscripts had fairly 
begun, the renaissance of Icelandic philology had already dawned— in the 16th century and in 
Iceland Itaelf. The leading figure of the new period was Amgrimur the learned— as he waa 
styled, both at home and abroad— Arnfprfmur J6nsson (Jonas) Vidalin— the ancestor of a vig- 
orons and erudite race— whose many works were made publio partly by the Icelandic, 
partly by the foreign press. In the first oontinental school of Old-Northern lingnlsUe re- 
search— whloh floarlshed in Sweden during the 17th oentnry— the names which accompany th« 



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STRA Y NOTES 47 



ism, *4uda8 scaccorum,*' has not, we see, even yet reached the Icelandic 
philologists), and is succeeded by the compounds, shdkbor^^ skdktnenn (the 
plural only), "latrunculi," (brikker i skakspil); and by the verb, shika^ 
under which several phrases are cited : skdk per^ with a figurative meaning, 
"tua res agitur " (et overmods udtryk ; skal betyde : nu er du i knibe, eller og: 
nu er min tilstand bedre en din) —with no attempt at an elucidation of the 
technical signification; skdka i hroksvaldu ^^superbire patrocinio potontioris*' 
(vise sig overmodig under en mjegtigeres beskyttelse) — a phrase which we 
shall comment upon later; and at rjitfa skdk^ ^^frangere mandram** (befri 
kongen for skak i skakspil) — this last given as a real technical phrase, "to 

tlU«a of the learned foil on were the names of the acholars ef Upeala and Stoekholm, but the 
labour between the eovere wai to a larir* extent that of the line of Iceland le "trantlatore," 
as they were styled, which from J6u Rugnian was carried on throngh the brothers, OuA. 
mandur and Helgl Olafssou. They had been summuned to Sweden by the College of Antiqui- 
ties (AntiquItets-UoUeglum) first in tho hope of obtaining more spoil from Iceland, and sec- 
ondly to enable the learned editors to read the ▼olluus they hal already garnered. It is as 
amasing, as it Is sad, to read of the rivalry between Denmark and Sweden In exploiting the 
strange mines that had been opened in the distant Islet, to which so little heed had been 
paid in the preceding centuries. Secret agents— Icelanders— were sent home by Sweden, and 
the harvest gathered was landed on her coast, while the boat and agent went on to Copen- 
hagen. It was a singular commcrec. What wu have said of the works of the Swedish school 
is equally true of those of the Danish, which. In those day«, was aUo the Norwegian. It Is easy 
to note, for Instance, how many of Olo Worm's publleatloBS in the ITth centnry were the 
result of leelandio knowledge and toll— his own letters indicate this -and the books edited 
by Stephanlus and Resenius could hardly have been iisued without help from the same louree. 
Arngrimur Jonsson was followed by many of bis countrymen— the bishops I»orlikur Skiilason, 
Brynj6Ifnr Sveinsson (the "discoverer of the Bdda'*) and I*or&ur l>orliksson, the diligent 
annalist, Bjdru J6n8son (a SkarftsA), and, above all, by the lllustrioaa I>orm6&ur Torfason 
(TorfsBUs), the foremost Northern scholar of his day— these wore the real workers in the lin- 
guistic hive. To some others of no less merit, the lexicologists Magnus Olafsson and (iud- 
mundur Andr^sson, and the grammarian Bun6lfur j6nssou, we have already alluded. Take 
away from Danish Old-Norihero letters In the next century the names of Torfseus— who lived 
through its first two deeades— Aral MagnAsson and Jon Eiriknson, not to mention those of 
the bishop, PInnur J6nssoD, whose monumental **Uistoria ecclesiastioa *' (1 vols. 4* Hav- 
nia 1773-78) covered the Catholic period of the iiland, during much of which the classic 
spirit was still alive; of the lexicographer, BJdrn HalId6rsson ; of the Juridical archseologi«t, 
P&ll Vidaliu ; and of the commentator, Grimar J6nsson Thorkelin— take away these names, 
and of how high a quality Is the foreign residuum ? Take away, again, the names ot Finnur 
Uagnnsson, Svelnbjdrn figilsson and J6n SIgur&ssou from the earlier portion of this cen- 
tury, and of the same high class only a single name— that of Rask, a great one— remains. 
But Rask, at the very outset of his career, made himielf an Icelander by passing the better 
part of two years on Icelandic soil, and by long and close association with Icelandic students 
In Copenhagen. Of the valuable work done by such learned bodies, for Instance, as the Royal 
Society of Northern Antiquaries, far more has come from the pens and brains of Icelanders 
than appears on title-pages and In indices. Natives of the island are still active in the 
field'we purposely omit living names— and withlu these last years a keen sehotar and a 
xealons student has passed away in the person of Konrid Gislason— also a lexicologist. But it 
oaght to bo acknowledged that in the generation now upon the stage, Denmark Is represent- 
ed by two figures of the foremost order— those of Kaluud and Wimmer— while in the two 
youngest generations Norway has produced the brIlUaut group which includes Munch, Keydcr, 
Unger, Storm, and Bugge. But the general literary production of Iceland in modern times, In 
branches of letters other than those we are treating of, is likewise surprising. Her people 
number 76,000, to which may be added 20,000 more In Northern North America who still 
prefer to speak their own tongue rather than the Bngllsh. This Is the popnlatiou of a minor 
city in the larger lands of civilisation. But an examination of the yearly output of her 
presses— Journals, magatlnes, books, pamphlets— and a comparison of it with the literary 
productions of any other community of many times the slxe, will show h«w marvelous is the 
love of letters still fostered by the rocky soli to which the Rddas and Sagas of Iceland's first 
centuries owe their birth. 



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48 CHESS IN ICELA ND 



release the king from check at chessplay/' though it may not be easy to com* 
prehend the exact application of the term, which is found in no later dictionary 
{tyufa means "to break, break up"); at missa alia menn i skdk, "excalcu- 
lari" (tabe alle brikker i skak)— menn referring to all the figures; at eiga 
einn mann eptir^ ♦*monochorus esse" (have en brikke tilbage)— where again 
mann may mean, apparently, either piece or pawn. Of the chessmen the 
following are mentioned in their proper alphabetical places:—!, hrdkuvy 
"longurio," " latrunculorum satelles" (brikke i skakspil)— the Danish, as 
well as the Latin appellation of the rook being apparently unknown both 
to the author and the editor. Under this rubric is repeated the proverbial 
phrase already entered under skdk^ namely, at skdka i krdksvaldi, "aucto- 
ritate alicujus potentioris niti " (trodse nogen i haab om en stormsends 
beskyttelse)— which is the same definition as above in slightly different words. 
2. Pec^^ "latrunculorum verna," "anteambulo*' (on bondo i skakspil), and 
figuratively, "homuncio," "nanus'* (et drog, unyttigt menneske); with peo^- 
lingur *' vel -peplingiir " (?) and pe^ma^ur in the metaphorical senses of 
"pusio"" (pusling, en little dreng), and illustrative phrases. As to other 
words, having more or less a chess character, reilur^ "square,'' is found 
with the signification of "bed in a garden," and then comes reitur i shik- 
horH^ "loculus latrunculorum in alveo" (tavl paa skakbrjettet). Tafl, here 
written, in accordance with its pronunciation, tahl^ its derivative and com- 
pounds, do not receive any chess definitions. i7>i£?/¥="pugnus" (nteve), also 
written knefi^ is here, but there is no trace othnefatafl in any of its shapes. 
Stans (that is, stanz) is explained as "incitae in ludo latrunculorum" (skak- 
mat), instead of citing its real signification, "drawn game." It is not unlikely 
that Rask-'keen linguistic student and observer as he was— when, later in 
life, he returned from a journey to India, the birthland of the game— was 
possessed of a better knowledge of chess and its technical terms. 

The next lexicological work to be brought under notice is the Danish- 
Icelandic one of Konr^O Gislason (6. 1808 d. 1891), "Donsk ortJabrtk meft islenzk- 
umpyttingum" (Kaupmannahofn 1851)— a most valuable, admirably ordered 
work, and the result of immense industry. To be first observed is that the 
game of chess (skakspil) is given as sMktafl ; to play chess is leika a^ skdk- 
tafli, leika skffktafl ; to check is scfija shfik^ skdka ; chessboard (skakbr»t) is 
taffbor^^ or more rcstrictcdly, sknkbor^ ; chessplayer is skdkma^ur ; chess- 
man (= chess-figure) is ma^ur e^a pe^^ and a set of chessmen is the plural 
of the same expression — mennimir og pe^in^ indicating that, in the author's 
opinion, ma^ur and menn relate only to the higher figures— excluding the 
pawns. All the names of the pieces are specially treated except konungur-^ but 
the queen is styled /?•«, the name drottning being given only to the queen 
at cards. Mdt (/ .?ArrfAc) =Danish "skakmat," which is not literally exact; with 
a wider knowledge of chess usage in Iceland, it would have been skdk og 
tndt. KonrA5 Gislason's dictionary, however, is the only Icelandic one, which, 
so far as we know, registers the word ;w«— our "stalemate."— It is conve- 
nient to notice here, although out of its chronological order, another, much 
smaller and less pretentious Danish-Icelandic dictionary— but a very excellent 
one of its kind — the "TVy dmisk orchabok me^ islenzktim fy^ingum^" of the 
pains-taking priest, J^nas J6nasson. This hand-lexicon was issued at Reyk- 
javik in 18%. The author makes chess (Danish, "skak") both skdk and 
tafly and has the phrases, **play chess," tefla^ and "offer check," skdka. 



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STRAY NOTES 49 



He follows conversational usage in employing, in chess nomenclature, tafl 
and its compounds, and has a few quite modern chess-expressions. Chess- 
problem is iafldcemi; a game at chess (that is, the French, ''partie'')— for 
which meaning in English we lack a special equivalent-* is interpreted by 
tafl; the game of chess is skdktafl; chessplayer is taflmcUhur^ skdkma^r; 
chessboard is iaftbpr^^ skdkhor^ ; checkmate and mate are both rendered by 
nidi. In regard to the piece-names, queen (Danish '*frue'*) is properly given 
as drottning (i tafli); the remainder noted are hrokur, biskup^ riddari ^ndpe^. 
Under the Danish "spille" (to play), we have **to play a game of chess "=a^ 
tefla eina skdk, which gives the added signification of *'partie" to the word 
skdk — a modern conversational expression. Under the Danish *Meg*' (game), 
we have end-game =leikslok. The noun "move'' is rendered by leikur, to 
'^make a move at chess'' being leika einn leik i tafli. The dictionary's Da- 
nish vocabulary does not include "pat," (stalemate), **rokkerc" (to castle) or 
the foreign terms *' en prise," "partie remise," (Icelandic, >a/>i(«/fi) **en pas- 
sant," and so on. 

In 1856, at Leipsic, Theodor Mobius— an Old-Northern linguist and biblio- 
grapher of high rank— produced his *' Altnordischer Glossar," explaining the 
vocabularies of only a limited number of Old-Northern works, but which 
was, so far as it went, judiciously arranged and excellently edited, like 
everything that came from his well-ordered mind. The word skdk docs not 
come within his field, and lie is not correct in his rendering of knettafl or hnef- 
tafl as "schachspiel." He has taflpungur~^ha.Q for men or pieces used at 
chess and other games, and says that such bags were sometimes provided 
with jewelled bands as in the Gullt)6ris saga. From the same saga he cites 
the phrase, "^cpr leku at hnet- tafli ok var taftit alt steypt af silfri^ en gylt 
alt hit raucf'a^^' and interprets tafli^ as referring to the board — though, in 
that respect, the sentence is obscure. He likewise renders tafl by "move," 
in the quotation, ve}'^a tafli seinni, which is interpreted as to "come a move 
too late," and in a later citation from the Eyrbyggja saga which reads peir 
hof^u orthit tafli seinni en A?*nA;eW— but in both, the sense seems to be 
figurative. 

Between the years 1854 and 1860 the Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries 
issued at CJopenhagen the important "Lexicon poeticum" of Dr. Sveinbjorn 
Egilsson (6. 1791, d. 1852), rector of the College of Iceland at Reykjavik, a 
deeply learned and unweariedly industrious scholar. This work is never 
likely to be superseded. The author's Latinity is above criticism, as is 
evinced by his rendering of skdk as "ludus schacchicus— getting rid, once 
for all, of the "ludus latrunculorum " of his predecessors-— or rather confin- 
ing its use to other games than chess. Under skdk we have tefla skdk (to 
play chess), and mention is made of an anomalous genitive skdks (instead 
of skdkar) in the compound skdksleika (in the Sturlunga). Hrokur is first 
defined as the bird, ''pelicanus ator," the sea- raven— being the same word 
we are told as hraukur —iheny secondly, as "longurio, vir longus, adjuncta 
ignavise et inertia) notione" (being very much what we mean in English by 
a "lazy lout");' and thirdly, as "hodie centurio in ludo scacchico^ est Per- 
sicum roch quod significat a) ingentem avem, b) camelum bellicum, cui in- 
sidet vir, arcu et sagittis armatus." This is less erroneous than one would 
expect, considering that the author quotes as his authority an article in the 
Copenhagen "Annaler for Nordisk OlUkyndighed" (1838-9), which treats of 

7 



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50 CHESS IN ICELAND 



chess in Iceland, and which bristles with misinformation. Under tafl we 
have tefla tafl (to play to/f), taflpungur (*•*' sacculus latrunculorum *'), and 
other compounds. A compendium of the "Lexicon poeticum/* the original 
edition having become rare, has been published by Dr. SveinbJ()rn Egilsson^s 
son, the still living Benedikt GrOndal, a man of great ability and versatil- 
ity—poet, publicist, satirist, naturalist. 

It was likewise for the Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries that Eirik- 
ur J6nsson (&. 1822, d. 1899), an Icelander, whose life, like that of Konr&O 
Gislason, was passed in Denmark, compiled the ^'Oldnordisk Ordbog** (KJ5- 
benhavn 1863), Intended, we believe, as a sort of prose complement to the *' Lexi- 
con po^ticum** of SveinbJ6rn Egilsson. Skdk includes the phrase segja skdk^ 
to give check ; and is stated to have two specially Icelandic figurative mean- 
ings, namely, 1. A somewhat high-lying flat (level place) in a ttin (the 
meadow surrounding an Icelandic farmstead) ; and 2. A (low) loft in a house, 
of which it embraces or covers only a portion— we translate the Danish de- 
scriptions literally, and shall return hereafter to these senses of skdk. Under 
skdktafl we have, here as elsewhere, the phrases leika skdktafl and teika a9* 
skdktafli; while the word is also rendered '* chess-play,*' *Uhe game of 
chess,'* and additionally "chess-figures and chessboard as well." The two 
compounds skdkborcf' and skdkma9^r (chessplayer) follow. Under the verb 
skdka occurs the phrase, skdka einhverjum (to offer check to some one— the 
verb thus governing the dative), with the passage, which we already know 
from the 6lafs saga helga, ^d skdka^i jarl af hdnum riddara^ rendered by 
**he captured a knight in giving check." Thereafter we are presented with 
the familiar metaphor, skdka i hroksvaldi (vise sig anmassende, dristig under 
en maegtigeres beskyttelse— the interpretation being virtually that of Bjorn 
Halld6rsson); but thereafter is quoted another and similar phrase, which we 
have not heretofore seen, and which is said to possess the same signification, 
to wit, skdka f sli^jdli einkvers^ to ** check (attack) under the protection (shel- 
ter) of some one." Mdt and mdta are indicated as Icelandic. Tefla i upp- 
ndm is to ^'play a piece so that it can be taken" (t. e. to set it en prise), 
Stanz (eller slans) is interpreted as ''stoppage" (Danish, ''standsning"), but 
is not connected with chess, and we are told that it has no plural. Tefli 
occurs in its place without definition, but with it are cited both JaftUefli and 
prdtefli (the latter inserted in no other dictionary)— they also without defini- 
tions. They mean respectively "drawn game" (remise) and (a game or po- 
sition drawn by) "perpetual check." The chessmen explained are hrdkur, 
riddari and p€€^. The first-named reads (we English the Danish renderings) 
as follows: 1. (bird), see hraukur; 2. the rook at chess; 3. "a tall, drowsy 
fellow, a lout;" 4. "the principal manager, mover; hrdkur alls fagna^aVy 
the chief originator of all social amusements." It is not easy to decide at 
a glance how far these metaphors (3 and 4) relate to the bird, or to any other 
literal signification of hrdkur. She ft is "the principal piece in a game called 
hneftafl;'* and hneftafla is a piece in that game; while we are supplied with 
the usual orthographical variants. Tafl and its family take some space. We 
have already alluded to tefli. Ta/f, itself is:~l. (Danish tavl^g, i. e. "ta- 
ble play" and brcetspU^ "tables"); h^ eru hrog^ % tafli, "something un- 
derhand is going on" 6. a move at " tables;" verif^a tafli seinni^ to "be fo- 
restalled" (a move to late); 2. (Danish, tavt)^ set of men at "tables," or at 
chess; hann svarfarH taftinu^ he overturned the men. The noun tafta is 



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STRAY NOTES 51 



here a board for tables, ** chessboard/' and subsidiarily '* figures*' in a game; 
taflbrag^ is an *' artifice at tables/' and in the plural taflbrdg^y ** know- 
ledge, skill in table-play;" taflmat^ur is ''one who plays tables, chess." 
Under the verb tefla we have tefla skdk^ "play chess" (St. Olafs saga); tefla 
m^ einhvem (to play with or against any one); tefla um eitthvert (to play 
for something), with the proverbial saying, fegar um lif er at tefla (when 
life is at stake); teftdr^ the participle, has a singularly modern meaning 
in vera upp tefdr (to be played out, i. e. finished, ended, exhausted). 

But of the various Icelandic dictionaries that of GuUbrandur Vigfusson 
(Oxford 1872)— the sole author of which he was, although the title-page in- 
cludes a second name— is by all odds the greatest and best; indeed it is 
hardly too high praise to class it among the foremost score of lexicological 
works— in or of any language whatever— which have hitherto seen the 
light. ^ To some extent it likewise treats the modern dialect of Iceland, 

^ GuSbrudar Vlgf&Moa (6. Uareb 13, 18S7, d. January 81, 1889) is the repreMnteUve 
leelasdic acbolar. With a knowledge which woald have given him the highest plaoe aa a 
Germanist, he ehose to restrict the work of his llfo to a field in which he may be said not 
only to have had no peer, bat not even a second. For no man has ever known so thoroughly 
the linguistic history of his native land as he that of Iceland, and of its broader old-north' 
ern domain; and none has ever been so minutely familiar with every period, and every 
product, of a literature of so great a compass, and of such long duration. His erudUlon was 
not merely profound, bat amaslngly comprehensive. It is impossible to review the offspring 
of his pen, from such essays as the youthful but novel and able tractate on the chronology 
of the sagas of Iceland (''Um timaUl i iiilendinga sSgnm**) to the stately volumes which he 
issued under the aosplces of Oxford Uulverslty, without a feeling of stupefaction at the depth 
and breadth of his learning, and the continuity and bulk of his labor. His mind and mem« 
ory were Imbaed with all the life and lore of by-gone times. He had wandered through 
every highway and byway of Iceland's past, and through those of the past of all the other 
lands traversed and chronicled and sung by her sagamen and her skalds, until he could be- 
come, at will, a citlxen of any age, a contemporary of any genoratlon — voyaging backward, 
hither and thither, in time, as a man travels to and fro geographically. To employ a com- 
parison suggested by the g&me of chess, he could reproduce every forgotten episode, re-shape 
every lost literary creation, revivify every vanished scene of all the centuries which make up 
the seven ages of Icelandic letters, jnst as the blindfold player of many simultaneous games 
rebuilds, after each of his moves, by a flash of volition, a wholly differing position, bringing 
again within his vision a battle seene whleh had disappeared — a field of action with schemes 
and stratagems, moves and couuter-moves, pieces and pawns, wholly other than those which 
he viewed a moment before, or will view a moment later. He could almost interview the 
heroes, the historians, the poets of ancient dsys, and get the real meaning of a histor- 
ical passage out of Snorri Stnrluson himself, or persuade Bgill Skallagrimsson to Interpret 
an obecnre Icenntn^, or replace a corrupted word. "Quftbrandur,** says Dr. Konrad Maurer, 
himself a man of gifts as marvelous, "war ein gana ungewShnlioh begabter mann, von 
raschester faseungsgabe nnd nnermadllchem fleisse. Seine fertlgkeit Im lesen und In der 
beurtheilung von faandschriften war eine gans ausserordentllche ; die verlosehenste scbrift 
vermochte er noch an entsiffern, und wochenlang konte er von morgens bis abends absehreiben 
ohne dass seine angen ermUdeten. Kaseh wusste er sich auch In den filiationsverhAltnissen 
der handsehriften surecht su finden, und von bier aus fOr seine quellonansgaben stets den 
Vlchtigen text su wAhlen und die nfttlgen varianten aussatesen. Seine ausgebreitete bekant- 
schafi mit der gesamten gedruckten und ungedrnckten lltteratur seiner helmet Hess Ihn aber 
dies Im verelne mit seinem bewnndemngswttrdlgen gediehtnisse stets alle beaiehungen gegen- 
wArtlg haben, die Ihm fUr die erledlgung irgend elner aufgabe von nutzen sein konten, and 
eine seltene komblnationsgabe gesttaiete ihm aus dom reicben materiale die flberraschend- 
sten sehlilsse sa alehen.** His memory was so astounding, his sense of metre and style and 
expression and verbal force, so acute, his knowledge of the literary phases of every locality 
and every age so complete, that, perhaps, as Dr. Maurer says, his trust In his own vast powers 
now and then l>etrayed him into errors, which less self-eonfidenee would have led him, by 
a new verification of his authorities, to avoid. But his instinctive guesses were often better 
than other orltica* studied certainties. His life was too Industrious, and therefore too ■eeln- 



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52 CHESS IN ICELAND 



which fact adds greatly to its value. We shall endeavotir to discuss its state- 
ments at some length, and to connect with them some observations omit- 
ted when reporting the chess vocables and phrases included in preceding 
dictionaries. 

Skdk,~-We are told that the word is of Persian origin; we have the ver- 
bal expression tefla skdk (play chess), while, with the same meaning, we are 
given under iefla^ the form, tefla skdktafly but we nowhere find Konr&9 
Gislason's leika o^ skdkta/li (precisely our English "play at chess.") The 
term for chessboard is skdkborth^ and under tafl, also taflhorih^ while skdktafl 

ded, to ftdmit of many Intiinaciet, tfaoagh the few who knew him nearly cherished for him 
an ardent esteem. **The more closely the career and life-work of Vigrdsson are examined," 
asserts Mr. Bdmand Gosse, '*the more his genius will be found to shine, and only those who 
have, in some poor and undistinguished degree, followed where he led, can even begin to 
estimate his greatness.** Enumerating the philologist's characterlstles, he exclaims: — *' Who 
that has seen it will forget that pale and fretted countenance ? Who will forget the enlha- 
siasm, the Melity, the sweet and Indulgent unworldlluess ? ** Gul5brandur Vigf&sson^s col- 
league and fellow worker, Professor York Powell, declares that *< Those who knew him will 
not need my testimony to his strong, sincere and generous character, his extraordinary and 
well-controlled memory, his wide learning In many tongues, his eager and unwearied Indus- 
try, and his fine literary taste. For myself, I can only say that the longer I know hira the 
more I honoured, truflted and loved him.** He calls him ''the greatest Scandinavian scholar 
of our century.** Another of his Oxford contemporaries, the head of Corpus Cbrlsti College, 
Dr. Charles Plummer, characterises him as "one of the most remarkable men that Oxford 
has seen during the present century," and adds that " to say that his loss Is irreparable is 
to use feeble language.** After an enumeration of some of his works Dr. Plummer goes on : — 
'*Bot in spite of all that he did, it is rather on what ho was that those who knew him best 
will love to dwell; on his simple and noble character, his genuine and npconventional piety, 
his— not so much superiority to as — nneonscionflness of evory petty and selfish motive, his 
single-hearted devotion to learning, his scorn of anything like pedantry or pretence, his 
loyalty to his friends, his remembrance of, and gratitude for any, even the smallest acts of 
kindness done to himself. In the midst of those who were privileged to know him there will 
remain that longing memory of which the great Italian poet speaks for — 

Lo di c*han detto al dolce amlco addio.*' 

Gnl&brandur Yigfdsson was a man of simple life, of kindly nature, of generous sentiments. As 
a writer of Icelandic his style was as clear as it was concise, and it possessed an unaffected, 
sometimes subtle charm which those who have perused his notes of travel In Norway and 
Germany will well remember. He rarely allowed himself to be drawn into polemics — which 
have such a baneful fascination for so msny of bis literary compatriots, with whom argument 
too often degenerates into abuse, and criticism into Invective — even lampoons, open or anony- 
moos, inuendoes and misstatements, leers and Jeers and sneers, scurrility and calumny, being 
all regarded as legitimate weapons of the publicist. Of anything like this weakness of Igno- 
bier minds there is to be fonnd almost as littlo in his career as In that of his great contem- 
porary, eonntryman and friend, the pure-mlndud J6u SIgurSsson. The last work of the an- 
ther of the *' Dictionary,** though left nearly finished, has not yet seen the light. It was a 
book on the Origins of Iceland, comprlaing the Landu&ma, or Book of Settlement, and other 
works relating to the earliest age of Icelandic history and the foundation of the Icelandic state. 
It will doubtless reach the learned public In time, and will add to the vast debt which the 
world owes to him and to his memory. A eomplete list of his multitudinous works, and bf 
the biographies published since his death, complied by his friend, J6n I>orkelsson the younger, 
and aeeompanied by an excellent life and portrait, will be found In the periodical *' Andvari** 
(XIX, pp. 1-48, Reykjavik 1894). He was buried, in the moaming presence of all learned 
Oxford, under the green turf and amid the quiet walks of the cemetery of St. Sepulchre. 
The spires and lowers of the noblest of universities, upon which his labours shed such lustre, 
rise above the grave of one of the two greatest Icelanders of the nineteenth century. The 
halls of the ancient school have sheltered few scholars, whether Kngllsh or foreign, whether 
of earlier or later times, whose work was more arduous, more sinoere, more brilliant, or likely 
to be more enduring than that of this adopted Oxonian— over whose birth-place gleam the auro* 
rasof Iceland.— The following unpublished letter from Dr. Gu^brandnr YigAUson was written 



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STRAY NOTES 53 



is restrictedly deOned as "a game of chess" (that is, **paWi«,'') for which 
there are numerous references to the old writings— one to the year 1155 (the 
partie, which we know of, between Valdemarthe Qreat and one of his cour- 
tiers), another to 1238 (Bishop H6t6lf and the deacon), and again to deeds 
of the 14th century in the "Diplomatarium Norvegioum" (Kristiania 1849-95) 
—in which last the meaning would hardly be *'agame," but ratlier a ''set 
of chessmen,'' or a "chessboard,'* or both. Here GuUbrandur Vigfusson, in 
accordance with the encyclopandic character of his lexicon, says:— "There is 
no authentic record of chess in Scandinavia before the 12th century, for the 

jntt before he made hU last wMt to Copenhagen. It allndee to his "Orlfloes Islaadleic,** and 
tome other of his literary plans ; It will gire, too, an Idea of his terse, Informal English. It 
U dated from the Deanery, Winebestor, March 81, 1B87:~*'I write this with a aomewhat 
reliered mind, having lately eleared my desk, and -sent to preae a moon tain of MSS towards 
the Origineg htandieoe. The Landn&mabok is all In print, text, translaUon and Introduction, 
some 240 pages. The whole work is (after the fashion of the Corput) to be In S vols, divided 
into five books, the books Into aeetions, whereof Landnimab6k is I. 1. ; the Sd beok Is on 
the Constitution, Lih^llM leading, and anelent Laws ; the Sd book on Conversion, and Lives 
of Bishops. All this is in the printers' hands, and makes volume one. The 4th, old Sagas ; 
5th, WIneland and Arctie recorda. 

I am now ou the wing to Copenhagen, on a short visit, to finish some US work. I did 
a pile of work in 1884 — so I shall one day be an emancipated man hero, Independent of Co- 
penhagen. 

It has long been a day dream — a waking dream as we say— to see Italy, and I long 
more to see Florence than even Rome; on account of bor pure Italian, glorious records, 
Michel- Angelo. The gods know whether I may not one day make use of your most kind 
offer. — I live here in England (Oxford) an hermit life, have a few friends — Mr. Powell In 
first rank of such ; bat don't mix In society, never did, never coald. In a drawing-room I 
feel dullish and nnoomfortable ; it is a sort of ' mortal antipathy * as your countryman, Wen- 
dell Phillips, so well and appropriately calls it. In term time I have a few lectures to give 
(though usually reading with a elass, uo public lectures), and in the vacations I have the only 
chance of working wiih Mr. Powell, who la all the terms talieu ap with lecturing and coaehlng ~ 
a great pity to use him for that. In the long vacation we mean to do a great spell of work 
(or rather he) la translating for the Sd volume, so that the bulk may be In, in the course of the 
summer ; then remains the Index (horriblle dlctu), and a few essays. 

I have some hope next Xraas [of being able to reach Italy] or if not, then next Eaat«r or 
Lent. In the summer I am besides bound to be here, for then the printers have more lei- 
sure, and they proqilse to make two- fold progress In June-September; and that means a great 
deal. 

Be so good as to give my reiipectful compliments to your mother. Next I beg you ezcas« 
a hasty and disordered letter. Is there any thing I can do at Copenhagpn for you ? if so, a 
measage will reach me addressed to Mr. Bruun, the Librarian of the Royal Library (St. Kongl. 
Bibl.). 

I should advise you to get photographs of specimens of these old typos : — 
1. 1540-58. 

S. John Mathleson's types 1559-1576. 

8. Bp. Qudbrand's fresh types, the first book I saw in them was Hemmingsen's Via 
Vitae^ 1576, 18* or 8* — I write from memory. These types were battered and were used for 
168 years — the last book I have seen in them being Widallns [Postllla] , 6th edition of 1744. 

4. Bp. Harboe*s types. 

5. Hrappsey types. 

I made some very informal studies on this subject In 1860 or about then, so eomething 
hangs or stfcks still in my memory. 

I am here staying a few days with my old ft>iend of Oxford and Dictionary memory, 
Dean Kitehin. By to morrow I leave for Denmark via Harwich and Esbjerg, west of Jutland; 
hope to be at Copenhagen by Easter. Mean to see old friends in Jutland, my countryman, 
Hannes Flnsen, In RIbe, and another Danish friend in Aarhus. Have in my head some queer 
theories about ultima [Thule] being in Jutland ; will see it by the way. Powell and I have 
spoken of making a little pamphlet at the forthcoming Rask centenary- OHytnee i>anie«B, 
a brief essay on this subject I am big with." 



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54 CHESS IN ICELAND 



passage cited from the Fornaldar sOgur** (that is from one of the vellums of 
the Hervarar saga) ** is mythical, " and as to Olafe saga helga, he considers 
the game between King Canute and Ulf Jarl to be hnefatafl^ as it undoubt- 
edly was. He goes on to inform us that *Mn Iceland there is still played a 
peculiar kind of chess, called vald^kdk^ in which no piece, if guarded, can 
be taken or exchanged." This variety, it may be remarked en passant^ must 
be of Icelandic invention, since nothing similar is reported from other lands, 
and we can add that, only a few years ago,— twenty years after the publi- 
cation of the "Dictionary''— its practice was still continued in the island. It 
must be one of the oddest "abarten des schachspiels,'' as the Germans call 
them. Skdkma^ur is interpreted both as *' chessman" (figure), and "chess- 
player;" while the other, but similarly formed skdknia^ur (being, as we 
are told, the Old High German "sc&hman" and modern German "schacher") 
signifies "robber," "highwayman," and is cited as occurring [only?! in the 
I^iUrekssaga, or story of Dieterich (Theodoric). The v«rb skdka (check) 
" is frequent in modern usage " as a chess term, and is used, in a meta- 
phorical sense, in skdka i ]fvi skioli^ "to check one in that shelter, i. e, to 
take advantage of one (unduly)." A modern use of this metaphor may be 
seen in the following sentence written very recently:— /lann skdkar (checks, 
attacks) i ^vi sh)6li (shelter, protection, cover) a^ hann sleppi viih dbyrgtHna^ 
" he attacks (acts) under, that cover, so that he may escape responsibility." 
In the skdk rubric we have, too, a definition, (marked as section II.), given 
to another figurative usage, "metaphorically a seaU bench^ in the popular 
phrase, /yUtt >^r d skdk}na^ take a seat I" Looking back, therefore, at 
Eirikur Jdnsson's vocabulary, and at the present one, we note that skdk, 
in its figurative sense, means:— 1. an (elevated?) portion of the home-meadow 
about an Icelandic beer; 2. a low loft in a house covering only a part 
of the ground-story ; and 3. (here), a seat, bench, settle. All three have 
been verbally explained, by a native Icelandic scholar, as bearing a certain 
resemblance to each other— all conveying the idea of narrowness and 
length and regularity, or rectangularity (like the shape of a bench or settle). 
It is possibly too bold to suggest a rank or file on the chessboard (of the 
same outline) as the link which connects them with skdk=che88. It is also 
suggested that definitions 2 and 3 may be one and the same, namely, a por- 
tion of a loft arranged as a large settle. The relation to skdka (check) of 
the meaning "attack" (in the phrase cited, skdka i pvi skjoli) is less remote, 
but the whole subject demands investigation by a competent Icelandic linguist. 
Names of the figures, ^The special scacchic significations of konungur 
(kongur), drottning and biskup are not referred to, although we have them 
sub pe^ in the compounds, kongspeih (king's pawn) drottningarpe^ (queen's 
pawn) and hiskupspe^ (bishop's pawn). But the following are included in 
their alphabetical places:—!, hrdkur (rook) the derivation of which is set 
down as "from the Indian rocTi =elephanVs castle, through the English— 
which, as is now known, is not correct. The word roch or mch does not 
exist in any Indian tongue; and, in no language, does any word similar to 
it mean "elephant's castle" (the writer confusing the English "castle," as 
a chess term, with the German thumi and Danish taom- both meaning orig- 
inally "tower;" and perhaps also with alfin, alfil^ the mediaeval name of 
the chess bishop, formed from the Arabic t;=the, and /!Z= elephant— thus af- 
fording, if our suggestion be correct, a good instance of the complex con- 



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STRAY NOTES 55 



fusion which usually arises when a philologist, ignorant of chess and its 
history, tries to write about the game and its terms). The truth seems to he 
—to state the matter briefly— that the Sanskrit name of what we call the 
rook was ratha (in the Bengali idiom, roiha\ meaning (war)chariot, and 
that when this word had made its way to Perso-Arabian regions it found a 
somewhat similar vocable— say rohh or rukh— in use (with a very different 
signification in Persia but) among the Arabic people as the name of a wag- 
gon, or other vehicle, and that the influence of false etymological ideas led 
to the substitution of the extra-Indian word for the Sanskrit term. This 
statement is not too clear — and not at all satisfying— but the exact source 
and story of the technical chess-word rook (and consequently hrokur), are 
still shrouded in doubt, despite the efforts of many Orientalists to elucidate 
them. Its connection with the appellation of a gigantic Eastern bird called 
roc (in the ^'1001 Nights'") is as fabulous as the existence of the bird itself; 
and equally devoid of demonstration are some other etymological affiliations 
which have been suggested. Arrived in Arabic Spain, the word took the 
form of roque^ and, subsequently, in early Italian of rocco^ in old French 
of roc and in English of rook, adapting itself in England by popular assim> 
ilation to the already existing form "rook " (the name of a bird); from Eng- 
land it passed— with a knowledge of chess-^to Iceland, where an old word 
hrdkur (apparently of varied meaning, but most likely cognate, both ety- 
mologically and in signification, with the English bird-name) was likewise 
in existence, and was seized upon as furnishing, to the popular mind, the 
proper orthography. What is notable, as we have before hinted, is that 
the only nations, outside of the Romance group, to permanently adopt the 
ancient Perso-Arat)ic name were England and Iceland— so that the geogra- 
phy of the term indicates the path of chess after its introduction (through 
Spain) to Europe. GuCbrandur Vigfusson's definition is **the rook or castle 
in chess," and he has the compound, hrdksmdt^ ** checkmate with the 
rook." In connection with this word, he cites two proverbial phrases, the 
first of which is: skdka i kroksvaldi, "to check in the guard of the rook." 
At first sight, his /endering of the saying seems to be meaningless as an 
English clause, and impossible as the description of a movement at chess. 
But recurring to the translations of the saying given by Bj5rn Hallddrsson 
and Eirikur J6nsson, we can see that, as a n^taphor, the signification is to 
"show one's self bold or arrogant towards another, knowing that we can 
do so safely, being ourselves under powerful protection;" to "attack another 
boldly, protected by higher influence." The literal meaning would seem to 
be to "give check to the king with a piece that is guarded by another," 
as when a bishop gives check, on an adjoining square, but cannot be takeh 
by the king because it is protected by a rook— which would be exactly to 
skdka i hroksva'.dL The synonomous phrase, skdka i skJoli, we have exam- 
ined under skdk. The second of the proverbial sayings under hrdkur is eiga 
ser hrdk i horni^ of which the lexicographer himself furnishes no rendering, 
and which none of his predecessors cite. Literally it is to "have or possess 
a rook in the corner ; " figuratively, it would be to " have support at one's 
back, or in reserve," to know that one has a protector or aid in a known 
place, and therefore at once available in case of need— just as when the 
white queen threatens to attack, or mate, the adverse king by moving 
upon the latter's first or royal rank, the player of the black pieces may 



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56 CHESS IN ICELAND 



comfortably feel that he can nullify the action by means of his rook, which 
is still standing in its corner. The use of hrokur, in these metaphorical 
expressions, is evidently owing, in part at least, to the fact that hrdkur 
is a distinctively chess word, while king and queen and bishop and knight 
are not; they, therefore, do not lend themselves so easily to similes, or met- 
aphors, which originate on the chess table. It is under mdt that we must 
seek one of the compounds of hrokur^ which is hroksmdt, a mate effected 
by means of a rook. 2. Riddari has, as a subsidiary signification, ^* a knight 
in chess,'* with references to Olafs saga helga and to the Sturlunga saga — 
being the episodes of Knut (Canute) and Ulf, and of young {^orgils arid 
Gizur Jarl. But no compounds are cited, although we have under pe^ (see 
below) riddarapech, that is, "knight's pawn." 3. Pecf* has for its only ety- 
mological elucidation, **Fr[ench] p^on," and is defined as "a pawn in 
chess," and thereafter are kongspe^, '*a king's pawn," hrokspe^, riddara- 
pe^y drottningarpe^, biskupspech ; pe^mdt, with the citation of Magus saga, 
23. 44 (the tales of Hirtungur and Rognvald), or pechrifur, "checkmate 
with a pawn." Next follows, under a rubric of its own, pg^»iao^wr, "a foot- 
man" (with a citation of the Karlamagniis saga, 31); and with the additional 
gloss, "a pawn in chess = 2j^^." Noteworthy is the derivation of the 
Icelandic form from the nominative stem of "pedes" (ped-), rather than 
from the low Latin inflectional stem {pedon-)^ of which the Romance and 
English languages have availed themselves ("pion," "pawn"). Or is there 
a long-lingering reminiscence of the Arabic and Persian words (haidaq^pi- 
y(idah—a.s they are transliterated by Van der Linde— in the Icelandic form? 
Olhei' Chess Terms, — Tlie remaining words of a chess character occur- 
ring in the "Icelandic-English Dictionary" are: — I. 3(a<, no derivation 
being suggested; the definition is ** checkmate," with references to the Vig- 
lundar saga 31 (the episode of Orn), the Pornaldar sogur (I., 443— the Her- 
varar-saga), and the BragOa-Magus saga (the Rognvald tale) ; "various kinds 
of mate are pe^mdt, glcicharmdt, fretstertsmat, hroksmdt. heimamdi,'' to se- 
veral of which we have already alluded. Glei^anndi literally means a 
"straddle-mate," and is described by Mr. Olafur DaviOsson, as a mate or 
mates effected by the queen and rooks in three corners *of the board, the 
king to be mated being in the fourth — being doubtless one of the successive 
mates in the same game, on >vhich we have commented in our first essay ; 
its title comes from the adjective glei^ury "standing astraddle," "with 
one's legs wide apart." The verb mdia has merely the definition:— "to 
checkmate, in chess." — 2. Jafntefli is given as "an equal, drawn game," 
citing the Viglundar saga (the episode translated in an abridged shape in 
a preceding page), but it is not treated as a special term, the inference 
being that it is applied to other games. The similarly formed compound, 
prdiefli (drawn by perpetual check), finds no place anywhere in the "Dic- 
tionary," perhaps on account of its modernity. 3. Vppndm^ of which the 
second meaning given is "a chess term, tefla i uppndm^ to expose a piece 
so that it can be taken (Sturlunga saga, iii. 123)"— the passage being the 
known One from the anecdote of ]^orgils skarSi); "hence the phrase, vera 
i uppndmiy to be in immediate danger." Of course, t uppndm (accusative) 
and i uppndmi (dative) are exactly the French en prise (of which, for lack 
of an equivalent expression, we make use in English). As we have else- 
where suggested, it is worthy of remark that a technical chess expression 



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STRAY NOTES 57 



of this character should have been invented and established in Iceland five 
hundred years ago— happily formed and precise as it is— when many of the 
modern tongues of Europe have been satisfied to borrow a foreign phrase 
to describe this chess situation. Literally uppndm means the *' taking up/' 
in the sense of *^ capture,'* and i uppndmi is **in the position of being taken 
up (picked up), or captured/' 4. Vald (meaning "power," "might," "au- 
thority") receives a subsidiary interpretation as "in chess, a guard," with 
the compounds: hroksvald, pe^svald^ the former of which we have discussed, 
indicating, as the most suitable rendering, to be "defended hy ^"^ pethstxdd thus 
signifying, "defended by a pawn." 5. Leppur has in the " Dictionary" only 
the literal senses of "lock of hair; a rag, tatter," no mention being made of 
its modern employment in chess as "interposed piece," which, it is possible, 
grew out of the sense of "a filling" for a crack, hole or the like, or a "stop- 
gap," inherent by daily usage in *'rag." 6. Stans^ of which the same note 
may be taken of the absence of any chess definition, is explained as "akin to 
sUU^sa (5s=n2" by a philological law), a rare verb having in it the stem 
standy the equivalent of our similar English form. It is interpreted as "a 
standstill, hesitation," and, in a phrase, '"amasement;" it is used in Icelandic 
chess, as already noted, as "a game drawn by reason of lack of mating pow- 
er." The noun is followed by a verb, stanza^ "to pause, stop."— These in- 
dude, as is believed, all the terms relating to chess which are discoverable 
in the Oxford dictionary. The most important omission is perhaps patt (stale- 
mate), which is leA unrecorded because it is never met with in any of the 
classical writings. 

Tafl^ hnefatafl.-'The former word is said by Dr. OuSbrandur Vigfiisson 
to be "fl*om the Latin tabula^ but borrowed at a very early time, for it is used 
even in the oldest poems;" and it is described as "a game, like the Old-En- 
glish tables or draughts; used also of the old hneftafl, and later of chess and 
various other games"— whereafter follow numerous quotations. Then are 
cited the compounds hnefataft, skdktafl (chess) and go^atafl, as well as the 
popular sayings:— v^^a tafli seinni^ *Ho be too late," literally "to be too 
late at or for the game;" brogif' I tafli, "tricks in the game," "foul play." 
Finally we are told that tafl is used "also of dice- throwing, diceing," and il- 
lustrative passages are given. The rubric closes with various compounds, in 
which tafl is the first element, such as taflbori^, "a chess-board (for playing 
the hneftafl or chess);" taflbrog^, "feats of playing;" taflf^, "a bet" [lite- 
rally, ** game-money "]; taflma^ir, "a player at chess or hneftafl;'"' taflpung- 
«r, "a bag for the pieces;" taflspeki^ "skill in playing"— all with citations. 
It should be observed that in the quotations in which tafl appears to mean "set 
of men," or "board," or both "men and board," and its plural tofl seems to 
have the sense of "pieces," "figures,"— some of which senses we have noted 
in reading the Kr6karefs saga— the author attempts no precise elucidation 
of these distinctions, a fact which doubtless comes both from his want of 
chess-knowledge, or knowledge of what the game, tables, was, and from the 
late and, therefore, uncommonly modern character of their significations. 
His next rubric is the brief one devoted to tafia, "a piece in a game of ta- 
bles. " Under the verb which is formed from the noun tafl, to wit, tefla, 
the rendering is "to play at chess or draughts," and, after several passa- 
ges, is noted the metaphorical phrase, tefla [any one] upp, "to take one 
up, beat in a game of draughts." Like the primitive noun, " the word is 

8 



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58- GUESS JiV ICELA ND 



also used of dice; the passion of the Teutons for dice is attested by Tacitus 
(Germania, ch. 24);'* and next, the Icelandic phrase, um Itfi^ er at iefla^ is 
translated "life is on the die," that is, life is at stalte, "used metaphori- 
cally of a great emergency." This section is followed by two others, tefli^ 
a noun employed — as would seem to be the author's opinion — solely in the 
compound Ja/>i<e/Ti. "a drawn game," which he refrains from illustrating; 
and teflingy "playing," also without citations. It ought to be constantly 
borne in mind that nowadays the words tafl and iefla are in as much use 
as chess-words, as are "chess" and "play," that is "play at chess" — and 
so they probably have been nearly ever since the introduction of chess. 
Now we come to the difficult word hnefi. First of all, we must call attention 
to the fact that OulJbrandur Vigfiisson seemingly reckons it as a vocable 
differing essentially from hnefi=z flst (the Scotch "nief," or "nieve," Danish 
"nseve," as he tells us), since he puts it in a separate rubric; but he does 
not venture on any etymological suggestion in reference to it. He explains 
it as "the king in a kind of chess played by the ancients" (i. «., the old 
Icelanders) ; " the game was called hnefatofl, which is variously spelt nettafl 
and hnetiafl (which are contracted or assimilated forms); hneftafl; hnottafl 
(a bad form) in a spurious verse; hnefatafl (the true form). The game is 
best described in Fri!)}>j6fs saga, and in one of the riddles in Hervarar saga 
(where, however, the rhymed replies are not genuine) : 'Who are the maids 
that fight about their unarmed lord, the dark all day defending, but the fair 
slaying 1 ' The players were two, as in chess ; there was only one king (hnefi), 
here called Uhe unarmed lord'; the pieces {toflur) were white and red, the 
white attacking, the red defending the hnefi: patf> er hnefatafi, enar dokkri 
very a hnefann, en hinar hvitari soehja. Whenever tafl is mentioned, this 
particular game seems [in the ancient writings] to be understood; and the 
fatal game of chess between King Canute and Earl i5\i in Roskilde A. D. 
1027 was probably a hneftafl. We see from Morkinskinna (p. 186) that it was 
still played at the beginning of the 12th century, but in after times it was 
superseded by the true chess (skdk) ; both games were probably of the same 
origin."— the last remark indicating clearly the limited acquaintance with 
chess and its annals enjoyed by the lexicographer ("der wol wenig von der 
geschichte des schachspiels versteht," says Dr. V. d. Linde of this final 
phrase). ^ For whatever we may not know about htiefatafl, we do know 
that it could never have lain in the same cradle as chess. The rubric closes 
with the citation of a compound substantive, hnetiafla, "the piece of the 
hnefi ; " and by a reference to the words halatafl and hunn, with which we 
are likely to have to do hereafter.— We have omitted several citations made 
under htiefi. Dr. Gu?^brandur Vigfusson's too brief description, though it can- 
not be called an elucidation, was the earliest at all consistent notices of this 
form of "tables." It is impossible to take final leave of the Oxford work, 
without expressing once more our opinion of tlie value — despite some errors — 
of its treatment of the terminology of chess. It is of far more importance 
than all that had been previously written— not only in dictionaries, but in 
other books as well— in regard to the oldest periods of the Icelandic game. 
The newest general dictionary of the old Norse, or ancient Icelandic, is 
that of Dr. Johan Fritzner, first issued in 1867, and published anew, enlarged 
into three goodly octavos, at Kristiania in 1886-1896. It is a compilation 

»7 «Qa«lUnitadi«D/' p. 61. 



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STRAY NOTES 50 



of extraordinary labor, and, as a vast storehouse of passages from the old 
writings, is of the highest utility. But its author*s knowledge of the laws 
of etymology and of foreign idioms was not too extended— indeed the lineago 
and affiliation of the vocables which he treats seem hardly to have come 
—in a manner at all complete— within the scope of his work; but in the 
case of chess terms he once or twice attempts to consider the matter of deri- 
vation, doing so, however, with disastrous results. He does not illustrate 
the word skdkmaeHir^ in its chess sense— as he docs not find it in the classic 
period— but only in the sense, skdkmathur= rohher (Danish, rover)^ noting, in 
a proper way, its Old High German and New High German kinship C*ght. 
scdhman, nht. 5cMc7i^r")— though here may be, so far as Icelandic is con- 
cerned, another case of an effort at popular etymology on the part of the 
8aga*8 compiler— and ends with passages from the f'ilireks saga. In the 
next column, he treats skdktafl^ **skakspil, brset med tilhsrende brikker 
(t5flur),'' then, after entering his illustrative quotations, he turns into the 
field of etymology, and says:— "At skakspil I det latinske sprog heder Ittdus 
latronum eller latrunctilorum synes henpege derpaa, at vi i skdktaft har det 
samme skdk som forekommer i 5^<iA;mao^r*'— that is, in the skdkma^ ^rohher 
of the preceding column. This means:— That chess in Latin being called ludus 
lairanum or latrunculorum would seem to indicate that in skdktaft [=chessj 
we have the same skdk which appears in skdkma^^"" [== robber]. This is a 
gem of blundering. To understand it fully, we most remember that in Latin, 
latroy of which latrunculus is a diminutive, signifies *♦ robber." Now, first of 
all, chess is not called in (ancient) Latin Indus latruncul&rum^ nor by any 
other name; for the Romans knew nothing of chess, since it was not intro- 
duced into any part of the Roman dominions until some centuries after they 
had ceased to be Roman, and, in fact, was probably not in existence anywhere 
until the Roman empire had itself gone out of being. It is true that in very 
early modern times, some writers of Latin, out of ignorance, employed *4udus 
latrunculorum*' to designate the game of chess, but the more intelligent have 
used "ludus scacchorum, (scaccorum)/* a neo-latinism formed from the orien- 
tal name of the game, at least as far back as when the friar Jacobus de Ces- 
soiis wrote his widely read Liber de moribus hominum^ towards the beginning 
of the thirteenth century. The old Romans did, indeed, have a diversion 
styled 'Mudus latrunculorum," that is, "the game of the little robbers," but 
it had no resemblance to chess except that it was a "brettspiel," played with 
pieces, like many other games. So much for Itidus latrunculorum ! Now for 
skdkma^r ! The skdk in this word — which occurs, to our knowledge, nowhere 
but in what may fairly be characterized as the German saga of I^iOrek, a story 
told in connection, principally, with localities south of the Baltic— was once 
supposed by some etymologists to be of Hebrew derivation, but only two lexi- 
cologists, so far as we know, Magntjs 6lafsson, as we have heard, and 
Dr. Fritzner— have ever connected it in any way with the word or game, 
"chess." It is now generally recognized to be, as Dr. Fritzner's etymological 
statement tends to show, a word of Teutonic origin, occurring even in Anglo- 
saxon, although it is lacking among the very oldest Germanic forms. On the 
other hand, the word chess— \i one may here repeat the oft-recorded expla- 
nation - and, consequently, the word skdk (as in $A;<iA;ma^= chess-player), 
which is merely another form of chess — both come from a Persian word 
(f&^^— the final h pronounced like a German c7i), meaning "king," which 



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60 CHESS IN ICELAND 

word is even now a living vocable in Persian, being the title still borne by 
Persians ruler. CJiess and skdk, therefore, signify "(the game of) the king," 
and have nothing whatever to do with any robbers— either Latin or Germanic— 
Another instance of Dr. Fritzner's etymological skill cannot be explained 
with so much ease. Under the somewhat objectionable expression fret- 
stertumdt he reproduces the meaning given to it in the "Index lingusB 
gothicae," of Verelius (1691)— which we have already copied in its proper 
place— and then says (we render literally):— "This explanation is assuredly 
erroneous, and originates in the similarity of the fret^ occurring in the word, 
to the verb freta\ but fret is rather a corruption offers^ which primarily had 
the signification of vezier, but afterwards took the form of fierge^ vierge^ 
from which was evolved the name of * queen,' which this piece now bears 
in the game of chess— see A. van der Linde, ^Oeschichte und Literatur des 
Schachspiels,* II, 150 ff, compare 157.*' Thereupon Dr. Fritzner cites the 
Mdgus saga, and refers the reader to an even more objectionable term fu^ 
ryttumdt, in relation to the first element of which he has a briefer but sim- 
ilar explication:— "In fufhyitunidt the word {fu^rytla) seems to correspond 
to the Latin virgo, French vierge^ which, in the Middle Ages, was a common 
appellation for the queen at chess,'* and again he cites Y. d. Lindens "Ge- 
schichte'* (II., pp. 149 ff. and especially the notes on pp. 150-151). Although he 
does not say so precisely, it is pretty plain that he has got into his head 
what Dr. V. d. Linde calls, on one of the very pages (150) referred to by the 
lexicographer, "das beriihmte wortspiel mit der vierge,'' perhaps originally 
a half playful blunder which has been traced no further back than the year 
1610, seemingly finding its birth in a once popular anonymous Latin poem 
entitled "De Vetula," first published at that date. In a day when the science 
of etymology was young, some one else, if not the author of the poem just 
alluded to, ventured to suggest that because the Persian word /"er^— meaning 
vezier — which was used in the period of Asiatic-European chess as the name 
of the piece standing beside the king— had a certain phonetic and orthographic 
resemblance to the French ri^^e— meaning "virgin," therefore (a queen, 
too, b^ing a female) the chess people had 'finally bestowed its present appel- 
lation upon what is now the game's most powerful piece. In other words, 
it was a case of what we call popular etymology, or etymology by incorrect 
assimilation — such as we have two or three times cited in earlier portions 
of the present work. But this is just what the pages of Dr. V. d. Linde's 
work, to which Dr. Fritzner appeals, are devoted to disproving, as he would 
have seen by a closer examination. The use of virgo or vierge^ by a few 
comparatively late writers, as a title for the chess-queen, had nothing to do, 
in any etymological way, with the old Persian name, fers. But, be that as 
it may, no one who compares several of the other Icelandic chess terms 
with those here explained by Dr. Fritzner will have any belief whatever in 
his theory of the affinity between fers and vierge and the cited Icelandic 
names for certain styles of checkmate, thus strangely glossed by the indus- 
trious Norwegian lexicologist. Chess reached Iceland in the 12th century, 
many generations before virgo (or vierge) was ever used as the name of the 
queen, and many more before any ignorant writer thought of recognizing 
its likeness to fers. After the century of its arrival, there could not well 
have been— so slight did the intercourse soon become— any bond of union 
between continental and Icelandic chess, by means of which this fantastic 



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STRA Y NOTES 61 



notion could have travelled North. Bat the very sight of the different words 
which Dr. Fritzner proposes to bring into such close relations will suffice to 
convince the linguistic student of the absurdity of his suggestion, aside from 
its historic impossibility.— Dr. Fritzner's other chess- words are riddari; 
hrokur (under which are cited the modorn-Latin roccus of Du Cange, and 
the old French roc from La Came de St. Palaye*s and Littr^'s dictionaries); 
pe^yna^r (but not p^^), with etymological references to Latin pedes and Old 
French pion ; pe^^mdi and pe^smdt ; and uppndm^ which he interprets as 
"removal" (borttagelse), citing the passage firom Sturlunga (II., p. 105— I*or- 
gils saga skar6a), and saying that the knight, in the quotation, is placed 
'^so that the adversary can take it*' (saaledes at modparten kan tago den), 
which is as precisely as it can be described without using the proper technical 
term, en prise. 

To these notes on the treatment of chess terms by the compilers of Ice- 
landic dictionaries, or word-lists, extended as they are, something might 
still, very likely, have been added by more careAil research, as well as by 
consulting the glossaries published in connection with a good many editions 
of the sagas, and of other ancient Icelandic writings. Of course, there are 
not a few technical words connected with the chess of later periods which 
are found in no printed vocabulary. Some of those of which no lexicogra- 
pher has availed himself — are doubtless preserved in the MS dictionary of 
J6n 6lafsson (fp4 Grunnavlk), which we shall find frequently cited in another 
place, or in similar inedited collections; others — especially those of the 
present day (like hrdkskipti= cAaiMng^ for instance) —have never been written 
down in any list, whether MS or printed. But the number of words relating 
to chess and its practice which we have been able to gather from well- 
known and easily accessible lexicons forms an abundant proof of the unusual 
part which the game has played in the life and literature of Iceland. More- 
over the many metaphors and proverbial sayings, drawn from the chessboard 
and the movements of its figures, which we have encountered in the course 
of our investigations, are so many additional demonstrations of the same fact. 

Dr. Van der Linde and the Bpilabdk. 

On the very last page (412) of one of his really epochmachende works, 
tho " Quellenstudien zur Geschichte des Schachspiels" (1881), Dr. Antonius 
V. d. Linde has a brief notice of the diminutive "Spilab6k,'' printed at Akur- 
eyri, on Iceland's northern shore, in 1^8, which devotes several of its con- 
tracted pages to chess. He begins by saying that just as the final proofs 
of the **Quellenstudien" reached him, he received, for inspection, from the 
distinguished German chess-writer and chess- collector, Mr. T. v. d. Lasa, a 
copy of a miniature book of games (miniaturspiolbuch) in Icelandic, which 
its owner had acquired with a good deal of effort. He thereupon gives its 
title in fUll;» and then follow a description and criticism of the newly 
discovered manual, evidently written with haste, and without having an 
Icelandic scholar at hand:— "Die schachstiicke heissen : kongur, drottning 
e^a fru, byskup, riddar [riddari] , hrdkar [hrdkur] e6a fllarn [filar] , peO— 
also kein traditionelles sdgurschach sondern (wie das angeblicho keltische 

" "SpiUbok, lem kcnnir a& »pSU DomlDO- off Qni-ipn, elnnlg Skik, Damm p. fl.— 
Ko8tuaa»rin»»ur : J6ief gullimrtur GriniMOB. — Aknroyri 1868. f prenUmlBJu Nordar- og 
AustaramdiDinltlnt, bji H. Helguyui." 8S«. f. [1], pp. 4-88. (8. Skiktafl, pp. 18-89). 



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62 CBESS IN ICELAND 



schach der Irl&nder und das moderne schach der Portugiesen) bloss iiber- 
setzang aus dem englischen. Man darf zwar nicht aus den regeln solcher 
kleinen sammelbiicher mit sicherheit auf die gebr^uche des landes schlies- 
sen, allein es erregt doch ein ungunstiges vorurteil gegen das skandinavische 
Strdbeck, wcnn noch im jahre 1858 nicht nur spielereien wie peSrifmat''^ 
and here he refers to his extract in the '^Oeschichte des Schachspiels"' (II., 
p. 178) from Eggert Olafsson's notice of modern Icelandic chess— "gelehrt 
werden, sondern wenn sogar eine rochade vorgeschrieben wird, wo der 
kOnig z. b. von el nach bl Oder cl, und der roch nach cl odor dl zieht,*' 
and thereupon his comments close with a reproduction, between parentheses, 
of the portion of the booklet upon which he bases his final gibe : (A me6an 
ekki er htUS aB faera konginn og hr6kana ur staQ getur mabur hrdkskipt, 
p. e. : skipt urn reit vi6 hrdkinn meQ konginum, pannig, aQ maOur setur 
konginn & riddara e6a byskups reit og hr6kinn 4 fruar e9a byskups reit, 
eptir pvi hvoru megin hrdkskipti er, pa© er a© skilja, pegar enginn mabur 
er 4 mllli peirra, pvi ekki mi kongur el)a hrdkur stokkva yftr aSra menn). 
The i^ention of Iceland, or Icelandic chess, or in this case, the opening of 
a lilliputian yolume printed in Iceland, is the red rag which is always sure 
to excite the critical rage of Dr. V. d. Linde. On such occasions, he assumes 
a sort of ox-eye glare, and proceeds at once to toss the object of his wrath 
high into the air. But generally — if we may turn our metaphor inside out — 
his howls prove to be hardly more real or logical than so many Irish bulls. 
In the instance under contemplation we have him at his worst, and must 
take him into examination in the order of his truly bovine cavils— as they 
turn out to be : 1. He extracts the Icelandic names of the chess figures from 
the book, and then triumphantly shouts: — *' Ah, here is no saga-chess, but 
only the merest translation from the English I '* But does it not occur to 
him that the names of the pieces— so far as they are cited in the sagas- 
are all virtually translations from the English, and are the very same as 
are found in the list he is scornfully holding up ¥ In what saga does he 
find any other f Or, if he means that anybody has declared that piece- 
names, special to the sagas, exist in modern Icelandic -chess, when they do 
not— then by whom and where is such an assertion madef Or does he mean 
something elsef Those who are familiar with his ways and writings will 
opine from his allusions to the Celtic chess of the Irish, and to the modern 
chess of the Portuguese— references which have such an enigmatic air— 
that he really wishes to say— what he has before asserted elsewhere— that 
the pretence of anything like early Icelandic chess is simply a whim of the 
ignorant. 2. He follows this up by a slur on the Scandinavian StrObeck— a 
name which nobody but himself has given to Iceland— whereby he desires 
to imply that, although it has been maintained that chess has been cultiva- 
ted in Iceland with something like the devotion with which it has been said 
to be cultivated at the North German village of StrObeck— *^mit seinen sa* 
genhaften starken schachspielern,'* as he himself calls the StrObeck practi- 
tioners (^^Qeschichte," I., p. 312)— yet any such ^sumption, as to Iceland, 
is incorrect. But if it has indeed been played much in that island, as ill- 
informed people maintain, then it has been played in an abominable style 
as ho is now going to show. 3. There is, for instance, pecMfmat ; what— he 
seems to say — does the reader say to that? This word, remarkably enough, 
is not Icelandic at all, but wholly ^'Yan-der-Lindian.*'— It neither occurs in 



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the " Spilab6k," which is under criticism, nor in the reference, which the 
critic himself makes, to the narrative borrowed by himself from Eggert 
Olafisson. The explanation of this fact is that, if it did occur, it would be 
as a linguistic malformation, which no Icelander could possibly be led to 
concoct. Pethrif (that is to say, in the nominative, petHrifur) means " mate 
(by a pawn)," and mdt (not mat) means "mate," so that the two terms com- 
bined would be as if we were to talk in English of a kind of mate called 
"checkmate mate," or " smothered-mate mate." What Dr. V. d. Linde 
intends to say is doubtless simply peihr'tfur^ but the blunder of reading the 
abnormity peiHrifmat in two different places and in two different works, 
where it did not exist at all, betrays a state of mind hardly conducive to 
sober criticism. But why are we told that it is a " fantastic trick " (spielerei) t 
Why should "mate by a pawn" or "pawn's mate" be any more ridiculous 
than a good many other chess eccentricities, which are to be found uncon- 
demned, in Dr. Y. d. Linde*s and many other people's works on chess f Why 
is it a "spielerei," when the "odds of the capped pawn," or "mate with a 
pion coiff^'" is not? Why is it any more of a "spielerei" than a "suicidal 
problem," or a "smothered mate!" Why is it more of a "spielerei" than 
any one of a hundred singular conditional problems set forth in the critic*s 
own most interesting chapter on "Das problemschach des mittelalters," » 
for instance, one, in which white "gives check with one pawn and mates with 
another; " or another, in which there is a "mate in three moves, the bishop 
on b4 moving only when he captures a piece;" or still another in which 
there is a "mate in five moves with the bishop at g 6," and so on. 4., this 
being his most serious insinuation. He observes, preliminarily, that "one 
cannot, with certainty, determine anything about the usages of a country 
from such a small compilation, but nevertheless it excites an unfovorablo 
prejudice, when, in the year 1868, not only are such flBintastic plays as pecMf- 
mdt still taught, but even a method of castling is prescribed, in which the 
king is moved, for example to b 1 or c 1, and the rook to c 1 or d 1." It 
is true that the mode of castling is prescribed in the little volume, only the 
prescription is exactly in accordance with the rules for castling all over the 
wide world of chess— even in the works written or edited by Dr. V. d. Linde. 
The trouble, as usual, is not with Iceland, or Icelandic chess, or the dimin- 
utive Icelandic manual, but with the critic. At Wiesbaden— the same last 
page of his book is dated at that city— there was evidently no Icelandic 
interpreter, and the critic, unaided, failed to understand the conditional 
phrase which we have underscored in the Icelandic text giyen^eptir pvi 
hvoru megin hrdkskipti er. We will now render literally the whole extract 
in which Dr. V. d. Linde has discovered such a maro*s nest:— "So long as 
neither the king nor the rook has moved from its place, the player can 
castle, that is, change the squares of the rook and the king in such a man- 
ner that he places the king on the knight's [g 1] or the bishop*s square [cl], 
and the rook on the queen's [d 1] or the bishop's square [f 1], according to 
the side on which the castling takes plac«— that is to say, when no other 
piece is between these two pieces, for neither king nor rook can leap over 
other men." Dr. V. d. Linde thus reads both his Icelandic and the squares 
of the chess-board wrongly. It is easy, however, to see that in castling on 
the hinges side the king is moved to the knight's square [g 1] and the rook 

>* "GcKhichto dei Scbaohapiels ", II., pp. aOS-S78. 



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64 CHESS IN ICELAND 



to the bishop*s square [f 1] ; and that, in castling on the gueen*s side, the king 
goes to the bishop^s square [c 1] and the rook to the Queen^s [d 1], as stated 
by the Icelandic compiler, who gives the two differing moves of the king in 
one phrase, and the two differing moves of the rook in another— the grouping 
being a little awkward, perhaps, but neither incomprehensible nor erroneous— 
if only a man be sure of his squares and his Icelandic. But Dr. V. d. Linde 
may, possibly, be allowed to stumble as he pleases whenever he gets to Ice- 
land, for in all the rest of the chess world he is pretty sure of his steps. 
Of this "Spilab6k'*— containing the first printed Icelandic description of 
the game of chess and how to play it— though very briefly stated, the rea- 
der will find in the next few pages an account in German, written for the 
*' Deutsche Schachzeitung,'* a year or more before Dr. V. d. Linde saw the 
book. It was from that article, in fact, that Mr. V. d. Lasa knew of the 
little work^s existence. A re-examination, made at the present time, of the 
Icelandic publication shows us that Dr. V. d. Linde, instead of running a 
tilt against fancied facts, might have found, by a little more careful research 
through the tiny pages, real errors quite worthy of his critical metal. Ho 
would have ascertained— we take the misstatements in their order— that the 
compiler makes the "Persians" call this game "Sedrenz" (it should be written 
in Icelandic ^atrans), which ho renders by "a hundred difficulties*' {hundraif' 
armcechir) in complete ignorance of the actual origin or significance of 
the word ; that he gives to the rook the alternative name of fill (plural 
filar), "elephant; " that he asserts that some say that the pawns may move 
two squares at the first move if the player so will (^9 Idta sumir pau stokkva 
yflr einn reit i fyrsta leik ef manni svo synist) ; that when a pawn has made 
his way to the eighth rank the player may change it for any piece which he 
will of those which have been captured (o^ sd, sem kemtir pvi upp, velji^er 
fyrir pocf* hvern pann mann, sem hann vill, af peim, sem fallnir eru) ; and 
that he finally sums up several methods of action which some players have 
the custom of pursuing {sumir taflmenn Ixafa pd venju, acf* Idta), these being: 
1. To consider the last man besides the king which a player has, near the 
close of a game, as uncaptured, unless the other player checkmates at the 
third or seventh move after taking him ; 2. To make the lalli—i\ie pawn 
which has been moved to the eighth rank along the king's file— exempt 
from capture, like the king himself; 3. To give the king, at his first move, 
the movement of the knight; and 4. Not to allow an interposed piece either 
to guard an attacked piece of his own side, or to give check to the opposing 
king. Let us look, for a moment, at each of these abnormal methods of 
play :— 1. In this obligation of the player having the stronger array to bring 
the game to an end at a certain move, we may, perhaps see a forerunner 
of the rule, only of late generally adopted, which compels the player having 
the superior force to eff'ect mate within fifty moves from a particular stage 
of the game, or to consent that the game be regarded as drawn. 2. This 
exemption of a queened pawn from capture has, we believe, never been prac- 
tised except by these exceptional players of Iceland. 3. The believer in the 
force of tradition might trace, in this giving the power of the knight to the 
king at his first move, a faint remembrance of the custom in Lombard chess, 
which bestowed upon the king, when first moving, the privilege of covering 
three squares (going from his own square to the third one from it) — which 
was the germ of the later "castling/' 4. As to this idea of not permitting 



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an interposed piece to exercise its checking power, we may recall the Ikct 
that even in Germany they have dehated the question:— *^Kann ein schach- 
deckender stein auch oin schachbietender sein V'^ According to this theory, 
we take it, the black king might capture a pawn, let ub say, even if, by 
doing so, he apparently moved into check from an interposed or ''pinned** 
piece. In the names of the pieces we observe filamiv as synonymous with 
''the rooks**— the word being a definite form of /1^= elephant (plural 
filar). It is notable enough to know that this Arabic word in its literal mean- 
ing, as applied to an animal, existed already, at a very early day, in the 
Icelandic vocabulary ; and, so far as its signification as a chess-word is con* 
cemed, it would indeed be very interesting if only it were cited as an ap- 
pellation given to the bishop, instead of to the rook, for, except in the very 
oldest Indian, or ante-Persian, form of the game, the rook was never known 
anywhere, until in quite recent times, as "elephant;** and such a usage in 
Icelandic chess practice must have been extremely limited, or have existed 
only in the mind of the word-monger, borrowed, perhaps, by him from 
Danish books as an evidence of his learning. But one of the changes which 
the Indian game is supposed to have undergone at the hands of the Persians 
was the transfer of the name of "elephant** from the corner-pieces (our 
rooks) to the pieces which stand beside the king and queen (our bishops). 
Afterwards the Persian (or quasi-Persian) pil was replaced by the cognate 
Arabic fU (elephant), just as it had itself replaced the Sanskrit luisiL And 
this Arabic term for the bishop had a long life, extending through the 
Spanish alfil (=aZ, the Arabic article "the,** and /fZ= elephant), Italian alfino 
(now alfiere)^ old French aufin (in modern French /U, by volksetymologie^ 
having become /'ott=fooI, another form of fot)^ and Old-English alphin. To 
continue this digression a little farther— the rare and very modern usage, 
which occasionally makes the rook an "elephant** is derived from its name 
in the oft-reprinted and oft- translated Latin poem (1525) of Qirolamo Vida 
(who got the term, as a military expression, ft'om Virgil), who calls it elephan- 
tu8 iurriii^y or "towered elephant.** This ultimately led to the adoption of 
the title of tower for the rook in the German, Scandinavian and other idioms 
(German, thurm or turm^ Danish taam^ Dutch hasieel^ Hungarian hdsUja^ 
modern Greek purgos and the alternative English form, castle). The influence 
ofYida*s "Schacheis** ("Scacchia Ludus**) was so great that in literary 
chess the term "elephant** for rook (instead of for bishop) also sometimes 
occurs, and this is the case in Denmark, whence the knowledge of it, as an 
echo of Yida, found its way into Iceland. Readers of early English chess 
literature will remember, in this connection, in "The pleasaunt and wittie 
play of the cheasts** (1562), which is cited under the name of Rowbothum, 
the phrase, "The rockes some call elephants, carrying towers upon their 
backes, and men within,** the idea of which the author obtained from Vida, 
and which was repeated in the first English version (1597) of Yida*s work in 
describing the chess-pieces : — ^^ 

Here footemen were aod horaemen both, arahen, some white, some blaoke; 
Here elephants that vse to beare a castle on their backe. 

—The contents of the third section of the little Icelandic book (3. Skdklafl) may 
be hastily summarized as follows, omitting some matters already referred to: 

•• See V. d. Llnd«*i "QeM»hiehte," II., p. MS. 

** Both these qaoUtlons are given in V. d. Llnde*s *'Qesehlelite,** IL, p. 181. 

9 



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66 CHESS IN ICELAND 



— The chess board ; the names of the chess-flgares ; their positions ; the law that 
a white comer square shall be at the right hand of each player ; the moves of 
the chessmen ; practice is better than rules ; in attaci^ing a king, the player must 
say skdk ! (check !), and it is usual to do the same thing when attacking the 
queen; there are three kinds of "check" (or "checkmate*' or <*game-endings*'); 
1. Simple check, from which the king escapes, by moving, by interposing a 
piece or pawn, or by capturing the checking piece; 2. When a king has lost 
all his men, and is so beset tha,t he cannot move without going into check — 
this is called paf^ (stalemate); 3. Checkmate {skdk og rndt). ^Checkmate by 
means of a pawn is called petMfur^ and is deemed dishonourable to the 
defeated party; glei^armdt ("straddle-mate") is explained as a marvellous 
position, in which the mated king is in one corner of the chessboard, and the 
mating queen and rooks in the other three; and heimamdt (home-mate) is 
when the king, still unmoved, is mated on his original square. Jafniefli 
(drawn game) is described, and we are told that the king*s pawn (or the 
king*s pawn when queened) is styled toUi, while leppur signifies '*an inter- 
posed piece." Then we learn that vcUdskdk ("guard-chess") is a mode of 
chess-play, in which the men protected by other pieces than the king cannot 
be slain, while in contradistinction to vaMskdk the usual nmde of play is 
known as drepskdk ("capturing chess"). A roughly-made little woodcut 
of an empty chess board, scarcely five-eighths of an inch wide, and not too 
rectangular in outline, adorns page 20.— We note the following chess-exprea- 
sions (several of which are, however, given elsewhere in the present work); 
reitir (squares); mennimir (the men); heldri tnenn (pieces, as distinguished 
from pawns); drepa (to capture, literally to "slay"); fcera (to move a piece 
or pawn); hrdkskipta (to castle); hrokskipti (castling); leikur (move); niot- 
sto^umcUHir (opponent) ; &era fyHr (to interpose); ta/lmenn (players).— As the 
book is now not easily to be found, we reprint the original text of the whole 
chapter on chess:— 

3. Skaktafl. 

SkdktafliC er persiskt aJS uppruna. Nafni^J er dregiU af persiska orSinu: 
"Schach" (littalast: "Sjakk," en viB nefnum paB "^Arrf*"), er merkir: kon- 
ungur. Persar kalla tafl petta "Sedrenz," p. e. "hundra» arm»Sur," af 
pvi menn purfa aC hugsa miki6 um pa©, og hafa hugann fastan viU :^msar 
kringumstseUur. Vi6 tafl petta parf a» hafa mikiU athygli og heilabrot, og 
er pa© skemtileg daegrastytting fyrir pd, sem vel kunna, pareb peir leggja 
ekkert i sOlurnar nema bdnaegjuna yfir pvi aC vertia unnir, en hafa eins mikla 
von um a6 verCa svo fr»gir a© vinna. 

Menn tefia & svonefndu taflborOi, og eru & pvi 32 hvitir 
ferhyrntir sm&reitir og eins margir svartir. 

Myndirnar e6a mennimir, sem tefit er me0, eru vanalega 
ur trje eOa filabelni. Mel$al peirra eru 8 heldri menn, sinn meJS 
hverju m6ti aO stserl), nafni og tign, og er gangi peirra skipaO 
eptir pvi. Hji. peim standa 8 minni myndir eOa menn, sem kallast pei^^ og 
er peim fyikt fyrir framan hina stserri. 

Kon^urinn er seOstur. I^egar hann er unninn, er tafiiO uti. 
Drottningin c0a Frdin er bezti maSurinn bseSi til aO verja eOa valda 
konginn og ssekja & Qandmanninn. 



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STRAY SOTES 57 



B48ir Hr6kaniir eQa FUamir ganga trixnm nsest aO tign. 
B&8ir Biddaramir era ^grotir liOsmenn til atlogu i byrjun tafls eSa 
pegar fram i sdBkir. 

B&8ir Byakupamir Jafagilda hartnser riddurunum og gj5ra mest gagn 
seinast i taflinu. 

Pe8in eru liVljettust, en geta I>6 opt orSiO a9 miklu liOi, ef t>eim or vel 
og vitiirlega beitt. 

Hinum 8 heldri m5nnum er fylkt & yzta reitina k taflbor9inu. Svartur 
kongur er settar k hvltan miSreit og hvitur kongur k svartan, hvit friji k 
hvitan miOreit og sy6rt k svartan, b&Oir byskuparnir sinn vi6 hverja hli0 
kongs og drottningar, b&9ir riddararnir sinn yiO hverja hliS byskupanna og 
baOir hr6karnir k hornreitina. Pedin, sem eru likt og varnarvirki hinna, 
eru sett k nsesta reitina fyrir framan. 

Pannig er hvorutveggju liSinu fylkt, en pd skal fess ceH^ gceiU a^ 
hvitur homreitur ^e til hasgri handar, 

Kongurinn gengur aO eins k nsesta reit fram og aptur og til hliOar og k 
skareiti, en aldrei lengra en k nsesta. Pegar Qandmadur verSur fyrir honum, 
getur hann drepiO hann meS pvi a0 taka {>ann mann burtu ur taflinn og f»ra 
sig k hans reit, ef kringamstse^urnar meina t>a9 ekki. 

A meSan ekki or hin^ a5 fsera konginn og hr6kana ur sta9, getur maSur 
hr6k8kipt, p. e. : skipt urn reit viO hrdkinn me8 konginum, pannig, a0 ma6- 
ur setur konginn k riddara e9a byskups reit og hr6kinn k fhSiar eOa byskups 
reit, eptir pvi hvoru megin hrbkskipti er, paO er a5 skilja, ]>egar enginn 
maBur er k milli peirra, pvi ekki mk kongur e5a hr6kur stokkva yfir aSra 
menu. 

Fruin gengur eins og kongur og getur hun k dllum gangi &riO um pvert 
og endilangt borOiO, pegar enginn maSur er fyrir og drepur hiin paO sem 
fyrir verSur k sama h&tt og kongurinn ; af pessu mk rd0a, a9 fruin er li5bezti 
niadurinn til a5 verja e5a valda konginn og ssekja k Qandmanninn. 

Byskuparnir ganga ekki nema k sk&roitina. I^eir geta fariO svo langt 
sem vill, ef enginn er Qrrir, og drepa peir eins, ef menn sjd ajer hag i. Af 
^angi peirra fl^tur, a9 byskup si, sem stendur k hvitum reit, kemst aldrei 
a svartan, og si, sem er k svdrtum reit, aldrei a hvitan. 

Riddararnir ganga hvorki beint fram nje aptur heldur hli9skakkt k p4 
reiti, sem eru til hliSar vi6 naestu skireiti, og geta pannig stokkiO yfir aSra 
menn. I^eir eru pvi g68ir til framgOngu og til aO r&Sast a6 konginum og 
jafnvel mita hann, pareO enginn ma5ur ver6ur borinn tyri p&. f^ess vegna or 
ra51egast a5 faera p& sem fyrst fram, pvi peir geta betur neytt sin f^rst A*aman 
af, en ekki er h»gt a6 m&ta meO tveim riddurum eingongu seinast i tafli. 
Hr6karnir ganga beint fram og aptur og til hliOar, en aldrei k ski, um 
pvert og endilangt bor9, of ekkert er fyrir peim, en p& drepa peir k sama 
liatt og sagt er um hina mennina. l^afi er ekki r&dlegt aS brtjilia p& fyr en 
fram i s^kir og t($luvert mann fall er orOiO. 

PeOin ganga a6 eins beint fram k nsesta reit, en aldrei aptur k bak i^e 
til hliOar. 1^6 Uta sumir pau stdkkva yfir einn reit i fyrsta leik, ef manni 
Rvo s^ist. l^au geta eins og aOrir menn drepiQ pa6, sem tyrir verBur; en 
aldrei nema pann mann, sem stendur k nsesta sk&reit. Ef ma6ur kemur 
pc9i upp 1 bor0i5 hj& hinum, eru pa9 rjettust skikldg, a5 s&, sem kemur 
\)\\ upp, veUi sjer fyrir pa5 hvem pann mann, sem hann vill af peim, sem 
fallnir eru, og stendur p& si maSur k sama reit og pe9 kemur upp k. 



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PaJS er ekki hjegt a© gefa reglur fyrir pvi, hvernig mabur k a» tefla, par paB 
er komiO undir hug])6tta pess, or teflir, og seflngin ein getur kennt pal) bezt. 

Beztu skakmenn era peir, scm ssekja mest a og reyna til a5 kreppa pannig 
a5 kongi m6tst5Qumann8 sins, a5 hann geti ekki baett ur sk&k, pvi pk er 
hann mdt. 

Pegar einhver maSur stefnir pannig 4 konginn, sJS hann eptir gangi 
sinum getur drepiQ hann, of hann vreri ekki aetlQ ddrscpur, segir maQur : 
(Ixlib/ af lotninga' fyrir konginum til aS i&ta m6t8t00umann sinn vita, aO 
kongi hans ^je hsetta buin, svo hann geti bori5 menn fyrir sig e6a fluiQ. 
Bins er pa0 yenja aQ scgja til, ef maSur setur & frCina, svo hinn geti forOaO 
henni, of pa9 er hsegt. 

I^a5 er til prenns konar sk&k : 

1. EinfSld 8k4k, pegar baett verQur dr me9 pvi a,}S faera konginn, bera 
roann fyrir e9a drepa pann mann, sem skakaO er mc9. 

2. I^egar annarhvor konganna er buinn aQ missa alia menn sina og 
bui5 er aO kreppa svo aQ honum k alia vegu, a9 hann getur ekki komist ur 
staO nema ofan i sk&k. I'etta kalla menn a& verQa eOa gjOra paU, Pegar 
svo stendur i, er taflid uti, og sd, sem verQur patt, tapar pk ekki nema helm- 
ingi af pvi, sem kann sJS vera teflt um. 

3. Skdk og mdt, pegar sk&kin er svo l(lgu0, a8 kongurinn hyorki getur 
fli&iQ, boriQ fyrir sig ivje drepiO nema ofan i sk&k, og p^ er bui0. Si mal^ur, 
sem borinn er fyrir til a9 bseta Cir sk&k, er kallaOur leppur. 

I^egar mAtaO er meO peQi, kalla menn pa9 pe^^if^ og pykir sminarlegt. 
t>egar kongnrinn stendur i einhverju horninu og fruin og hr6karnir verba 
pannig fserdir aO konginum meO pvi a5 segja sk&k og mki 1 hverjum leik, 
aO hr6karnir standa hvor i sinu horni (it ttk konginum og fr^in i priQja 
horninu, heitir pa9 glei^armdt, og pykir verra en hitt. En sminarlegast 
allra pykir hid svonefhda heimamdt^ pegar kongur er m&taliur heima i 
borDinu il^ur en hann heflir faert sig um reit. 

I^egar svo er MMJS hj& biOum, a0 ekki er haegt aO m&ta, heitir paO 
Jafnteflu 

Samir taflmenn hafin pk venju, aO l&ta seinasta mann, er kongurinn hefur, 
vera 6draepan, nema maOur pk mkii 1 priOJa eOa sjljunda leik eptir aO ma9ur 
hefur drepiS hann. Eins lita sumir to/tonn— pe0, sem mal)ur kemur upp i 
bbrO k kongsreit—vera 6dr»pan eins og kong, konginn ganga riddaragang 
i fyrsta sinni, og lita leppinn hvorki geta valdaO annann mann nje skikaO 
kongi. 

Sumir tefla pannig, a9 aldrei sje drepinn maOur, pegar hann er vaidaOur 
af (JOram manni en konginum. i*a6 kallast valdskdk^ eins og menn til aft- 
greiningar nefna hinn taflsmitann drepshdk. 

Um pessi iminnstu atrial um taflslOgin ver9a menn a9 koma ^er saman 
i9ur en tafli9 byrjar, pared opt er undir pvi komiO hverjum 15gum fylgt er, 
hvort ma5ur vinnur. 

A OrlniMy X«6g6iiid. 
There comes from Iceland a story— said to be a common one in the 
schools of that country— about a native of the tiny isle of Grimsey, which 
lies directly under the Polar circle just off the northern coast of the larger 
island. In the summer there are few that traverse the sixty miles of silent 
sea which separate it trom the mainland, and in the winter the stormy winds 



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STRAY NOTES 



and the turbulent waters shut it wholly out from the world. For the few 
families who live on the rocks and earn their subsistence by gathering the 
feathers of the birds that haunt the precipitous cliffs, and by fishing In the 
surrounding seas, has been provided a small church, over which the poorest- 
paid pastor in Iceland presides. The ancestors of these temilies came to the 
solitary spot, to escape the consequences of a feud, Just after the days when 
chess had made its way from England to Iceland. It is a widespread belief, 
in Iceland, that the exiles have always found the game a great solace in 
their isolation, and that many of their number have attained great skill in 
its practice. Our story says that a fourteen year old boy once came with 
his fatl|0r, from their home on the lonely isle, to visit the episcopal scat of 
H61ar in North Iceland— in one of those good old years when H61ar still had 
its bishops, who, with their brother-prelates of the Southern see of Skilholt, 
were the great dignitaries of Thule. The lad had never been outside of 
Orimsey before ; his manners were consequently rough, and respect for the 
grandees of the world had not been one of the habits he had acquired. But 
one thing he had learned, and that was chess. While the two stood, with 
others, in the court of the bi8hop*s house, the prelate himself passed through, 
and all doffed their hats except the boy. Being reproved by one of the by- 
standers, he asked: *'Who then was that manT* **The bishop, you fooK 
the biggest priest in Iceland.'* '*0h, the bishop, does he play chess well? 
But of course, he does, for our parson is the second-best player in Orimsey,*' 
said the boy. This remark was reported to the bishop, who sent for the 
young son of Orimsey. ** What was it that you aslced in the court t *' en- 
quired the dignitary. ** I only asked one of your people if you played a 
good game of chess; for if you do, I should like to try one with you.** It 
happened that the bishop was not only an excellent chess player, but also 
rather proud of his superiority to others. Amused at the boldness of the 
insular Tristram, he ordered the chessboard to be brought and to his aston- 
ishment speedily succumbed, in three straight games, to his young oppo- 
nent. ''Where did you learn your chess, boyf** demanded the beaten bish- 
op, who in no wise took his defeat with episcopal serenity. *'From my 
father and his people in Orimsey, for in the winter we play from early in 
the morning till late at night.** '* I should rather say,** exclaimed the humil- 
iated bishop, ''that you learned it from the devil, and that you have been 
neglecting your prayers.** "Why, if that be the case, I should be quite 
able to beat the fellow you mention, since I can beat the parson, and the 
parson, who is very good and pious, can beat anybody else'.** The bishop 
regained his good humor at the lad*s reply, invited him to remain at H61ar* 
and, finding him clever at other things besides chess, put him into the cathe- 
dral school. Later in life, he received a living, and became, like his own 
parson, a good and pious priest— <iuite able to withstand the assaults of the 
great adversary. 

Tftbles and SbitCatefl." 

' Taft, — Throughout the whole of western Europe, during a period begin- 
ning at a date at least as early as the tenth century, there was played, par- 
ticularly by the higher classes, a household game, the European name of 

«* Th« matter wbteb b giTen under thia nibr1« Ii, In every reepeet, oniAUifMtory. To 
mftke It at all ▼elneble woal4 demand far more time and reaeareb tban tbe writer baa been 



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70 CffESS IN ICELAND 



which was derived from the Latin word, tabtUa, which is likewise the source 
of our common English vocable, *' table/' The amusement was thus called, 
of course, because, in order to play it, a *' table," "board," or other flat 
surface, was, first of all, necessary. The name usually assumed the plural 
form, indicating that this "table" was divided, either literally or by painted 
divisional lines, into two, that is, into two parts. In Italy this diversion 
was styled tavole ; in France and England tables ; in Spain tablas ; in Portu- 
gal (supposedly) tabolas ; in Germany sabelispieV) ; in Iceland to/f (the A &s 
has already been stated, pronounced like b) ; and in Denmark tavl.^ In 
Anglo-Saxon it occurs as tcefeU having an allied verb tceflan^ "to play (at 
tables) " (like the Icelandic verb tefla^ of the same origin), and the coQipound 
ta/Tpi^ton (literally, "table-stone"), signifying a "man (or piece) at tables." 
In Gaelic, as would appear, it was known as taibhleas^ and in Welsh as tavoU 
&riocW— the last element the equivalent of the English "board." But there 
is no need of continuing this list ; it is sufficient to say that this ludus ta- 
bularum penetrated into all the countries of the extreme Occident. The 
domain, however, in which it was especially well-known, at the time of the 
revival of letters, was the region which included the Italian and Spanish 
peninsulas, France, and the islands of Great Britscin and Iceland, or, in other 
words, the very tract over which chess spread with such comparative rapid- 
ity, after it had once passed from the old Moorish to the Christian provinces 
of Spain. We hear less of it, in those early centuries, in the lands of the Con- 
tinent to the east and north of the Rhine, but that is no doubt owing to the 
later- developed culture and literature of those parts. 

Abundant as are the allusions to the game in both the poetical and prose 
literatures of the Middle Ages, so little has been written in regard to its 
character and story that there have been few attempts to evolve any theory 
as to its birth-place or birth-time. The citation of it in Anglo-Saxon wri- 
tings proper — in which, oT course, there is no authentic mention of chess — 
would indicate that it preceded chess as a European game. Indeed, there are 
some obscure allusions — in what literature survives from those ages of 
obscurity that followed the close of the Roman period, which may possibly 
refer to tables ; and which might almost incline us to believe that the pen- 
insula of Italy was its first European home. We know that the use of dice 
was considered essential in playing the game, and dice, even under their 
modem name, certainly go back to the time indicated — not to speak of the 
fact that, under a different appellation, they were an important feature in 
certain ancient Roman games. For the etyhiologists are pretty well agreed 
that trom the low-Latin dadus (a corrupted form of the classic participle 

Able to devote to it. The itory of Dard-tablei-baekgammoii (If, indeed, we have the right to 
aie that eompoelte title) !• full of taaUlisfag problemi awaiting lolntloD ; while an ade(|oate 
reply to the queatlon, "What was knefataflt** ean only be given by one who It eont«at to 
delve diligently in many fleldt, etpeeially, perhapi, in the Celtic. Of the paget which tin- 
mediately follow this note none but those which attempt to narrate in brief the probable 
evolution of the game of dranghts contain anything which can be regarded as novel. 

" The word ** ublet " (perhaps by reason of its plural form) might come, sooner or later, 
to be sometimes employed, by uninformed writers, generloally—to signify all household games 
played on a table or board, with pieces or flgnres— that i«, which were table-games, or what 
the Germans mean by hretUpMu, In this sense it would naturally Inelude chess, and thus 
give rise to some confusion, not very marked, however, except in the case of the Icelandic 
form toft (plural (J>f), as we shall note hereafter. 



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daft<* = " given," then '* thrown") the -words dodo (Italian), d^ (French) and 
die (English) are most probably descended. But, however fkr back it may 
date, the game of tables certainly makes a ft-equent appearence, especially in 
the Italian, French and English literatures, from before Boccaccio until after 
Shakespeare, and is often so introduced as to show that the writer draws a 
marked line of distinction between it and chess. A multitude of such pas- 
sages are f)Bimiliar to the chess investigator, and we shall not attempt to cite 
them all. 

We begin with French mediaeval productions, in which, as Strohmeyer^ 
has observed, the games of chess and tables are often coupled together, 
implying that both were favorites at court and castle. In the *' Chanson de 
Roland"— the work of a Norman trouv6re of the eleventh century— we are 
told that 

Sar pnliM bUnos siedent oil oberaller 

Aa tablet Joent por eli Mbftneier 

B aa etehaci 11 plaa aaive e U Tieill, 

— the idea hero expressed that chess was better adapted to the wiser and 
elder members of courtly society being of not uncommon occurrence. ^ It 
is found again, for instance, in the poetical romance, of the **Comte de 
Poitiers : " 

Li an Jaent k V eacreiuir 

A r entro deux, por iniex ferir ; 

Aa tabU$ li conto palda, 

Li vUl et U $age at etcit, * 

The so-called ten-syllable ''Oeste d' Alexandre "—pretty surely of the tweltlth 
century — has a passage describing the slaying of a terrible and savage 
beast, with a hide so huge that a hundred knights could repose on it ^' et 
se juent as tables, as esch^s et as d^s" (''and play at tables and chess 
and dice"). ^ In that vast metrical production of the thirteenth century, the 
''Roman de la Rose," ascribed to Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung, 
and begun before 1260, we are again told : 

De gieas do des, d' etches, de (oftie*, ^ 

where, as elsewhere, the mention of dice, apart from tables, is warranted by 
their employment in other ways than in connection with that diversion. 

^ The eatay of Dr. Frits Strohmeyer, *<Das achaehapiel Im Altfranzdalaehen," form* a 
part of the Tolama of "AbhandlaDgen" dedichted by his disciplea — all acholara of note — 
*'Herrn prof. dr. Tobler zur feler aelner ftlnfandswanslgj&hrlgen th&tlgkelt ala ordentUcbar 
profenor an der anlTerslt&t Berlin*' (Halle a. 8. 1895X '" whieb the eisay with which we 
are eoneerned fills pages 881-403. It la, of coarse, altogether Invaluable as regards the game 
of chess, and incidentally Is of mach interest for the story of tables at well daring the pe« 
riod treated. But a special paper on the latter game, equally tboroagh, equally acute, would 
be a great boon to inTestigators. The other countries of the west are all fields — uatllled, or 
comparatiTcly untilled, so far as chess, and tables, likewise, are concerned — demanding la- 
boarers as sklUfbl and untiring as Dr. Strohmeyer. 

^ ChanM>n de Roland (ed. Michel, Paris 1887), vlii, 1. 16-17, p. ft ; and ed. Gautler, I5« 
ed. (Tears 1881), ▼. 110-112. 

" "Roman da Corato de Poitiers'* (ed. Michel, Paris 18S1), p. 67. 

" Bartsoh, *«La langue et la lltt^ratare fran^aises" (Paris 1887), p. 818, 1. U>81 (aecord- 
lug to Dr. Strohmeyer), or In ** Li Romans d' Alexandre *' (cd. Mlehelant, Stuttgart 1846), 
▼. 81 ff., p. 898. 

«• •< Roman do la Rose " (ed. Michel, Paris 1864), p. 885. 



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72 CHESS IN ICELAND 



The writer probably refers to what used to be called the " casting of mains^''^ 
being, very likely, the same as to mine which greatly puzsles Dr. Van der 
Linde in his "Geschichte" (II, pp. 159-160). "Throwing of mains"' as a 
game, we hear of at fashionable Bath as late as the year 1700. » Proven- 
^1 literature, in the romance of *' Gerard de Rouissillon," affords almost 
the same phrase: ''D^eschays sab e de tatUas, des joxs de datz,'' also, as 
we see, including the dice. ''^ Similarly, it is said of Duke Robert of Nor- 
mandy, father of William the Ck)nqueror, 

De seeir aa Jea Tolontien 
Eeteit li dax tot ooatamera ; 
TabUt amont, esobte e des, " 

with which Strohmeyer compares a like expression from the ''Roman de 
Rou " of Robert Wace : 

BiohATt Mat en daneiB [i. t, Icelandic] e en normant parler.... 

L' altrni Boot e le saen Men prendre e doner, 

Une chartre soot lire e lea pars doTiaer. 

Li pere 1' oot bien fait e doire e doctriner : 

D' esclies soot o dee tablet sun compaignnn mater, [». a. mate]. 

This is not the only time that, for the sake of rime or through ignorance, 
these minstrels talk of mating at the game of tables (as well as at chess). 
Nor is this the only passage in the "Roman de Rou" which alludes to 
tables. In the second volume of the same edition we find these four lines, 
the beginning of an anecdote : 

li docs ama gieos conoenables. 
Deduit d' osches, gaaln de tabUt, 
Vn ior so aeeit al lablier, 
Eotre loi e on oheiialler 

the story terminating, some forty-five verses later, with another mention of 
the "tablier'* or table-board: 

Li dnos flat le oors remoer 
K le lowlier rooa oster.^' 

These lines aro likewise cited by Madden, in his " Historical remarks on 
the introduction of the game of chess into Europe '' (1832, p. 283), from a 
British Museum MS of Robert Wace's metrical romance. In the somewhat 
later "Fierabras** (though for earlier than its earliest fourteenth century MS^ 

"* Main, in Ihla •onto, is the ordinary Preneh ** main '* (sa hand), and U uaed hero, like 
the corresponding iSngllah word, as a technieal gaming term, like a <*hand at cards," ** a 
good wMst hand," and lo on. A *'main," in Anglo-French is a **hand at dice,'* and the 
** throwing of maina *' is casting dice to aeu which thrower will make the better or winning 
"hand.*' The word ia not to l>e confounded with sisyiis, which oecura in early Aiglish 
phrase* relating to chesa, and perhaps to other gamca, in the aenae of *'men** (pieces). 

^ Ashton*s "Social life ia the reign of Queen Aune *' (London 188S), IL p. Ill — quot- 
ing from an old pamphlet, the title of which we give later. 

7< ** QlraU de Uoaailho ** (ed. Konrad HoAnann, Berlin 1855), r. 4MS ff. ; aee likewiao 
" Oirard de RooMllon *' (tranal. do Hcyer, Paria 1884), aecUon 881. 

^ Benolt, **Ohroulquea daa duca de Normandie,** ▼. 115 86-8. 

^ <• Roman de Rou [a Rolf] '* of Wace (ed. Hugo Andreaen, Hellbronn 1879), I., p. 108, 
linea 176S ff. and U., pp. 188-5 Unea 8888-48 and 8886-7, 



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going back probably to nearly or quite the twelfth century) we are told of 
some of the paladins that 

Li plalMor root u UtblM et m Md«c jner, ^* 

while that other chanson de geste, "Parise la duchesse,"' which is from the 
thirteenth century, says of Hugo, the son of Parise : 

Puia aprist il m tablet et 4 MObas joer 

n n'a home en cest monde qui Ten p^nst mater, ^ 

—mating (mater) again applying, if we take tlie sense literally, both to ta- 
bles and chess. Dr. Strohmeyer has another passage of the same character 
from the romance of ^^Aiol et Miraber' (a tale having a quasi connection 
with the Icelandic ^«Elis saga''), which is almost unique in this romantic 
literature in condemning the practice of the game of chess; *^as eskies ne 
as tables, fleus, ne jute,'' ^ being the advice of a father in taking leave of 
his son. From a British Museum MS of the *^ Roman de Tristan " (reg. B. A. 
xvili, f. 190 b.)— the original of the Icelandic Tristrams saga ^ is quoted by' 
Massmann, in his ^^Geschichte des mittelalterlichen schachspiels " (1839, 
p. 61), a phrase in which it is stated of the hero that: *M1 sceut tant des 
eschez et des tables que nul ne Ten peult macter [r=mate]." Bartsch, in 
his already cited **Langue et litt^rature f^an^ises," extracts from the story 
of the sexually transformed Blancandin the following triplet : 

Li latimien par fa tant sages 
Qae bien Taprist de tos langsges 
D'eskes, des tablet et des des, " 

in which we again have the dice as a third amusement. Of passages in 
which chess is not mentioned we have an example in the old Belgian chron- 
icle by J. d'Outremeuse, styled, we believe, the ^^Myreur des histors" (I. 
p. 351), where we are informed that ^^Toudis prendoit delectation au Jeux 
de taubles^'' (where it would appear from the form **jeux," as if the word 
were used generically). Ducange, in his great lexicological work (sub ta- 
bula), refers to a Latin document dated 1345 — originating in France and 
seemingly theological in character — in which the canonical view of playing 

^* Romance of << Fierabrat'' (publ. by Kroeber and Servois, Paris 1860), p. 88; and in 
ibe earlier edition (ed. Oueuard, Paris 1800), also p. 86, line S900. 

^ ** Parise la dnebesse, ebanson de geste " (S« dd., by F. Oaessard and L. Larebey, Pa- 
ris 1860), 1. 066-7, p. 80. 

^ '« Aiol et Mirabel und Rite de St. Gllle " (ed. W. Ffirster, Heilbronn 1876-88), ▼. 165-8. 
Dr. Strobmsyer, In a foot-note referring to tbis exeerpt, states tbat in Lftsetb's erilteal 
analysis of "Le Roman eo prose de Tristan" (Paris 1891), seotlon 481, tbere is an estimate 
of Tristan as a obessplayer, bnt on examining LSiotb's work (pp. 838-834) we find tbat tbe 
estimate Is made in two lines. Tristan and bis companion, Bmnor — tbe former incognito — 
bave been talking abont rarlous tbiagf. *' Pais la couTersatlon," says LOsetb, continuing 
bis summary, ** tourno sur reserime et le jen d*6ebecs, et Tan et I'autre se disent passte 
maltres daus ees deux nobles arts.** 

" Tbis will be found in Bartseb, p. 670 ; Dr. Strobmeyer refers to '< Blancandln *' (pnbl. 
by Uiebelant, Paris 1867), v. 38 ff. ** Blancandln ** is an episode of tbat long poem of adren- 
ture, ** Tristan de Nanteull " — wbleb bas notbing to do witb tbe loTor of Isenlt, tbe bero of 
tbe ** Tristrams saga,*' altbongb botb bear in Freneb tbe same name. — An interesting note 
on tbe providential ** desexing " of BIsnoandiae (wbo tbus becomes grammatically ** Blan- 
eandln '*) will be found In Kristofer Nyrop's "Storia dell* epopea ftrancese *' (transl. by 
Sgldio Goria, Torino 1888), p. 171. 

10 



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74 CffESS IN ICELAND 



at games is set forth : *^Non possit, nee debeat ladere.... ad aliquot ladum 
taxillorum, excepto ad scacchos et ad tabulas'' ^Sin immunity not always 
accorded to tables, but frequently granted to chess. 

In early English the game of tables plays nearly as important a r61e as 
in oarly French— during those days when there were Norman courts on both 
sides of the Channel, and while much of the old Norman spirit and taste 
still remained. As has already been observed, chess could hardly have been 
mentioned in Anglo-Saxon writings — certainly not until the years imme- 
diately preceding and during the transition to the modern idiom — the pe- 
riod which used to be styled " Semi-Saxon. '' But it is only necessary to 
consult the dictionary of Bosworth and Toller (Oxford 1882), « to learn that, 
on the other hand, tables was popular enough when the old dialect was still 
spoken. As usual among the lexicologists the rubric toefel exhibits a lack of 
technical research— the compilers giving up the task of investigation at the 
outset, saying : ^* What was the precise nature of the games, to which this 
word and related forms are applied, does not appear ; some of the references 
below imply that games of chance are meant'* — and then Tacitus and the 
Germanic love of gaming are lugged in, in close imitation of GuObrandur 
Vigfusson, whose classic allusion we have already cited. The most impor- 
tant Anglo-Saxon references are those to the well-known Exeter MS (Codex 
Exoniensis), a collection of Anglo-Saxon verse given to the library of Exe- 

n Til], reviBed edition of the old, *nd, for iti day, inTaluAble Bosworth of 1888, also 
remarks sab voce *<t»fel** that *<In leelandio, taft is used of chess or draughts;'* this is not 
correct, for however It may stand with chess, it is certain that the Icelandic tajl was never 
employed with the meaning of draughts. Nor can the closing statement of the same sentence, 
*' the Danes in Rngland seem to have played chess,'* be verified. This latter error Is akin 
to one made by Brand In his " Popular antiquities of Great Britain " (London 1848, II. 
p. 859): — <* The chequers, at this time [about 1609] a common sign of a pnbllc-house, was 
originally intended, I should suppose, for a kind of draught-board, called tables, and showed 
that there that game might be played." Of course, there is no such relationship as is here 
implied between the games of *Uab1es" and ** chequers" or ''draughts*' — as will hereafter 
be more ftilly noted. — A technical word cited by the new Bosworth -from a gloss — is <'cyn- 
ningstan on tnfle, j>lr^tts." This " conning-pleee," as the later authorities explain It, was 
a device to preclude deception by the dice-thrower. The definition pirgu* (or pyrgut) is the 
Greek nvQyoq (tower, burg) in a Latinised form, having the sense of the pure Latin friUVliim 
(dice-box), and was so used on account of the tower-like shape of the dice-box (for casting). 
Among the Greeks themselves this word apparently never had any snch technical moaning, 
indicating that the diee-box was unknown to that people. The " eynningstan,*' as we are 
led to infer by the Anglo-Saxon lexicologists, was so constructed, or placed, that the thrower 
could, by no trick of hand, decide the result — the word really signifying the " knowing- 
piece," or the piece which makes something kuowu. This instrument Is described— in his 
note on Roman dice— by Stewart Gulin, in his remarkable and uoique work "Chess and 
playing-cards " (Washington 1898, p. 882), thus : " In order to prevent cheating, dice were 
cast into conical beakers (pyr^Wi iurTieula)^ the interior of which were formed into steps '* 
— down which it was expected that the dice would tumble and their movementa thus be heard 
after they could no longer be controlled, in any way, by the thrower. This would seem to 
imply that the "eynningstan" stood on or near the board— although the phrase, on tmM 
in the original gloss, would probably be best rendered by " at tables," that is, a piece or 
instrument at the game of tables, as we say, " the rook (is a piece) at chees." Colin goes 
on to note that " A parallel to this [usage of the Romans] is found in the Siamese back- 
gammon, sajto, where the dice are thrown into the ilrafto/c." All this however, appears to 
be capable of a simpler interpretation. Dice are still sometimes cast by hand, each thrower 
taking the two or three dice in his hand and then, by a motion of the arm, letting them 
fall out^promlseuously, as one might say— upon any fiat surface. This is usually done while 
standing, the dice falling upon a counter or table. Quite likely this was originally the an- 
cient method of throwing dice at tables (or similar dice-employing games), illustrationa In 



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STRAY N0TS8 75 



ter Cathedral by the city*s first bishop, Leofric, and in which it is still pre- 
served. It has been edited by Thorpe (1842), and again, in part, by Qol- 
lancz (1895). ''^ Among the excerpts drawn, with varying orthography, from 
this anthology, in lexicons and elsewhere, are 

Bumble hroed-tnfle, 
SmnbiS gewittlg. 

the first line of which GoUancz renders "One is expert at dice;'' "Dryten 
djelej) sumum ioefie crceft " (" skill at tables,'' Thorpe, p. 311) ; and thereafter : 

Hy twegen aoeolon 
XsDfle ymaltUn 

(" these two shall at tables sit," p. 345). Four or five lines farther on we 
find the expression hond tceflesmonnes ("the hand of the player at tables'*). 
The only other recent Anglo-Saxon lexicological work— duo to English schol- 
arship—beside the two editions of Bosworth, is Street's '^Student's dictionary 
of Anglo-Saxon " (Oxford 1897)— an unpretentious, but, in many respects, 
useful work. The compiler, however, repeats the old blunder of connecting 
icefel with chess, and like his predecessor gives three significations to the 
primitive noun, namely: a game; a die; and a man, or piece. He has, like- 
wise, the derivatives tasflan (tceflian), "to gamble" (or rather, if we are 
not mistaken, "to play at tables"); tce/lere ("player"); tceflung ("playing"), 
and the adjective tcefle ("fond of playing tables"). The only compound is 
tcefelstan^ rendered "die, or piece used in game"— which is even more un- 
satisfactory, than anything that precedes it. The larger dictionaries cite 
instances of the use of toefel (and its derivatives) from vocabularies or glos- 
saries—earlier and later— like that compiled by the abbot ^Ifric, styled 
the grammarian, who flourished not far from the year 1000 — a generation 
or more before bishop Leofric. On the whole, flrom a very superficial exam- 
ination of the more accessible sources, one gets the idea that the game of 
tables was pretty well known in England during the tenth century, and 
possibly even before— which is a good deal more than two hundred years 
earlier than we hear authoritatively of any chess-playing in that region. 

old codleea strengthening this nippoeltlon. In the eonree of time It woald be found th*t 
knaTlflh-mlnded people acquired the knadc of eausing the dloe to lie ae they wished by an 
adroit ase of their fingers— a sort of literal prestidigitation. Then, as a remedy or safe- 
guard against this, would be Invented the dice-box, as we now know It, in which the thrower 
bad to shake the dice so that the rattling eonld be heard before casting them ; it was of 
such n form too, that there was little chance of digital tricks ; and it was also tower-shaped. 
This looks very much like the kernel of the matter, in which case all the rest of the story 
and comment would be largely a myth evolved by the lezieographers. — The throwing of 
the dice was an important action in all kinds of gaming Into which dice entered ; hence, In 
one of the Oeltlo Idioms at least, a verb meaning '' to throw or cast " appears, if we may 
believe the dictionary-makers, to have been formed out of the Latin tofru/a, from its sense 
aa the appellation of a dice-game. The dictionaries likewise say that the Anglo-Saxon tmftl 
aometimea had the meaning '<dle'* or **dice." But, as we have hinted, snob statements must 
b« received with due caution since they may well result from the lack of technlcnl knowl- 
edge on the part of the compiler. When we see an indefinite definition like this : ** a die 
or piece In a game,** we may generally assume that the writer knows nothing about the 
game of which he Is speaking — and such definitions are very frequent. 

^ Thorpe's edition (like all his work) was excellent for its time ; that of Oollancs has 
remained anfioished for half a decade. 



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76 GffESS IN ICELA ND 



Earliest, perhaps, of all the occurrences of the word ^^ tables,'' in what 
may be looked upon as English literature proper, is that in the celebrated 
rhymed legendary story of Britain known as the "Brut," from the mythical 
"Brutus the Trojan" (the ftibled founder of the newer Troy, which is Lon- 
don), whose name, in the crude philology of that age, was connected with 
the word "Briton." This production is commonly regarded as "the first 
great piece of literature in Transition English." Great it certainly is, if 
measured by the number of its verses, which are upwards of thirty thousand 
—those early bards being truly epic in their fertility, Layamon's^ "Brut," 
as it is termed from the name of its writer, is a version of the Anglo-Norman 
"Roman de Brut,"— by that Jersey poet whom we have just quoted and 
who is usually designated as Robert Wace— which was itself a versified 
paraphrase of the Latin "Historia Britonum" of Geoffrey of Monmouth. 
Layamon composed his poem, as it would seem, not long subsequent to 1200. 
The second or later of the two differing forms in which it has come down 
to us, can hardly be more recent than the fourth decade of the century. It 
was printed by Sir Frederic Madden in an edition of high merit. ^^ The ref- 
erence to "tables" occurs in verse 8133, which reads in the earlier MS: 

Sammen pleoden on tcewUbrtde, 

while, in the later, the last two words become mid tauel^ that is, "Some 
played at the tableboard (at tables)." This, it must be remembered, is a 
generation, or a generation and a half, subsequent to the first known men- 
tion of chess in Great Britain by Alexander Neckham (1180), and chess must 
have by now got to be pretty well acclimatized, side by side with tables, in 
the courts, castles, cloisters and schools of England, and even among the 
well-to-do burghers of the great cities. Next in time comes the romance of 
"Sir Tristrem," with which we have had already something to do in the 
earlier pages of this volume. It was doubtless in existence before the close 
of the last quarter of tho thirteenth century. In it occurs, as will be re- 
called, the usual coupling of tables and chess (verse 1277) : 

His liarp, his cronde whs rike. 
His tablet, his chess he hare. » 

Contemporary with the author of "Sir Tristrem" was Robert of Gloucester, 
who eeased to write before the following century began. The work of which 
he is the reputed composer was a rhymed chronicle of England somewhat 
like the "Brut," and like numerous other histories in verso produced in the 

^ Lsyftmon Is an incUnea of the derlTatlon of a periooal name Arom the ofBelal title. 
The word Is Identleal with the familiar leelandfo Ufgmadur (<' lawman **). The poet doaht- 
less filled the position of a Judge, or Jnstiee of the peaee, or poulbly sheriff. 

*' Pnbllshed by the Royal Society of Antiquaries, London 1847, In 3 Tolames, following 
the same society's text (by Thorpe) of the Bxeter Anglo-Saxon codex. 

" We have heretofore dted the noted edition of Walter Scott, but the latest treatments 
of the text by that master of Bngllth and Icelandic, Bugen Kdlblng, (Hellbronn 188S), and 
by O. P. McNeill (Seotttsh Text Society, Bdinborgh 1886) are of coarse characterised by 
more modem philological methods. Mr. McNeill follows Beott In ascribing the authorship of 
the poem to Thomas of Brclldoune (about 1970). 



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STRAY NOTES 77 



lands of the Occident in that period of awakening. In it he makes Arthur*8 
knights amuse themselves 

Wy> pleyinge at tdbUg ol>e£«tte ehekere [ch«Mb<Mxd]. "* 

But another historical writer ~" for many years that central figure of En- 
glish learning," as Stubbs styles him— John of Salisbury, has a much earlier 
allusion to the game under the name of tabula (singular). He wrote ih Latin, 
and, besides his historical and biographical productions, indited a treatise 
called the ** Polycraticus,'* in which he attacks the vices of the court, and 
it is in this— in a list of ten games then prevalent— that his allusion to 
tables is to be found. The " Poly cratious " was completed before 1159. " Of 
somewhat uncertain date is our next work, •* Guy of Warwick " the most 
popular of all the old English metrical tales. The passage referring to ta- 
bles (as so often, with an accompanying mention of chess also) begins with 
line 3175 of the codex known as the Auchinleck MS : ^ 

Into l»e ehanmber go we baye, 
Among ^ maidens for the playe; 
At tablet to playe, St at ches, 

the citation preceding a description of a chess-game. In another MS (verse 
3039 if.) wc have the lines given as follows : 

Go we now to ohaamber same 
On lome manor to make ts game 
To the ehesMB or to the tabUa. 

The great dictionary of Dr. Murray and his associates quotes from the 
''Cursor Mundi,'* which is a collection of homilies in rhyme ascribed to 1300, 
a fragmentary passage : '' I ha ne liked.... til idel games, chess and tables,^' ^ 
The Oxford dictionary accompanies it by a similar citation from the "Hand- 
ling Sin,"' a rhymed version (finished about 1328), made by Robert of Brunne 
(or Robert Manning), of the "Manuel des Peschiez" [pdch^s], a French work 
by an English writer, William of Waddington. The stories— sermon-like in 
character— are not dissimilar to those which a greater pen afterwards told 
in the *' Canterbury Tales." The excerpt is 

Take ftirl>e the cheeae or >e tabUi. ^ 

The chief prose production which remains to us from this dawning period 
of our early literature is that morality (or, as some one has called it " di- 
vinity"), the "Ayenbite of Inwyt" (i. e. the "Remorse of Conscience "), a 
translation into Kentish English by a Canterbury firiar, Dan Michel (a na- 
tive of Norgate, Kent), of " Le somme des Vices et des Vertus," which was 
written, it is said, for the use of the French King Philip III, by another 
friar, Fr^re Lorens (Laurentius Qallicus). The sentence, as given by Mur- 

^ The paMage ii elted by M&tsner, **AltonglIiGhe ■praehprobea," 1. 1, p. U6 (foot-notot). 

^ The complete worka of John of Salisbury hare been edited by J. A. Ollea (Oxford 
1848). 

^ Thia was the IfS oaed by Znpltia, and the qnotAtion will be found in hla <*i 
of Guy of Warwiek," edited for the Early Text Society (London 188S), I. p. 184. 

"> Rdlted by Merrla for the Sarly BnglUh Text Society. 

" The <* Handling Syne" waa edited by Furnfyail for the Roxbnrghe Clnb In 1869. 



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78 CffESS IN ICSLA ND 



ray,« is ♦'Kueade [Wicked] gemenes [games], ase byep pe gemenes of des 
and of tables" in which the author seems to exclude chess from the games 
which he regards as sinful. But in a later place he utters himself in a dif- 
ferent spirit : ** Me de]> manye kueades ase playe ate ches oper ate tables. " 
In the latter half of the 14th century, as is supposed, was composed the vast 
*^Qest historiale of the destruction of Troy,** its fourteen thousand verses 
made up from the popular ''Historia Trojana** of Quido Golonna, who again 
is said to have stolen his compilation from the writings of the chronicler 
Benolt, whom we have previously mentioned. But what the unknown En- 
glish rhymester says is as follows (the dialect is North English) : 

Mony ganmes were begonnen ^ grete for to solas. 
The ohekker was ohoisly Iwre chosen ^ first, 
The draghtes, the dyse, and other dregh [tedious] ganmes, 
The tablet, the top, tregetre also...." 

where the author seems, like various writers we have cited, to set chess 
above other board-games, and to likewise exempt it from the charge of 
tediousness, which he makes against draughts and tables. But without 
continuing our researches among the English writers of these pioneer cen- 
turies we come down to Chaucer, who, in one of his earliest poems, the 
'* Book of the Duchess " (line 51), says : 

For me thoghte it better pUy 

Than playe either at ohessQ or tablet : 

and again in the ^*Franklin*s Tale"— one of the Canterbury stories-^the 
poet has 

Thoy danncen and they playen 
At ohes and tablet,^ 

A writer on life in the 16th century ^^ has a mention of tables drawn from 
some family archives, which is noteworthy because the board, owing to its 
division into two parts, is spoken of as '^ a pair.** The original orthography 
is here preserved— the omission of the word of being evidently only ac- 
cidental: ^^Willim Jones proveth Mr. Darell and my ladye to sett U or iy 
hours together divers times in the dyning chamber at ffarley with a pair 
[of] tables between them, never playing, but leaning over the table and talk- 
ing together.** The second word table^ used in the singular, apparently 
refers to the ** table** upon which the board for playing "tables" was 
placed. There is a quaint volume, of the same period, in which the writer 
makes a character say : ** Well ; now, I perceiue by you, that table-playing 
and chess-playing may be vsed of any man, soberly and moderately.'* ^ 

•* See the ediUon of Dan MSehel*s «Ayenhlte" by Morris (Undon 1866), p. 46, and for 
the other passage, p. 51. 

" See the edition of this hulky prodaetion made for the Early Hhigltsh Text Soelety by 
Panton and Donaldson (London 1869-74), p. 64. 

^ It is In this tale that Ohaneer Indicates a certain amount of knowledge of Alfonso the 
Wise, the one royal writer on shess. He alludes to the ** tables Tolletones'* (that is, "tables 
of Toledo**), which were astronomical tables by the wise Spanish king, who left his mark on 
the medisTal selenee of star-gasing, as on so many other things. 

** See Hubert Hairs *< Society in the Rllsabcthan Age" (London 1886, app. li, Darrell 
Papers). 

* The roT. John Northbrooke's *' Treatise on dicing, danneing, vain playe** fro. (London 
1676). The book was sereral times reprinted, the edition of 1579 having a more explicit 



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STRAY NOTES 79 



Shakspeare, in whom technical blunders are rare, shows that he was (kmil* 
iar with the mode of playing tables, when he sarcastically says of Boyot 

This Is the Ape of fonn, mondear the nice. 
That when he plaje *t loMct, ohidee the dice 
In honoarable terms. * 

Here the dramatist properly ases dice in the plural (as two, or throe, were 
employed at tables). In the ** Winter*s Tale** (iv. 3) he has both (die and dice), 
the singular form being of very rare occurrence in any earlier writer. The 
citation we have given is a sufficient indication that ^^ tables,** as the name 
of a game, was still well understood in the closing years of the 16th cen- 
tury. In the very first year of the 17th, was issued a satirical tract in verse, 
''Lotting of humours blood,** a passage from which is reproduced by Thomas 
Wright in an essay of which we shall soon have more to say, as follows : 

An honest Ticker, and a kind couaort, 
That to the alehooae friendly would resort. 
To have a game at tabU§ now and than, 
Or drinke his pot as soone as any num. 

Thomas Dekker, the dramatist and satirist, has at least two references to 
the game, under its old appellation, during the first quarter of the ceqiury. 
The name even lingered hero and there to a much later period. Two gene- 
rations after Skak8peare*B employment of it, the diarist, Pepys (1665), could 
write:— ** I walked.... to my Lord Brouncker*s, and there staid awhile, they 
being at tables ;** but in a sixpenny pamphlet entitled : ^* A step to the Bath 
with a character of the place,** printed anonymously a generation later (in 
1700), which is, however, supposed to be the work of Ward, one of the so- 
cial heroes of the once so fashionable English watering-place on the Severn, 
and from which we have already indirectly quoted, there occurs a list of 
names of games:— "From hence we went to the "Groom Porters," where they 
were a- labouring like so many anchor-smiths, at the oaks^ back-gammon^ 
tick-tack^ Irish, basset and throvoing of mains.*^ Here we have both " back- 
gammon*' and "tick-tack,** but "tables** was evidently growing obsolete. " 
The two most modern instances to be found of the use of "tables** are in- 
teresting as containing the technical-term "back-game.** The first is in 
the "Non-Juror" (1716) of the dramatist, Colley Gibber: — "A coquett*s 
play with a serious lover, is like a back- game at tables, all open at first; '* 
and the second is in Mrs. Barbauld*s letters of Richardson (published in 1804, 
but the passage dates from 1753) : "I must now, as they say at tables, endeavor 
to play a good back-game.'* » After this, so far as wrritten evidence is 
concerned, the word tables, as the title of a game, passes out of the domain 
of current English speech. Possibly the earliest published work which plainly 

titio: '*A treatise wherein dleiog, daonelog, Tslne plafes or enterludea, with other pastimes &e. 
commonly rsed one [sa ou] the sabbath dales, are by the worde of God and auncient writers 
roproned.** The author styles himself "minister and preacher of the worde of God," and 
all his pablieatlons bear the same motto on the tltle-psge: "Spirltus est Tiearlos Christi In 
terra. " 

•■ **LoTeU labor lost," act t., so. 2. 

»* See the citation of Ashton's <«8oeial life/* p. 7S, with an allusion to ** throwing of 
lualns.** 

^ "Correspondence of Bamnel Riehardson" (London 1804), III., p. 68. 



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80 CHESS IN ICELAND 



indicates the beginning of the period of exclusion is Cotgrave's French-Eng- 
lish dictionary, which was first issued in 1611 and lastly in 1673. He uses 
the English terms ^* backgammon " and ** trictrac/' but ignores *^ tables/* 
although he employs the French word more than once, even giving a va- 
riety of the French "tables," known as "tables rabbatues," which he ren- 
ders by "the Queen's game, doublets." The very oldest lexicographical 
appearence of the game "tables" is, perhaps, in a vocabulary dating back 
to the early days of the 15th century, which is preserved in the British 
Museum. Among the English name of games (nomina ludorum) there given 
as glosses to the Latin terms, are the following:— Latin scckcus^ English 
" chesse ; " Latin talus alea^ English " dyse ; " Latin tabella (tahelle f = taheUce)^ 
English "tabulles"— a form much resembling that adopted in one of the Celtic 
idioms— and Latin scacarius, English, "chekyr." English students of words, 
from first to last— from this old glossary to Cotgrave— have thus cited and 
treated the name of the game for three centuries and a half. 

In next looking at Italy, and the references to the game of tables in the 
speech of that peninsula, we shall have to begin with Ducange's laborious 
work. He has a rubric : " Tabula, seu Tabularum ludus, vel alearum, alveo- 
lus, in quem tesserae jaciuntur," which opens with the names of many clas- 
sic writers (Isidor, Martial, Julius Africanus and others less known). He 
then cites the early statutes of some Italian cities (Pistoia and Vercelli 
among them), but without giving any dates. Mostly later references— be- 
sides some that we have noted in previous pages— are to a history of Jeru- 
salem ("Historia Hierosolimitana," lib. viii) by Robertus Monachus, being a 
history of the first crusade dating from the twelfth century ; the writer, 
however, calls the game (if he indeed means "tables") alece, and follows it 
by a mention ot scad (chess); and to the " Constitutiones " (chap. 8) of the 
Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250)— issued in his capacity as king of Naples 
and Sicily, as it is well to remember. Finally Ducange lets us know that 
there is a late Latin verb tahlliarey meaning "to play at tables" ("tabula 
ludere,") and he cites a passage from the "Ck)nstitutiones" of Julian Ante- 
cessor (115. cap. 439) : " Neque episcopus, neque prosbyter.... neque alius 
c^iuscunque religiosi consortii vel habitus constitutur tablizare audeat, vel 
socius ludentium fieri, vel spectator." But no date is given to this excerpt. 
Julianus Antecessor was, however, a Roman jurist of the sixth century, who 
was a teacher of law in Constantinople during the reign of the great (first) 
Justinian. He translated the "Constitutiones" or statutes (called "No- 
velles") from the original Greek into Latin, which remained for many cent- 
uries the authoritative code of law for all Europe. Julian seems to have 
been engaged at thjs work in 556. Of course, though perhaps probable, it 
is not absolutely certain that in this citation the word refers to exactly 
that table-game (or that form of tables) which prevailed four centuries 
later, and of which we have been treating. If it does, the fact leads to some 
important Inferences regarding the introduction of the game into Europe. 
This verb existed likewise in later Greek, and this fact suggests some 
remarkable conclusions. We find it in every general Greek dictionary, 
ta^Xi^eiv ("to play at tables or dice"), and it is given as derived from the 
Latin tahvXa, which is itself represented, in a nominal form, by tapXa, "a 
dice-table;" and then we have other forms, TapXtoff|(;, "a dice-player; " 
tapXiorr)ptoy, "a place for dice-playing; " and a comic word, tapXc^iciQ, formed 



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STRAY NOTES 81 



in imitation of KaXXcoicv), said to signify ''a game at dice/' in connection 
with which we may observe that a colloquial, comic vocable of this sort 
hardly gets into speech or literature unless tlie thing satirized or treated 
risibly is very common, and very much talked of. We may take it for 
granted, knowing what we do of lexicographers' ways, that the **dice" 
comes in here simply because it is used in the game of tables, and that 
zit^hiy for instance, signifies merely a board with which tables is played 
(table-board) ; and so with the other words. The first notable fact about ail 
this ia that tables was played in the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire, and that 
it went thither from the Western (Latin) Empire. Unfortunately the Greek 
sources cited are mostly of an unsatisfactory character. For xa^Xiox'rjc we 
are reterred to Suidas, who is supposed to be the author of a dictionary, and 
to have lived in the Byzantine Empire in the 10th century, but in fact noth- 
ing is really known about him. His glossary received many accessions 
after the original compiler was dead, and nobody can say which are the 
original words and which the later additions. It is very much the same 
with the "Greek Anthology," which is cited for ta^Xa and xa{i>.t6icT,. That 
well-known body of clever sayings, striking bits of verse and epigrams went 
on growing from classic times down, perliaps, to as late a date as 900. Zo- 
naras is a reference a little more defined. He was a historian and lexicog- 
rapher, and flourished in the opening years of the 12th century; he uses 
the verb xapXtistv. The last citation is from Thomas Magister— a Latin 
name as will be seen— the writer of a Greek grammar, and hence styled also 
Grammaticus. He it is who makes use of ta^Xisrrjp'.ov, and he belongs to 
the very ultimate age of the Eastern Empire, being assigned to about the 
year 1310. A great deal might be made of all this if only some learned and 
patient Grrpcist would be good enough to look up all the passages in which 
these borrowed words occur, and weigh them carefully. Even without in- 
vesti^'ation the matter shows itself a subject of high interest. The inter- 
ested student will find further instances of the employment of these Greek 
derivatives of the Latin tabula in the great "Thesaurus lingute grecsc" of Henri 
Etienne (Stephanus), among them references to a Greek glossary older than 
that of Suidas. Its original compiler, Hesychius of Alexandria, lived, ac- 
cording to some in the 4th, according to others in the 6th century; but his 
vocabulary, like that of Suidas, was increased during subsequent generations, 
making dates difficult. The "Thesaurus" furnishes many very valuable 
citations. 

But this is somewhat of a digression. In the romantic literature of Italy 
tables does not seem to play anything like the r6le it fills in French and 
English, or else no one has taken the trouble to bring together the passages 
in which it is mentioned. With that remarkable character, the Emperor 
Frederick II, just cited, begins, as far as our certain knowledge goes, the 
medi2eval game of tables in the new Italy— as do so many other things — 
and it is next spoken of about the end of the century in which he died in 
the "Cento novelle antiche," a collection of tales made up, as is known, 
from many sources. Their originals are found in ancient and later chroni- 
cles, in the romances of chivalry, and in the fabliaux of the French trou- 
v6res. Here, as in the story-writers that followed, there was the same custom 
of grouping tables with chess which was so common in Old French. In one 
of the hundred "novelle" wo are told that of the characters on the scene at 

11 



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82 CHESS IN ICELA ND 

one time: "Appresso mangiare, quali prese a giuocaro a zara, ^ e quali a 
tavola od' a schacchi, o ad altri diversi giuochi, e il duca si puose a giuo- 
care con un altro nobile cavaliere." In the world-renowned narratives of 
Boccaccio, which were produced not more than half a century later, is found 
almost the same phrase (giorno 3, introd.);— *'Chi a giuocare a scacchi e chl 
a tavole." This was reproduced by still another teller of tales a century 
and a half later, the Florentine Francesco Sacchetti,*' in words again nearly 
identical. 

Petrarch, in his most important Latin prose work, the "De remediis 
utriusque fortune"— a production overflowingly full of erudition, in an age 
when learning was the rare possession of a few— alludes to the game of 
tables. The "De remediis'' was the most popular of all lay Latin writings 
in the centuries which lie between the 13th and the Hth. The libraries still 
preserve many reproductions of it in manuscript, while it was translated 
— despite its length— into many tongues, and, when printing came, was issued 
in many editions. The first German version was given to the world adorned 
with a multitude of wood-engravings by the cunning hand of Burgmaier, the 
favorite disciple, in that branch of art, of Albrecht Diirer. The ** De remediis" 
is in two books, the first attempting to show that good fortune is not always 
a thing to be coveted, the second that ill fortune is not always a thing to 
be deprecated. Each of these books contains a certain number of dialogues, 
the interlocutors, being in the first book, Joy (or Hope) and Reason, and, in the 
second book, Sorrow (or Fear) and Reason. It must be confessed that the first 
speaker has very little to say for himself, his office being, in general, to utter 

^ Novella V (Lfbro dl . . . oeuto noTelle, Fiorenza 1578, pp. 8-9). The gmme of '' sara,** 
here grouped with tablea and chesi, represento the "dice," which wo hara so often seen 
atmllarly need In Old French. Tommaseo derWei the Tocable ftrom the Greek xiaaoQa throng 
the Latin, the word being applied to the die from its four-ildedneas. Bat Zambaldl, In hit 
later " Vocabolario etlmologlco *' (^889), says that It comes firom the Arable sar= die —ft'om 
the form with the assimilated article, aB-tar^ or, better, from the Middle Latin ad eardum 
C at or on the dice," " by chance *'), from which originates the Italian astardo and onr 
hoMard, The game was evidently a pore dice-game, the combinations thrown by means of 
three dice counting >more or less according to their character. Dante opens the sixth canto 
of the "Purgatory** with an image drawn from the playing of Mara: 

Quando si parte II glaooo della aara, 
Oolul che perde si rlman dolente 
mpetendo le volte, e tristo impara : 

Oon r altro se ne va totta la gento : 

Qnal va dinansi, e qnal diretro il peende, 
B qual da lato gll si reoa a mente. 

EI non s' arresta, e qaesto e quelle Intende ; 
A oui porge la man, pi& non fa pressa ; 
B cosl dalla ealoa si dlfende. 

The first three lines are admirably rendered by Longfellow, who gives a proper technical 
definition to "volte": 

Whenever Is broken up the game of sara 
He who has lost remains behind despondent, 
The throwM repeating, and in sadness learns. 

In his notes the translator says : " Zara was a game of chance played with three dice.*' 
^ Franoeseo SaechettI, <*Novelle** (FIrense 17SI), II, pp. 66-68, nov. clxv. 



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STRAY NOTES 83 



the briefest statements of C&ct, or ejaculations, to serve as hooks upon which 

Reason may hang lengthy arguments and harangues. There are two dialogues 

relating to the game of tables. The first (book I, dial. XXVI) treats of alece 

Indus, which is tables, and oi Indus calculorum, which latter is called, in the 

English rendering, *'lottes.*' Both are described, but we quote only the ear. 

lier portion concerning " dice," or "tables"— both titles being used by the 

translator, who is Thomas Twyne. His version is very quaint; it is styled 

**Phisicke against fortune, as well prosperous as aduerse,*' and was printed 

in attractive black letter, at London in 1579 ; it well deserves reproduction 

by reason of its delightful English. The " tables " chapter, in the earlier book^ 

is entitled as we have hinted: ** Of playing at Dice and Lottes'' (De ludo alefp 

et calculorum. Dialogus XXVI) : ^'Joy. — I am delighted with playing at dice 

and lottos. Recison.^ln the one of these games is losse in the other folly : yet 

it is reported that Scevola frequented them both, & that which is yet higher 

that Augustus the Emperour used the one. Yet notwithstanding, that this first 

chose these to be a recreation to hym solfe from the ceremonies of the Goddes, 

& the lawes of men, in the knowledge whereof he excelled, and Augustus 

firom the cares of his great Empire, which ho gouerned long and wel, now 

and then to refresh himselfe from his toyle: I wyl not commend the like in 

thee. For great and learned men haue certaine strange and peculier appetites, 

which if thou imitate aswel in maners as in doctrine, thou mayst sone fal. 

for al things are not worthy to be praised, which are prayscd. /oy.— I take 

pleasure in playing at Tables. Reason,^ Who would not be delighted to 

throw forth a couple or more of squared bones, with certaine numbers marked 

upon euery side, and looke whiche way they runne, that way to direct the 

fingers, to place the round Tablemen in order: A glorious exercise, which is 

lyke to deserue a famous name, with a triumphant chariot, A renounod 

dayes.** This is valuable because of the light it throws on the character of the 

game of tables— being almost the sole, and certainly the best description of 

it, brief as it is, in the general literature of the Middle Ages. The other 

chapter (book II, dial. XVI) is one of the briefest in the whole work. Twyne 

calls it: "Of vnfortunate playing at Tables'' (De aduerso ludo taxillorum). 

We give the whole of it: Soroioe.^l haue lost at Table playing. Reason. 

— Dyd I not tell thee when thou wonnest, that it was but vzurie, and not 

gaynet Sorowe,^! am drawne dry with gamyng. Reccsou, '^This game is of 

the same qualitie that Phisitions be, by ministring of a litle, to drawe foorth 

a great deale: but beleeue mee, thou hast more cause now to reioyce, then 

when thou triumphedst with fals ioy. Better is sharpe chasticement, then 

deceitfuU flatterie. The lytic vantage which thou gottest then, dyd bryng 

thee vnto the whirlepoole of gaming now, and this losse wyll reclayme thee 

thence agayne. It is better to goc the right way with a foule brydle, then 

to be dryuen into a pyt out of the way with a golden pay re of reignes. 

Sorowe, — I haue lost at tables. Reason, —But thou hast wonne at the game of 

manners, yf what thou hast doone thou marke diligently: otherwyse good 

medicines were in vayne geathered ' togeathcr for an incurable disease, yf 

neyther losse nor shame coulde reuoke thee from this bottomblesse pyt of 

destruction: for when as experience bryngeth no proflte, there is it in vayne 

to seeke to doo good with woordes." It is to be observed, however, that in 

this dialogue Petrarch styles the game to which he is alluding Indus taxillorum, 

which is, literally, "the game of the dice/' but being the counterpart of the 



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84 CBESS IN ICELAND 



one cited from the first book, the translator doubtless felt himself authorized 
to consider it **table8."« 

In all the larger bibliographies of chess there is included the title of a 
quaint work in Italian written by bishop Angelo Rocca (or "Roccha," in 
the orthography of the time), and published at Rome in 1617, in which 
much is said of the game of tavole. The author writes to prove that cards, 
dice and tsAAea—tavole con dadi^ as he takes care once or twice to say — 

•• Before eiting the original text of Petrmreb, we give, by way of fntrodaetf on, the remarka 
of the ItalUn Zdekauer — the title of whoae treatise we quote on a following page — on the 
namea and ImplemenU of the gamea in which dice tvere nued, In tho Xlllth and XI Vth ecnturiea, 
In Italy. He iaya:~'annansi tntto bfaogna Intenderai sal algnificato dolle parole tecnlche, 
uaate nel medio cto in Italia per denominare I gluochi di fortana e gli strumenti adoperatlvl. 
Qneato panto h dMmportanaa, perch6 allora si formarono parolo nuovo e principal mente, 
perchft 11 aenio delle parole romane si era cambiato completamente, ed era qnalclie volta 
diventAto proprlo 11 eontrario; come prima dl tntto aTveiine nella parola: alea. Mentre alea 
in lingua romana lignlilea il dado dl set lati, pnntato dal n*. 1 fln'al n*. 6; — pol al preiie nel 
aenao plti largo di 'ginoco di dadi* in generale; e flnalmente In quelle di ogni glaoeo di for- 
tnna; qaetta parola negli statuti itallani serve, per signiflcaro un giuoco, in eni li adoperavano 
pedine, e dadi sopra nn tavoliere. Qaeato 6 il coal detto 'ludua tabularum.' La parola 'alea* 
e * tabala * direntano ainonlml ; e il Petrarca ancora, benchd fosse sommo conoscitore deiridlo* 
ma, fa oao della parola ' alea,' per algnlfleare 11 giuoco delle tavolo (D« remed. utriutgue fort. 
Dialog. 86. ' De ludo ateae et calcidorum.*) II mode, In eni la parola aUa perdette il sao si- 
gniflcato antico, ed acquisld quelio del giuoco di tavole, al spiega eon queato, che easa gl4 di 
baon era yenne preaa nel aenso dello aeacchiere; e coal facilmente pot6 dl poi eaaere adope* 
rata, per signifloare an giuoco in cui II tavoliere era essenziale. Mentre dunque alea pcrdotte 
il sao aenao antico, la lingua tormb nna parola nuova per 11 dado pantato, di ael lati. Questa 
parola h iaxilUu, * TaxiUus * Invece non d che nn dimlnativo della parola latina taluty che non 
algniflea 11 dado, ma Possetto, nella ana forma naturale, come proviene dal piede poaterlore 
degli agnelll. Soltanto gU umanistl levarouo via questa confusione, ed 11 nierito al deve a 
Cello GaleagninI, 11 famoso preoursore di Gopernico, il quale nel sue scritto *de tatorum, 
(•8*€rarum ai ealculorum ludit* (Opera, Bas. 15U, pag. 886-801) chiarl i fatti. Queato ano 
merlto h da stlmaral tanto piii altamente, in quanto ehe I ohloaatori molte volte abagUa- 
rono nel eommentare i due titoll: Digest. ZI, 6 d« *aleatoribiu* e Cod. Juat. 8,48 *de al»a- 
mm twtt' prendendo la parola alea ora nel auo aenso antico, ora nel aenso medloevale. 
Traoele di queato errore ai trovano ancora anlla fine del see. XV. (ParU a Puteot 1. e. 40; 
Costa, 1. e. 8, 84, e 4, 8). I due gruppi prineipall del giuoco di. fortune nel medio evo aono 
adunque 11 giuoco de* dadi, e quelio d«lle tavole." Zdekauer accoropanlea these preliminary 
remarks by notes of great value, citing many early writers on the subject of the Latin name 
by whieh the game of tablea came to be known. Among them are Giovanni d*Andrea, the 
Bologneae canonist (d. 1848), who speaka of the *'differentlam Inter ludum asari [dice], qui 
pendet a fortuna, et ludum alearnm alve, tabularum, qui mixtus pendet a fortune, et in> 
genio;** and Ifarinus Sooinus, a commentator on the Decretals, who says: ^'Ludas alsearnm 
id eat tabularam cum taxilli*.** '* Slmilmento," Zdekauer goea on to say, '<gli atatuti [i. «. the 
monlelpal eodea of Italy], uaano queate due parole [i. a. alea and tabula] come ainonlml, facendo 
eeeeaione nel loro dlvieti ora del Wudiu ad aUat,^ ora per quelio *ad tahtiUu,*** It will be 
noUoed that Petrarch naea the ezpreaalon, htdu* alecB for '* tablea," while later he speaka of it 
as a dlce^game, Indui taxillorum. Isidore of Bevilie (born in the 6th, died In the 7tb century), 
the author of the "Origines,*' aays alea^ id •«< ludtu tabulm, Zdekauer baa likewise a long 
and Interesting note on the derivation of the word cara. The text of Petrarch reads thua in 
the original Latin :—"De Indo aleie ft calcnlorum. DIalogns XXVI. GAT.->Alea» ladua & 
oalenlortl placet. BA, -^ Damnoaum Iliad, hoc Inane, vtrdqae tame idem llle Scieuola, quddqae 
eat altlua Augnatas Cseaar altero vtl aolltua fertar. Me^ rarsua, lde6 qu&d llle, 4 eerimonlis 
deoram atque homlnum legibus quaa excellentissimi callult, late k curia summl ImperlJ quod 
diutlsalmA atque optlmd rexit, tale slbl interdfl laboria dluertleulfl elegisset, hoe In te 
probanerim. Slit enim & doctia ao magnia viria appetltus qttlda peregrini et ani, qaortl 
al Tt in doctrinia ale In moribua imitator ftaerta, (kciI6 labl queaa, neqne enIm omniom qnl 
laudator, laade dlgna sant omnia. G. — Aless ludo dclector. it.—Quia nS deleetetnr aoper 
plota tabula eonalgnataa nnmeria oaaium quadrataraa erlspanti cubito laotare, qna^ llle 
dlrexerit ftrepldantlboa digltia rotundaa in aoiem tabellaa mittere? Olorioaam exereltlam ft 



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are forbidden games, while chess is allowed by all the ecclesiastical author- 
ities. But the noteworthy point of his discourse for us is, that we learn 
from it the fact that as late as the first quarter of the 17th century the name 
of the game in Italy was still tavole (in the plural), and that apparently no 
other cognomen had ever been applied to it.^ In Italian, too, but of far more 
recent date, is a dissertation — too brief and too limited in its scope— which 
attempts to give a description of tavole. The writer is a well-known Tuscan 

praokram nomen, & enrriM & Unreal meritaram.*'— Tb« extract from the Meond book 
if M toUojn : — "De adaerao ludo Uxilloram. DialoguB XVI. Dolob. — Taxlllortl In iQdo 
perdidl. RA. — Vdnne tlbl dlxeram dTm Tineerea, faunas Id euo doo lacrum? DO. — Lado 
exhaustus aam. RA. — Ule est ludo flli mon, qui mediefs perexigno Ingesto plarimfl exhavrire: 
rrerle autem mfhl nlle pot!ui gaudendam qo4in dum falfo f audio exniubaa. Mollor oat aeria 
castigatio qnim blaada fallacia. Jllnd to lacellam ad ludl Toraginein voeabat, boo to damnnm 
inde retrabet. Satiaa est turpi freno rectum Iter agere, quim habenU aorela prnceps in deaifl 
ai;i. DO. — Amial in ludo taxlllorum. BAT.—WclM Id Indo morum, al quid agerla profundlna 
attendisti: allcquln roorbo Inaanabili fmatra remadia cogorentur, al ab boe baratro noo to 
damnum renoeat neo pndor, vbl rebua nil proflcltur, nee qnlcquam Torbla aggredlare." 
nurfpnalor'a Illustration to book T, dialogue XXVI, Is of tbe blgbest Interest. Its date la 
before 15S0, and It repreaents a terrace, on wbicb are seated, on the right band, two playera 
engaged at tbe game of tablea (the board and men very plainly depleted), and on tbe left two 
cbess-playera, also occupied at a game. Between these groups, In tbe background, at tbe foot 
of a column, are two apea playing at merellea ('*nlne men*B roorria"). All tbe boarda giTO 
a good Idea of tbe luxury of the medlcBval coarta In tbe matter of tables and other Implemonti 
connected with tbe gamea In question. 

^ Angelo Roccba, "TratUto contra I glrocbl delle carte e dadi problbiti** (Roma 1617). 
The portions of this treatlae doTotod particularly to chess embrace pp. 71-81 (dlrlded Into 
three chapters), and In this brief essay (pp. 75-76), tbe author interpolates the following atato- 
ment concerning the derivation of tbe name of tbe game, aeoocAo as bo writea It;— '<Non & 
parola detta dalla voce latlna tcandendo come malamente acrluo In quoato Polldoro VIrglllo , 
ma ^ voce ehe deriua, e ha origlne dalla lingua bebraiea; o giudiea, cbo Plnnentore di detto 
rIuoco sla state bebreo, come moatrano qucate due parole, seaeeho, matthOf con le quail al 
finisee detto gluoco ; nel qnale quandoM Re al trona droondato di maniera tale, ehe h for- 
zato a lonarsi dal auo Inogo, si dice air bora scaeeho; perebd teach, in lingua bebraiea, h 
quel modeslmo ehe appresso nol i cireondato e intomiato. Ma perohi'l morto da gli bebrel 
6 detto mathf o meth ; per6 nel mcdesimo gluoco quando 'I Ra £ reao totalmento aaaodlato, e 
fatto immobile, come morto, all* bora al diee, teaeh math ; ma corrottamento in Italia al dloo 
*eaeel^> mattho e eon qnoste due parole al flu lace '1 gtnoco. TnUo qneato dice Qregorlo Tho- 
loaano.** Tbe author hero cited, Gregory of Toulonao (1640-1697), waa a noted Jnrlat; hia 
etymology of the word tcacco aeems to have escaped tbe researches of ctaosa bibliographers 
and to be cited by nobody but Rocea. —One of tbe most anrpriaing pleeea of cbeaa etymol- 
ogy— alnoo we are on that theme — Is one in which two distinguished lexicologists have each 
bis share of honour. In Braebot's "Etymological dictionary of the French langoago,** the 
English edition of which la lasued at the Clarendon Preaa (8d od. 1888) under the learned 
aupervlslon of Oxford university, we find tub voce "plon," tho following statement: <'a pawn 
(In cb« 48), O. Fr, pooiif or paonnet^ from paon, a peacock, q. v. LIttrA tell us that tbe pawn 
In early times was in the form of a peacock." We should have regarded tbio astounding 
derivation aa a printer's blunder bad It not been for the reference to Llttri, aJneo Bracket, 
under tbe next rubric (" pion, a foot-soldier ")» gives tbe real etymology of the word (from 
the Lat. arcuaatlve pedonem, from ptdet) in detail, and wo should have taken it for granted 
that the two paragraphs were to be united, and tbe *' peacock" element eliminated from the 
flrat. But, turning to the huge *< DIctionnaire do la langue fran^ae" of LIttri (ptoa), we 
find tbe Unea cited to bo indeed there, and can only wonder at their exlatence — wondering 
more, perbapa, that they abonld have misled Bracbet. It la quite evident that neither ety- 
mologlat knew either cbeaa, or ehess history. Tho blunder Is corrected by Soberer, In bis 
'* Dictlonnaire d'Mymologle fran^alse" (8e ed. 1888) — but then he has some sinllar sins of bis 
own to answer for, aa when, in deriving tbe Old French roc (=rook) »'du peraan rokh," 
he adda the meaning of the Persian voeable, <'chamean roontA par dca archers,*' which Is 
almost aa amazing a creation, in this connection, as the peacock of Seberer'a predeceasora. 
Tbe blunder ia copied by the lateat Italian etymologlat, who, finding it in Beherer, took 
lU correetneaa for granted without any further reaeareh. 



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86 CffESS IN ICELAND 



scholar, Lodovico Zdekauer, and his treatise, *'I1 giuoco in Italia nei se- 
coli XIIl e XIV," was published at Florence in 1886, but is little known 
abroad. In it (pp. 9-10), after treating of dice-play pure and simple, ho 
says : **Non meno numerose che le variazioni del giuoco del dadi sono quelle 
del giuoco di tavole. Esso si distingue da quelle, perch^ vi si adoperano le 
pedine [strictly * pawns,' but here, as in some other writers, *men'], e lo 
scacchiere [here * table-board' simply] sopra di cui {super alea) ora si get- 
tano i tre dadi [meaning that, in addition to dice, necessary in all dice- 
play, we have here a board and men]. La parola tabula non significa lo 
scacchiere [board], ma le pedine [men, that is, all the pieces of the game] 
lo scacchiere [which is used in this game] si chiama Uabolerium.^ £ owia 
la disposizione degli statuti, che si debba giuocare con tutte le tavole [*cum 
triginta tabulis'— that is thirty men were used in playing the gamej. Si- 
mile giuoco ci viene raffigurato negli affreschi, che si trovano nel portico 
della chiesa di Lecceto, vicino a Siena." In the wood-cut which accompa- 
nies this passage, representing a portion of the fresco alluded to, it is not 
easy to distinguish the character of the board, but there appear to be, as 
stated, fifteen men on each side. At the present day iavola reale (singular) 
is in Italian the common name for backgammon, the adjective perhaps in- 
dicating that it is the best or oldest of all varieties of tables^ or that it was 
once a court-game. Tommaseo, the lexicographer, says that it is played by 
means of <*2 tavolette [the 2 divisions of the board] insieme riunite, dove 
sono ventiquattro scacchi [points] movendo via via le pedine secondo i punti 
che con i dadi si scuoprono"— a seemingly awkward definition in which 
'* scacchi" must refer to the points (twelve on each side), of the table (back- 
gammon) board, or to the spaces occupied by these points, affording a par- 
allel to the oldest Arabic usage according to which the same word (bSt= 
house) was applied to the "square" on the chess-board and the "point" of 
the board on which "nard" was played. In modern chess the Italian "ta- 
vola" means "drawn game"— -whether drawn by reason of lack of mating 
force, by perpetual check, by obstinate repetition of the same moves, or by 
the fifty-move limit. We must not forget to say, before taking leave of Ital- 
ian tables, that in the tenth century the higher clergy of Italy are charged, 
by at least two authors, with devotion to dice. One of these accusers is Ra- 
therius of Verona (but a native of Li^ge), who attacks the Italian bishops as 
living luxurious lives, in a passage cited by Gregorovius and copied by Van 
der Linde. *» The other similar charge, aimed against all the clergy, is to 
be found in the letter of citation against Pope John XII, who was dethroned 
by the Emperor Otho I in 963. Unfortunately we cannot give the Latin text, 
and hence do not know the word used to express the kind of "dicing" they 
indulged in. The German expression is wurfelten, that is, "they diced." 
In the following century we have the famous letter of Petrus Damianus (Ital- 
ian "Damiano," but who has positively nothing to do with the Portuguese 
Damiano, one of the earliest writers on chess, though the two are often 
confounded), a cardinal and bishop of Ostia, hard by Rome. We know what 
word he used. He speaks of the passion for bird-catching, the chace and 

^ Bee his << Qetehiebto" (f, p. 189) where !■ given the exeerpt from QregoroTitts, "Rom** 
(III. 1870), p. no. The worki of Ratberlat were publiabed by the brotheri Ballerlnl at Ve- 
rona (176^, and there !■ a notable aoooant of tbie prelate (In wbieb be la atyled Bather) by 
Albert Vogrel: "Ratberloa von Verona and daa aehnte Jabrhnndert** (Jena 185i). 



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STRAY NOTES 87 



especially for dice (?) and chess (alearum in super furiae vel schachorum)^ 
among the clergy of the peninsula. Those devoted to gaming are called 
aleaiorii (episcopi), and alea is again used of the game a few lines further on. 
The writer gives an account of his reproval of a Florentine bishop (or a 
bishop of Florence). The latter excused himself for his interest in chess by 
saying that the ecclesiastical statutes did not directly prohibit that game. 
To which the episcopal critic responded:— "Chess, indeed, the statute does 
not expressly punish ; but both kinds of games are comprehended under the 
name of alece. If then that game {alea) be forbidden and nothing be indi- 
cated about chess, still, as the same word includes both, therefore both are 
condemned.'* ^^ The logic of Bishop Damiano was not any too sound, but 
the Florentine bishop, "being mild of disposition and shrewd of wit," as 
we are told, yielded to the argument offered and promised to err no more. 
The reader should notice the use of alea both in the singular and plural. 
The joining together of alea and scacchi^ after a custom which we have seen 
was so common everywhere in that age, and the fact that thoy were the 
two games familiar to the convents and schools of the time, make it pretty 
certain that the dice-game alluded to was tables. We can hardly fancy a 
wise bishop addicted to such a diversion of mere chance as the casting of 
(lice without the opportunity of making any use of his intellect, such as 
tables would give him. With this episcopal epistle we must take leave of 
Italy until she produces a Strohmeyer, who will thoroughly search her older 
literature for the many scattered notices of chess and tables which it doubt- 
less contains. 

As to Spain there is the same lack of material, in an accessible shape, 
as in Italy. The celebrated MS book of games, composed by the command, 
and probably under the direction, of Alfonso X, king of Leon and Castile, and 
still one of the choicest treasures of the library of the Escorial— that vast 
monastery, mausoleum, palace, which lies within an easy morning's journey 
of Madrid— is both the earliest treatise on chess and the oldest document 
relating to tables which have had their origin in Europe. Unfortunately 
for our present purpose little heed has been paid to any part of this vener- 
able literary monument except to the pages which treat of chess. Van der 
Linde alone, ^« has endeavored to give a list of the subjects dealt with in 
the non-chess portion, but he does not go farther. According to him the 
first book of this splendid codex concerns chess only ; the second treats of 
games played with three dice {Lihro de los dcuios); and the third, which 
Van der Linde calls the Libro de los iablas— whether this be the actual title 
it is not easy to say— apparently embraces games played with dice and men, 
or, in other words, the varieties of the game of tables. Van der Linde's 
enumeration of the chapter-subjects, that is, of the different games, in this 
third section is as follows:— 2)o6te^, fallas^ seis, dos e as, emperador, medio- 

^^ ''Ad qood ego soaehum, InquAin noQ panlt; sed utriuiqoe ladl g^ona alo» nomine 
comprendit. Qaapropter dam ale* prohlbetnr, et nomtnalim de leaebo nihil dicltnr, oonetat 
procal dublo atramqae genua nno vocabalo eomprebeuauro, unlue aenteutlao auctorltate dam- 
natum." — B. Petri DamKnt Operum tomaa I. (Romae 1606), p. S4, KpUt, Z, ad AUxandrum IJ 
Jiomanum ponteficem, tt Hildebrandum tardinalem. Foreellini aaya {tub voet) that aUw la a 
general name for all gamea, tam timplices quam mixtif whtoh are played with pleoea or men, 
Mrhilo alea la naed for those In which ehance ezcluaively prevalla (dice only, for inatauce). 
Tho play on worda {alea and aUa) of the aubtle btahop la thus explained. 

*^ '* Quellenatudlen der Geachlchte dea SebaohapleU" (1881X pp. 7S ff. 



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88 CHESS IN ICELAND 



emperador, la pareji de entrada^ cdby equincU, todas, tablas, laquet, la bufa^ 
cortesia^ la bufa de baldraCy los Rotnanos reencontrat. Of these doblet is doubtr 
less the doublets of our old lists of amusements, ^^ and is thus defined by 
one of the latest of our larger English dictionaries (the ''Century'') : ''A game 
with dice upon tables, somewhat resembling backgammon,'' added to which 
the following quotations are given : 

They be at their doxMeU still, 
a phrase from Latimer's fourth sermon before Edward YI (1549); and 

What ! Where's yonr dook f . . . 
To tell yoa tmth, he hath lost it at doubUU, 

a passage occurring in "The Ordinary" (1651) of Peter Cartwright, who, sin- 
gularly enough, was at once a poet, a dramatist and a divine of some little 
eminence. Fallas, in our Alphonsan list, is probably the English failes, a va- 
riation of backgammon which seems at one time to have been common ;*w oos 
e as is our deuce-ace, used in connection with dice, and found in Shakspcare, 
and may resemble the backgammon variant described in the "Compleat Ga- 
mester" (1739) under the title of "Size-ace;" emperador is perhaps the kind of 
tables called in France and England in the fourteenth century "the imperial 
game"; iodas, or something similar, is found in French notes on table games; 
tablas is, of course, the ordinary form of tables ; la bufa Van der Linde seems 
to connect with puff, the German name for backgammon, of which there is 
an early variant, huf. Several more — or perhaps all — of these games are 
very likely varieties of tables, but in the present state of our knowledge it 
is idle to discuss this section of the Alphonsan MS. Its fourth and final di- 
vision is of a miscellaneous character, including first an enlarged che^ 
{grande acedres), followed by a game styled tablas de alcedrez (in the orthog- 
raphy of the MS) a sort of combination of chess and tables, as is to be 
inferred; then comes a kind of astronomical chess— the combined result 
perhaps of don Alfonso's two favorite studies— the heavens and the chess- 
board—styled escaques, the title of which looks as if it might be a varia- 
tion of the word chess; and then the section closes with a very simple sort of 

*^ See the "Compleat Gamester'* and other early treatises on games, English and 
Frenoh ; alio the preceding p. 80. 

^ To this game (as we learn from the Just-olted <<Contary Dictionary'' sob /ayU»), 
Ben Jonioo, In his ''Brery man in hit humour" (act ill, 9), thus aUades : 

He's no precisian, that I'm certain of, 
Nor rigid Roman Catholic. He'll play 
At fayUs and tlek-tack ; I hare heard him swear. 

The areheologlst Francles Douce— he who wrote an interesting essay on **Tho Uuropean 
names of the chess-men" (1794) ~has described the game of faylta: **It is a very old table- 
game" [as old evidently as the days of King Alfonso], "and one of the numerous varieties 
of backgammon that wore formurly uaed in this country. It was played with three dice and 
the usual number of men or pieces. The peculiarity of the game depended on the mode of 
first placing the men on the pointi. If one of the players threw some particular throw of 
the dice, ho was disabled from bearing off any of his men and therefore faylad In winning 
the game — and hence the appellation of It." FaylU is the orthography in the Latin XlVth 
century MS on tables preserved in the British Museum, to which we shall recur. 



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STUAY NOTES 80 



dice-game called alquerque. This great work may well be ranked as one 
of the hundred most fttmous codices in European libraries, was compiled, 
too, at the instance of a most fomous king (between lt51 and 1282), and is, 
artistically, of magnificent execution. It ought, morever, considering its 
date, to be of considerable value to the linguistic student. Under all these 
circumstances it does not seem too much to ask, In these days of reprints 
and reproductions, of early- text societies, of accurate and easily executed 
copying processes, that so interesting a monument of royal scholarship should 
be made more available to investigators; and that the Spanish government, 
having already given to the world the astronomical works of this enlightened 
monarch, should follow such a good deed by another. Brunet y Bellet like- 
wise consecrates one of his chapters (the fifth, **E1 Ajedrez,'' 1870, pp. 243- 
268) to the **Libro de don Alfonso el Sabio,*' in which he confines himself 
rigidly to the chess portion of the codex. But Alfonso, the most prolific of 
all royal authors, and who contributed in so many ways to the develop- 
ment of his country*s language and letters, ^ alludes in other writings to 
the game of tables. It is mentioned. in his remarkable code of laws— still 
the basis of Spanish Jurisprudence— known as ^'Las siete partidas** (in its 
part II, as published, title Y, law 21); and again, on more than one page, 
in his historical work on the Crusades (''La gran conquista de ultra mar'*) — 
the most fi&miUar passage, perhaps, being that in wliich he relates how tlie 
father of Godfrey of Bouillon made his sons learn tlie ''juegos des ajedrez 
6 de tables.** Of another Spanish sovereign there exists a notable relic in 
the archives of Barcelona. It is an inventory of the effects of Martin of Ara- 
gon, the immediate predecessor of Ferdinando II, the husband of Queen 
Isabella of Castile— the two being those jointly ruling monarchs who played 
so large a part in the story of Columbus. iCing Martin, who was the last of 
his house, that of Barcelona, died in 1410. The list of chess boards and chess- 
men, table-boards and table- men, in the king*s possession is extracted from 
the inventory, made doubtless after his death, and printed by Brunet y Bel- 
let. *« It is too long to be given here, but we reproduce one or two of the 
items relating to tables, in the orthography of the original. We find un 
tauler dejugar a taules ab les puntes de Jaspi e de nacre (''a table-board 
with points of jasper and mot her-of- pearl**), this board, with its resplendent 
''points,** having on the reverse side a chess-board inlaid with the same rich 
materials; and there were other boards of the same sort, chess on one side 
and tables on the other— exactly similar to the chess and backgammon 
boards of to-day. One had tables on one side, and tlie other side was de- 
vided between chess and "nine men*s morris.** Another board is described 
as a table-board of jujube wood {un tauler de taules de gingolers)^ and 
there were cases {estuches) containing sometimes men for tables, sometimes 
chessmen, as when the inventory speaks of a case of precious wood of two 
divisions, in the first of which were 32 table-men and in the other 32 chess- 
men, one half of each of ivory and the other half of ebony {de dues cases 

^^^ Tiekoor, the hUtorian of Spanlib literatare, atales tb«t Alfonto <*fint made the Cm- 
tillan a naUonal langaaffe,'* and eatliiiat«s at a high Talao the kinga'a Code and other works, 
laying that they gave the right dlreetion and oharacter to Spanfah proae — **a aerriee perhapi 
;reat«r than it has been permitted any other Spaniard to render the proee literatore of hie 
sonntry.^* 

*<* **iBl Ajedresi*' pp. S17-S19. The liat ia alao lingolatieally tatereeting. 

12 



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90 CHESS IN ICELAND 



en la i^ de las qiwls hauia XXXII iaules e en laltre XXXII pesses de schachs 
la meytat de vori^ el altre meytat de banus). In the same good king*s library 
was a paper codex entitled *'Dels Jochs de scachs e de taules'' (to say nothing 
of five other MSS devoted only to chess), the description of which in ^^El 
Ajedrez'* would make the calmest-minded book-hunter*s eyes water. Brunet 
y Bellet also tells us that among the Catalans of those times there were many 
such treatises on chess and tables (and Just in these days in which we are 
writing he has edited an old Catalan translation of the chess- morality of 
Jacobus de Cessolis). From '^El Ajedrez*' we likewise learn that don Diego 
de Clemencin, one of the commentators of Cervantes* great romance, in his 
note on the well-known chess passage in "Don Quixote" (v., p. 46 of the 
Clemencin edition), speaks of the games of tables and chess as very common 
in the Spanish Middle Ages {Las iaUas y ajedrez eran Juegos muy usados 
en Ul Edad Media, *^ Of Spain*s sister kingdom there is hardly anything 
to be said, and nothing of an early date to cite. We will content ourselves 
by remarking that the word "tables" {taboUxs) is yet in use in Porluguese 
as the title of a game, though the fabricators of dictionaries don't quite know 
how to treat it. A late lexicon of the English and Portuguese, that of La- 
carda, translates, in its English-Portuguese part (1866), the word "tric-trac" 
by (Jogo de) tabolas; while in the Portuguese-English part (1870), he ren- 
ders (Jogo de) gamao (our "gammon") by backgammon, but gives {Jogo de) 
tabolas as "the game called tables or draughts,'' Such is the intelligence, 
as well as the consistency, of lexicographers!— This is a meagre notice of 
what, at the present moment, can be hastily gleaned about this ancient 
game in Europe's southwestern peninsula. The reader will understand that 
Spain and Portugal, like Italy, remain virgin fields of great promise, await- 
ing the zealous investigator into the story of the ludus tdbularum. 

Into the language of Germany the Latin word tabula has made its way 
in various forms. The oldest of these is sabal, found in the Old High Ger- 
man period, which terminates with the 12th century; in the Middle High 
German, the linguistic period which followed, the word became sabeL So 
little has been written in Germany — the land of learned research— in regard 
to the social games of the earlier periods that scarcely any examples of the 
use of zabal or Jtabel^ in their simple form, to signify the game of tables, are 
available. Massmann, in his "Geschichte des mittelalterlicben Schachspieles" 
(Quedlinburg 1839, p. 53), asserts that in an Old German gloss of the 9th cen- 
tury, Itidere tabtUis is rendered by za spilonne staples ("they play at tables"). 
Schmeller, in his "Bayerisches Wdrterburch " (IV., p. 215), cites the old 
South-German words zabilstein ("table-stone") and wurzabelslein ("wurf- 
zabelstein"), signifying a piece at tables. In the knightly poem of Wiga- 
lois— which we shall cite again— (edited by Benecke, Berlin, 1819, and better 
by Pfeiffer, Leipzig 1847) occur the following lines (v. 10601) : 

Da fonden ai der aaelden sohlu 
Und achdner konewile vil 
Von tab4l and von seitespil. 

The poet, Wirnt von Gravenberg, composed this work, derived from French 
sources, at the very beginning of the thirteenth century. 



^ Se« "EI AJodres," p. til. 



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It is meanwhile taken for granted that tables came over the Alps, or across 
the Rhine, before the introduction of chess, *<" but when the latter arrived it 
was at once seen to be a table-game like the diversion with which people 
were already familiar. So, as in Iceland and Holland, it was deemed neces- 
sary to distinguish them. The old game, because it was played with dice, 
or accompanied by the casting of dice, was called wiirfzahel (or "dice-ta- 
bles**), the latter became schachzdbel ("chess-tables**). The first appear- 
ance of chess in Germany is in the fragmentary Latin poem, "Ruodlieb,** 
seemingly composed in Bavaria— close by one of the most frequented routes 
between Italy and the North— and now assigned to the middle of the Uth 
century. *» Being in Latin it, of coarse, throws no light on the vocable 
sabal. In the compound $chachzdbel the second element underwent much 
popular deterioration, for we find schachxagel and schafsagel (which latter, 
according to Van der Linde, now lingers as a Bavarian name for the mor- 
ris-game), not to speak of the later schachtafel (exactly corresponding to the 
Icelandic skdktaft). Wackernagel (p. 36) cites from the inventory of a no- 
bleman*8 possessions (Count Sibotos von Neuenburg), towards the end of 
the 13th century, foUr schahzabel and four vmrfzabel, and ivory men belong- 
ing to both games {elefantei lapides tarn ad wurfzabeL quam ad scahzabel 
pertinentes). In Middle High German literature there are various allusions 
to tables. In the " Wigalois*' (v. 10582 ff.)we have an allusion to the splen- 
did boards and men of early times, contrasted with the cheaper wooden 
ones of later days : 

DA lag«n Tor der froawen fior 
WorfiEftbel node karrier, 
Geworht Ton halfenbeioe ; 
Hit edelem g^steme 
Spilten d, mit holse niht, 
AIb inan nn fronwen spilen tiht. 

The word "kurrier,'* in this passage, has been much debated. It is too 
early to bo considered a reference to the alia rabbiosa, or modern chess 
(called in German the "Current oder das welsch schachspiel**); and if it 
means the "Courrier spiel*' mentioned by Jakob von Ammenhausen in his 
chess poem (1337), and long played at the chess village of StrObeck, then 
this must be its first appearance in literature. There are various references 

^ Seo Wackernagera '*U«ber dac Sehaebaabelbaeh Koaradt tod AmmenbaaMn" In 
tbe ^'BeUrftge tar Oetebicbta aod LUeratur** of Kara and WelMenbaeb (Aaraa 1846), p. 38. 
Speaking of flgaratire ezpreaaioni drawn from cbesa wbieh had bacoma aTory day ntteraneas, 
tbe writer aaya: "Sehon daa wurfelaplel [tablea] batte aolcber aaadrQcke geang an die hand 
gegeben/* implying a oonaiderable priority of tablea In Qermany. 

^ Von der Laaa givea the moat intereating aeeonnt of the eheaa eplaode in the "Rnod- 
lleb** («'Zar Qeachlehte and Literatnr dea Sebachapiela,** pp. 47-51). The earlleat writera on 
thia poem decided that the handwriting of the MS prored it to be of the 9tb eentnry, bat 
later eatlmatea have gradually reduced Ita aacribed age. Tbe eheaa atory ia not unlike tboae 
oeearring in aome of the Icelandic aagaa, in which the eheaa ezpreaalona are now regarded 
aa later interpolatlona, or erroneoaa naea of terma relating to tablea. Might it not be that 
the Raodlieb MS waa written ia aome remote conrent of the Bavarian Alpa, where old fbnna 
of writing lingered to a late day, which would make the palnographieal indieatlona nneer- 
tala ? BtlU it ia not impoaaible that a German monk, having Tiaited Rome earlier in the 
eentnry, might have brought aome idea of eheaa to hia tranaalpine home. The poem baa 
been edited by Seller (1888). Aa to the <«Wigaloia" aea Maaaman> << Oeachiehte " (Rjglatar 
eapMlally), p. 158. 



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92 CHESS IN ICELAND 



to Currier-schach and Currier- spiel^ as well as to current-cfiess, in the index 
to V. d. Linde's "Geschichte." Wackernagel quotes (p. 35) a passage from 
an early source— he gives no date— attacking the game of tables: "Noch 
ist einer leie spil, des herren spulgent, von dem doch vil siinden und schan- 
den kumt etswenne: wurfzahel ich daz spil iu nenne." In an ordinance of 
the authorities of Bockholt (Prussia), of about the 14th cenlury, the game 
of tables is styled werftafel^ but sometimes bretspil is used specifically for 
the earlier game. In the great museum at Nuremberg, and in other Ger- 
man collections, table-boards ascribed to the 14th and 15th centuries are 
preserved, but descriptions of them are not easy to procure.— Mentions of 
the game occur early in the Dutch, Danish and Swedish literatures— the 
name being always a derivative from tabula, but exact references cannot 
yet be made. In Icelandic, as we have seen, the word iafl is frequent in a 
very remote age. 

As to the Celtic lands there seems great reason to believe that tables, 
in at least one of its forms, was a familiar diversion at a very early period. 
The old Irish and Welsh literary monuments abound in notices of games- 
all of which ignorant translators generally render by chess. But from lack 
of any systematic investigation by Celtic scholars the subject is still most 
obscure. But it is not improbable that the Britons acquired from the Ro- 
mans a knowledge of certain classic table-games, and retained their practice. 
The word taiolbwrdd ("throw-board" as it is rendered), if we are not greatly 
mistaken, has tabula as its first element, and the English board (Icelandic 
boref*) as its second. This is a Welsh term, which seems to have been 
widely known and used. It occurs repeatedly in Dr. William Wotton*8 
'« Leges Wallicse*' (London 1730, p. 266 and 583), in a passage cited both by 
Van der Linde and Forbes. ii<^ In Erse, at the present time, the game of 
backgammon is called taiplis (= tables). The lexicographers give, as cor- 
responding to the Anglo Saxon uefel, the Gaelic taibhleas (backgammon) and 
the Welsh tawlbwrdd (which the earlier Bosworth renders "gaming table 
like a chess-table''). Bosworth (1838) likewise cites tool and iaul as Celtic 
forms of tabula (the latter Armor ican).— Although the information is hardly 
in place here, it may be of interest to know that in all the Arabic lands 
from Morocco to Syria (the game of) backgammon is called {li*b) et iaula, 
that is "(the game of) tables.'' The word taula is, of course, a descendant 
of the Latin tabula, but at what time it came into the new Arabic it is 
perhaps impossible to ascertain— though it was surely more than two centu- 
ries ago. Modern Italian words abound in all those Vulgar-Arabic idioms 
which are spoken along the Mediterranean shores, and this is very likely 
no older than the Italian form (tavola). 

Chess and Draughts. — Before we endeavour to consider more fully the 
question of what the game of tables really was, and in order to clear the 
ground somewhat, we will note that certain writers have hinted that the 
Icelandic tafl (in one or another of its varieties at any rate) may be iden- 
tical with the game of draughts; it is therefore desirable to look a little at 

** Tlie pMsAg« nunet the obJ«oU to bo eo&ferred by the Welsh king on eerUln eoort 
ofAr lata at the time of their installation, among them being always a ianVrwrdd, The Ta- 
ried Talne to be plaeed npon thcf tawVnordd maanfaetared of diiTerent materials (a bolloek*s 
horn, a hart*s antler, a bone of a sea animal, wood) is also indieated. Beading the list of 
objeots one gets the idea that the sense of tawlfmrdd might be "diee-boz" or *'pyrgiis." 



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this latter game, its character and its history. The first thing which siriJies 
everybody upon malcing himself familiar with the game« is that it is played 
npon a chessboard. After an instant of reflection follows the question : 
Is this really the case f Is draughts played upon a chessboard t Or is not 
rather chess played npon a draught-board t Was not chess a Airther and 
more complicated development of draughts t Happily the various investi- 
gations into the history of chess have answered these queries. Whatever 
else is known with certainly as to the story of chess, this is at any rate 
sure, that the game existed long before draughts had come into being. And 
another thing may be taken as equally a matter of fact, and that is that 
draughts had its origin in the game of chess, and is merely a modification 
or simplification of that diversion. It is played on a board designed and 
used for chess; the ordinary moves of its men are imitations of the moves 
of some of the chessmen ; and a man arriving by forward movements at 
the eighth, or farthest, rank of the board, undergoes a change very similar 
to that which takes place, in the case of a pawn under like circumstances, 
at chess. These three features make the ^'whence** of draughts quite clear, 
and show the propriety of its alternative appellation of *' chequers,** or check- 
ers, which is sometimes heard. <" Van der Linde believes that the game 
of draughts was developed out of chess in Spain, and certainly the earliest 
literature of the game is Spanish, ^'s He finds its precise origin in the 
queen (or fers) of Arabic-Spanish chess, the draughtmen reproducing the 
move of the queen, as it was in that period; and he seems to consider that 
the presence of several chess-queens (in end-games), on the board at the 
same time, (of which he presents some examples), M* may have first given 
birth to the idea of the newer game. The historian of chess tkils, how- 
ever, to continue this line of enquiry to its utmost limit, and through all 
its ramifications— not telling us by what process, and with what scope in 
view, the derived diversion was evolved. Otherwise he would have made 



"* This would mean the game of the ehtkyr (Old-Buglish), or ebew-board, and belongs 
really to the Amerioan dialect of Rnglfth. In New England ehe«a waa almoat wholly nn- 
praetUed until a century and a half (or more) after the country's settlement. To tb« colo- 
nists, tbereforo, the chess-board (or "cfaoeker-board,** as it was oftenest styled), was only 
known ss a board used In playing the game of draughts, and draughts was accordingly looked 
npon as preeminently the game of the chtkyr, with little thought or knowledge of chess. 
*< Checkers*' continues to be the household game of the country districts in Tcry many 
sections of the United States— especially in the winter OTcnlngs of the ▼lUagers and farmers. 
It may thus bo appropriately styled ** rural che«s.'* 

*tt The first printed books on draughts were of the 16th eentnry, and were all issaed in 
a single city, Valencia. The earliest was: **B1 ingenio Jnego do marro, de pnnto o damat** 
(1547) by Antonio Torquemada; the second, "Del Jnego de las damatf Tolgarmente el marro** 
(1590) by Pedro Ruiz Montero ; and the third, " Libro del Ivego do las damat^ por otro nombre 
el marro de pvnta** (1591) eompiled by Lorenio Vails. The game, It thos seems, had a sec- 
ond name In early Spanish— marro, or wutrro de jnmto. We most always then bear in mind, 
in this connection, that there is no trace of draughts, in any land, back of the 15th centnry. 

*tt '(QeschlehU des SchacbspieU,** II, p. 894. For a Tast deal of interesting matUr 
eoneeming draughts, see the full index to the **OeschIchte^* tub Damt (ssiteln), ^tmbrttt 
and dam9»pitlj and in particular the remarkable section VIII of the third *VAbtheilang,** 
entitled **daa Damensplel,** in Tolume II., pp. 899-416, which ends with a bibliography of 
the game; also the **Qaellen-stndlen,** p. 941, as to the name of the game. Outside of Van 
dor Linde's work there is to be found almost nothing of the slightest ralne In regard to this 
'< llttle-ebess,** as it is styled in Russian— sftosM, its SlaTonle name being the plnral of thtukOf 
a dimlnntive of the Rossian word representing «< chess.** 



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94 Cff^SS IN ICELAND 



V 



it more clear that the inventor had in his mind's eye the continual forward, 
and never retrograde move of the pawn, as the foremost characteristic of 
the move of all the figures in the modified game; and, added io this all- 
essential feature, the subordinate one of the pawn-attribute of changing its 
character as soon as it could no longer continue its forward march. He 

nftgiflcted. tfiff, \^ pftrr.^*--" *^«^ *iifi rantiir"^ "^'>*>^^^ ^^^^'^ Hr^p^h^man ^^i^. 

inated ^i4l\9_flar^y Asla^ifi-Knronftan mnvfl nf thfihishnn-^tn tha third aniiar e 

in g the c<j ^ntrft1 FIHT*^ ^*' **" *^**^^} />^«/.4iy ^^ ^^ draughtman now leaps 
over the opposing figure which he thereby captures. He tells us elsewhere 
in his invaluable writings that, up to the date of its introduction into Spain 
(or, perhaps, a little later), the chessboard was all of one colour, the squares 
indicated only by lines; he even states the fact more definitely, saying that 
before the date of the chess- worJi compiled under the direction and authority 
of Alfonso X, no indication is found, in or out of Spain, of a parti-coloured 
board ; but he omits to observe what infiuence this novelty would be likely 
to have in helping to originate the new departure in the history and use of 
the checkered table. For this new colouring of the squares would, of course, 
at once give a great prominence to the diagonals, making them of even 
greater distinctness— as will be understood at a glance— than the rectili- 
near squares. We may, therefore, say that draughts is a simplified chess, 
designed to avoid the difficulties of the Indian game, and evolved from the 
Indian chess by a process like this:— 1. The squares used were limited to 
those employed by the queen and bishop in the old chess of Spain (namely 
the diagonals only, for the movements of the queen as well as those of the 
bishop, were then restricted to a single colour— as we now say since the 
chessboard has become parti-coloured) ; 2. Two ranks were then left be- 
tween the arrays of the opposing players for the opening battle-field (t. e. 
skirmishing-ground) ; 3. The men were next given the move— as it was at 
that time— of the chess-queen (one square each way diagonally), while, as 
their capturing-move, was borrowed the ordinary contemporary move of the 
bishop (to the third square, diagonally jumping over any intervening ob- 
stacle); and, as a final characteristic, the men received the attribute of the 
chess-pawn, which, upon attaining the eighth rank, acquires a great in- 
crease of power, together with the new faculty of making retrograde moves. 
Thus we see that, at the bottom of the inventor's mind, was the idea of dimi- 
nution as a simplifying force— diminution of the squares by one half (32 in 
place of 64); of the battlefield free to both forces at the outset by one half 
(2 ranks in place of 4} ; of the number of figures by one fourth (24 instead 
of 32); and of the variety of pieces by five-sixths (chess having king, queen, 
rook, bishop, knight, pawn, all with varying powers). The evolution of the 
new game, as here portrayed, seems so natural as almost to prove itself.— In 
several very early chess MSS, composed on this side of the Pyrenees, the 
chess matter is followed by explanations of other table games, such as 
''tallies*' and "merelles,'* but among these additional games draughts is, 
so far as we know, never found. This strengthens, if that were needed, the 
existing opinion as to the Spanish origin of the game. The story of the be- 
ginning period of draughts, its close connection with chess (as a game of pure 
skill, into which the element of chance by the use of dice does not enter), 
and its late appearence in the cis-pyrennan parts of Western Europe seem to 



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stua y notes gs 



forbid its identification with «' tables/* or with the Icelandic ^Wo/f,** to which 
latter matter, though, we shall again refer.— There is some obscurity about 
the origin of the continental and therefore earliest appellation given to this 
chess-derived game— in Spanish, as finally, and exclusively adopted, Ju^go 
dedamas; in French, J^u de dames; in Italian, giuoco di dama; in German, 
damensjnel. Van der Linde (^^Oeschichte/* I, pp. 287 and 321-24) at first 
thought that the word datna formerly signified simply ^'man** {i.e. in a 
game), but subsequently abandoned— partially at least— that idea C^Quellen- 
studien,*' p. 241), although in French dame^ in draughts, still has that pe- 
culiar sense. In connection with the last citation he suggests that it is 
originally a Proven^l derived form of the Latin domina (= mistress, lady), 
but as a chess-term it was first used by the Spaniard Lucena (1497), where it 
is employed alternately with fers (or, as Lucena writes it, alferezza\ the 
Asiatic-European title of the piece now known as ** queen.** Lucena, as the 
earliest writer on the new or modern chess, styles the transformed game 
'^Queen*s chess** (de la dama), because of the fuller power given to the old 
"fers.** The chess which was passing away he calls '*the old** («{ vtc^'o). 
This, of course, gave prominence to the word dama (= queen). But it ap- 
pears probable that the expression ''queens* game** (Juego de damas), came 
in part, as is hinted elsewhere, from the adoption of the old move of the chess 
queen (one square diagonally) as the normal move of each of the men at 
draughts, but perhaps more from the frequence of ''queens,** (or crowned 
pieces) in the new game. In chess, the change which the pawns undergo, on 
arriving at the eighth rank, is not of very frequent occurrence, and was for- 
merly even less common, while, in that game, the player has the choice among 
several pieces, the powers of any of which the metamorphosed pawn may 
assume. In draughts, however, the act of "crowning** occurs in nearly every 
partie, and in many several times, so that each player may easily have, and 
does have, three or four or more "queens** (or, as we call them in English, 
"kings**) on the draught-board at once. In this light the name "game of the 
queens** becomes most appropriate.— In the same way but little labour has 
hitherto been spent in endeavoring to explain the exact propriety of the En- 
glish name of the game. The earliest distinct allusion to draughts is in the 
(p. 78) quoted passage from the "Destruction of Troy** (early in the 15th 
century), where we read: 

The draghtu, the dyte tnil other dregh [L e. tediooe] gaomee. 

But the game and its name had become very familiar early in the 17th century, 
when William Perkins, in his work "A Case of conscience*' (1619), speaks of 
" the games of chesse and draughts.^* In France it was described in a book 
styled "Recreations math^matiques** in 1630 (Rouen), and a special treatise 
by Pierre Malet, "Le iev de dames,** appeared in 1668 (Paris) ; while in England 
no book devoted to it saw the light before William Payne*s slender volume, 
"An introduction to the game of draughts** (London 1756). In Germany an 
inedited MS by Johann Wolfgang Schmidt, composed at Nuremberg in 1700, 
IS preserved in the Royal Library of Berlin, while "DaserkiarteDamenspiel** 
(by an amateur, "F. T. V.**) was issued at Magdeburg in 1744. In Holland, a 
"Verhandeling over het Damspel,** by Ephraim van Embden, appeared in 1785, 
but in all other lands the oldest printed treatise bears a nineteenth-century 



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96 CffESS IN ICELAND 

date. In Iceland very little was heard of draughts until within the same 
period, nor is it any way common in the island even now. It came from Den- 
marlc, and is usually mentioned by its Danish name {damm, dainspit). Its Scotch 
name, damhrod, indicates its introduction into that country from France.— 
Draughts, it may be remembered in conclusion, like all similar games, has 
its different ramifications, or species. In the United States (notably in the 
rural districts) is often practised the sort locally known as "give away""< — 
a kind of suicidal draughts, in which each player tries to force his opponent to 
capture as many men as possible, the real object being to lose the game in- 
stead of winning it. To the same genus belong the suicidal problems of 
chess.— A more important variety is called "Polish draughts," played on a 
board of 100 squares (10 X 10), each player controlling twenty men. Van der 
Linde says that this is the only draughts now practised in Holland— the later 
treatises on draughts in the Dutch language limiting themselves to this spe- 
cies. No investigator has ever, so far as we know, tried to trace the origin of 
this so-called Polish game. Whether it came from Poland or elsewhere, it 
appeared in France a few generations ago, attained a great vogue for a while, 
and is probably slill played. The French chess-players, Philidor, in the last 
century, and Deschapelles in the present century, were known as adepts at 
this enlarged draughts. ^'^ 

The word draught, or draft, besides its various other meanings, has that 
of "move" in a game, and at a very early period is so used in English chess. 
Thus we find in Chaucer*8 "Death of Blanche la Duchesse'* (651-654) : 

At the cbMae with me she gan to pleye ; « 

With hir faliie drauffhtst divora 
She stal on me and took my fers; 

and in the early years of the 15th Century, in the verse of Thomas Occleve 
(6. about 1370, d. 1454) : 

And for that among draughUt oachone 
That into tho oheoa apertone may, 

and only a little later, in that of John Skelton, in his striking piece of imag- 
ery drawn from chess: — 

Oar days he datyd 
To be oheckmatyd 
With dtavfUyt of deth. 

Draught was a very common word, to express what we now call "move,'* in 
all the Old-English productions relating to chess, while its cognate, drag, 
still continues to be used in Swedish in the same sense. Thus in Barbier^s 
"Famous game of chesse-play'* (1690)— a revision and enlargement of the 

'*< In Jbigland (and In American treatises) known aa "the loalug game." 
**^ Booka on PoHah draughu hare lately been publiahed la Germany. Posaibly the game 
waa originated at the half-PolIah, half-Freooh ooart of Stanlalaua Leesinaky, the exiled king 
of Poland, (father-In-Uvr of Loais XV), who, from 1736 to 1766, reaided at Nancy and Lune- 
▼llle aa prinee (or "king*') of Lorraine and Bar. — Hyde (16d4), of coarse, knew nothing of 
the Pollah game. HIa treatment of the ordinary game of draughta la, perhapa the moat 
nnaatlafaetory portion of hia two rolumea. He makea It identical with the Roman hMlMs 
lo^runeulomm, but at the aame time aeema to think it of oriental origin. He glrea repre* 
aentatlons of two draughtboards, one of which haa alzteen men arranged on the flret two 
ranks of eaeh player— In whieh oaae nae ia made, not only of the diagonala but of all the 
64 aqnarea of the board (aee Hyde, II, pp. 178-195). 



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97 



earlier work (1614) of Arthur Saul, bearing the same title— we find the fol- 
lowing verse referring to the usual mode of deciding the first move by lot:— 

If OD yoar man yoa light 
The flrtt drinigkt «haU yon pifty ; 
If not, be mine by right 
At flnt to lead the way. 

Now the game of draughts has no checlcing, no mating, no castling, no va- 
riety of movements among its men ; hence it is possible to consider it as a 
simple collection of moves, or as a collection of simple moves— a game of 
moves and nothing else. This suggestion as to the immediate origin of its 
English appellation may be a far-fetched one, but no more acceptable ex- 
planation can be found in the dictionaries, though the idea is perhaps best 
of all expressed by Skeat in his well-known ^' Etymological Dictionary,** 
in which he styles draughts '' a game of alternate moves.** 

M^eUes (mylna). — There are two tabic games of minor note of which 
something must be said, chiefly because one of them at least— as we shall 
learn in the sequel— has been regarded by some writers as related, directly 
or indirectly, to the Icelandic hnefataf^ while both have been practised, for 
many generations, by the Icelandic people. The first one is, perhaps, best 
known in general literature by its French name, m&relles^ or tnarelles. It 
was intimately associated by the earliest European writers on chess with 
that game, forming the third of the triad of table games (chess, tables, 
mdrelles) treated by such early writers as Alfonso X, and the authors of the 
so called '^Bonus Socius** and '^Civis Bononiae** MSS at Florence, Rome and 
elsewhere. The last two of these old works, so far as the space they devote 
to chess goes, have been ably edited and commentated both by Von der Lasa 
and Van der Linde; but very little attention has been hitherto paid to the 
portions occupied by the two other games, this being especially true of the 
mereUes section. 

We shall nevertheless endeavour to treat this m^eZte^ (or '* morris-game** 
as it may be styled, for distinction *s sake, in English) with some of its 
varieties, as completely as we may, considering that no work, or even essay 
—of a general tenor— consecrated to its history and character has yet been 
published, and that we must therefore depend upon driblets of information 
—always scanty of detail, and nearly always inaccurate— drawn f^om many 
sources. It ought to be premised that the table game called '^ morris** belongs 
to the class which has received the generic title of '4ine-games,** or games 
in which the men are placed and played on lines and not 
on spaces (that is, neither on "squares'* nor "points**). 
To this class it is supposed that many games familiar to 
the older Mediterranean lands appertained. It may be fur- 
ther premised that in the case of the morris game the lines 
are right lines, and drawn, first, in order to formquadran- 
gles, and, secondly, in order to connect internally the sides 
and angles of these quadrangles. It may, moreover, render 
the following pages a little easier of comprehension if we state that it has 
been surmised, though not proved, that the germ of these games was a single 
simple square, with lines running f^om the centre of one side to the centre 
of the opposite side, and from one corner to the other comer, and that the 

18 




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98 ' CHESS IN ICRLA ND 



line of development which this game subsequently followed increased the 
number of these quadrangles from one to three, drawn concentrically, or, 
in some regions, as it would seem, joined by grouping. 

We shall put together all that we have been able to gather from different 
countries — each land by itself — relating to this long-used social diversion 
— its story, its name or names, its method or methods of play and the part it 
has had, if any, in each country's literature. The geographical arrangement 
adopted, however convenient it may be in other respects, has the disad- 
vantage of rendering repetitions unavoidable. 

We begin with Spain, because the oldest mention of the game known to 
us is Spanish, but unfortunately we are not in a position to say definitely 
what that mention is. It occurs in the important Alphonsine codex of the 
Escorial (which dates back to about 1280)— its existence therein being posi- 
tively stated both by Van der Linde and Von der Lasa, but since these wri- 
ters concern themselves solely with the manuscript's chess pages, they throw 
merely the faintest glimmer of light upon our topic. The former, in his 
largest work, (" Geschichte," I, pp. 137 and 279), only informs us that the 
MS, as left by its royal author, certainly treats of mdreUes (in German, 
muhlenspiel or miUespier), although Van der Linde himself displays no very 
exact knowledge of what the morris game is; for, on the last page just cited, 
he gives, in a general way, the contents of the codex but in a somewhat sin- 
gular manner. It consisted, according to him, of a series of '' spielbiicher," 
^* welche erstens das schach, zweitens das trictrac, drittens das miihlespiel 
{dados y iahlas) behandeln"— thus seeming to imply that the words dados y 
tdblas signify either mUhlespiel, or both trictrac and mUhlespiel, whereas the 
word dados refers to games played with dice alone, and tablas to games 
played with both dice and men. The indefatigable Dutch scholar, in a later 
treatise (** Quellenstudien," 1881), comments on the chess section of the co- 
dex much more fblly than had heretofore been done, having had access 
meanwhile (not to the MS itself but) to an old transcript of some portions 
of the Escorial volume. He tell^ us (p. 73) that one of the games outside 
of chess described in it, is alquerque. This assertion is repeated (pp. 277-8) 
a little more in detail, and supplemented by this statement: ^'Auch das mii- 
lespiel ist ein linienspiel; Alfonso hat viele varianten und spieit auch hier 
iiberall mit schachpeons" (that is, used as morris-men), but we are not 
told what, according to Alfonso, is the Spanish appellation of ^* miilespiel," 
—of the sort now known to the Germans —nor what the variants are of 
which his commentator speaks. Of alquerque he tells us enough to show 
that the modern Spanish writer, whom we shall shortly cite, was greatly 
indebted for the information he gives us, to Alfonso's work. Van der Linde 
reproduces our figure 1 and informs us that it constitutes a quarter of an 
alquerque board represented in the codex, upon which that game is played 
with 2 X 12 chess pawns, placed and moved always upon the lines. Amongst 
the forms of alquerque given is one denominated iuego de cercar cte liebre 
("hare-hunt"). There is also described, as we are told, a more modern 
variety, which was played with the help of dice— or, as the codex has it, 
" alquerque de nueve que se uiega con dados "—the modern author (Van der 
Linde) here correcting his former misunderstanding regarding dados. He 
adds that this alqtierque de nueve was played with twelve white men against 
one black; but the word nueve, although it may possibly signify either 



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^'new'' or '^nine/* is here more likely to mean the latter, (nine men 
morris), in which case we confess ourselves unable to comprehend the 
" twelve white men against one black.'* Thus far Van der Linde. Tassilo 
von der Lasa, unlike Van der Linde, had the opportunity of examining 
the codes; the accuracy of the information he gives us can therefore not 
be questioned. In the pages of that great work, ** Zur geschichte und lite- 
ratur des schachspiels " (1897)^ the final and finest product of a long life 
rich in many abundant literary harvests— he comments on the chess 
writings of the Spanish monarch. Introductory to his treatment of the sub- 
ject he says: *' Der codex ist ziemlich umfassend und beschS.ftigt sich neben 
schach mit verschiedenen spielen, wie wiirfel, miihle, trik-trak, Jedoch nicht 
mit damespiel. Das schach macht aber bei weitem den grOssten theil dee 
ganzen aus'* (p. 116). 

The only further addition, and that a too slight one, to our knowledge 
of the Escorial codex, comes from a modern Spanish source. We find it in 
the remarkable, and, in many respects, valuable treatise of Jos^ Brunet y 
Bellet, entitled ''£1 Ajedrez** (Barcelona, 1890). The volume contains a 
chapter on the '' Libro de don Alfonso el Sabio '* (pp. 243-268), in which, 
however, the author, like preceding writers, has very little to say about any 
other game than chess. That little occurs when he is describing (pp. 263-4) 
the miniatures which adorn the Xlllth century MS. He observes that in the 
supplement (called by Van der Linde '^Book IV) are 14 miniatures illustra- 
ting some odd varieties of chess, as well as some other games, amongst them 
five belonging to the pages devoted to alquerqiie^ from one of which he 
quotes this inscription: ^^Esto es ell alquerque de doce que iuega con todos 
sus trebeios.*' This means: '^Jhis is the alquerque of twelve, which is 
played with all its pieces.'* ** Alquerque of twelve" most likely refers to a 
kind of alquerque played with twelve men. Then the modern writer contin- 
ues by saying that this game is called in Castilian tres en raya, and in Cat- 
alan fTtorro, ^'del cual hablamos en capitulos anteriores." He notes that 
Alfonso speaks of the pieces as trebeios (modern irehe^fos)^ a name which is 
still sometimes given to the pieces at chess. 

Turning next to the anterior chapter to which the author of '*E1 Ajedrez** 
has alluded, we shall try to give a tolerably complete abstract of its earlier 
paragraphs, although we shall find but little relating to the actual morris 
game as we of English speech understand it. In fact all that we may bo 
able to glean in regard to the nomenclature of the Peninsular m^relles will 
not make it possible to draw any certain deductions as to its character, 
much less to present any clear or logical account of the game as played by 
the Spaniards, or to comprehend its technical terms. Brunet y Bellet fol- 
lows his second chapter, in which he treats of " £1 Juego en tiempo di los 
romanos,** with an appendix, or extra chapter (pp. 204-211), which he begins 
by alluding to the well known work on chess of the Sicilian Carrera (1617) **• 
who, he tells us, applied the name of 'Mine games** {giuochi di riga, or in 
Spanish, Juegos de raya) to all varieties of this category of table games, 

*^ "II gioeo degll seaeehl di D. Pletro Carrera eon dae diacorsi l*ano del Padre D. Oio. 
Battlato Cbembiiio, l*altro del Dott. Mario Tortelli. In lllUtello iGl7.'* The book la one of 
the elaaelea of ebeaa. Tbe Englltb translation of William Lewis (London 189t) raries in iu 
arra&f«ment and is sllgbtly abridged. Carrera was the last of tbe great Italian ehese writ- 
era of tbe 16tb-17th centnrlee (Polerio, Qreeo, Qiannalo, Salrio, Carrera). 



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100 



CffESS IN ICELAND 



amongst them being a kind of draughts (damas), played on a table ** divided 
into triangles by lines'" as in the existing marro grande^ and with sixty 
pieces half white and half black, which is styled [by the ancients] gram- 
mismusoT diagrammismus or gramma — this last word signifying *^any sort 
of line/' "* This game/ says Carrera, * is to-day unknown, but there was 
formerly played, and is still actually played, a similar one with twelve white 
men and twelve black; but it is necessary to note that this game is diverse 
from that which the Sicilians call marrellay and the Spaniards damasJ* He 
then describes the method of playing one of the riga games, which he as- 
serts is styled riga di tre^ and which is one that children play everywhere, 
drawing the board upon a stone, brick or plank, or even marking its out- 
lines on the earth, each player employing three men— never more. This game 
is called in the Catalan dialect marro, and in Gastilian tres en raya, Car- 
rera comprises under the name of giuochi della riga all those games which 
are played upon a fiat surface marked in lines of one form or another, and 
using a greater or less number of men/* The game described by Carrera, 
as reported by Brunet y Bellet, it will be seen, is the English ^* three men*s 
morris*' (see fig. 1). 

In spite of the two argumentative paragraphs which the Spanish writer 
then bases upon Carrera's use of the word dama^^ it is quite evident that 
the Sicilian's employment of the term was the result of ignorance, for damas 
means, and meant even in Carrera's time, the game of draughts. Resuming, 
Brunet y Bellet declares that in the days of Carrerat the Sicilians might have 
employed marreUa or marelle for the Spanish (juego de) clanuu— played 
on a chess board — but that at the present time the Italians understand by 
marelle the Spanish (juego de) marro, that is to say (giuoco de) riga, 
with twelve white and twelve black men, called in Catalan castro, a name 
which is equally applied in Castile to that game. It is also known as 
alquerque. or ires en ray a— jnsi as Carrera calls both the games giuoco 

de riga^ and Just as the Catalans 
apply that of marro equally to 
the line-game of twenty four 
men, and to that of six— three 
white and three black— the latter 
being tres en ray a among the 
Castilians. 

All this seems unnecessarily 
perplexing, but we get Arom the 
final lines a clear idea that the 
simple, single-squared *^ three 
men morris" is surely known in 
Spain. The author, however, 
makes confusion worse confoun- 
ded by inserting in his text the 
design of what he labels a board 
for **aZgii«rgutf or marro of twelve 
men," which we copy (fig. 2). 
Now this board is made up by 
morris" boards of Tuscany (or 



11 



16 



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2 


1 a 




4 




s 


\ 


V 


\ 


y 


K " 






u \^ 




/ 


K 

IB \ 


/ 


/ 






\ 



21 



22 



23 

Pig. «. 



2« 



10 



IC 



20 



25 



uniting four of the little ^* three men 

Italy, and other lands) or, what is the same, four of Hyde's copped-crown 



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STRAY NOTES 101 



boards, "' and is different from any of the larger morris or mirelles boards 
which we find elsewhere (excepting in recent manuals of social games pub- 
lished in Paris and Milan, alluded to later). Afterwards he goes on to say 
that it is very possible that this diminutive marro or giuoco de Hga (that 
is, & fourth of his alquerqtte board), using only six men (three for each 
player), its board traversed by four lines and divided into eight spaces, may 
be the primitive form of the game of lines {rayas)^ from which is derived the • 
other and more complicated varieties of these games. As combinations of 
this original form he cites the alqtierque represented in the design; the 
game called asalio in Spanish, and the game called fox and geese in English, 
of the board of which latter he gives a sketch. Later on we shall find ful- 
ler mention of this asalto^ but certainly, as we have already said, it has not 
been our fortune to discover in actual use in any oUier country a composite 
morris board of the character of that asserted to be alquerque by Brunet y 
Bellot. ^^ But see the extracts from Italian and French handbooks of games 
farther on. 

The definition given in the *^ Diccionario de la lengua Castellana por la 
academia espanola*' to tres en raya, under the word raya, is as follows : *'Agame 
which is played by boys with pebbles or pieoes upon a square divided into four 
others [that is lesser ones], having lines drawn from one side or the other to 
the centre, where they are joined by diagonals drawn from one corner to the 

^" See the labieqaent treatment of Hyde^a etateoieiitt In the aeoount of the morrle game 
in England. 

iM rpij^ 1^2^ ^g ij^^ ^^^ly paragrapha, of whioh we have made nae, fn Branet 7 BeUet*a 
supplementary chapter, ia aa followa : •* Don Pietro Carrera, ne an obra H Oioeo da gli ScM- 
ekif In MiUt«llOf 1617, dice : Bl aator da el nombre de Joego de la Riga, Raja, k todoa loa 
que ae juegan eon tableroa aeflaladoa por rajaa, ontre elloa ol de nna eapecle de Damaa 
Jagado eon na tablero diridldo en triAnguIoa por laa rayaa, eomo en el actnal Morro gran'de, 
y con aeaenta piesaa, milad blaneaa y mitad negraa, el eiial jnego ea Ilamado OrammUmuM 
6 Diagranmitmua y (?ramina, auuqae eate Ultimo nombre ei;aifloa toda claae de JUpa, 6 
Raya — ** Bate Joego, dice Carrera, ea hoy deaeonoacido; pero ae Jogaba tamblin, y inn ae 
Juega aetaalmente, ontro aemejante con doce piedraa blaneaa y doee negraa; debfondo ad- 
TorUr qne eate Jnego ea diferenta de aqnel otro que loa alcilianoa llaman Jfarralto y loa 
eapafiolea Damat,** Deaerlbe deapni* el mode de Jagar el AlUmo de lea trea en que dMde 
loa Jnegoa de Biga^ que dice llamarae Riga d* Tv^ y qne ea el mlamo qne todavla Jnegan 
loa mnehachea por todaa partea aenal&ndoae el tablero aobre ana piedra, ladrlllo 6 madera, 
6 bien haoiendo rayaa en la tierra, y con trea pfedrecltaa nada m&« ; Joego Ilamado en ea- 
talAn Marro, y en eaaUlIano 7V«« en Raya; Oarrera, en una palabra, eomprende bajo el 
nombre de JutgoM de la Riga 4 todoa aquelloa que ae Juegan con tablero mareado por rayaa 
de nna d otra forma, y con mayor 6 meuor nAmero de piesaa ..... Bn tiempo de Carrera podria 
llamarae en Sleilla MarreUa 6 MarelU k nueatro Juego de Damaa, eon el tablero k onadroa, 
eaeaqueado ; pero loa Italtanoa entJenden, adn hoy, por Marelle, noeatro Jnego de Marro, ea 
deeir el Jnego de Riga de laa doce piedreeitaa blaneaa y doee nrgraa, Ilamado Olaafro en 
oaatellaao, nombre que ae da igualmente on Caatilla al qua tambi^n ae llama Alqumr^ue 6 
3Vaa en Raya; del miamo mode que Carrera da 4 loa doa el nombre de Gluoeo dl Riga, y 
loa eatalanea Ilamamoa Jfarro al Riga de 24 pledreoita« y al de 6— trea blaneaa y trea ne- 
graa— 6 Trea en Raya eomo loa oaatellanoa.** In bia next paragraph the author goea on to 
obaerTe : << Be muy poalble que eate Ultimo aea el primitivo de loa Jnegoa de rayaa, del eoal ae 
derlvaaen loa otroa diferentea de tablero m4a complleado 6 mejor reoltiplicado^ y eon laa 
repetlolonea del euadro primitiro roejor diapueataa, atraveaado por ooatro rayaa y dividldo 
en ocho eapaoioa, puea no aon otra eoaa loa tableroa del Jfarro (fig. S), Aaalto, Ladronea. 
FosB and Qooee [aee a later page], ete. y ea porible y eaal probable qne laa Damaa que ae 
jaaffan eon IS piesaa blaneaa y 18 negraa— en Bspafia, Francla y otraa naoionea ae Juegan 
oon mayor nAmero — no aean otra eoaa que el antlgno Marro apllcado al tablero de ajedrea 
do 8 X 8 oaalllaa, cnando eate Jnego aa Tulgarisd por el Ocoldente *'— a Talneleea gneaa. 



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102 CffESS IN ICELAND 



other. The aim of the game oonsists in the placing, by one player, on some 
one of these right lines, his own three mep, and the skill of the game consists 
in preventing the other player from accomplishing the same purpose with 
his men." The Spanish definition is followed, as is customary, in the earlier 
editions of the Academy's dictionary, by a brief LAtin one, which in this 
case reads: '*Puerorum ludus lineis transversis in quadrum dispostis.'* It 
will be seen that the Academy's definition seems to be, so far as the board 
is concerned, a description of the alquerque of Brunet y Bellet (four small 
squares making one large one). Alquerque^ in the same lexicon, is explained 
to be identical with tres en raya. The incomprehensible thing in the definition 
just cited is that, while Brunet y Bellet speaks of the board as used for the 
^^cUquerque or marro of twelve men,*' the phrase "his own three men" (les 
tres tantos proprios)^ in the Academy (and other late) dictionaries, implies that 
each alquerqite player had (as in the smallest morris game) but three pieces 
— which looks impossible. The statement may be only one of those examples 
of confusion, through ignorance, on the part of the Academical lexicologists, 
of which we have already seen so many in this volume. 

In the voluminous "Diccionario enciclopedico hi spano-americano," recently 
published at Barcelona, we are referred under alquerque to tres en raya^ and 
under the last word of that phrase (XVII, 1895) we find this definition : " Juego 
de muchachos, quese juega con unas piedrecillas 6 tantos, colocados en un 
cuadro dividido en otros cuatro con las lineas tiradas de un lado k otro por 
el centre, y anadidas los diagonales de un Angulo & otro. £1 fin del Juego 
consiste en colocar en cualquiera de las lineas rectas los tres tantos proprios 
y el arte del juego en impedir que esto se logre interpolando los tantos con- 
traries." This, it will be noticed, is almost a word for word repetition of the 
description given in the lexicon of the Spanish academy, and, as we said in 
quoting that, though slightly inexact, it certainly refers to Brunet y Beliefs 
alquerque played on four united three men morris boards ; it even reproduces 
the Academy's erroneous "los tres tantos proprios." 

Of what we, outside of Spain, understand by the nine (or twelve) men 
morris, with the board of three concentric squares, we discover nothing 
certainly in the recent lexicographical works which relate to the Spanish 
language. As to another word cited by Brunet y Bellet, inarro^ its sole 
signification known to the present generation is as the title of an athletic 
sport described in the "Diccionario enciclopedico" in these words: "Juego 
que se ejecuta hincando en el suelo un bolo u otro objeto, y, tirando con el 
marr6n, gana el que lo pone m&s cerca." The dictionary of the Academy under 
marroy gives, not only the game here mentioned, but another plainly more 
violent athletic exercise, in which one band of players confronts another in 
a sort of tournament. It seems, therefore, that as the name of a table-game, 
marro is no longer used in Spain, unless dialectically. 

Hyde, one of the historians of chess, in his chapter entitled "Historia 
triodii "—of which we shall have a good deal to say when we reach the subject 
of the morris game in England— remarks that certain writers state that the 
game is called in Spain alquerque^ but that some other writers, and among 
them Corvarrubias, apply that name to chess, or draughts, but that (O/juerque^ 
as he proposes to show afterwards, is the Arabic name of m^elles, "From this 
we can form an idea" says the wise Hyde, "how great are the errors of 
authors in assigning and explaining the names of games.'* 



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STRAY ffOTES 103 



Little information, but an abundance of misinformation, as to the game 
is to be drawn from the larger and better bilingual dictionaries of the present 
time. For instance, in recent editions of Salv&*8 French and Spanish dio- 
tionary (1898), we have, in the French part, m^reUe (singular) interpreted by 
ires en raya^ ^*juego de muchachos,'* while the plural merelles is rendered by 
'''•dnciacos (otro juego di muchachos).'* Tres eti raya can surely not signify 
the French m&elle (singular). In the Spanish part we find cUquerque rendered 
"m^rello, espccc de jeu de dames''— a repetition of an old piece of inexactness 
criticised and condemned even as far back as the days of Hyde. Under tres 
en raya again we find the definition, mcrelle, **jeu d' enfant qui consists a 
sautcr d doche-piod en poussant avec le pied dans un sens prescrit un palet 
en des lignes circonscrites : ces lignes elle-memes.*' This is only a blunder 
in the French-Spanish part repeated. We can find nowhere that tres en raya 
ever has in Spanish the meaning of the French m4relle (singular), which is 
properly that of the English children's game, ** hop-scotch." 

In considering finally the whole question of the morris game in Spain, 
one is almost inclined to think that of the two forms of the larger m&relles 
involving three squares, one drawn within the other, neither has ever existed 
in that country. We find, for instance, that no one o f those who have written 
about the codex which owes it existence to Don Alfonso gives any hint of 
the treatment of either of these forms in that famous work. Von der Lasa, 
in noticing other early codices, often alludes to the presence or absence of 
the morris positions, and occasionally characterises the game found in them 
as the "larger " merelles. He has however nothing to say about any mention 
of the game as he understood it, in the Escorial MS; but the strongest neg- 
ative evidence is that of Brunet y Bellet, who supposably has had frequent 
opportunities of studying the royal compilation. He takes pains to copy in 
his book the board of four united squares {alquerque), and we may reasonably 
suppose that had there been any markedly different kind of what he follows 
Carrera in calling juegos de raya, he would have also reproduced the board 
upon which it was played. (Certainly, as has been already hinted, we discover 
no trace in the Spanish lexicological works of any other sort of mA-eUes 
tlmn the three men morris and its quadruple, alquerque. If it be indeed 
true that Spain has never got beyond the three men morris and the com- 
posite alquerque, that fact will have great weight in discussions upon the 
origin of the game, for apparently this shuts out India and Arabia as 
probable home-lands of in&relles. Still, in this connection, one thing must 
be much more carefully considered than has hitherto been the case, and that 
is the derivation of the yrovd. alquerque. The latest Spanish authorities make 
two rubrics of this vocable. Under the first it is referred to tres en raya as 
a synonym, in the second we are told that it signifies the space in an oil 
mill into which the "must" of the olive is placed between the two pressures 
which it undergoes. Both are explained as coming from the same Arabic 
root, or possibly from two Arabic words of intimate connection. The first 
syllable is the article al (e?), the other, kark or harik. The editors of late 
issues of the Spanish Academy's dictionary think that the Arabic root might 
mean "flat surface," From the interrogative sign which follows this etymo- 
logical suggestion— which however is omitted by later makers of dictionaries 

it would appear that the question has not been very thoroughly investigated. 

We can therefore only treat it in a purely guess-work way, and say that, 



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104 CHESS IN ICELAND 



if the Spaniards adopted an Arabic name for a certain flat surface to be found 
in oil mills, and if they then applied that name to a game played on a flat 
surface (perhaps largely on the "flat surfaces" of the oil mills themselves), 
it would hardly be considered an invincible argument for the eastern origin 
of the game. 

If in Italy the m&relles game is not heard of quite so early as in Spain, 
yet it is not far behind in point of time; while, on the other hand, it seems 
to have been cultivated in the central Mediterranean peninsula to a greater 
extent than in the western, and elaborated into a pastime of higher distinc- 
tion. Its first mention, so far as we know, is in the works of the pseudon- 
ymous "Bonus Socius" and -'Civis Bononiae'*— writings which have been 
happily criticised by Van der Linde as the "Academies des jeux" of the 
middle ages, since in them are treated the three most esteemed table-games 
of that remote day. Nicholas de (Saint) Nicholai, who called himself "Bonus 
Socius," if not an Italian, of which there seems to be little doubt, was at 
least a resident of Northern Italy ; though it is proper to add that no place 
called San Nicola (or Nicholai) has yet been identified as his possible home 
within the limits of the Italian territory. If this "Saint" were omitted, Nicola 
di Nicola would be simply "Nicholas, the son of Nicholas," or in English 
"Nicholson." In his brief general preface to his compilation, he tells us 
that his book treats "tarn de ludis scaccorum, alearum, quam ab otiam mar- 
rellorum." To be specially noted here is that the last word is not feminine, 
but is written as if derived from the singular "marrellus" or "marrellum;" 
Von der Lasa, indeed, cites an old plural, mereUiA^ The Ludus alearum 
was of course the game of tables. Many transcripts of the Latin text of this 
work are in existence, and not a few codices of the French rendering in 
Florence, Rome, London, Paris, Brussels and Wolfenbiittel. The German 
translations are in the shape of extracts or abstracts. 

Not very much later came the second similar production— that of the 
"Civis Bononiae," who not only informs us that he is a citizen of the North 
Italian Bologna, but also records his name in some enigmatic verses prefaced 
to his work, concealed, however, in so clever a way, that none of the many 
who have studied the lines have succeeded in drawing aside the veil.*^ 
Transcripts of this work, also in Latin, are not uncommon, but, unlike its 
predecessor, it has never been rendered into any modern tongue. In one of 
the later codices we find the title given as "Tractatus partitorum scacchorum, 
tabularum et marellorum." Partitorum has the meaning, in all the three 

*^ 6vo the "Festfclirifl" of the Aeadexnio Gbeas Clab of Munieh (1896, p. 37), in an 
eM&y by Yon der L««& on mediteval oheu, Including au admirable aecount of the early 
MSS from that of Alfonso on. 

^ For these Latin rhymed stansas, whloh are six In numbor, see Van dvr Lindens 
<' Quelle nstudion*' (pp. 18S~184). The lines bearing upon the author*s cognomen and resi- 
dence are those of the fifth stansa and the first lino of the sixth : 

Ueo halus opaseoH series est tota. 
Quls Sim scire poteris tradens tot iguota. 
Veraum principils sillabas to nota 
Korundem media llttera remota. 
Civis sam Bononiae ista qui oollegi. 

There are many of these enigmatic utterances in medlnval Latin literature. It would seem 
as If one familiar with that field might interpret the sense here ooneaaled. 



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STRAY NOTES 106 



games, not o( parties but of *'poBition8**— positions, or problems, in chess 
coming first in both of these early compositions, followed by like pofiitions 
in the games of tables and m^elles. In one of the '* Bonus Socius*' Latin 
MSS at Florence, if we understand Van der Linde*s account of it correctly, 
C'Qaellenstudien*' p. 184) the author, in addition to his 'Mudus marellorum,*' 
enamerates several other names given to the game; tavella^ tria, filetto, Ta- 
vella may or may not be a misunderstanding, but the Latin '' tria^'' like 
the Qreek xpioStov , is found with this meaning in some dictionaries, while 
filetto is in Italian one of the ordinary modern appellations of the game. 
The surprising thing is that this last name should go back, seemingly, to the 
XlVth century. In that age, to Judge by these illuminated records, our mor- 
ris game had a splendour to which in later times it has never attained. 
For the codices of these North Italian ''Academies'* are in general hand- 
somely, even luxuriously, executed, with miniatures and other brilliant dis- 
plays of colour. Those of Italian execution are even outdone in this respect by 
some of the French vellums. It is plainly to be seen that they were in- 
tended for the use of courtly circles, or for the homes of the nobility— tn^- 
relles in the XlVth and XVth centuries, thus sharing the aristocratic asso- 
ciations to which chess and tables had long before become accustomed. 
When we look, however, at one of the redactions of the "Civis Bononiae,'*— 
the remarkable volume belonging to the Victor Emmanuel library at Rome 
—we are struck at once by the appearance of the pages devoted to the md- 
relles game. The exterior lines of the board are often, by a sort of double 
lineation, drawn in two colours. The m^elles pieces, in those days, had 
their own peculiar names, something after the manner of those used in chess. 
Each player ruled over the movements of "moons," "stars," ""shields," 
"crosses," "squares," and "rounds" (or discs). The moon is designed as 
a crescent orb; the star has long, shimmering rays; the shield is triangular; 
the cross is of the Greek form ; the squares and rounds are not outlined, but 
are solid bits of colour. In Latin these names are luna^ stella, scutum, crux, 
quadratus, rotundus. Generally, in these codices, the collection of m^elles 
positions begins, without any title, or prefatory remarks, with the condi- 
tions of the first problem, as in the Paris Latin MS (National Library 10287 ->- 
formerly 73190, pp. 173-184)— one of a very gorgeous character: ^^rubeiprimo 
trahunt et rubeus rotundus nunquam movebiter, nisi semel ; et si bene ludaiur 
neuter vincit,'" The final position in the volume bears the following inscrip- 
tion: "5i aurei trahunt suam crucem^ rubei revertentur cum quadra^ et 
capient scutum^ vel e converse ; si trahunt lunam, rubei capient stellam vel e 
converso; etposteain omni tractu capiet qitadrus^ et vindent rubei,"" It will 
be soon that the players (or their men) are styled red and gold instead of 
white and black, as at chess, which increases the magnificence of the dia- 
grams, even if it does not add to the dignity of the game. 

It is remarkable that a casual examination of several of these MSS, which, 
although at first composed in Latin, originated in mediieval Italy, and many 
of which were written down by Italian scribes, should yield such a scant 
amount of information as to the rules of the game. The names given to the 
pieces are, as we have said, six in number. If the names were not dupli- 
cated, this would seem to decide in favour of six pieces for each player, 
thus not according with any variety of merelles known to us. But some of 
these pieces are found occurring twice in a single position, and it looks as 

u 



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106 CHESS IN ICELAND 



if some of them (namely the ''squares** and ''discs**) sometimes occupied 
the board even to the number of three or four. So far as we have been 
able to ascertain, none of the solutions given help us more than very slightly 
as to the character of the play. We are told that the gold takes the moon, 
or that the red captures a cross, but by what sort of movement this action 
is performed, we cannot always even guess. The same is true of the posi- 
tions given at the game of tables, and we may almost say the same of the 
chess problems, except that in the last case we are aided by many other old 
records relating to the game. Possibly a wider study of this singular pro- 
duction, especially of its little known versions in French, might aid us in 
ascertaining the number of men and the laws of the game. 

After this period of brilliancy, m4reUes^ so far as we can learn, drops 
out of literature in Italy, but the game continues to be played by the people 
in more than one of its forms. Without recourse to the dialects, we find 
the following appellations given to it in the encyclopedias and dictionaries: 
gittoco di mulino, tavola di mulino, filo^ filettOy tavoletta^ smerelli^ fllo-mtUino, 
scaricalasino^ and mulineUo. Some of these evidently relate only to the 
"three men morris,** or the smaller m^relles, such as tavoletta^ scaricalasino, 
mulinello, while others, like flletto^ are seemingly used for any of the varie- 
ties. Scaricalasino (literally "unload the ass**) may have suggested itself 
from the similarity otmolino (mill, mtdino being an alternative orthography) 
and mtUino (little mule)— asses and mules being, too, the customary carriers 
of corn to the mill. Now-a-days, we believe, scaricalasino is moTB often em- 
ployed in the sense of the English "leap-flrog,** Just as m^^^ {m&reUe) in 
French has come to be the name for "hop-scotch.** Apparently, too, the 
compound fUo-mtUino is the title of a Arequently occurring position in the 
game, but has grown to be used occasionally of the game itself. The most 
singular word in this list is perhaps smerelli^ which occurs in the XYIIIth 
century, and possibly still earlier. Whether it be allied to m4reUes we are 
not informed ; even in the pretended etymological dictionaries no derivation 
is suggested. It is noteworthy that the appellation nidreUes (" Indus marel- 
lorum**), which occurs in the very first writings on the subject composed in 
Italy, should not have found its way into the Italian language as well as 
into the French. In regard to this, as to other related matters, it is to bo 
hoped that some Italian linguistic scholar will be able to carry these hasty 
researches to a more satisfactory result. 

Giovanni Qherardini, in his "Supplimento a vocabolarj Italiani** (III., 
Milan, 1854), gives the phrase giuocare a filettOy of which he says: "Houdito 
dire in Toscana e*giuoca a filetto^ per signiflcaro che parco e stretto vive in 
tutte le sue cose con molta economia. Lo scherzo consiste su *1 filare sottile; 
o pure d tratto da un giuoco di qucsto nome, dctto altramente giuoco di smereUi 
o tavola di molino, e presso i Francesi ''jeu demireUes,'* ** In the " Dizionario 
della lingua Italiana** of Tommaseo (1869), the largest work devoted to the 
vocabulary of the Italian tongue, we find under flletto: "Chiamasi cosl una 
sorta di giuoco detto anche giuoco (lt\sm^&22t**-* citing here as an authority 
Fanfani, a contemporary lexicographer. This is followed by a few lines 
endorsed by the initials of one of the editors (Meini) explaining "giocare a 
flletto:** "il qual giuoco si fa su una tavola simile alia Dama, dove sono se- 
gnati dei quadrati sopra alcuni dei quali, chi giuoca cerca di disporre tre 
pedine in flla; nel che consiste lavincita. Farfiletio, Ho fatto /Uetto,'' In 



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STRA Y NOTES 107 



saying that nUreUes is played on a board like a draught-board, the writer 
ought to tell us how great is the similarity he wishes to imply. In the case 
of these two games, both boards (like all other boards) are flat, and it is 
also true that both are quadrilateral in shape. Here certainly their similar- 
ity ends. 

The modes of playing the various sorts of the morris game now prevalent 
in Italy, may be gleaned from a very recent publication of the " Hoyle *' or 
"Acad^mie des Jeux" class by J. OoUi, entitled "Come posso divertirmi?*' 
(Milan 1900). It includes fox-and-geese in its chapter devoted to "II muli- 
nello*' (pp. 226-233, figs. 103-107)— but that game we shall examine in sub- 
sequent pages. In the German dictionaries we sometimes find the word 
d43ppelmu}de^ or the double-morris game, played on an enlarged board, and 
having a greater number of men and "points** than the simpler game. In 
the same way, the Italian writer styles his various kinds of m&relles simple 
mtUineUo {mulinello semplice)^ double mulineUo^ and so on. The simple sort 
is, of course, the three men morris, of which we have the following description 
(see fig. 1): "The game of mulinello [literally "little mill**], a diversion for 
children when it is simple, for. adults when it is complex, is styled also 
{ffiuoco deli /Uetto and igiuoco deUa) tavola^ and is played, in all its varieties, 
by two persons. The mulinello semplice board is formed by the sides of a 
square, by interior diagonals, and by two medial lines parallel to the sides. 
The points at which the lines intersect, or join each other, are nine in 
number, and represent the ^squares* (or ^points* occupied by the men). The 
board may be drawn on paper, on the ground, or on the flat surface of a 
table; the two players furnish themselves each with three pebbles, three 
small balls, or three pawns (counters) of different colours, so that those 
belonging to the two adversaries be easily distinguishable. The flrst player 
is decided by lot, and in successive parties the winner of the preceding 
encounter has the opening play. The opening player places a man on one of 
the points, the second player one on another, and so on. The first combatant 
having entered all his men, when it next becomes his turn, moves one of 
them, following always the lines, and going from one of the nine "points** 
to an adjoining one. His adversary does the same, and the game continues 
until one of the players succeeds in ranging his three men in a line, either 
right, horizontal, vertical or diagonal. The game ought to be won by the first 
player, provided he places his flrst man at the central point, as it rarely 
happens that the flrst pawn or man played by his adversary ever succeeds 
in securing that point. 

The mulinello doppio has a board with which we have never chanced to 
meet in Italy, or, in fact, anywhere else— except in some very recent pub- 
lications like the present— although the compiler of the book claims for it 
great antiquity. It is composed of two concentric squares (that is, one 
within the other). The space between these squares is divided by twelve 
right lines into twelve small squares, the points at which the lines join 
being twenty-four in number, giving that number of "points** or "houses** 
for the men (fig. 3). But we will repeat the author *s description in full: 
"The mulinello doppio was a favourite eiijoyment of the ancient Greeks. The 
board is composed of two concentric squares, the space between them being 
divided into equal quadrangular portions by [twelve] right lines, which join 
the other lines at twenty-four points, forming therefore twenty-four * points* 



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108 



CffESS IN ICELAND 



for the men. Of the latter, each player is provided with five of the same 
colour (ditrorent, however, from the colour of those of his adversary), which 
he arranges on the Ave points of one side of the larger or outer squares (20, 



11 



f2 



15 



seo 



16 



17 



21 



18 



2S 

Pig. 8. 



23 



10 



±4: 



19 



24 



21, 22, 23, 24). On the opposite side 
of the larger square the adversary 
places his (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Each then 
advances his men, alternately, from 
point to point, always following the 
linos, and when one of the players 
has enclosed one or more of his 
adversary's pieces (rendering it 
impossible to move it farther), the 
man is considered captured. The 
game is ended when one party— 
therefore the winner^- has captu- 
red all the men of his opponent.'' 
The mulinello triple is the mor- 
ris board commonly used in Ame- 
rica, but which seems to us to be 
inflrequent, at the present time, in 
Europe, especially on the continent, having not only the right lines which 
connect the middle points of the lines forming the squares, but the diagonals 
joining the angles. The description is: *'The board is formed of three concen- 
tric squares with parallel sides [see fig. 4]. 
Eight lines unite the angles and the middle- 
points of the sides. Once this game enjoyed 
an extraordinary popularity— so great that 
even now it is found drawn on the opposite 
side of many chess boards. Each p"layer has 
nine men (in colour unlike those of the other 
player) and places, or enters them, alter- 
nately with his adversary, upon any of the 
twenty- four 'points' formed by the inter- 
secting lines. Then, by successive moves, 
he tries to form a fUetto^ that is, a line of 
three men, of the same colour, arranged 
either horizontally, or vertically. This line 
is called a /fZo, or fUetto, Every time a player makes a filetto, he can select 
and remove from the board one of his opponent's men, respecting, however, 
those with which his adversary has already formed a similar ftletto. When a 
player has no more than four men left on the board he is declared the loser." 
The mulinello quadruplo is, singularly enough, the alquerque of the Span- 
ish writer, Brunet y Bellet [see fig. 2]. ''It is formed," says the Italian 
compiler, " of four mtUineUi semplici. Each player has five men, and the 
game is won by him who places all five in a straight line." The number of 
"points" is twenty-flve. The author of this new Italian "Hoyle" commits 
an evident blunder or two. In his mulinello doppio he says that the number 
of lines forming the small squares is nine, whereas a glance at his board 
would have shewn him that they were twelve. He apparently has no knowl- 
edge of the board (three concentric squares without tho diagonal lines drawn 




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STRA Y NOTES 



109 



firom the angles), which is the sole one given in the early MSS, and which, 
in at least the greater part of Italjr, is the one to be found on the reverse 
of the chess boards sold at tho shops [see flg. 5]. We know not, therefore, 
how much of his information is to be regarded as trustworthy. Wo fear 
that for some of his material he has gone into foreign fields— plainer in- 
dications of which we shall soon meet with.^*' 

In contrast to the statements of this very recent publication, we find in 
another late work, "II libro del giuochi,'* (Florence 1894), no knowledge 
either of the so called mtUinello doppio^ the mulin^o triplo (twelve men 
morris), nor the mulinello quadruplo {alquerque). The compiler of "II libro'* 
treats only of the simple three men morris and the antique large morris 
game— as Von dor Lasa styles it,— which appears in the XlVth century MSS, 
that is, lacking the diagonal or 
comer lines. The writer says that 
"on the back of every chess board 
is seen inlaid or traced the figure 
of the /UettOy a game of great sim- 
plicity. It is played with nine 
white counters and nine black, by 
two players, that one winning the 
game who succeeds in first placing 
three counters in a row upon one 
and the same line. And this is 
the way of it Each, at the begin- 
ning of the game, has his men 
outside of the table ; one of the 
players first places a man upon 
any one of the twenty-four points 
of the board, an advantage which, 
in commencing the game, is de- ^^^' *' 

cided by lot; at the subsequent games, he who has just lost enters his 
counter first. Next,, the other player places ono of his men; then the first 
again, and so in sequence until all the nine are entered. Afterwards each 



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^ At ibe mMiaal Is the freshest, ms well m the most eomplete Ttollan work of its ehar- 
aeter, we eopy complete Its section relating to this class of llne-trames: **I1 gfao^« del 
mulhullot gfaoco da fanelalll qaand* 6 nempllce, da adRltl so eompleaso, tIoo detto aoebe del 
fileUo e della tavola, e si giuooa In doe. 1. II mulimllo ssmpluM 6 formato dal latt di on 
quadrate, dalle diagonall e dalle dae llnee medlane, parallele a' latl (flg. 1). I puntli doTe 
le Tarie reite si Interseeano, rappresenuno le eeselle, e sono 9. Traociata la flgara sopra un 
pesso dl carta, o sopra II terreao, o sopra 11 piano di ana laTola, i doe ginoeatorl si muni- 
BCOBO elasenno dl tre saasolini, dl tre pallottole, dl ire bottoni o dl tre pedino dl colore dl- 
▼erso, perchd rieeea faelle disilngaere quelll cbe appartengono plnttosto all' ano ehe all'aliro 
del dne avrersart. La sorte decide cbl i di wumo al princlpio del gluoco. Nolle sacoesslTe 
ha la mono il Tlueitore dell' ultima partita. II primo che gluoea pone ana pedlna sopra una 
casella, il secondo sopra uii*altra e cos! dl segulto per turno. Qoando II prime glnoeatore 
ha messo tutte e tre le pedlne, quand* 6 dl tnrno, muoTo una dl esse, seguendo sempre nna 
delle linee traeoiate, e di casella In casella. L* aTToraarlo ne fa alirettanto, e II ginoco eon- 
tlnua flno a tan to che ono del dne ginoeatorl rlesce a dlsporre le sue tre pedino suUa stessa 
retta, orlnontalv, Tertteale o diagonale. La partita generalmente A vinta dal prlno glue- 
eatore, so coUoea la pedina sella easella eentrale (see ilg. 1), e perold, qnasl sempre reata sta- 
blllto ehe la prima pedlna glnocata da elaseuno degll aTTorsail non pad eollooarst al eentro. 

8. II muUiftto doppio A rappresentoto dalla flgara 8. Oil antfebl greel vi si dlletta- 
▼ano aesal. Bi eompone dl due qaadratl eonoentriei e a latl parallelli eoUegatl tra dl lore da 



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no CEBSS IN ICELAND 



one moves alternately a counter one step, in whatever direction along the 
lines, endeavouring to make a fileito (far fUetto), that is, to place three 
counters on one line, and to prevent his adversary from doing the same. 
Naturally one player may be able to complete a fileito even before he has 
entered all his men, if, by oversight, his adversary does not cover the third 
point of a line on which the former has already entered two counters/' The 
only error noticeable here is the assertion in the first lines that he who first 
places three men on the same line wins the game. But the writer's subse- 
quent description shews that this is merely a bit of carelessness. The writer 
finally says that there is a more simple fUetto game— and here he gives a 
representation of the three men morris board [fig. 1]—*' which is played with 
three white and three black men, in an analogous manner, but mostly by 
children.'' We must content ourselves with the citations we have made in 
reference to the existing state of m&reUes in Italy. Of course our investi- 
gation has been in no wise thorough. There is a large literature devoted to 
social games; only a few of the works which it embraces having come under 
our notice. From many provinces we have been able to gather no reports— 
in fact all that we have stated with any definiteness relates principally to 
Tuscany and Lombardy. But what we have brought together leads us to 
believe* that the ordinary three men morris game, and the ordinary nine 
men morris game— the board having no diagonal lines— are pretty certainly 
still known in most parts of the peninsula. Some of the other varieties- 
treated in the very modern works on games — may be of long standing and 
popular in portions of the Italian domain, but we have discovered no certain 
evidence of it. 

In glancing at the morris play in France, we ought properly to follow 
the plan pursued in our remarks on this game in Italy, and begin with the 
French version (or ve^fions) of the treatise ascribed to Nicholas de (Saint) 
Nicholai ('« Bonus Socius*') which furnish here, as on the Italian side of the 
Alps, the earliest information on the subject. The notices relating to the 
French codices, however, are very few and very scant. That the compilation 

[tt] rette, che •* tiiterteoano In t4 paotl, formando per«t6 S4 catelle. (Haiean gtaoeatore h 
proTvlsto di 5 pedlne dl ano steuo colore, ma diverto da quello dello pedioo avTorsarie, cbo 
diapono lopra le caaelle dl ano del latl del quadrato grande. 6ul lato opposto 1* aTreraarlo 
dlstribalsca ie lae. Dl auMta In auMta, alternandod I gioooaiorl, fanno aTaniare le loro pe- 
dine, tegaendo Mmpre le llnee, c qaando ooo ba fatto priglone nna o pib pedlne aTversarle, 
eoatrlngendola a aon pIb mnoTenI, se fa preda dl glaoco e la tMngia, La partita h vlnta da 
eolut ehe ba wiangiato tatte le pedlne aTverearie. 

8. II mift/l^llo Mplo h rappreeenuto dalla flg. 4. Klsnlta formato da tre qnadrati eon- 
centriel co* latl parallell. Otto rette eonglnngono g\\ angoll e le meti del lati. Una voUa 
queeto ginoeo godeva dl un favore atraordlnarlo, tant' i, ehe pare o^l il trova dltegnato lopra 
le tfowe, dalla parte oppoita alia •eaechlara. Claaenn gfnoeatore diepone dl 9 pedlne dl eo- 
lore diverse di quelle avrerearle, e le eolloea, alternandosi eon V aTvonarlOi eopra una delle 
S4 eaaelle, formate dalT inoontro delle varie rette. Qnlndl, eon moaao euooeuiye eerea dl fare 
JiUUo, dl disporle, cloA, In maniera ehe tre pedlne dello tteaso eolore formino una (Mea 
Tiaao ntaU o vmfUaU detto filo e fileUo, Ogni toIU ehe un ginocatore fa fiUUOt a ena loelU 
prende una pedlna aTverearla dal gluoeo, riepettaado, per6, quelle ehe formano an JUmUq, 
Qnando an ginocatore non ha plb ehe quattro pedlne A diehlarato perdeute. 

4. II muHtuUo qnadruplo rlsnlta formato da nn qaadrato ehe eomprende quattro mull- 
nelll sempllel. Claecnn glnoeatore diipone di elnqoe pedlne e vinee quegll ehe per prime rieoee 
a oolloearle d* aeehito o eon moaee eueeeMWei tntte e elnqne In llnea retta, orlssontaloi Terti- 
eale o diagonal* (flg. S). The paragraphs whieh follow, relating to foz>and-geese, we elto on 
a later page. 



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STRAY NOTES 111 



as rendered into French, was popular, is sliown by the number of transcripU 
still existing, but how much of this popularity was due to any one of the 
three games therein treated— rather than to any other— it is of course im- 
possible to say. The earliest French codices date firom the very first years 
of the XlVth century, and none is later than the XVth. Two are preserved 
in Paris, one in Montpellier, another in the invaluable collection of books 
at Wolfenbiittcl, founded by the duke Augustus of Brunswick-Liineburg, who 
himself compiled the library *s first catalogue, and who, under the pseudonym 
of** Gustavus Selenus," composed the great folio on chess which was published 
in leiCJ** Another of these French codices— all of which are vellums— is 
in a private collection in England. So meagre is our information in regard 
to them, that we are only certain of one thing, namely, that the rather fan- 
tastic names given to the m^relles men in the Latin MSS were retained. This 
we learn from a casual citation of two of these pieces' names, estoile and 
quaree^ found in the Fountaine MS— the one preserved in England. 

And now as to the French appellations given to the game— a matter, the 
elucidation of which has its difficulties. The word m^eZte* — the most com- 
mon designation— is derived by the French etymologist Scheler from the 
Latin — more immediately from the low Latin. He says: **L6 mot mdrelle ou 
marelle signifie proprement le palet, le pion ou le Jeton, dont on se sert pour 
lo jeu; feminin de niveau (has Lat, Myelins); on le rattache k un type ma- 
trellus^ matrella (d'ou mairellus^ marellus)^ qui serait un derivd du Latin 
tnatara, mataris^ sorte de Javeline, mot d'origine gauloise, et dont la ra- 
cine, k juger du gadl methred, *jaculator,' exprimait Tidde de jetter." The 
final portion, especially, of this etymological note can hardly be called 
precise in its treatment of the vocable's early history. «• The writer's defi- 
nition of the morris game is even more unsatisfactory, since he ignores the 
old game, or m^eUes proper, entirely, and mentions only the children's out- 
of-door game, which the French style also mdrelle{s), but which is known 
in English as ** hop-scotch," an athletic diversion practised in the open air 
upon a sort of board outlined on the ground, or fioor. Littrd is more diffuse. 
For the sake of exactitude and convenience we copy from his massive dic- 
tionary the whole section devoted to mirelles^ including definition, descrip- 
tion and etymology. We shall see, in a later page, that definition I refers 
to the lesser mireUes^ and definition II to the larger, or double mirelles. 
But to proceed with the quotation: **Anciennement, table carrde, sur laquellc 
des lignes partant des angles ou du milieu de chaque cdt^ et se r^unissant 
au centre, indiquaient la place que devaient occuper, et la route que pou- 
vaient suivre ies marolles ou m^raux; jeu qui se jouait sur cette table; nom 
des jetons employes k, ce jeu. II. Nom d'un Jeu, qui se joue avec Ies pions 
et aussi avec des petits cailloux de diverses couleurs; il consiste d'un figure 
form^ d'un grand carr^, plus un carrd plus petit renfermd dans le prdccdent, 

itt tiDii, tchaeh- oder Koenig-tpiel. Voit OHstavo Releno. in vier rerachletlcDe bQchvr/* 
IjIpslsD 1616. The work i« largely a translation of tbe Italian Tcrtion of the Chens treatise 
by th« Spaniard Ray Lopez (1684). Oastavus Selenns Is a pedantically formed ananrram of 
th« author's name and title. Compendlnme of this work, andcr a variety of titles (" Pylha- 
gorae rythmomaehle," *'Ludus latruuouloram/* " Palamedes redlvUui)/* ** Selfnns contractus" 
and the like), formed the principal band-book of chess In Germany daring the 17th and the 
first half of tbe IStb eentury. 

^** Thia etymology goes back, as wc shall see, to Hyde, the Knglish orientalist, and even 
to a p«riod moeh earlier. 



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112 CHESS IN ICELAND 



plus un petit carp^ qui occupe le centre de ce dernier; une ligne part&nt du 
milieu de chacun des c6tds du grand carrd vient se terminer aux c6tds du 
troisidme et petit carrd; cette figure est trac^e sur un carton; quelquefois 
les enfants la tracent sur le sable 6u sur une pierre. Le jeu de la marelle 
consiBte k aligner sur une seule ligne les trois pions. III. Par assimilation 
de figure, jeu d^enfants fait en mani&re d*dschellc, avec de la craie, ou les 
joueurs, marchant k cloche-pied [= hopping], poussent du pied qui saut un 
petit palet dans chaque espace de T^chelle; la figure m^mo qui est trac^e 
sur le sol. " The third definition, as will be noted, is the sole one known 
to Scheler, — our hop-scotch. 

In his supplementary remarks, Littr<^ tell us that, of the two orthograph- 
ical forms, merelle and marelle, the former is the older. He has derived 
his definition I, and taken the history of the word in French, from an inter- 
esting volume by La Borde entitled ^* Notice des ^maux du musee du Louvre" 
(Paris, 1853, II, p. 381). We cite La Borders historical note on the name in 
full from his own work : '* Ce meme mot avait servi ant^rieurement, c'est k 
dire k partir du XIP si^cie, k designer les m^dailles ou la monnaie de con- 
vention, de plomb, de cuivre et quelquefois d'argcnt, dont chacun avait droit 
de fairc usage; k T^glise, pour constater la prdsence des moincs aux ofiices; 
au marchd pour prouvcr Tacquittement d'un droit; dans les travaux et les 
ateliers, pour representor, k la fin d*une semaine, les prix des journdcs, et k 
autres usages. G'dtait en r^allt^ la suite et Tc^quivalent des tessferos de Tan- 
tiquitd, ct ces m^reaux resterent dans la langue et dans 1* usage jusqu'au 
XVIIP si6cle. lis dtaient faits en carton, en cire, en plomb, en cuivre; les 
marelles k Jouer <^taient le plus souvent dMvoire et d*os; on en a fait aussi 
de divers bois.** 

As to the etymology, Littrd is very brief; he remarks that the game was 
*^ainsi dite de niareau^ ou mireau^ ou merely palet. Dans plusieurs pro- 
vinces on dit mardne pour une fausse assimilation avec marraine/* Under the 
word mereau^ to which he thus refers us, we find the following still briefer 
etymology: "Bas Lat. merellus^ dont Toriginc est inconnue." 

In section I of Littr^'s definition he states that the lines described on 
the square start des angles ou du milieu de chaque c6t4^ and unite in the 
middle. As he speaks of but one square, it is evident that he is speaking 
of the little (or three men) morris, and the conjunction ou should therefore 
be et. In his section II, the definition is a very clear description of the older, 
or most used form of the larger morris (sometimes called the double morris), 
for we find in it no mention of diagonal or corner lines. But at the end of 
this section comes a striking bit of inaccuracy. The lexicographer states 
that the game of mdrclles consisted in placing in a row {aligner) on one and 
the same line 'Mes trois pions.'* But for the morris board which he has been 
describing, not three men but nine are necessary. He has confVised the nine 
men morris with the three men morris explained in the preceding section. 
As to section III, relating to "hop-scotch," it is quite certain that the sport 
received its name from the resemblance of the design drawn on the ground 
in order to play it, to the lines of the morris board. It must be remembered 
too, that the morris game was also sometimes playod out of doors, its board 
being likewise marked out on the turf or pavement, and perhaps on a 
largish scale, so that this fact very likely had its influence in conferring 
upon the French "hop-scotch" the name of mSrelle, m^elles. There is 



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STRAY NOTES 118 



a good deal of irregularity abont it, but it seems as if an effort is made 
by the French to use the singular (rn^eile) for '*hop-sootch,*' retaining the 
plural {morales) for the table game, although the distinction, if it exist, is 
often lost sight of. 

One of the most important French and Italian dictionaries (that known 
as **Le nouvel Albert!'* 1855, edited by Ambrosoli, Arnaud and other Ital- 
ian scholars), informs us that in French 'Me jeu de mdrelle s*appelle aussi 
le jeu du moulin.*" This would appear to be confirmed by Von der Lasa in 
his *'Zur geschichte und literatur des schachspiels** (in a foot note, p. 145). 
He is criticising the French journal, ''Le PalamMe,'* for saying (1837, p. 82) 
that the game of mirelles is no longer known or understood. He adds that 
the "Complement du dictionnaire de TAcaddmie** (Brussels 1853, p. 648) ^*sagt 
ganz richtig: 'Grand jeu de la m^relle; s'appelle aussi le jeu du moulin.* ** 
It is worthy of note that the dates of "Le nouvel Alberts '' and the Brussels 
supplement to the French Academy's dictionary are within two years of each 
other. We have never happened to see the morris game styled jeu de mauhn 
in any French writing outside of these dictionaries; still Von der Lasa*s asser- 
tion may be correct, or he may, possibly, have in mind the Italian name. 

The game enters much more into the literature of France than into that 
of any other land; historical references to it, too, are more numerous. It has 
even been argued that Nicholas de (Saint) Nicholai was of French birth, partly 
on account of the way in which his name is given in the French versions of 
the "Bonus Sooius'' compilation, but this, as we have stated, is more than 
doubtful. We record here all the citations concerning nUreiles in medieval 
France, and in the earlier modern period, which we have been able easily to 
gather. One of the oldest is f)rom a poem by Eustaohe Deschamps, a rhymer 
who was born in the first half of the XI Vth century ; he played a r6le of 
some importance during the reign of Charles VI, and died during that of his 
successor. He exclaims in one of his compositions: 

Oiaox de des et de mer$iU$, 
Yooe eoit tondlt de-ve»blee. 

Much later is an anonymous "Morality des en&nts de Maintenant,*' which we 
cite from VioUet Le Due's "Anclen thdAtre fran^is'* (Paris 1854-57, III., p. 52) : 

JouoDs Ml Jen de 1* menUe, 
Je rais lae da truao dn earreMi. 

JmHm: 
C'eet hien dit ; le Jeu da mtnau 
Est bien oomman i ei eet 1* chanoo. 

A sure sign of the former popularity of the game in France, is the number 
of common phrases which have their origin in the practise of the diversion. 
There is a proverb, mestraire le merely the sense of which is "to play a 
losing game,*' "to meet with a reverse;** we find it in the old rhymed 
"Ghroniques des dues de Normandie** by Benoit, which we have already 
cited (see p. 72), in which we read : 

Sempree i eoil meretm mesiraii, 
S ft Oni ten danage llidt, 
Qui ne Ant pM dil ao entier 
A restorer ■ain ne leger. 

16 



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1 14 CHESS liV ICELA ND 



The proverb is again employed in an old anonymous **Vie de St Oilles:"*-* 

Or eu penit Beiu kl lagariMe ! 
Si ankes pins tost ne sVn reit, 
Ja erent U menl mestreit, 

and again, about the same time, in the ^^ Miserere** of llenctus de Motions: '^ 

Yieas ta jeor aa trameral 
A mort, ki ae mMtrait mersl. 

In addition to this proverbial phrase, mesiraire le merely which refers rather 
to the piece than to the game, we have others like traire de bonne mereUe 
'^to make a good stroke,'* ^'to withdraw fortunately from an affair;** traire 
fausse merelle^ "to play badly;" traire sauve mdrelle, *'to play without 
loss;** ne plus traire point ne mirelle^ **to play no longer;** change^' la me- 
relle^ '*to change luck,*' ("to alter the face of things'*); avoir la nierelle, 
"to have the advantage.'* 

It is notable too that only in France do we come across a special word 
for the m^relles-board, namely, marellier or wiareh'er— formed like erhi- 
quief\ tablier-^ cited in several early poems and prose writings, as, for in- 
stance, in a morality styled "Le pelerinage de TAme:** *** 

G^ieoB a« tablM et d'eecbiqnlen, 
De boalles et de nUrOKen, 

In his "Notice des cmaux,*' La Borde thus defines the marelier: "Table 
carr^ sur laquelle des lignes partent des angles ou du milieu de chaque 
cAtd en 80 rdunissant au centre; elles indiqucnt la place que doivent occuper 
et la route que peuvent suiyre ies trois m^reaux ou marelles: le gagnant 
doit aligner sur une seule ligne Ies trois jetons; on nomme encore ce Jeu 
carr^ ohinois.'* This recalls Hyde's assertion that the three men morris is 
a very common game in China. Marelles boards are frequently mentioned 
in old inventories and elsewhere, especially in the XVth century. We hear 
of one in 1448 which belonged "& M. D. S.** [that is, nian dit seigneur, le 
duo d'Orltens] "pour jouer aux mereles dedans le bateau.** The inventory 
of the goods of the due de Berry, drawn up in 1416, mentions at least two 
mereliers, the first is "Une tr^s belle table, ployant en trois pi^es, en la- 
quelle est le merelier, deux jeux de table et I'eschiquier ftiiz de pourflz de 
Romme, Jaspre et autres pierres de plusieurs couleurs.** The other seems to 
have been of simpler materials: "Une table de bois marquetde de jeu des 
eschas et de tables et de mareliers (marelles <) et y sont Ies tresteaux tenant 
k la ditte Uble.** 

Du Cange (IV, 1845, p. 157) quotes, with the date of 1412, a statement 
from which we may infer that the game was once named Itidus sancti Hiederici. 
It occurs in a French document existing in the Paris archives, and tells us of 
one " Jean Aysmes, qui avait jou^ aux merelles a six tables, appelle le jeu 
saint Marry,'* but who St. Medericus (Mederict), or St. Marry was, and why 
his name was given to the game, we have been unable to learn; it may 

*^ See Ihe editiou by Mlobel (II., Ilnei 866-66). 

^ Thit sbeuld be found in Van Hauiers ediiiou, but the reforeucu we have at hand 
(iJCX-7) seems to be erroneous or lueonplrte. 

^ Edited by J. J. Hltlriioger (1896) : Ite autbor was Gulllannie de UulleTllio (ofteu elted 
as ''DegaUevSUe'*)- 



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STRAY NOreS 115 



perhaps be attributed to the reeemblance of the two names, Itfarry and m^- 
relle, since in those devout days every profession and occupation had its 
patron saint. In the statutes of several French cities occur mentions of »ta- 
drellum, niareUa (ludet^e ad mofeUas)^ one of them bearing tlie date of 1404. 
In some of these documents we have the game and the board mentioned 
together, as in one dating from the year 1414 : '' Icellui Rstienne priRt lors 
toutes marelles et ies getta jus du marellier/* 

The little work of Bulenger on games (cited later) has a very brief de- 
scription of the simplest marelles. He is writing in Franco in the flrat 
quarter of the XVIlth century. He says that the morris was then'a diver- 
sion of French boys: **Hodie pueri apud nos ludum Madrellarum usurpant 
in quo quatuor linese quadrie foris, quatuor alias lineas includunt. quw me- 
dia linea quasi diametro secantur, et tree unus ex collusoribus bacillos to- 
tidem alius variis locis coUocant, et id studios^ agunt, ut tros bacillos sues 
in eadem linea continuent." 

Probably the fullest account of modern mA*eUes in France is found in 
a pretentious compilation, issued not very long ago at Paris under the title 
of *' Grande encyclopedic des jeux par T. de Moulldars.*' '*LeK marelles ou 
m^reUes'* occupies some pages and is, perhaps, the source from which the 
editor of the recent Milanese work of a similar character drew his materials. 
The arrangement in the two manuals is the same, but the French work is 
somewhat more complete in its descriptions, and, at the risk of much repeti- 
tion« we shall give the text in full. We liave first the marelle simple (see 
fig. 1): ^^Ce jeu enfantin, ancetre probable des dames, est form^ par Ies 
quatre cdt^s d*un carr^ et par Ies deux diagonales et Ies deux lignee mMianes 
paranoics aux c6tes. Les points d* intersection de ces huit lignes ferment neuf 
cases. Cette figure pent etre trac^e sur un papier ou simplement sur le soL Les 
joueurs, au nombre de deux, poss^dent chacun trois pions ou trois cailloux 
de couleurs difKrents ou d*une forme reconnaissable. Le premier Joueur pose 
un pion sur une case, le second sur une autre et ainsi de suite alternative- 
ment. Quand un Joueur a pose ses trois pions, il en deplaoe un, pour le 
porter sur une case immediatement voisine en suivant Tune des lignes; son 
adversaire en &it autant de Tun de ses pions et la partie continue ainsi 
Jusqu*& ce que Tun des Joueurs arrive k mettre ses trois pions sur une mdme 
ligne droite, horizontale, verticale ou diagonale. Le premier, en se plaint 
d*abord au centre de la marelle |that is, at the point of intersection of all 
the lines, see fig. 1] ne pent manquer de gagner, s'il joue convenablement ; 
et Ton convlent ordinairement quUl n'aura pas le droit de poser, au debut, 
sur le centre du jeu.*' There is nothing to object to here, except the phrase 
at the beginning, ^'ancetre probable des dames''— a title which, as we have 
seen, belongs not to m^reUes^ but to ohess. But writers not overburdened with 
erudition cannot forget that the mireUss board is to be often found depicted 
on the reverse of the chess-board, and that the chess-board is used for the 
game of draughts; so they fiincy that there must be some subtle connection 
existing between the morris*game and draughts. 

We next have the double mireUes^ with a reproduction of the figures which 
we have numbered 3 and 4: ''La marelle double ou pettie des anciens greos 
est representee par notre Ag. 3. .Bile se compose de deux oarres conoentriqaes 
•t k e6tes paralieies, reunis par neuf [douie] lignes, de mani^re k former 24 
[points for the pieces]. Chacun des deux Joueurs poss^ oinq pions 



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116 CHESS IN ICELAND 



(I'une couleur reconnaissable, et les place sur les cinq cases [or points at 
the junctions of the lines] de la ligne sup^rieure ou de la ligne infdrieure. 
On pousse alternativement les pions en avant, de case en case, en suivant 
les lignes. Quand un Joueur a envelopp^ une ou plusieurs pieces de Tadver- 
saire de fa^on k les empdcher de bouger, il les enl6ve du damier; et la partie 
continue jusqu*^ ce que Tun des joueurs n'ait plus de pions. II est pro- 
bable que la pettie est le veritable Jeu de PalemMe, dans lequel les histo- 
riens ont cru voir les ^hecs ou les dames/' The writer then refers to the 
triple mdrelles, represented in figure 4: ^'La marelle triple, autrefois si po- 
pulaire, est tomb^e dans un ^tat d'oubli qu*elle ne m^rite pas. On la 
dessine ordinairement sur le sol et quelquefois sur une table, sur une ar- 
doise ou sur un carton. EUe se compose de trois carr^ ayant un centre 
commun et les c6t^ parall^les (flg. 4). Des lignes r^unissant les quatre 
angles et les quatre c6t^s des carr^s. Chacun des deux Joueurs a 9 pions 
d*une couleur ou d'uno forme reconnaissable et les pose alternativement sur 
Tun des points de rencontre des lignes, comme k la marelle simple; apr^s quoi, 
il les ddplace un k un, en les portant sur une case, imm^iatement voisine 
et en suivant Tune des lignes. Son but est d'amener trois de see pions sur 
une m§me ligne droite ; quand il y est parvenu, il prend dans le Jeu de son 
adversaire, un pion k son choix parmi ceux qui le genent le plus. Quand 
un Joueur n*a plus que quatre pions, il n'est plus astreint k marcher de case 
en case ; il pent faire flranchir k ses pions une ou plusieurs oases occup^s, 
afln de se mettre sur une station inoccup^ quelconque. Le premier qui n*a 
plus que deux pions a perdu la partie. On convient quelquefois que pour 
former une ligne don nan t droit k une prise, il faut que cette ligne ne soit 
pas une diagonale.** ** Therefore,'* continues the writer, ««a line formed by 
pieces placed on these diagonals, that is to say, at points of intersection which 
are not made by lines meeting each other at right angles, are not regarded 
as giving the right to capture an adversary's man." This last feature, as 
will be noted, makes the board (flg. 4), for general purposes, a nine man 
morris-board, instead of a twelve men morris, as the shape would indicate. 
We are thus led to the idea that the latter differs firom the former (the true 
old form), in giving the increased chances to each player of using four ad- 
ditional (diagonal) lines for the formation of '* mills," but that sometimes, in 
order to maintain, to a certain extent, the resemblance to the antique game, 
it is agreed that ''mills" may be laid out on those diagonal (or corner) lines, 
but that such ''mills," unlike the others, shall give the party making them 
no right to capture one of his enemy's men. Nevertheless, as we may un- 
derstand it, these additional lines would still be of some advantage for pur- 
poses of play. There seem then to be— taking the United States into con- 
sideration—two modes of using the twelve men morris board— one being to 
play with nine men (as in the old boards without diagonal lines), the other 
to increase the number of pieces to twelve. 

It is to be observed that this French writer ignores the genuine old 
morris-board of the 14th century MSS (our flg. 5), without the diagonals 
connecting the angles, evidently knowing as little about it as does his Mi- 
lanese imitator. He proceeds, therefore, at once to treat the variety which he 
denominates the quadruple game (the aiquerque): "La marelle quadruple 
(flg. 2) est formde par la juxtaposition de quatre marelles simples. Chacun 
des deux Joueurs possdde cinq pions, qu'il pose successivement sur I'un des 



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STRAY NOTES 117 



points de rencontre des lignes. Pour gagner la partie, il &at arriver le 
premier k placer ses cinq pions en Yigne droite.** It fihoald be observed 
that with what appears to be a disproportionate number of men (Ave to a 
board four times as large as that for three men morris) there are twelve lines 
upon which ^* mills,** or rows of five men each, can be created; the three 
men morris players, in the simplest board, have eight lines at their disposal 
on which to arrange themselves. From the bareness and brevity of this de- 
scription, it seems very evident that the compiler has no very clear idea of the 
aiquerque^ of which we have been unable to find any account anywhere else 
in a French book. Then follows, as in the Italian manual, the notice of fox- 
and-geese, or inareUe quintuple. We cannot help thinking that the editor 
of this French manual has been largely influenced by the desire to bring 
together all the line-games of the morris kind which he could collect from 
similar books in all languages and to classify them, rather than to give us 
those must used in France. He has, however, omitted the simplest of all the 
forms, the ** noughts and crosses** of English boys (the ''tripp, trapp, trull,** 
of the Swedes). Meanwhile the apparent fullness of his hand-book has led 
to its translation, as we have already seen, into Italian, and as we shall 
hereafter see into Swedish ~ possibly, too, into other tongues. 

In England the game of morris must have existed at an early date, since 
we have the orthographic form merits from the middle English, but it is 
not easy to discover any reference to it before the days of Shakespeare. 
The name shows that \X must have come directly from France, or at a very 
early date from Italy, since we find no trace of an appellation having any 
such meaning as '*mill.** The derivation from the French seems the more 
likely, since, if it had come from the Italian, at a time when the Italians 
used the I^tin denomination {mer^lus)^ the Icelanders would no doubt have 
borrowed both the game and its name, as in the case of chess, from Great 
Britain. But the Icelandic denomination belongs to what we may style the 
'^mt72-class** of names, showing that the game oame from some other land 
than England. It is remarkable that England has produced the only account 
of the game which lays claim to any historical, philological, or philosophical 
value •» that of Hyde. To that account we shall return, after an examination 
of the now adopted etymology of "morris.** 

Some of the English etymologists have connected the word with a vo- 
cable of the same form found in the English compound *^ morris-dance,** 
thus deriving it from the Spanish moro, morisco ("twoor,** ^^ moorish''")^ which 
would, if the derivation could be established, go far towards indicating an 
Arabo-Spanish origin for the game. Hyde gives a great number of ap- 
pellations bestowed in England upon the sport and its varieties, such as 
bushels (or bushel), marlin^ three men's morals, nine men's morals: nine 
•penny miracle, nine pin miracle; three penny mm-is, five penny maris, nine 
penny maris; three pin merells, nine pin mereUs, Some of these names as- 
same their special forms from the ftict that the game was frequently played 
with pennies, with pins, or with tokens, instead of the usual round coun- 
ters or men. It is probable also that the names with the numerals ** three** 
and *'five** refer to the simple or other smaller merelles. *' Morals** is, of 
course, a closer form of the French m^eUes^ and helps to demonstrate the 
more modern theory of the etymology of morris.** '' Bush^ ** and ^* marUn ** 
do not occur, so far as we know, in any recent literature, and are pretty 



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118 GffESS IN ICELAND 



certainly not known in America. In England, at present, the most usual 
name is *'nine men's morris/* but in America, and particularly in New Eng- 
land, it is better known as '* twelve men*s (or men) morris." As to the 
latest etymological authorities, the "Century" dictionary, after giving the 
variant tnerels, cites the old French ^'m^relle, the game, nine men's morris, 
French m^-elle^ niarelle^ hop-scotch ; middle Latin nierellus^ niarallus=coanicT^ 
token, also a piece in draughts." Then the dictionary quotes fk'om Strutt's 
"Sports and pastimes:" *'Marelles, or nine men's morris, as it was for- 
merly called in England, is a game of some antiquity." The Century dic- 
tionary closes its meagre rubric by describing the game as "played with 
eighteen pieces or stones, nijie on each side." 

In a late edition (1891) of Webster's dictionary occurs a very concise 
description of the game: "The tlgure consists of three central squares with 
lines from the angles of the outer one to those of the inner, and from the 
middle of each side of the outer square to those of the inner. The game is 
played by two persons with nine or twelve pieces each (hence called "nine 
men's morris" or " twelve men's morris.") The pieces are placed alternately, 
and each player endeavours to prevent his opponent from making a 
straight row of three. Should either succeed in making such a row, he 
may take up one of his opponent's pieces, and he who takes off all his op- 
ponent's pieces wins the game." Here we have almost the only, and cer- 
tainly the first mention of the game by its most common New England name, 
"twelve men morris," and also the only hint we have found in print that 
the more eomplioated of the morris boards— with the diagonal lines (fig. 4)— 
is used with twelve men, instead of nine, on each side. Whether this has 
ever been the case, with the same board, in Europe, we have no means of 
verifying. 

The game enjoyed all its old English popularity in New England, although 
we have never heard of its practice there as an out-of-door diversion. The 
strict religiosity maintained in the British colonies known as New England 
long prevented the introduction of card games, while chess seems to have 
been almost or quite forgotten by the emigrants and their descendants until 
late in the 18th century. For these reasons draughts, morris and fox-and- 
geese became the popular amusements in the farm-houses and villages of 
the new English-speaking world. 

Long before any other European scholar thought it worth his while to 
investigate the history of chess and other table-games, appeared the learned 
work of Thomes Hyde - a man of exceptional note in his day. He styles 
himself "Linguse arables professor publicus in universitate Oxon., pro- 
bibliothecarins Bodlejanus." He was really England's earliest oriental 
scholar, and in the originality and high character of his researobes has 
hardly had an equal in England, except, perhaps, Sir William Jones. His 
book is in two volumes, and, like so many of the publications of its time, 
abounds in title-pages. The general title, forming a sort of bastard title- 
page before the real title-page of volume I, is "De ludis orientalibus librt 
duo." The title-page of volume I begins "Mandragorias sen historia shahi- 
ludii, viz. ^usdem origo, antiquitas, ususque per totum Orientem celeber- 
rimus;" this volume is accordingly devoted to the story of chess among the 
Eastern nations. The second volume is styled "Historia nerdiludii, hoo est 
dicere, trunculorum. * The second part is therefore oecupied with the games 



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STRAY NOTES 119 



of '* tables** {nerdUudus^ the Perso- Arabic nard or nerd)^ dice, draughts, and 
other table games, among them being our morris-game, which has a chapter 
devoted specially to it entitled '^Historia triodii/*^ 

We shall endeavour to give a sketch of the more important points in 
Hyde*s essay, omitting much that refers only to the game in oriental re- 
gions. He sets out by telling us that the game was well lenown to the Ro- 
mans, but that he has been unable to find out the name by which they dis- 
tinguished it. He says that Bulenger, a French scholar, in his boolc on 
games, treats of tn^eUes; and that he informs us that it is called madrellcg 
because materes signifies pieces of wood (baculi) according to Nonius, whence 
to-^day the Gaelic word matras signifies an arrow as being a piece of wood. 
The old author Sisenna, Bulenger declares, relates that in Gaul tliey fought 
with materes, that is long darts. He tells us, too, that Cyril, in his Greele 
glossary, gives the same explanation of the word materes. Caesar also, in 
his ^* Commentaries,** notices the materes^ which were used in battle. Thus 
far Bulenger.^ Hyde, however, dissents from the derivation and says that 
the letter d, upon which the whole Bulenger etymology depends, does not 
belong to this root hence the word nvaretl cannot be deduced firom materes. 
Moreover, at present an arrow is not called matras^ but ^natias. This sub- 
ject is pursued at some length by Hyde in a later note, which takes the 
form of a paragraph in the ^^elenchus** prefixed to the volume, in which he 
seems to think that the word matras or materes has been introduced as a 
military term among the Persians and the Turks. Hyde goes on to say 
that the pieces witli which this game is played are called in Prance m^- 
relies, ortnarelles as Rabelais writes it, and mareU(e, or, as Bulenger inter- 
polating a df, puts it less correctly, madrelUe, Sometimes in Prance these 
pieces are made of wood, and sometimes indeed stones are used. Cotgrave 
(the author of the dictionary) translates them ^iedito^— stones ; the game is 
sometimes played with pebbles. Csesar Ondin (d. 1615), a royal interpreter 
in France and compiler of various grammars, tells us, not very properly, 
that in Spanish the game is called juego de tablas o piedras, because it is 
sometimes played with stones (piedras). Dud in elsewhere reports that some- 

^ Tb6 pabliealion of Uyd« \vm iMued at Oxford in 169i, and it r«ally in four |rnrtt. 
The first part, of 72 unnnmbercd pagof, eontUu prineipaliy of an cxeur»u» eallod " D« 
thabilndio prolegoiuoiia curioaa ; '* followed by a second teetion of 184 pa<us, *'Hlttoria 
•babladii; ** then come 71 pages, **8h«hnudiaraVradUum In Tribas Seriptls Ilebraiels," being 
the produellons of Abraham Ibn Ksra and Bunsenior ibn Ja'hja, together with the anony> 
mwM treatise, **Ma'adanne meleeb " ('*DeHoiap reguni"), in aU of which both texts mud ver- 
sions are glveu. This completes the tirst ▼oliime. The second, besides 16 pag«s of prefatory 
matter, contains 878 numbered pages, and is deToted to the niluor tabl«> games. The chapter 
en the morris game occupies pp. tOS-tU. The rolumes are proftiscty Illustrated with eugrav* 
lags and folding plates, and have now become somewhat rare. 

*^ The treaUse of J. C. Bulenger (1658.1898}, ^'De ludis prlvatis «c domestlde vete- 
rum," was published at Lyons 16i7. We have already extracted from it his brief descrip- 
tion of M^rsfles. Here U his philological note In the original : ** ftfadrellas, iuquam, nostrl 
vocant, quia materet sunt bacuH, auctore Noiiio, uade ct apud nos hodl^ao vox gallica 
mairas sagitlan signlftcat, quasi bacnlom. Sisenua vetus auetor Qallia materibns, id est. 
Ulie obloagto pugnat" (pp. 18-14). Balenger taught, at difftrent periods, at Paris, Toulouee 
and Pisa* L, Cornelius Sliienua waa a miecellaueous writer of his day, prodaciug works oit 
the story of his time and a coraraeutary ou PlanioSy among other thiugs. He died about 
A. D. ISO. Nonius Mareellaa was a Latin grammarUn who lived In the 4ih or 3th century 
•Aer Cbriet, and the nota on mattrU probably oocars in his traeUte ** l>e proprietate ser- 



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120 CHESS IN ICELAND 



times in Spain this game bears the name of alquerque (which he afterwards 
falsely translates as the French ''esches'' and ''damas''). He adds that it 
is '*un jeu qui se fait avec des gettons/' which seems a concise description 
' of this game. A similar error is committed by Covarruvias when he re- 
stricts this name of alquerque to the game known as las dattuu^ that is 
draughts. This Jeu de m^relles is denominated by certain of the Italians 
giuoco di stnareUi^ the oldest use of that word which we have noted. But 
later on Hyde remarlis that, in the vulgar Italian, the name of marelke is 
tatfola da ^nolitto, which accords with its German appellation, mulen (mOhlen) 
or ^^dupel -mulen'' that is ''dupla molina,'' perhaps because the lines upon 
the board resemble the little grooves which are found upon the upper sur- 
faces of mill-stones. Hyde gives this etymological suggestion, but does not 
regard it as satisfactory. He says, however, that one of the English names 
is busftels, the 'singular of which, he thinks, was applied to the middle or 
central part of the board— used perhaps to impound the men captured — 
and bushel in Latin is niodius: he seems therefore to believe that there is 
a connection between the German 7)ieule (as he writes the word mUhle), the 
French milieu, and the Latin medium or medius, and that the latter has been 
confounded with the Latin inodiiis, from the signification of which the name 
buahels has resulted in English. He dwells on this theme for some time, 
and then tells us that the smaller morris game is called by the Dutch 
driestricken, and the larger negenstricken, the former signifying three lines 
and the latter nine lines. He writes the latter element of these words 
sHcken, which we find in no dictionary. Among the Germans the name 
ntUochen—9LS he writes it (neun ldcJlerf)^me^mag nine places (noi^m loca) is 
applied to the minor morris game, and the name dupel-mulen to the larger 
game, as above stated. In his next paragraph, Hyde gives the various Eng- 
lish names, stating tliat all the forms, morals, moris, merels, are corrup- 
tions of the French appellation, but we have already cited his list in full. 
Then at the end he gives us this somewhat remarkable statement about the 
game amongst the children of Salisbury: *'Nam hie Indus k pueris Salo- 
piensibus exerceri solet, ducto humi schema te, in cujus angulis impact! sunt 
tot paacilli lignei ['* wooden pins'"] qui dentibus extrahendi prsescribuntur. 
Gumquo in humnm adigi soleant tam alte ut ne vix restet extremitas extra 
humum visenda, difficile erit dentibus apprehendere, nisi prius ore applicato 
ad instar canum terram rodant eamque rodendo avellant, priusqu&m talem 
paxillum dentibus tangere liceat." Among the Greeks, as Golius in his 
Arabic lexicon notes, the name of the game was Tpt6Stov. *'I suspect, says 
Hyde that the true reading is tpicoicov, that is trivium or triplex via, the 
reason of which name will be seen when the board is examined.*' The re- 
mainder of the first section in Hyde is devoted to much polyglot informa- 
tion about the name of the game in Russia, Armenia, among the Arabs— 
which gives him a chance of referring to alquerque once more— the Turks 
and the Persians. The second section is wholly occupied with the board, 
its character and origin. He also cites various descriptive passages from 
oriental writers. 

At length the author (p. 210) gives us two drawings of the two best 
known forms of the major nUreUes, namely, the one now used in America 
(which we are inclined to call, as the New Englanders do, ^'twelve men 
morris ") ; and the original m^eUe or marellof of the mediaeval MSS (exdud- 



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STRAY NOTES 121 



ing the diagonal lines). He says of the former that it consists of twenty- 
four lines, a number obtained by counting the divided exterior lines of 
the three squares occasioned by the intersections from the sides and an- 
gles. He states that the intersections of these lines form the playing 
points. Many of the orientals omit some of these lines, which run towards 
the centre, especially those leading from the angles— by which he means 
that he has not found the twelve men morris in Eastern works. He asserts 
that the Armenians, the Arabs of the Holy Land and of Mesopotamia, as he 
has been informed by Jeremiah the Qreek priest, all use the board indicated 
in our ancient European MSS. He tells us that among the people he has 
just mentioned, the board is formed by boys on the soil, either by cutting 
the turf, or by drawing lines in the dust. Adults have a board on which 
the lines are drawn in chalk, or are marked out on a table, or with ink on 
paper. Then follows what we have named the three men morris board, over 
which he places its title in Chinese characters. This Chinese game, we are 
informed, being the simple morris (fig. 1), is practised in many parts of Europe, 
and European names are given to it. Among the Chinese it is called Che-loOy 
that is, <*six places.'" The Persians likewise know it, the game in that part 
of Asia being played with six pieces, from which it gets its local name. The 
Irish call it ^^cashlan gherra,"* which would be in English ** short-castle. " 
In Cumberland and Westmoreland the name ''copped-crown'' is common, 
and elsewhere in England it is sometimes drawn with a round prison in the 
centre ~ a receptacle for captured pieces. 

After all this, Hyde begins to tell us about the method of conducting 
the game, saying that it is played with coins, beans, pebbles, pegs, dice or 
pieces of wood, each player^s men being different in colour. The country 
boys play the game on the ground. At first they decide by lot who shall 
begin, and he whom fate favours can place his pieces where he pleases, this 
being considered a great advantage. The wise ones begin by placing their 
men in the centre square, and try to take possession of that portion of the 
board; for he who controls that should always win, as those who often play 
the game know. Occupying this central place is called by the French mettre 
a cuire^ as if they were placing something to be cooked in an oven. When 
it has been decided among the players who shall play first, then each one 
places his pieces singly and alternately in the angles ; each player at the 
same time trying to prevent the other from forming a line with his men, 
for whoever obtains such a series can take up a piece from his adversary, 
wherever he pleases, and place it in the prison. This throws light upon the 
well known passage in Ovid ft'om which it appears that the Romans played 
the game each with three men : 

PaiTft Ubella oapit ternos nttinqne lupillos, 
In qoA TidMe, est continiiAsse raos. ^ 

Hence, too, among the moderns, this game is called "Lusus Ternarius," a 
name thus descriptive of the minor form of the game. If a table of the larger 

^ Von der Lwa has a lUMtorfui eu«y *' Ueb«r die cri«ehltoheD und rduilaehen •pl«le, 
wtflchis einiffe ihnllohkeit mil deni ■cbaoh faaUeo," wblch wm publlchod in the "Deutoehe 
Schachteituug*' (1863, pp. 16t-7S, 1«J8-«J9, S25-S&, X57-64), and whieh well meHU reprinting 
in Oerman and trautlatlon into Bngllsh ; but a considerable part of It !• eopied by Van der 
Liade ("Oetcblchte,** I., pp. 40>41). It it tbe first time that the thouie is treated by a 
Bcbalar perfectly familiar with eheas, and eheas history. In the coorse of the paper he says 

16 



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122 CHESS IN ICELAND 

mdrolle is used, the competitors have nine men or pieces, and these ue 
placed, as before, singly and alternately in tho 24 angles or intersections of 
lines, leaving vacant six. The author, as it will be seen, is here referring 
to the board divided by diagonals as well as by right lines. In placing his 
pieces, each one selects at first the central places. Although neither of the 
players obtains a line or series of three men, nevertheless the process of 
playing is continued, and after all the men have entered the board they begin 

that the parva tabtlla of Ovid wu nothing elM than <Uhreo men morrU:'* *'Uater der 
kleinen tafel, auf der beideraelta, wie Ovid <Ara amandi * (III. 365, capU Urw>» ufr^M ^' 
pilio*) noeh aaadraekllch wlederbolt, mit dnri ateinen geaplelt wflrde, iat wol niehta aaden 
sa veratehen, ala die Jedem aohOler heat bekannte kltint mUhU [litilo morria game]. Du 
brett hat 9 felder [the anglea and the eentral interaection], and wer aelne atelne daraaf ia 
efne rclhe bringt, gewlnnt. In der achwedfaehen 'Huabibliothek Kr aUlakapan^SJen* O'^' 
II., 65) iat diea apiel ala trippy trapp, trull beaohrleben." To which Van der Unde adds 
that In Holland the amalleat morria la called ttk, tak, toL Aa regarda theae latter aHeillPBa> 
It la aeceaaary to aay that both the Swedlah and Dntch terma refer to what the BngUah ttjl* 
nought* and crosses — a different diveralon, thongh really a line game of tbe morria order. Tae 
literature relating to the table-gamea prevalent In the ancient Mediterranean natiom \* « 
large one. Among the more Important treatiaea — besidea that of Boolengvr — are : J. MeoJilBS 
(Mercler) — "De India Orneorum" (Leyden 16M) ; P. de Wcoronl — *I Ull ed altri atrumeaij 
luaorj degli antichi Roman! " (Rome 1784); J. Averani — '^De ealcnlorum aeo latrnneuloroiB 
ludo," publiahed aeparately perhapa, bat certainly to be found in the author'a '^MonumeaU 
latina poatuma'* (Florence 1769); Paachalia de Potro ^'Diaaertatlo de alea et alcatoribo^ 
(Rome 179S). Much Information la to be gleaned firom G. SchOnbardt'a "Alea: fiber die h^ 
Birafung dea glQckapiela Im alteren rSmlachen recht ** (Stuttgart 1685). A moet important, ** 
well aa, in Ita way, a most irapretsive gleam of light la cait upon one of the oommoneat tabra 
gamea of Rome by B. Comparettra eatay "8a di un antico apecchio con laerisione Ieiln*f 
which waa first published In the '<Rendloonti della reale accademia del Uneel*' (17 Feb- 
bralo 1880). The mirror has on its reverse, a graceful and attractive deaign of two penon* 
agea playing the game of duodscim seripta, the board plainly visible. Above ia the Latin iO' 
soriptlon "Opinor devlncam.** The board la not unlike the medisaval " tablea,** of wbfeli tb« 
modern repreaentative ia baokgammon— a fact which adds a new dlflSouIty to the qaeatioo et 
the origin of that game. The mirror waa found at Paleatrina, and ia In private posacsslou. 
Senator Comparetti's treatment of thia singular bit of antiquity la, aa naoal, a perfect pie«« 
of work. Something on the aabjeet of the gamea of antiquity may be gleaaed from Stewart 
Cnlin'a "Cheas and playing carda" (Washington 1898), a profusely III uatrated deacriptive eat| 
alogue of games of all agpa and landa exhibited at AUlanta, Georgia, In 1895, by the Vuii^ 
Stalea national museum. The compiler boldly asserts that ''The game of cteo^etM Mfifttf 
'twelve lines,* waa subsUiitially the same aa our backgammon. It waa played npoaa board 
with twelve double linea, with fifteen white and fifteen black men ; the throwa were eouatcd 
aa we count them ; the ' blots * might be captured ; the pleoea (whether they atarted troai borne 
or not) had to be brought home, and the winner was he who firat cleared oflT hla men. Toe 
principal variation from the modern game Ilea In three dice being employed Instead of tivo. 
Several treatises relating to tho sporto of antiquity will be found in the great '*Thesaa' 
rua** of QronoviuB, In which aome we have mentioned, like those of Bouleager and Meursiaii 
are likewise printed; worthy of note are those by Calcagnlno— "De talorum ac tesseraroi" 
et calculornm ludls,'* and Senftleben "De alea vcterum." Students of chess history are luffi- 
cieutly familiar with M. A. Severino— "Deirantica pettia** (Naples 1694); and D. Bouter-'^rala- 
roedes, sive de tabula lusorla" (i^eyden 168S) — also one of the Qronovius tracts. J. Chrisl- 
ie*s work on the game invented by Palamedes is treated in a later note. Then there U ^ 
extensive modern work by Becq de Fougi^rea — '* Jeux des anciens" (Paris 1873); bat care 
must be taken in aearching thia bibliographical field, for many books nominally relating ^^ 
gamea have nothing to do with table games. An article on "Latrunculi,*' In a dictionary ol 
antlqultiea now publishing, cites K. RIchter — "Die Spielen der Griechon and K6mer" (i^M*' 
sic 1888X of which a French version (" Jeux des Qrucs et des Remains par Br6al ot Schwob") 
appeared at Paria in 1891, a work devoted almoat exclualvely to athletic aports. A recent 
Knglish book of some pretention, R. Falkener "Gamea anolent and oriental" (London 189S)» 
la of alight Importance. It may be remarked that the material in museums, particularly that 
which has resulted from the excavations of the last quarter of a century, haa not yet bceo 
at all adequately treated. 



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STRAY NOTES 123 



to move reciprocally on the lines between their positions, and in this way 
each one tries to destroy his adversary. This among the Turks is called 
var u gheU **go and come.*' It is not permitted to either to move at first to 
remote parts of the board, but both must proceed thither step by step; each 
man occupying, if it be vacant, the angle next to him, although this limitation 
is'sometimes removed when one of the players has but four men left. Of 
course he who has lost all his men but two, with which he cannot form a 
ternary line, in which act the whole ratio hidi consists, must consider him- 
self conquered. 

Hyde has a final short paragraph devoted to the origin of the game. 
We gather from it that **the game is well known both in the east and in the 
west, and originated, it seems, among the Arabs or the Persians, whence it 
was carried to other nations. Its name is treated as a common and evidently 
familiar vocable in Arabic vocabularies composed 700 years ago, in one of 
which we find the statement that ^oZ tobna est ludus persice dictus sidere;^ 
but it was really an every-day amusement among the Romans 1700 years ago, 
as we have learned from Ovid, who lived not long before Christ, and if so 
familiar then, it must have certainly been much older.** In this last utter- 
ance Hyde*s usual wisdom deserts him, and he ventures to indulge in that 
mode of writing history by guess-work, in which he has been imitated by 
not a few moderns in their treatment of chess. 

The sundard authority on popular English diversions is the work of 
Joseph Strutt, ^* The sports and pastimes of England,** which first appeared 
in London in 1801. It has passed through various editions, and well de- 
serves another, with such revisions and additions as recent investiga- 
tions can afford. The edition we are using is that of 1830, edited by 
William Hone, in his day a great student of the popular archaeology of 
England. We reproduce the whole of the brief section entitled "M^relles— 
nine men*s morris** (pp. 317-8): "M<5relles, or, as it was formerly called in 
England, nine men*s morris, and also five penny morris, is a game of some 
antiquity. Cotgravo describes it as a boyish game, and says it was played 
here commonly with stones, but in France with pawns, or men, made on 
purpose, and they were termed m^relles; hence the pastime itself received 
that denomination. It was certainly much used by shepherds formerly, 
and continues to be used by them, and other rustics, to the present hour. 
But it is very far from being confined to the practice of boys and girls. The 
form of the m^relle table, and the lines upon it, as it appeared in the 
XlVth century is here represented (see fig. 4). These lines have not been 
varied. The black spots at every angle and intersection of the lines are the 
places for the men to be laid upon. The men are different in form or colour 
for distinction *e sake; and from the moving these men backwards or forwards, 
as though they were dancing a morris, I suppose the pastime received the 
appellation of nine men*s morris; but why it should have been called five 
penny morris, I do not know. The manner of pitying is briefly this : two 
persons, having each of them nine pieces, or men, lay them down alternately, 
one by one, upon the spots ; and the business of either party is to prevent 
his antagonist from placing three of his pieces so as to form a row of three, 
without the intervention of an opponent*8 piece. If a row be formed, he that 
made it is at liberty to take up one of his competitor*s pieces ft-om any part 
he thinks most to his own advantage— except from a completed row, which 



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124 CBESS Ii\ IGELA ND 



must not be touched if there be hostile piece on the board that is not a com- 
ponent part of that row. When all the pieces are laid down, they are played 
backwards and forwards, in any direction that the lines run, but can only 
go from one spot to another [adjoining?] at one time; he that takes all 
his antagonists pieces is the conqueror. The rustics, when they have not 
materials at hand to make a table, cut the lines in the same form upon the 
ground, and make a small hole for every dot. They then collect, as above 
mentioned, stones of different forms or colours for the pieces, and play the 
game by depositing them in the holes in the same manner that they are set 
over the dots upon the table.** Strutt closes his description with the citation 
from Shakespeare » or rather a portion of it— the whole of which is reproduced 
on a later page. The fantastic explanation of the word morris, which the 
author gives, shows how easy it was to fabricate etymology in those conven- 
ient days which preceded the rise of the historic school of philology. As we 
have already hinted, his idea was, for a while, the prevalent theory of the 
origin of '^morris**— -whether as the name of the social table game, or as the 
appellation of a certain sort of dance. Hone— and indeed Strutt as well— 
with the word ^^merelles** before their eyes, in the title they gave to the 
section of their work which related to the morris game, seem to have haxl no 
notion of any connection between the French and English names. Nor have 
they any more definite idea of the history of the amusement than that it 'Ms 
a game of some antiquity.** 

Just prior to the date of Hone*8 edition of Strutt, there was a periodically 
published work, in several volumes, entitled, ''The every-day book.** It was 
mainly the production of the same William Hone, and may be regarded as 
a not unworthy predecessor of the modern '' Notes and Queries,** though its 
operations were devoted to a sphere much more limited. It is a vast trea- 
sury of notes on the traditional customs and manners, the ancient sites and 
edifices, the curiosities and superstitions of England. In one of its volumes 
there is a communication under the signature of *'P** and the date of July 
1826, addressed to the editor on the subject of a rustic amusement styled 
''Ninepenny Marl,** which reads thus: ''There is an ancient game, played 
by the shepherds of Salisbury Plain, and village rustics in that part of the 
country, called 'Ninepenny Marl.' Not having read any account of it in 
print, I hasten to describe it on your historical and curious pages. Decypher- 
ing and drawing lines on the sand and ground are of great antiquity ; and 
where education has failed to instruct, nature has supplied amusement. The 
scheme, which affords the game of 'Ninepenny Marl,* is cut in the clay 
(see fig. 5) or it might be drawn upon the crown of a hat with chalk. In 
cottages and public houses, it is marked on the side of a pair of bellows, or 
upon a table, and, in short, any plain surface. 'Marl* is played, like cards, 
by two persons; each person has nine bits of pipe, or wood, so as to distinguish 
his from those of the opponent. Each puts the pipe or stick upon one of the 
points or corners of the line, alternately, till they are all filled. There is 
much caution required in this, or your opponent will avail himself of your 
error, by placing his man on the very point which it is necessary you should 
occupy; the chief object being to make a perfect line of three, either way, 
and also to prevent the other player doing so. Every man that is taken is 
put into the square till no further move can be made. But if the vanquished 
be reduoed to only three, he can hop and skip into any vacant place, that 



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STRAY NOTES 125 



he may, if possible, even at the last, form a line, which is sometimes done 
by very wary manoeuvres. However simple * Ninepenny Marl* may appear, 
much siLill is required, particularly in the choice of the first places, so as 
to form the lines as perfectly and quickly as possible. This game, like cards, 
has its variations. But the above imperfectly described way is that to which 
I was accustomed when a boy. I have no doubt that many of your country 
readers are not wholly ignorant of the innocent occupation which 'Nine- 
penny Marr has afforded in the retirement of leisure attractions.*' 

The correspondent terminates his note with an expression of his own 
*' strong recollections of the game.** His letter calls out another dated from 
London, '* Ludgate-hill, 10th November 1826," and signed ** T. B." The writer 
says to the editor (who publishes the piece under the title of ''Nine Men's 
Morris'*): "I was much pleased on reading and being reminded of an an- 
cient game in your book, called Ninepenny-Marl; a game I had scarcely 
hoard of during the last twenty years, although perfectly familiar to me in 
my boyish days, and played exactly the same as described by your corre- 
spondent *P.' I have since visited my native county, Norfolk, and find the 
game is still played by the rustics, and called, as it always has been there, 
'the game of Aforrw,' or 'Nine Men's Morris.' The scheme is frequently 
chalked on the ground or barn floors, and the game played with different 
coloured stones or beans. I think the name is more appropriate than 'Nine- 
penny Marl;' and moreover, we of Norfolk have the authority of our im- 
mortal bard in his 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' where the queen of the 
fairies, speaking to Oberon, says: 'The Nine Men's Morris is filled up with 
mud.' There are some men who are not a little proud at being proficients 
at this game. I heard an anecdote at North Walsham of a man named 
Mayes, still living in that neighbourhood, who is so great a lover of the 
pastime, that a wager was laid by some wags, that they would prevent his 
going to church by tempting him to play; and, in order to accomplish 
their purpose, they got into a house, building by the road-side, where Mayes 
was sure to pass. Being a great psalm-singer, he had a large book under 
his arm; they called him in to settle some disputed point about the game, and 
he was very soon tempted to play, and continued to do so till church time 
was over, and got a good scolding from his wife for being too late for dinner. 

I have been led to make these remarks from the pleasure I have derived 
from your publication ; and you may excuse me, perhaps, if I add, with a 
smile, that I have found some amusement in the game of Morris, by playing 
it with my chess men ; it requires more art to play it well than you would 
imagine at first sight." Hone comments on the latter letter, but his re- 
marks are drawn wholly ftom Strutt's work. The reader will perceive that 
neither of the writers of these communications has even the remotest idea 
of the connection between the English provincial "marl" and the French 
"mirelle"; one of them, if not both, seems to take it for granted that "marl" 
has to do with the fact that the morris -figure is cut in the clay. 

In that fine protest which Shakespeare, in a "Midsummer Night's Dream " 
(11, 2), makes Titania address to Oberon, beginning 

These are the forg«riee of Jenlaaey, 

there is a noteworthy mention of the morris game as played in rustic Eng- 
land. This is really the most striking appearance of the game in English 



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126 CHESS IN ICELAND 



literature, and shows how common a feature of village life the amusement 
must have been in the great dramatist's day. Titania portrays the wild 
tricks played by the king of the fairies in order to spoil the sport of others, 
and, out of mere whim and jealousy, to summon all disastrous forces of 
nature, and turn them capriciously against mortals and immortals. She 
speaks of the calamities thus wrought by the watery elements, by contagious 
fogs, by rains falling on the land, by every pelting river— disasters which 
have made the ox idle, and the ploughman lose his sweat, and the green 
corn to rot. Then she goes on, exclaiming that 

The fold staods empty in the drowned field, 
And erows are fatted with the mnrrion flock ; 
The nine men's morris is flU'd np with mnd, 
And the quaint maaee in the wanton n^reen 
For lack of tread are indistinftniehable. 

In the last two verses we see that the ^* quaint mazes'*— the lines of the 
morris-board — were cut in the turf of lawns and fields. It is singular that 
in all the dictionaries, manuals of sports, and similar works in which the 
passage is cited, these — perhaps the most important in the description- 
are invariably omitted. But it is, however, not improbable that "the quaint 
mazes in the wanton green '' refer to the obliterated tracks of the dancers on 
the village green, and. not to the complicated lines of the morris board>— in 
which case the punctuation might well be changed. It is notable that Shake- 
speare treats the game as if it were an every-day matter— as customary in 
a rustic region as oxen and ploughmen and green com. 

One commentator of this passage (Alchorne) lets us know that "Nine 
men's morris is a game still played by the shepherds, cow-keepers and so 
forth, in the midland counties, as follows. The figure (of squares, one within 
the other) is made on the ground by cutting out the turf; and two persons 
take each nine stones, which they place by turns in the angles, and after- 
wards move alternately as in chess and draughts. He who can play three 
in a straight line may take off any one of his adversary's men where he 
pleases, until one, having lost all his men, loses the game." This is, as will 
be plainly seen, the larger morris, but there is nothing to indicate which 
of the two boards {^g, 4 or fig. 5) is referred to. The same may be said 
of another interesting note, on the same passage, to be found in the glossary 
to Mr. John F. Wise's "Shakespeare, his birthplace and its neighbourhood" 
(London, 1860, p. 155): "The nine men morris board, instead of being on the 
earth, is now more frequently cut on the corn-bins of the stables, at the 
Warwickshire farmhouses, and the ploughmen use white and black beans 
to distinguish their men; the great object being to get three of them in 
a row, or, as it is called to have a 'click-clack, an open row;' in order to do 
this you are allowed to take up your adversary's pieces as at draughts, or 
else to hem them in until they cannot move. There is also a game called 
'three men's morris' which is much simpler." • 

To sum up finally— as to the lands of English speech. The morris game 
came probably from France into England— a supposition greatly favoured 
by the numerous corruptions of the word mSrelles such as merits^ merrels^ 
morals^ moris^ marl, all settling into the form morris^ which can be traced 
back to a very early age. The elementary form of the game— styled "three 
men morris" — has, so far as we can judge, always been played by means 



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STRA Y NOTES 127 



of a board showing a single square, but with transverse lines Joining both 
the middle of the four sides and the four angles to each other. The still 
simpler form, without the transverse lines uniting the angles, such as we 
hear of in Germany, seems to be unknown among the Anglo-Saxon peoples 
—its place being perhaps filled by the school-boy *s "noughts and crosses** 
(the American "tit- tat- to**) of which we shall hereafter hear in greater detail. 
This very elementary morris has been generally used— for some generations 
at any rate— only by children. Of the two forms of the larger morris— 
the first, three concentric squares with lines connecting the central points 
of the lateral lines (fig. 5), and the second, three concentric squares having, 
in addition, diagonals uniting their angles (fig. 4)— both seem to have been 
known in England before the 17th century, although there are several reasons 
for believing that the former is the older design. The most common appel- 
lation for it was "nine men morris** (or " nine men*B morris**) from the number 
of counters employed by each of the two players. Both the earlier and the 
later forms were carried by the colonists to the United States— as doubtless 
to other British colonies^but, for some reason, the form having the larger 
number of transverse lines became there the generally accepted one— perhaps 
because its slightly greater complexity gave more scope to the player and 
higher interest to the play. The number of counters or men was increased 
in the Western land to twelve for each combatant, and the ordinary appel- 
lation given to the game was '* twelve men morris.** Whether this name was 
ever used in England or not is unknown, but it seems certain that only 
dictionaries of American origin cite it. In rustic England the game appears 
to have been even more highly esteemed and widely practiced than in conti- 
nental lands, as is indicated by the custom of cutting the design or "scheme** 
of the board in the turf— so that observers could better watch the game as 
it progressed, or possibly in order to give greater importance to the diver- 
sion as one of the elements of a festival. 

In German the name of the game of ni^elles is, in its signification, like 
one of the more usual Italian appellations. It is called muhlenspieU the word 
being one of the compounds of mwA/e, the English "mill.** The Grimm 
dictionary copies a definition of the middle High German mifhlenspiel ft*om 
Stieler, a dramatist and student of words in the 17th century, which is : 
"ludus tesserarum diversicolorum per decussates mandras.*' Under the word 
mUMe (section 5) Grimm gives a definition, the first portion of which is 
drawn from the "Aramanthes** (3d edition, 1733), a so called " frauen-lcxi- 
con'* compiled by Gottlieb Sigmund Corvinus (d, 1746), who himself edited 
the first (1715) and second (1739) issues. This note is as follows: 
"Muhle ist ein spiel auf dem umgekehrten damenbrete^ welches mit klein- 
en weissen und schwarzen damensteinen, wie sie das bretspiel hat, von 
zwei personen gespielt wird. Wer die letzten steine auf dem brete beh&It, 
hat gewonnen.** From the phrase "auf dem ungekehrten damenbrete'* it is 
evident that Corvinus had never seen a morris board except on the reverse 
of a draught board, and deemed it impossible to find one designed in any 
other position. This is explained by the fact that in Germany, the boards for 
table-play sold in Germany, as elsewhere, always had on one side a chess- 
board and on the other side the morris-board. If they were made to fold, 
like a box, then the interior was a backgammon board, while the upper and 
under sides of the board, as folded, were devoted to chess and morris. In Italy 



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12J? CHESS I\ ICELAXD 



the coiabioatioD of the chess aod morris boards is still very commoD; oor 
have tliey gone out of use in Germany and other countries. Another com- 
piler of words has the same idea as Steiler about the proper position of the 
morris board. Valentine in his "Dizionario iuliano-tedesco*' (1834) puts the 
word scaricalasino— one of the Italian names of the morris game — into a 
Geruian form as: ^'•das muhlenspiel (hinten auf dem damenbret)/* 

The next Grimm citation is from the large dictionary of Adelung— the 
best of its day— which appeared between 1774 and 1786, it supplies us with 
an explanation of the technical term muhle^ used in the m'ffUenspiel to sig- 
nify ''a line of three pieces.'* We quote it: ^'Man hat eine mijhle, wenn 
man drei steine in einer gerade linie hat.'' The expression die miihle zu 
machen is defined: ^^durch einschiebung des dritten steines eine gerade linie 
bekommon;" and the expression seine miihle auf machen is explained "durch 
wegnehmung des einen steines seine gerade linie zerreiszen." 

A "miihle" was thus the same as a **clicJi-clack, an open row," de- 
scribed by a Shakesperian annotator in a previous paragraph; or perhaps an 
"open row," in English, may be identical with an "aufgemachte miihle" in 
German— as indeed we might infer from the two adjectives; and can it be 
that "click-clack," said to be used by the peasants and villagers of War- 
wickshire, corresponds to the German "gemachte miihle?" Or is it the "par- 
allel mill," of which we shall hear on a later page! The use of technical 
terms by untechnical writers, as we have before remarked, is of a very vague 
and uncertain character. 

The game ought to have accompanied, or speedily followed, chess across 
the Alps into the northern parts of the Holy Roman Empire, but we find no 
very early dates given in any treatise of German games or elsewhere, the 
oldest being, as we shall see, in the early half of the 17th century, although 
a diligent investigator would, most likely, be able to trace the game to a 
much remoter period. The farther Teutonic regions received the morris 
game from Germany. It is known in Dutch as violenspely a rendering of the 
German name, as is the Danish inbUe or nioUespil, All these appellations 
would seem to indicate that the game came into this portion of the world 
from Italy, where, as we have seen, it was for a long time called niolino 
(mill). Although the elaborate Italian and French dictionary known as**Le 
nouvel Alberti" (18^), in its French portion under merellc, asserts that the 
game "s'appelle aussi le jeu du moulin," we have not chanced to find such 
a statement in any other lexicographical work. But Von der Lasa's asser- 
tion in regard to this point, reported elsewhere, must be taken into ac- 
count. 

Only one recent German investigator— so far as we are informed— even 
alludes to the morris game. This is the just mentioned writer, Tassilo von 
der Lasa, the reference occurring in connection with his exhaustive researches 
into the treatment of chess, morris, and tables, in so many manuscripts 
dating from the two centuries which followed the completion of the first 
treatise of this class under the auspices of King Alfonso X. Von der Lasa, 
commenting the codices known under the names of "Bonus Socius" and 
"Civis Bononiae," says: "Dieso drei spiele scheinen cine allgemein be- 
kannte und beliebte trias im 14. Jahrhundert ausgemacht zu haben." It 
is well to note that this high authority writes the German name of the game 
mWUespiel instead of miihlenspiel^ and twice employs a Teutonized form of 



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STRAY NOTES 133 

especially Sorokin and Sabelin, are agreed in believing that Russia ob- 
tained the game of chess from the Greeks, that is through the Byzantine 
empire, and not directly from central or southern Asia, as has been main- 
tained by all recent western writers. Mr. Amelung relates that the sixth gen- 
eral council of the church —the same which Van der Linde styles the Synod 
of Elvira in Spain (''Quollenstndien,*' p. 58)— in one of its ordinances made 
games played with dice unlawful. The '^ Nomokanon,*' the Slavic code of 
church law, contains this canon, and imposes a penalty of dismissal from 
his functions on every bishop, priest, or deacon who does not avoid dice- 
play and drunkenness. According to Sorokin, modiflcations of the ''Nomo- 
kanon*' were made in Byzantium during the 11th and 12th centuries, and were 
sent to Kiev, reaching that place about the year 1270, and formally received 
validity. Such a modification of the above-mentioned ordinance 42 of the 
council cited, was composed by the famous historian and canonist, John 
Zonaras {d, 1118 in the convent at Mount Athos), forbidding all the clergy 
to practice dice or chess— this being by no means a solitary instance of cler- 
ical ignorance in regard to the real character of the latter game. This forms 
the earliest known mention of chess in Russia, and the canonical prohibition 
of the game under what may be called the eastern decretals, lasted down to 
the beginning of the 18th century. In one of the Russian canonical injunc- 
tions against the Indian game pronounced during the 16th century, it is 
stated, as an excuse for its inhibition, that it is derived from the '* godless 
Chaldeans." Other games, including especially cards, were subsequently 
added to the condemnatory list. We learn, however, that at the Russian 
court, chess, perhaps by clerical dispensation, or perhaps only by courtly 
license, was nevertheless played in this same period, and played so frequently 
that an artisan was attached to the court for the turning of chess-men, and 
hence bore the title of ^'Shakhmatniki.'* But during all this time there seems 
to have been no ecclesiastical opposition to the morris game. The earliest 
notice oim^elles is that cited by Sabelin, who delves from the court accounts 
in the year 1675, a bill for six sets of ivory chess men, together with boards 
for morris and backgammon, ordered of the *' Shakhmatniki.** Mr. Amelung 
further reports that, although prohibited, not only the nobility, but also the 
burghers of the cities, and even the peasants, knew, and sometimes played, 
the prohibited chess, as well as draughts, backgammon, morris, dice and 
other games. The name of the morris game in Russia is melnisa^ being the 
ordinary word for " mill." In the language of most of the countries which 
lie between the Teutonic region and the greatest of the Slavic nations, the 
word given by the dictionaries as the name of this game indicates the source 
of its introduction. The signification in general is "mill," and we may 
therefore reasonably assume that the diversion must have come from Italy, 
either through Germany, or by some other route. Thus, in Hungarian, the 
word malam signifies "mill," and the word m^eUes is translated malot)iJdtefs^ 
the latter element signifying ** game; " another compound ofmalom, namely 
malmosdiy also has the signification of " morris game." In Bulgarian, the 
names for " mill" and mdreUes are likewise identical. 

The Dutch term for the morris, as we have previously stated, is ino- 
lenspel, that is, literally, the " mill-game." But indigenous appellations for 
the morris game likewise exist. We have cited from Hyde the term driestiken 
for the lesser morris, and negenstihen for the larger, the first element in each 



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134 CffESS TN ICELAND 



signifying respectively three {drie) and nine {negen)^ referring evidently to 
the three men morris and the nine men morris. The latter element is written 
in the modern Dutch dictionaries variously, "5rtA:" and "*te^," ^^strik^* and 
^^strek.'' The whole word is usually cited as a synonym of molenspel. The 
lexicons also give the verb '* negenstekken, '" meaning '^ to play at nine men 
morris." 

Notices of the game in Danish are to be found in most of the publica- 
tions devoted to the diversions of children, such as ** Spillebog for bdrn ^* 
(Copenhagen 1853, pp. 36-37). Here the brief account bears the title of moUe, 
and includes a drawing of the board used in the major morris. The narrative 
which we quote in the original, gives the ordinary rules, and states that the 
game is played with 18 pieces, each player having 9-^ the sets being of differ- 
ent colours. It is evident that the game follows the German model. A linQ 
of three men is termed a '* mill/* and one of the rules ^ of which the final 
clauses are not as clearly phrased as they might be— states that if a player*8 
pieces stand in such a manner that by opening one ** mill '* he can make 
another, then it is naraM a ^' running mill *' {rendenwlle)^ the whole para- 
graph reading as follows: ^*M()Ue spilles med 18 brikker, hvoraf hver af de 
spillende har 9, hvorfor de, liegsom i dam, maae vsdre af to couleurer. Brsedtet 
er som nedenstaaende tegning [fig. 5]. Den ene af de spillende setter 
Rirst en brik paa et af hj^rnerne eller paa de steder, hvor tvperstregorne 
skjsere quadraterne ; dernsest ssetter den anden en brik paa, og saalodes vexle 
de bestandig, til begge have sat alle 9 brikker paa. Den ene skal sdge at 
hindre den anden i at faae tre brikker i een rade, hvilket kaldes en mfffle, 
da man, hvergang man gjOr en m(jlle, har lov at fratage modstanderen hvil- 
kensomhelst brik, man vil, dog ikke nogen, som staaer i m511e. Staae den enes 
brikker saaledes, at man ved at aabne en mOlle strax kan gjiJre en anden, 
da kaldes det en rendemoUe. Man er da sikker paa, ved hvert trsek, at kunne 
fratage modstanderen en brik, naar denne ikke ved selv at trsokke i maile 
kan tage en brik bort fra den aabnede mOlle, hvad man imidlertid i de fleste 
tilfseide kan forhindre, naar man borttager de brikker, hvormed han kan 
tr»kke i mollo. '' The last sentences, relating to the ** rendemdlle, *' run as 
follows: **One player endeavours to prevent the other from arranging three 
of his pieces in a row, which is styled a * mill,' since every time a player 
completes a * mill * he has the right of removing from his adversary's game 
whatever piece he chooses, unless it be one which stands in a completed 
'mill.' If a player's pieces are so situated that by opening a 'miir [that 
is, by moving one piece out of a completed *miir] he can immediately make 
another [that is, by moving, at his next turn, the same piece back, thus re- 
forming his row of three], it is called a 'rendemmie' [running mill]. The 
player is then sure of being able to capture one of his opponent's pieces at 
every move, unless the latter can himself complete a « mill * and by that means 
Uke away a piece from the [temporarily] opened *mill,' thus destroying 
the troublesome *rendemttlle;' "rendemmie," it would thus seem is the equiv- 
alent of the German "zwickmuhle.'* The game is said to be still common 
in the Danish country districts. 

In a Swedish work, similar to the Danish one Just cited, called '' Ungdom- 
e&s bok^' ("Book for youth," 2d ed. Stockholm 1883), edited by Albert 
Norman, we find an aooount of the morris game in Sweden. It occurs in the 
first volume, which is devoted to the games played by boys (p. 162). Unlike 



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8TRA Y NOTES 



135 









n 


f- 


\ 


f 


4- 


/ 


71/ 


i 


I 


m/ 










/ 






\ 


1 






\ 



Fig. 8. 



the boftrd given in the Danish work, this one reproduces what we have styled 
the twelve men morris board (having the diagonal lines), but gives no reason 
for such a difference in adjoining countries. The game has the usual name 
gwfr/MpeZ— "gt?am" (Icelandic Arem, our old English qvuemi) being a purely 
Scandanavian term for '^mill/'^^ Having given an account of the game of 
"noughts and crosses/' (^ry^p, U^app^ UtUl, fig. 6) — the writer Airnishes no 
representation of its board— says: 
"For the proper morris game there 
is a special board marked with 
lines such as are shown by the ac- 
companying design (fig. 8). Each 
one of the two players has nine 
counters (for example, draught- 
men); the men are always set upon 
the places where two lines cross 
each other, or encounter each 
other at an angle, and ho who 
succeeds in putting three of his 
counters in a row has thereby 
completed a *miir {qvam) and 
gained the right to take away 
one of his opponent's men already 
on the board, but which is not at 
the time standing in a *mill/ 
The first player usually begins by occupying the angle a, and then sets 
his next man on e; if his adversary does not then place his first or second 
man on b, the first player enters his third man there, and has therefore made 

^ Tbtt Swedish text is c«rtalDly muoh eaperior to thftt of the Danish booklet. Thin is 
the paragraph in regard to the simple iripp^ trapp, trull (naughti and croMOs): ** DetU ftr f5r 
goatar en myoket vanlig fSrloateUe. De Indela griffelUflan mod It* tvir- ooh Kv& iingd- 
•treck I nio qvadrater. De apeUnde iro !▼&. Den ene yVjer o, den andre i till aitt teeken. 
Hvar ooh en adker fSrst tk slna tre teoken 1 en rad oeh om mfijligt hindra den andre derl- 
fr&n genom inekjatando af ett teekeo, der motapelaren tyekca tI^* hUda llnle. Hvar ooh 
eo fdr i Bin tar infOra blott ett teeken. Har ban det redan tre g&oger p& taflaa, atstryker 
ban ett oeh flyttar det till den plats ban Onskar. Den, som lyckas fdrst fylla raden, atro- 
par: 'Tripp, trapp, tniU, min qvam ir fall.* '* The daialfloallon of the Inliantlle sport re- 
ceives a warrant from this ery of the suceeaaful player. This is auceeeded by an aecount of 
the proper "mill game** (gvanupsi): "IMIl det egentliga qvarnspelet bar man ett sJlrskildt 
bride, beteeknadt mod llnler s&dana nirst&ende afbildnlag vinar (ilg. 8). Hvar oeh en af do 
tv4 spelarne har nIo teeken, till exempel damspelsbrlckor. Teeknen utsftttas allUd p& s&dana 
atailen, der tv4 linier korsa bvarandra eller sammanstSU i vinkel. Den, som lyeikas stAlia 
tre af sina teeken 1 en rad, har derlgenom gjort en qvam oeh ffirvgrfvat rJlttigbet att bort* 
taga ett af motst4ndarens teekeu, som redan Jkr med i spelet, men utaa att beteekna n&gon 
qvam. llan bSrJar gerna med att besitta eu vinkel, till ezempel a, oeh sitter seJan det 
andra tecknat pi « ; sitter d& ieke motapelaren sltt f5rsta eller andra teeken pd 6, sitter 
den ntspelande der sltt tredje oeh har birigenom redan fttrvlssat sig om en qvam. Han kan 
n&mligen bilda den genom att besitta e eller A ; d& moUtindsren blott kan hindra ett af de 
tvi dragen, bllr en qvam siker. S& snart alia teckncn iro auviods, flyttaa de, dock sa, 
att blott ett steg tages hvarje gang. Bger en spelare blott tre teekeu qvar, fir ban hoppa, 
del vlll siga sUUa sltt teeken pi bvilken ledlg plats ban vill. Den, som blott har tvi teeken 
qvar, &r fBrlorad. Btt m&l, (111 hvilket roan b5r atrifva, ir att fd tva qvaruar Jemldpando 
med bvarandra till ezempel a, b, c, oeh, d, «, /. FOr att ern& detu kaa dot vara fdrdelak- 
tlgt att laU motspelaren beh&lla fyra teeken, p& det ban c*J geuom hoppando med silt tredje 
mi hindra planen. Stondom kan ifven motapelaren stingas, sd att ban ej mere kan gQr^ 
nagot drag,'* 



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136 CHESS IN ICELAND 



himself sure of a 'mill.' He can form it by occupying c or h, since his 
opponent can prevent only one of these two moves, and his 'miir is sure. 
As soon as all the men are entered moving begins, but in such a way that 
only a step is taken at each time. Whenever a player has only three men 
left he can 'Jump/ that is to say he can place his counters upon whatever 
em^fty spaces he wishes: the one who has only two counters left has lost 
the game. An object for which each player ought to strive is to make two 
mills running parallel with each other, for example a, b, c and d, &, f. In 
order to attain this, it will be advantageous to allow the adversary to retain 
four counters, so that he may not be able to 'jump' with his third one, 
and thus hinder the plan in view. Sometimes the adversary can be shut 
up or confined, so that he is no longer able to move.'' 

It will be seen that the game differs from the American game, played 
on a similar board, in using only nine men instead of twelve. The advice 
given to the player varies also from the usual counsel in indicating, as the 
proper first play, the occupation of a point on an external line instead of 
one of the central lines. The player is also advised to make parallel "mills," 
but the particular advantage of doing so is not too clearly set forth, nor do we 
find the peculiar technical term "running-mill," which appeared in the Danish 
description. It is likely that by "parallel mills," he means really a "rende- 
mdlle," in which one of the counters closes or completes one "mill" as it 
opens the other, the player reversing the operation at his next move, unless 
prevented by his adversary— or, in other words, "parallel mills" represent 
the German " zwickmiihle." 

But we find in Swedish a later and more pretentious treatise on games, 
the "Illustrerad Spelbok," issued under the pseudonymous authorship of 
"Tom Wilson." It seems to be based upon an early edition of the French 
"Encyclop^die des jeux," from which we have already largely quoted, or 
upon some very similar French compilation. The section in this volume de- 
voted to the morris game (qvarnspel) embraces pages 195-205. The first par- 
agraph describes the three men morris {liten qvarti eller trnpp, trapp, truli), 
"in which" ho tolls us "the game of draughts is supposed to have had 
its origin" ("som aatagligen gifvit upphaf til damspelet")— an error which 
he needlessly borrows from some foreignn source. His three-men-morris is, 
however, really the same as the already described simplest of the morris 
forms. Its board is represented in figure no. 7. It is really the tripp, trapp^ 
trull, or noughts and crosses, or rather a variety of it, since apparently there 
cannot be any diagonal rows of three. His description of this children's sport 
may be thus rendered: " In the nine corners a, 6, c, d, d, A g, h, t, counters are 
entered, three in a row, for instance, g^hyi, or ft, e, h, being styled a 'mill.' He 
who first succeeds in completing a ' mill,' with his three pieces, has won. The 
adversary endeavours by all means to prevent this; especially must he not 
permit the occupation of such points as enable the player to form a ' mill' in 
two ways, for example, 6,a,e or b, «,c, in which case a 'mill' can be completed 
by entering a piece, in the first case either at c or /i, and in the second at 
a or 7i." Here the writer abandons noughts and crosses, and gradually glides 
over into three men morris, for he says: "When the players have entered 
their three men, then they begin to move them, according to one way of play- 
ing, to whatever points they please, but according to another, only to the 
nearest point along the line on which the pieces stand. This last method is 



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STRAY NOTES 



129 



the French appellation, die merellen. In noticing the game, with its prob- 
lems, or positions, as they appear in the two early manuscript treatises 
which we have mentioned, he speaks of it as das grosse mUhlespiel<t which 
can only be in contradistinction to that simpler variety to which we have 
so often alluded, and which employs in its board, or playing surface, only 
one square instead of three (that Is, one external and two internal). 

Perhaps as concise an account of the game as we can quote from any 
current German work, is that given in Meyer's '^Konversations-Lexicon** 
under the word mUMenspiel (of which the variant mUlchenspiel is cited), where 
it is described as a ^^bekanntes spiel, das von zwei personen auf einer aus 
drei koncentrisch in der mitte Jeder der vier seiten durch eine linie dnrch- 
schnittenen vierecken bestehenden figur, dergleichen sichmeistauf der untern 
fl&che des damenbrots befinden, gespielt wird. Jeder der spielenden hat neun 
damensteine und sucht, in dem er die steine, einen nach dem andern ent- 
weder in die ecken oder in die mitte aufsetzt, eine ^^mUhle'" zu bekommen, 
d, h» drei steine neben oinander in einer linie zu erhalten. Dann zieht er 
seine miihle auf und schlftgt, wenn er sie wieder zuzieht, einen stein des 
gegners, der nicht in einer miihle steht. Man sucht besonders eine zwick- 
muhle zu bekommen d, h, eine solche muhlo die auf den einander parallelen 
linien steht, und wenn sie aufgezogen wird, zugleich die andore zuzieht, so 
dass man bei Jedem zug einen feindlichen stein schlagt. Das spiel hat dor 
verloren, welcher alle steine bis auf zwei eingebiisst hat, so dass es ihm 
nicht mehr mdglich ist eine miihle zu bekommen. Hat man bloss noch drei 
steine, so kann man springen, d. h, die steine nach willkiir setzen, wohin 
man will. Unter umstanden kann auoh der eine spieler den andern fest- 
Ziehen d, h. ihm Jeden weitern zug versperren. ** One of the rules which 
the writer cites is to be noted, namely that **If a player have only three 
pieces left he is allowed to *jump/ that is, to move whither he will— accor- 
ding to his own pleasure.*' 

A much more detailed account of the German morris is found in an 
interesting publication, "Archiv der spiele," of which three annual parts 
were published in Berlin in 1819-21. The 
article is contained in the second volume 
issued in 1820 (pp. 21-27), a notable charac* 
teristic of the description being that the 
^^ three men morris'' board is represented 
as a square, with transversal lines running 
from the middle of each lateral centre to 
the opposite one, but without any diagonal 
lines (flg. 6), being, therefore, simpler even 
than the form known to exist elsewhere 
(fig. 1). This form is the equivalent of the 
Swedish tripp^ trapp, trull, and the English 
noughts mid crosses. In England this is 
made by drawing two horizontal and iwo 
perpendicular lines on a school-slate or page of paper, tho outer (quad- 
rangular) lines of the figure remaining unexpressed, or represented only by 
the frame of the slate or the margin of the paper (fig. 9). The players use 
no counters, but write alternately in the spaces an o or a + (or in Sweden 
a 1), each endeavouring to form a row of three. Another thing to be noted is 

17 



rig. 6. 



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130 CHESS IN ICELAND 



that the larger morris board with diagonals is likewise unfamiliar to the 
compiler. Although the essay is somewhat long we shall quote the whole 
of it, premising that the first section is devoted to the simpler, the second 
to the more elaborate game. The general heading is: ^'Das miihlenspiel 
(triodium, jeu des mdrelles);" the style will be found to be somewhat anti- 
quated, owing, no doubt, to the fact that a part of the matter at least is 
borrowed from earlier works: *^Das kleine oder einfoche miihlenspiel (fig. 6), 
wird von zwei spielern, jeder mit 3 damsteinen versehen, auf einem brett nach 
der folgenden zeichnung gespielt. Auf den neun ecken, a bis t, kdnnen 
steine gesetzt werden, und 3 in einer reihe, z. b. ghi^ beh heiszen eine 
miihle. Derjenige spieler, dem es zuerst gelingt, mit seinen 3 steinen eine 
miihle zu setzen, hat das spiel gewonnen, und den etwa verabredeten elnsatz. 
Der gegenspieler sucht ihn daran auf alle m5gliche weise zu hindern, indem 
er seine steine dlesem zweck gem&sz anwendet. Besonders darf er ihn nicht 
eine stellung nehmen lassen, wo er durch versetzung eines steines auf 
zwei punkten eine miihle zusetzen kann, wie z. b. bae oder bce^ wo er an 
der vollendung der einen nicht mehr wiirde gehindert werden k($nnen. Unsre 
knaben bediirfen zu diesem spiele weder brett, noch damsteine, sondern eine 
zeichnung mit kreide oder schieferstift, ein aufrisz auf die erde ist ihnen 
hinreichend, so wie zum spielen kirsch- und pflaumenkerne, kleine kiesel, 
reohenpfennige etc. Das spiel kiindigt sich zwar durch hohe einfochheit als 
ein urspiel an, wie es denn in der that von den griechischen und rdmischen 
knaben so gut als von den unsrigen gespielt wurde; aber fiir das reifere 
alter hat es kein interesse, well es, mit gehOriger aufmerksamkeit gespielt, 
immer rem! [remis] wird, und vom morgen bis zum. abend nicht zu ende 
kommt. Dieser umstand hat zur erfindung des weit interessanteren groszen 
miihlenspiels, oder doppelmUhle gefiihrt.'* This account of the *' three men 
morris ** seems intelligible enough. His statement as to the simple in- 
struments of the game which German children are content to employ would 
apply to other lands. It will be seen that ho asserts with confidence the 
practice of the game, in this form, by the boys of ancient Greece and Rome. 
The writer entitles the second part of his article ^*Das doppel-miihlen- 
spiel.'' We reproduce his wood-out of the older morris-board, although It 
has been given on a previous page (see fig. 5, here fig. 7). From almost his 
first phrase it will be understood that he is treating of the mne-men morris: 
^^Es wird von zweien auf einem brette gespielt, wie die figur es darstellt. 
Ein Jeder hat 9 gewohnliche damsteine von verschiedener farbe, welche aber 
keine urspriingliche pl&Ue haben, sondern von den spielecn abwechselnd und 
willkiihrlich aufgestellt werden nachdem der erste aufisatz durch das loos 
entschieden ist. Der zweck des spielers ist des gegners steine zu schlagen, 
und wer zuerst so viel steine verliert, dasz er weniger als 3 behalt, hat das 
spiel verloren, well er alsdann keine miihle mehr machen, also den gegner 
nicht mehr schlagen kann. Denn nur derjenige kann schlagen, der eineneue 
miihle macht, oder eine schon vorhandene zuzieht, und geschieht das schla- 
gen dadurch, dasz er dem gegner einen stein wegnimmt, und zwar welchen er 
will, sobald er nur nicht zu einer geschlossenen miihle gehdrt. Eine miihle 
heiszt aber niohts als drei gleichfarbige steine neben einander auf derselben 
aufstellreihe. Das brett ist namlich mit 3 quadraten eins in dem andern 
bezeichnet, welche in ihrer mitto durch linien durchschnitten sind. In den 
ecken, and da wo sich 2 linien kreuzen, sind die aufstoUpunkte; also auf 



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181 



a 








b 








c 




A 


c d 


t 








k 


1 


r 


E ] 




n 




/ 









P 


p 








1 






•* 


s 






t 






a 




V 








W 








X 



Fl«. 7. 



dem ganzen brette sind doren 24 vorhanden. Wenn nan steine atif adc, 
auf d ef^ auf ghi stehen, bilden sie miihlen, und eben so auf beh. Also 
nach horizontaler und verticaler 
ricjitung sind miihlen mOglich, 
nicht nach der diagonalen richt- 
ung, und z. b : c ft ist keine 
muhle. Schon beim aufstellen 
istder hauptzweck: selbst muhlen 
zu machen, und den gegner daran 
zu verhindem, und darnach w&hlt 
man die aufefellpunkte seiner 
steine. Oelingt es z. b: einem 
spieler, 3 steine auf chb oder 
efn zu bringen, bevor die punkte 
d b und d e vom feinde besetzt 
sind, so kann ilim dieser eine 
mlihie niclit verliindem, well er 
nur einen stein auf einmal setzen, 
also nur einen der beiden schliesz- 
punkte der miihle besetzen kann. 
Die aufstellung ist vollendet, wenn jeder seine 9 steine aufgesetzt hat, and 
dann beginnt ein abwechselndes Ziehen, d. h. bewegen der aufgestellten 
steine von einem auf^tellpunkte zum andem auf den marquirten linlen, 
z. b : von d nach e ist ein zug, und von e aus sind, wenn keine stand- 
punkte besetzt sind, 4 ziige mdglich, n&mlich nach &, nach h, nach f und 
nach d. Von den iibrigen durchschnitts-aufetellpunkten aus, sind nur 3 
zUge mflglich, z. b: von h nur nach c, oder nach t, oder nach g; und von 
den eckaufstellpunkten nur 2 ziige, z. b: von f aus nur nach n oder nach e, 
Daher strebt man immer, sowohl beim aufstellen als beim Ziehen, sich 
dieser mittlern punkte zu bemJichtigen. Der zweck des ziehens ist ebenfttlls 
mUhlen zu machen, und den gegner am machen oder zuziehen derselbeti zu 
hindern. Oeschlagen wird n'slmlich: einmal, wenn eine miihle zuerst ge- 
macht wird; dann aber auch, so oft sie zugezogen wird. Daraus werden 
sich leicht einige spielregeln ergeben, z. b: dasz man nicht eine miihle auf- 
ziehen musz, deren wiederzuziehen der feind hindern kann, z. b : ich woUte 
den stein e von der muhio def nach h Ziehen, und der gegner hatte etnen 
seiner steine in &, so wlirde er ihn gleich nach e herunter Ziehen, und da- 
durch meine miihle unbrauchbar machen, oder gar durch schlagung eines 
dazu gehOrigen steins zerstdren, wenn er inzwischen selbst eine miihle zu- 
zieht. Ferner: dasz man immer denjenigen der schlagbaren, d. h. nicht in 
einer geschlossenen miihle stehenden steine seines gegners schlagen musz, 
der ihm die n&chste anwartschaft zu einer miihle giebt, z. b. habe ich die 
wahl zwischen bef^ so musz ich e schlagen, weil, wenn ich 2» h: b nMinm, 
der gegner vielleicht die miihle in d schlieszen kOnnte, oder WMin ich f 
n&hme, in h, Wer seine steine bis auf 3 verloren hat, der f&ngt an zu 
springen; d. h. er zieht nicht mehr schrittweise, sondern setzt, wie beim 
aufetellen, seine steine beliebig wo er will. Sind beide spteler zum springen 
reducirt, so ist das spiel, ohne grobe fehler von einer selte, remi [ranis], d. 
h. es kann es keiner gewinnen, es miiszte denn der ftill aeyn, daas der etne 
spieler beim ersten sprunge sich efne doppelte mi!ihleaanlagfe vorberel ten kann, 



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132 CHESS IN ICELAND 



welche doF gegner nicht zu hindern vermag. Eine zwickmiihle nennt man bei 
diesem spiele zwei so gelegene miihlen, dasz man mit einem und demselben 
zuge die eine (iffnen und die andre schlieszon und so abwechseln kann, z. b. 
hhfnu waren mit steinen besetzt, so kann ich dadurch, dasz ich den stein 
f nach e ziehe, die miihle h h schlieszen, indem ich n u Offne, welche ich durch 
einen rlickschritt auf dem folgenden zuge wieder schlieszen kann. Ich kann 
also auf jedem zugo schlagen, so lange diese stellung dauert, welche der 
feinde jedoch auf zweierlei weise zerstdren kann. Einmal dadurch, dasz er 
den punkt e mit einem seiner steine besetzt; dann auch dadurch, dasz er 
einen stein von der gerade geOffneten miihle schlagt, wenn es ihm gelingt, 
trotz der zwickmiihle des feindes, eine miihle zuzusetzen. Wir haben in 
diesem spiele zu wenig selbsterfahrung, mochten es aber dem damspiele an 
interesse gleichsetzen, wo nicht vorziehen; wenn wir gleich glauben, dasz 
auch hier, bei gieicher starke, der anziehende gewinnen musz. Man pflegt 
hier einen doppelten matsch, einen groszen und einen kleinen zu unterscheiden, 
und damit doppelten und dreifachen verlust zu verbindon. Der kleine matsch 
heiszt : wenn jemand bis zum springen geschwacht wird, ohne eine miihle 
gemacht zu haben ; der grosze matsch : wenn er auch mit dem springen zu 
kekior miihle kOmmt, sondern das spiel verliert ohne eine miihle gemacht, ohne 
dem gegner einem einzigen stein geschlagen zu haben. Ueber den erfindcr, 
ilber ort und zeit der erflndung dieses miihlenspioles, so wenig als des vor- 
gehenden damspieles, haben wir bis jetzt etwas sicheres ermittein k3nncn.*' 
This is the most complete explanation known to us of the method of playing 
the larger morris game, and doubtless most of the features and rules cited 
are of much antiquity. It merits an English rendering had we space for it, 
and did we not consider a reproduction of the original of more value to those 
whose researches lie in this direction. It is proper to say that in the very 
last portion of his description the author uses the English word '* match** 
in the sense of "variety" or "kind of victory," like our technical terms 
"gammon," and "backgammon." A player wins a little "match," when his 
opponent has been able to form no " mill " (or line of three men) before he 
has reached the "jumping" point (that is, been reduced to only three pieces). 
He gains a great "match" when the opposing player has at no time been 
able to complete a "mill," nor capture a solitary man. 

We have been unable to look through much of the German literature 
in search of quotations relating to the game of morris. One poetical pas- 
sage was, however, easily discovered. This occurs in a piece by Paul Flem- 
ing (1609-1640), the most poetical of all the German 17th century poets. He 
says in one of his lyrics : 

Oleiohfklla mangelts niolit an spielen, 

Yor nns stefat das interim ; 

Da die peilke ; hier dnd miUUm. 

Of the other games mentioned in the piece other than mUhlen we know 
little; peilke (or beilke) was, we believe, played with a ball or balls. The citation 
from this poet— -who died while still so young, and who was introduced to the 
world of English readers by Longfellow— is also the oldest German mention 
of the morris known to us. 

Friedrich Amelung, in his invaluable serial, " Baltische Schachbl&tter " 
(part 6, 1898), has an essay " Zur geschichte des schachspiels in Russland," 
(p. 139-147), in which he tells us that the later historical writers of Russia, 



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137 



alwftyB employed when the board has, in addition to the right lines, or lines 
Joining the middles of the exterior lines, also diagonals connecting the angles, 
and this is certainly the most proper board"— this being, as will be no- 
ticed, the real throe men morris. "When a player has a *miir full or com- 
plete," he goes on to say, "then he usually cries out to his opponent: *tripp, 
trapp, trull, my mill is taW ('min qvarn ar full')"— reminding us of the 
"Tit, tat, to, three in a row!" of English and American children unHer like 
circumstances. Here there is again a return to naughts and crosses in the 
versatile mind of the Swedish writer: "Boys for this game need neither board 
nor men; they make a rough sketch on card-board with a pencil, or on the 
ground with a stick, and play with pebbles or the like. They are even ac- 
customed to draw the following four simple lines 
and make use of pencil signs instead of moveable 
pieces " — whereupon he presents a sketch of the 
two horizontal and two perpendicular lines, as ^_^_^ 
drawn on a slate or piece of paper in the way 
we have mentioned in our note on the English 
naughts and crosses. He tells us that in the ^___ 
North one of the players uses the figure 1 (in- 
stead of 0), and the other the figure 2 (instead 
of +). This is interesting, since it shows tho 
same popular custom prevailing in Sweden and 
England. The compiler afterwards says that the 
simple morris is a primeval sport, and was played by the boys of Oreece 
and Rome just as' it is played to-day. He then repeats himself by saying 
that in some places a board is used which has not only the two central 
lines (of fig. 6), but two diagonal lines connecting the corners. He finally 
occupies himself with the older or larger morris board (fig. 7), which he 
styles "double morris" {duhbel'qvam)J^ 

After this complete description of the nine men morris we are told that 
there are also boards provided with diagonal lines connecting the corners 
(twelve men morris), and he adds that upon such a board players are some- 




Fig. 9. 



^ That the ilmpler form of the major morrit (with no dimgonal lines) is, however, used 
in Sweden m well at the twelve men morris. Is attested by another book of games, the 
<'Hand-BibiiotbelL fSr SAHslLapsnOJen" (Stockholm 1899-0, II., p. 57), already elted in one- of 
our notes. It giTes a sketoh of the nine men morris board and accompanies it by a brief descrip- 
tion :*< Till qvarnspelot hSrerettbr&de med 3 qvadrater, som p& midten &ro fSrenade, jemte SO 
brickor af olika fftrg* Spelame ftro tvenne, som taga i handen hvar sina brickor. Sedan man 
Ofvereoskommlt om, hTilken som skall s&tta fOrsCa briokan, uU&ttas brlekorna skiftesvis. 
Dervid iakttages : Att Ingen bricka f&r s&ttss utan i hflrn eller Tinkel, och hrllkeu, som 
f&r 3 brickor i en rad, vare sig lings qvadraterna eller l&ngs doras midtel, Sger att fr&n 
bridet borttaga en af motspelarens brickor, som ban anser farligast, dock icke af motspe- 
larens tretal, som kallas $luUn qvam» Det ftr sJlledes angel&get fdr bida spelarne, att vid 
utsAttningen p& en gdng s6ka fOrekomma motspelaren, att f& tretal och med det samma be> 
reda sig detsamma. Sedan alia brickop ftro utsatta, drages en bricka 1 sftnder frSn hdrn 
eller rinkel till bOrn eller vlnkel, allt med berftkniog af tretal, och den, som fSrst icke Ager 
mer ftn S brickor qrar, bar fOrlorat partlet." We Intended to copy here, in the original, 
the complete account of the m^rello given in the *<Tom Wilson" "spelbok," but we refrain 
because we cannot be sure how much of it refers to the actually existing Swedish game and 
how much is due to the French work, which is the source of the narrative. The compiler of 
this book of games is still living in Stockholm, but the librarians and booksellers do not 
agree as to his real name. On our preceding p. 122 (foot-note), in an extract from the " Deutsche 
Schaobseitung,'* the Swedish '^Hand-Blbliothek" is erroneously styled '<//uJ-Bibllothek.'* 

16 



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138 CHESS IN ICELAND 



timee accustomed to begin «« Jumping'* when they have but four men left 
instead of three. Then follows a brief notice of the mareUe triple found in 
the French original (fig. 8), with the important information that some people 
believe this to be the game described by Palamedes, ^' which historians have 
thought to be chess or draughts/' Next we have a still more concise notice 
of the mareUe quadruple (alquerque). The end of the article is the French 
compiler's mareUe quintuple, that is to say fox-and^geese, the detailed exposi- 
tion of which we shall hereafter translate. Of the history of the morris game 
the compilers of these Swedish works tell us nothing; and we have come 
across no allusion to it in Swedish general literature, although such refe- 
rences probably occur* 

And now we come Anally to the Icelandic morris. Fortunately we have 
in a late work— from which we shall quote largely farther on in this volume — 
a detailed account of the game as it has been played in the northern island 
for centuries— for more than two at any rate. The work to which we refer 
is called ^'Islenzkar skemtanir" (Copenhagen 1888-92), and is a sort of con- 
tinuation of the treatise on riddles by the late distinguished folklorist and 
head of the Icelandic national library, J6n Arnason, which is styled" islenz- 
kar g&tur, pulur og skemtanir," in the fourth part of which is contained 
the skemtanir or ** amusements." The author of this sequel or supplement 
is the well-known student, 6lafur DaviOsson, who confesses that he is 
himself not very familiar with the table games of which he treats, but we 
are bound to acknowledge that he has known not only how to get at those 
people who are, but also to study with some care, if not thoroughly, the 
immense manuscript treasures relating to similar subjects which are pre- 
served in Icelandic libraries and archives. He frequently cites, for instance, 
the manuscript vocabulary of great size composed in the early half of the 
XVIIIth century by J6n dlafsson of Orunnavlk (so styled from the place of 
his residence), ^^ in which much attention was given to games familiar to 
the Icelandic people, and the technical words connected with them. Of 
what 6lafur DaviOsson says of mylna in Iceland we shall make a rough 
summary, afterwards appending the original text. We ought properly to 
preface it by the statement that neither here nor elsewhere do we find 
any mention of the three men morris as known in the island, nor of any 
other variety of the morris game than the older (or mediseval) nine men 
morris, (the three quadrangles connected only by right linos). The com- 
piler of the *' Skemtanir" begins by saying that '* Mylna is played upon a 
board of the character here exhibited (fig. 7). There are two players ; each 
of them having nine men, beads or other counters to play with, which 
must be of different colors, one set, for instance, being light and the other 
dark. Lots are cast as to who shall first play or set his man, and he who 

*^ Olafar DaTiSMon deicrlbet the huge dictionary of tbit aathor in Iho introdnotion 
(Inngangnr, p. 6) to hia esiay on Icelandio eboM — an OMay whieh owei much to the 18th 
century lexleographer. The manutcript, at he layi^ !• ttill preserved in that wonderful 
•tore-houee of learning, the Aroa-Magnaean collection at Copenhagen. The words of 6lafur 
Davideson are a* follows: " J6u Olafseon fri QrunnaTik [d. VW] samdi hlaa isleniku orH- 
bok sine nm miSja 18 Old og skyrir hdn ]>yi eflaust helm fri islenskum lelkjum fri fyrrl 
hluta 18 aldar. Annars hl^tur Jon a^ hafa haft >etta rit undir i mOrg 4r, ]>vi )>a( er ekkl 
kasta^ hdndnnum a« sllku st6rvirkl. Or9ab6kin er 9 blndl i arkarbroti og er ekkl til noma 4 
einum sta^, saful Ama Magndssonar i Kmh. (nr. 438, 1-IX, fol.)." Words relating to gamee 
are especially well represented in this inedlted lezleon. 



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thus has to begin puts a man on some point on tiie board, after which the 
other enters one of his, and so alternately until both have used up all 
their pieces. Most players endeavour to form a *miir (my/mi), which is 
done when one of the contestants arranges his pieces in a straight line 
on three adjoining points. He who has made a * mill ' may then capture 
one of the pieces of his opponent and put it otf the board, but he is not 
allowed to capture from a *miir already completed or closed (lokd^^, 
if either, for example, has a *miir on «, I, and m, or A », and i«, tiien he 
may capture any one of the opponent's pieces he pleases, except those which 
stand in a completed *mill,' but every piece of a player is considered to 
be en prise if his opponent can play one of his men upon the point properly 
belonging to it. In other respects it is not so easy to set the men rightly 
on a morris board, and good players consider it to be more important that 
the men stand favourably when they are all placed than to form a *miir 
while the process of placing them is going on. Nor is it easy to lay down 
rules for the entering of the men, but it may be considered that it is always 
good to have men at the central points e, n, k and u When all the men 
are placed, then the player who entered the last but one begins to 
move, and after that each one moves alternately. The pieces can go to the 
nearest point in a right line, both combatants trying to play so that they 
can make 'mills' and use them, for it is of little advantage to have a 
*miir which is not ready to ^spenna upp' (be opened up) and capture with 
afterwards [by reclosing it]. If one player, for instance, possesses a *miir 
on (jT, h and i and the other has men on e, I and m, then the 'mill* is useless 
for the time being, but if the former can move the piece which stands 
on ^ to ; (that is spenna the 'mill') and from I again to g (that is, loka 
fienni^ 'close it'), then he has revived his 'mill' and may capture whichever 
of his adversary's pieces he wishes, except those which stand in a closed 
' mill.' It is, of course, understood that each one tries to move a piece t 
l^'apHnn, that is to say, into the vacant spot or point of a 'mill' which his 
opponent is opening {spennir), in order to hem in (or shut out) the piece 
. which has Just moved off its proper spot, and meanwhile is considered to be 
an exposed man. If one for instance has opened his 'mill' d, e and h {mo- 
ving his piece from e to f), and the other has a piece at d, then he moves it 
to e and thus makes the 'mill' worthless. 

Besides the simpler kinds of ' mills,' there are others, such m svikamylna^ 
krossmylna and rennihestur, Svikamylna is that position in which a player 
can make a 'mill' at every play, or close a 'mill' and open another at the 
same move. If, for example, he possesses men at «, k and d, and at b and 
hy and the point e is vacant, then he can move d to e and e to d, thus mak- 
ing a ' mill ' each time he plays. If the other player has a piece at f, then 
the maker of the 'mill' must capture it if it be possible to do so, for other- 
wise his opponent can spoil (binda) the svikamylna. A krossinylna (a cru- 
ciform 'mill') is when one player has pieces on all points on two crossing 
lines except the middle one, for example &, d, f, and h. As to the renni- 
hestur^ writers do not agree as to its character. J6n 6lafsson says that he 
who has a rennihestur can capture many pieces at once. t>orsteinn Erlings* 
son explains that rennihestur is a svikamylna and krossmylna combined, for 
example the men on a, &, c, d, f and /i. Others say that rennihestur is a 
potUien with pieces for example on a, c, d, /; g^ and t, and on one of the 



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140 CHESS IN ICELAND 



points 6, e, or K A rennihesiur is like a svikaniylna in this respect, that 
with it it is easy to capture a piece at every move, but yet it is entirely dif- 
ferent in some respects at least. We do not linow," says the writer, "the 
rennihestur feature in the north (of Iceland). 

When any one has a svikamylna or rennihestur^ it is, so to speak, impos- 
sible for the other one to win, but yet the game is not wholly finished before 
one of the players has lost so many men that he cannot make a ^miir or, in 
other words, seven of his nine pieces. Some say that it is a complete 'win- 
ning' at mylna if a player can hem in the pieces of the other so that they 
cannot be moved, but others maintain that such a game counts only as a 
half. It is thought to be something of an honour to place one*s men so well 
at the beginning of a game that the pieces of the other player are hemmed 
in before he has captured a man. J6n 6lafsson has a drawing of the mylna 
board Just as it is to-day, but gives no detailed explanation of it. He says 
that krossmyhia has another name, vcengjamylna, Mylna is in its origin 
foreign, just like chess and backgammon, but the author thinks it well to 
give a description of it, for it is largely played in Iceland, and various expres- 
sions are used in connection with it which are very common and popular. 
The Rev. Hallgrimur P6tursson (see p. 37), in his poem on table-games, 
mentions neither the morrHs nor fox-and-geese^ and we might infer from 
this that neither of these names were used at that period, but this would not 
prove that the games themselves were not then practised.'' '33 6lafur DaviSs- 

^ It will be loarned from a page Imnedfately following thla that the celebrated bymnol- 
ogiat does mention the morris under one of lu rarely need and probably older name*.— 
We add here, as usual, the leelaudfe text of 6lafar DaTldtion In f^Il : ^* Mylna er telfd 
eptir jMMarl mynd [ag. 7]. Treir tefla. Uvor ]>efrra heflr nd tOflar e&a gler o. •. fk-r. tU 
aS tefla meft, og verSa ]>an a9 vera mlelit, hvic t. d. 5drum meglnn, en dOkklelt binum rae- 
ginu. Pelr kasta blutkesti um hror fyr tknli setja. S&, aom k ad byrja, aetur tOln i einhvern 
relt i tafllnn. I>& aetur hlnn, og avo koll af kolll, ]>anga« tU hTortTeggl heflr sett aliar tttlur 
^inar. Fleatir leltaat fVt at koma aftr npp mylnn, en ]iaft er mylna ]>egar annarhror k tSInr 
k l^remnr reitnro, sem llggja i beinni Hnu hvor r\t annan. 84 sem heflr felngit mylnu, mk 
drepa eina t51a fjrrlr hlnum, og er hda ]>4 dr sOgnnnl. P6 mk bann ekkl drepa dr loka&ri 
mylna. Rf annarhvor k t. d. mylnu k $, t og u eda u, n og /, >& mi hann drepa hverja tOlu, 
sem hann vlll fyrlr hlnum, nema l>»r sem standa i mylnu, en dnop er brer tafla annars* 
hTors, ef mdtstMamatur bans getur leikid einbverrl af tSflum sinnm k relt hennar. Annars 
er talsyertnr vandl at setJa tOlumar i mylnutafll, og ]»ykir goftum taflmSnnnm nelra korald 
andir ]>▼{, aft tSlurnar standi haganlega, |>egar bdlft er tA setja ]ittr allar, en aft tk mylnu meftan 
Terlft er aft aetja ])aDr. Ekkl er bngt aft gefa reglnr fyrlr setnlngunnl, en >6 m& geta )>esa, aft 
altaf er gott aft elga tOlnr k miftreltnnnm s, Jt, n og I. 

I>egar bdift er aft setJa allar tOlnmar, leikur si, sem setti nasst aelnaat, arc hvor epttr 
annan. TOlnraar ganga k nmsta relt Tift ]>«)r, eptIr belnum Hnum. Biftlr leltaat vlft aft lelka 
]>annlg, aft >elr f&l mylnur, og getl notaft air ]?»r, ]iTi >aft er til litlis gagna aft elga mylnu, sem 
ekkl er bngt aft apenna upp og drepa meft aptnr. Kf annar i t. d. mylnu i ^, A og < en 
hlnn tOlur i e, I og m, >i Terftur mylnan aft rolklu leytl dn/t i brift, en ef si f^rrt getur fnrt 
tSluna, aem atendnr i g til I, apent hana, og fri I aptur til p, lokaft henni, ]>i heflr hann 
yngt mylnu aina upp, og mi drepa brerja tSlu fyrlr hinum aem hann Till, nema >»r sem 
sUnda I lokaftrl mylnn. Paft seglr sig >Ti sjilft, aft bvor fyrlr sig reynir til aft tera tSlu I 
kjaptlnn i mylnum ]>eim, sem mdtatdftumaftnr bans spennir, efta bin da ]>mr ]iTi )>»r em mitt- 
lausar i meftan. Bf annar heflr t. d. spenU mylnu, ft, «, h, og hlnn i tSlu i ii» ^ flnrlr 
hann hana i e, og dn^tlr ]»annig mylnnaa. 

Auk einfaldrar mylnu er til svOamylRa, fcroMmyrna og rwnihfiwr, Srikamylna er ]»aft, 
|»egar annarhvor getur komlft sir upp mylnu vift hvem lelk efta loklft mylnu og spent aftra 
i sama leiknum. Bf annarhvor i t. d. tdlur i s, k, og J og fr og i, en reltnrinn • er anftur, >i 
getur hann fnrt d, i • og a i d, og fenglft ]iannig royinn { hvert sklptl sem hann leikur. Bf 
hinn i tOlu i /, ]>i vttw mylnumafturlnn aft drepa hana, ef mdgulegt er, >▼! annars getur 
ndlstSftnmaftur bans bondA STikamylnuna. Kruttmylna er ]iegar annarhTor i tdlur i OUum 



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STRAY NOTBS 141 



son has & foot-note at the end of his essay stating that the morris game is 
played in England exactly as it is played in Iceland, as may be seen in an 
account in *'Drengernesegen bog'' (Copenhagen, 1868, pp. 33-34), which is a 
translation from the English ''Boy's own book.*' Mylnay he says. Is also 
played in Denmark, and is there called nwlle. As to the term krossmylna^ 
it evidently signifies ''mills" in process of formation on two lines, one of 
which runs across the other, or is at right angles to it. This is shown by 
the synonymous term vcengjamylna^ in which one of the rows or ^*' mills ^^ 
stands like a "wing" {voengur) to the other. Svikamylna seems to corre- 
spond to the Swedish klappqvam or "parallel mill," while rennihestur^ in 
its verbal signification, recalls the retideindlU of the Danes. As to the allu- 
sion to the leiktfisa "lay of games," of Hallgrimur P&tursson (1614-74), the 
famous author of the "Passion Hymns," it may be stated that table-games 
are not referred to in any early existing copies ; but in his other similar 
piece of rhyme, the taflvisa, "lay of tables," of which so high an authority 
as Glsli Konr&Ssson, the late distinguished occupant of the Icelandic chair 
at Copenhagen, deems him to be surely the author, we find backgam- 
mon, in several varieties, mentioned, while the morris game is given a place 
under the obscurer name of fceritafl. ^^ In another collection of stanzas 
on games, called "Ellideilur," which was discovered in 1890 in the Advo- 
cates' library at Edinburgh, allusion is made to table games in general, but 
only by the introduction of the verb iefla, meaning to "play at Ubles." 

reltum ieliibTerjom kroninan, nema mlftrelinniD) t. d. ft,<i, / of A. Aptar ber mSnonm ekkl 
•aman nm r«iifi<AM<. J6ii 6lafMon Mglr, ad nk, Mim alsi reuDlhMt, get! drepi) mar gar tftlar 
I elaa. Porttelnn Rrllafnon seglr, aA r«uiiihettar lA tTlkainylna of kroMinylaa Mioolnaftar 
U d. Mlar a, b, e, d, /, og A. Aftrlr tegja, aft rennlhettur •« tOIor i t. d. a, e, d, /, g og i, og 
& elnbTerJum reltanna 6, • e%a h, Renaihestur cr elni og*iTikamylDa aft t>vi leyU, aft ai«ft 
bonum er bagt aft drapa tSla { bverjuin lelk, en ])6 er baan talavert Sftruvfal elai og aoftiM er. 
Kg ^kki ekkl rennlbeat aft norftan. 

Pegar annarbTor b«ar avlkamylnd afta rennibett, er §wq aft Mg|a 4ni(>gulegt fyrlr blnn 
aft Tinna, eo ]>6 er Uflift ekki Atkljift fyrir fult og alt, fyr en anaarbTor beflr mlit sto margar 
tfllar, aft baou getur ekkl felaglft mylnu, efta aJO toiur meft Qftrum orftuni. Siimlr telja |>aft 
lika fullan TlnniDg { mylao, ef anuar getur feat avo tOlur blnai aft ]>elia rerfti ekkl leiklft, eo 
aftrir telJa alikt aft eina bilfan vinning. ]>aft ]>ykir ekkl allliill fnagft aft ietja t«nr aiuar avo 
Tel i taflbyrjan, aft 191 ar bina featlat, iftar en kemnr til maoadr&pa. 

J6n 6lafston beflr mynd af mylnntafll, alveg eIna og |>aft er enn { dag, enn ekkl l/alr 
bann ]>▼! aft markt. Haon aeglr aft kroaamylaa hettl vangjamyltta Oftru DaTol. Mylaau er 
i&tlead aft upprnna, alna og akakii^fi og itoCra, en mir >6tU |>^ rAttara aft l^aa benni b^r, ]»vi 
bafti er bdn tefld mJ5g miklft 4 iaiandl, og avo koma fyrlr i benni yma udtn aan era alreg 
]>j6ftleg. Sira Hallgrimar PAtaraaon nefuir bvorkl refakik n6 mylna i UAtUu alnni og miBtti 
ef til Till r4fta af ]>vi, aft bvoragt naftilft bafl tiftkaat am ]>»r mandlr, en meft >Ti er ekkl aagt, 
aft tSflin bafl ekki rerift tiftkuft ]»i.'* In bit notea 6lafur Daviftaaoa tella na tbat one of bia 
autborltieaf P411 Bjarnaaon, baa beard tbe verb <*aft apana** naed for "aft apenna'* or 
**ap«nna upp.** He likewiae inforna ua tbat In leeland, aa in atber eoautrloa, flalding boarda 
are found eoatalning baekgammon, ebeaa {§kdlUaJi) and morria (mybiutoyf), baving wltbin, 
wben tbe two flapa are abut, tbe men aaed for tbe gamea. 

*** An aoeount of tbla game, ao far aa anytblng ean be learned about It, will be found 
In tbe text on tbe next page. Aa to Hallgrimur Pdtnraaon, we And two Inataneea of tbe nae 
of tbe word f^/T— aignlfying, aa muat be borne In mind, eitber ebeaa or aome otber table 
game— in tbe aeeond Tolnme of tbe reeent memorial edition of ble poetical worka (**8almar 
og kT»ftl/* BeykJaTik, 1890, I., p. 4M), 

Treytt el s tre broiina 
Tv^i b41fanna ; 
and again (p. 4S7): 

Opt er anga k iafli, 

Bettber of wbieb paaiages tbrowa any apeelal llgbt on oar tbeme. 



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142 CBKSa IN ICSLA ND 



Dr. J6n f>orkelssoii, archivist of Iceland, regards the author of this to be 
J6n Jdnson, who dwelt at Helgavatn, and the date of its composition \o be 
between 1630 and 1650. These lines read : 

^ul tkein mod fegarft og frjg^, 
FargaSi allri maDnslna ^tyg'b^ 
Seggjam marga Btetieiks dygS 
Sagftidt konna ad veiUf 
Danaa og Ufla dreiogjam liaiiB, 
Dr6s Tar ekki 4 )>a« trand, 
Gledinoar eflda allan aa9, 
Sem k kann bjartat letta. 

The four stanzas which follow enumerate the various athletic, musical and 
other sports. There are several allied pieces of verse in Icelandic literature, 
some of which are printed or cited by Olafur Davilisson (pp. 361-365). One is 
ascribed to the patriotic and warlike last catholic bishop of H61ar, J6n Arason, 
in which tables, cards, chess and backgammon, with music, are mentioned: 

Til hefl' eg tafi met apilnin, 
Tolar aem leggi og vfiliir, 
Hkdk met skfifnum hr6kaoi, 
Skj6tt og kotrn hornOtta 
Hdrpa heldar anarpa, 
Hreyata meS girnia nelatmn 
F6n mod fSgrnm B6ni, 
Feingit til lyUa og atrelngi. 

This is said to have been composed about 1530. Allusions to so popular a 
game must, as we have said, occur in Icelandic records— old diaries or letters 
for instance— of which so many are preserved unpublished both in Iceland 
and Denmark. And there is no doubt that in the remoter regions of the 
island traditions, phrases and proverbs, relating to mylna^ are still await- 
ing the collector. Let us hope that some scholar of the scholarly land 
will yet bring all these things together, and throw new light upon the 
story of a social diversion which was once so widely spread and practised, 
and is still, in its various forms, a source of enjoyment in many lands. 

Before taking final leave of the Icelandic morris we ought, however^ in 
this connection, to state that some manuscript works, which treat of social 
diversions, mention- a game called Freysiafl, which the writer J6n 6lafsson 
mistakingly cites from the F16ventsaga, his assumed, or wrongly located 
quotation being as follows : '' HeiSingjar s6ttu eptir F16v6nt, en s& er nnstur 
var 1 eptirreiSinni t^nir snart lifi shio, og er svo & a9 lita viVskipti peirra, 
sem maQur leiki Freystafl og eigi jafna rdS, og leiki ur annari i aOra, og 
taki hverju sinni einn senn ; og sem hann snerist i moti, \k hver fallinn, er 
f^rir honum varO.*' The same writer says that this Freystafl must be the 
same as the game known as fceringartafl (or as Hallgrimur P^tursson calls 
it, faritafi). He says that it is played without dice, and that there are tliree 
lines in it; (in Latin, ^Uribus ordinibus constans"*). dlafur DaviOsson ob- 
serves that both these names may really represent the morris game, the 'Hhree 
lines'* describing the parallel lines which form each side of the major mor- 
ris. In the passage referring to the Freystafl^ whencever it may be derived, 
the expression Jo/hrda^, meaning "even lines" or "full lines," is a proper 
enough title for the double or parallel mills {svikamylna)^ of which we have 
heard so much, and the phrase "leiki ixv annari i a9ra, og taki hverju siftnl 



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STRAY NOTES 143 



einn senn ** C* plays out of the ono into the other and takes a man once 
every time**)> represents the method of play and capture by means of the 
fvikamylna. It should be remarked that QuObrandur Yigfusson explains 
this '^game of Frey ** as <* probably what is now called yo^^Ko/K/* citing also 
the Floventsaga, having perhaps discovered a passage in another chapter 
than that (the Vth) to which it is assigned by Jdn dlafsson. But no great 
heed need be given to this opinion, as we have already learned how un&mil- 
iar with table games was the Oxford lexicographer. ^ 

The game of go^atafl is said by some writers to be played with dice and 
we are told that no special board is needed for its practice ; others state 
that it may be played on a table-board, or back-gammon board ; some again 
declare that the proper number of men is twenty, but Konrad Maurer ('*Ger- 
mania*' XIV, 1869, p. 108) says that it is played with 32 men. J6n dlafsson 
explains that the mea are white and black, and that the white ones are 
each as valuable as two black ones ; with this rule, it is said, not so many 
men are necessary. The word foeritafl is not cited in the Oxford Icelandic 
dictionary. If it be true that besides mylna ('^mulino,'" ^^miihlenspier*) 
there are these other names for the Icelandic morris— vernacular names as 
it would appear^ the iact places another face, not only upon the date of its 
introduction into the country, but also upon the source whence it came. The 
Floventsaga, one of the fabulous sagas, was written certainly as iar back 
as the earlier half of the XVth century. In fact, a vellum manuscript of it, 
in the handwriting of that period, exists in the Arna-Magn»an collection at 
Copenhagen. The manuscript was transcribed in Iceland, so that at that 
time the Freystafl may have been known (but see above). 

There are doubtless various, if not many, allusions to mylna among the 
old letters and old note-books, and the collections of inedi|Bd verse and 
prose, which the author of the present sketch has flailed to delve out from 
those public and private libraries of Iceland to which we Just alluded, 
but the search for them must be left to other hands. What we have gleaned 
indicates that mylna must have been familiar in Icelandic homes before 
the XVIIth century had closed, leaving out the question of its identity with 
Freystafl, It also indicates that mylna could have had no connection 
with hnefatafl^ or any similar game, existing in the old saga times. The 
name of the morris game (if there be in truth no earlier appellation than 
mylna) in the Icelandic tongue is evidence enough that it must have 
reached the island by way of Germany, Denmark or Norway, and that its 
path 'thus diverged from that followed by the game of chess. In other 
words, its arrival in Iceland post-dates the appearence of hnefataH in the 
sagas. Besides the light which these facts, or inferences, throw upon 
the character of the old saga game, they are likewise of some weight in 
estimating the real age and source of merelles. Those who argue that 
either Greece or Rome was the primary home of this line- game will have 
difficulty in showing why it should not have reached France, then England, 
and afterwards Iceland at a much earlier dale. Those who attempt, on the 
other hand, to prove that it, or at least some variety of it, came into Spain 
from the east, must confess that ils arrival took place after the coming of 

•• Neither Freyiafi nor fmringartajl Arc found iu Frilxner't **Ordbog" (1886-96), whicli 
woald Indicate that the former need not be sought in Floreutaaga ; nor do we remember to 
h*Te ■••n it tn the printed text of that anelent work edited by CederechJ61d« 



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144 CHESS IN ICELAND 



chess, else it ought to have crossed the Pyrenees, the British Channel and 
the Icelandic seas in company with the greatest of table games. Our investi- 
gations have been too superficial and too restricted to enable us to discuss 
this larger question, which, in its character, is not unlike that which makes 
the story of tables so obscure. 

We have, as a starting point, on the one side, the simple little game 
described by Ovid, though too vaguely to make it absolutely certain that it 
has anything to do with our theme, but there we lose all trace of what 
more than one archaeologist has asserted to be the three men morris of a 
later age. To the game of tables we find apparent allusions not long after 
the downfall of the Roman empire, but we do not catch a glimpse of any- 
thing resembling the morris game during the 1000 years which follow the 
age of the Roman poet. On the other side the indefinite character of our 
knowledge in regard to the codex of AKonso yields only a slight foot-hold 
for the belief that the morris game, like chess, came from Perso- Arabic 
regions into the Iberian peninsula. We are only sure that the Escorial Codex 
contains an account of a game played upon a design or ^^scheme*' composed 
of four ihree-men-morris boards, and that this game bore, and perhaps 
still bears, an Arabic name. Whether the forms of the morris game of the 
higher class which appeared a little later on the hither side of the Pyrenees 
are described in the codex or not we cannot at present say. When Spanish 
scholars make up their minds to tell us what the non-chess portions of the 
codex really are, we shall very likely be able to advance a step in our re- 
searches. Of course it is possible that the Saracens, who imparted so much 
to the European world, may themselves have borrowed something from the 
declining Latin civilization. The early invaders of Spain and Sicily may 
have found t^e smaller morris in vogue among the peoples they had con- 
quered, and afterwards developed from it the larger morris, or they may 
have discovered the latter already grown to maturity. They may have con- 
ferred upon it a name of their own. Just as the Europeans^ supposedly at 
least— did in the case of nerd or nard, which we are told originally came 
from the Indo- Persic world. These, however, are only conjectures, and it 
is not impossible that none of them may ever assume the aspect of cer- 
tainties. Still we do not despair of the future efforts of the modern spirit 
of research, and the shrewd judgment of modern scholarship. 

We conclude this portion of our subject by a hasty summary. There 
exists a group of line-games— thus called, as we have explained, because 
the men or pieces used in them are entered on the intersections of th^ines 
along which they are moyed— this group comprising the following varieties: 
the three men morris, the nine men morris, and the twelve men morris, 
the basis of all of which are lines united to form one or more quadrangles 
—all of which have been largely played, at any rate since the Xllth or 
Xlllth century, among both the Latin and Teutonic nations. To these 
differing forms must be added certain games of a composite nature, such 
as the so called alqtierque^ made up of four three men morris boards, and 
* the well known fox-and-geese^ originated by uniting Aye of tlie smaller 
morris boards. To these again may be subjoined one or two varieties of 
doubtful origin and prevalence, such as the mulinello doppio (or mfh^elle 
double) shewn in our fig. 3. This last is perhaps an imitation, or growth 
of modern days, but none of these varied diversions help us in determining 



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145 



bt 



fl 



the character of the Icelandic hnefaiafl. In none of them is there a chief 
figure or piece which is attacked by one section of the men or counters, and 
defended by another section. ** 

The only really scientific treatment of the morris game and its practice 
—wholly modern in its methods— is to be found in Alban voh Hahn^s *'Buch 
der spiele" (3d ed., Leipsic, 1900, pp. 249-352), a volume which we shall shortly 
cite again. It includes both the three men morris and the nine men morris, 
and gives the former in two shapes, one a «^ board with 9 points** and one a 
'* board with nine squares.** In the illustrative figures of both the minor 
morris and the major morris a notation similar to that employed in chess 
is made use of. The vertical or per- ^^ ^^ 

pendicular lines are indicated from 
left to right by letters of the alpha- 
bet, and the transverse or horizontal 
lines, from below, upward, by num- 
bers. This enables the compiler to 
give examples of games. The *' mill ** 
or miiMe is indicated by an Ml The 
games are naturally divided into two 
parts, the first being the entering of 
the men, the second, their moves and 
final completion of the game. Wo 
give a diagram (fig. 10) of the nine 
men morris with the notation, and a 
specimen of a game with notes and 
variations. It must bo remembered 
that on the formation of a "mill,** the one who makes it has a right to take 
one of his opponent's men from the board. The pariie which we copy from 
Hahn is as follows : 



eS — U — elB 



< b da el l 



dl 



rig. 10. 



a. The men enter : 



White. 


Black. 


1. on a3 


on b3 


2. . gl 


» b2 


3. » bl 


• d5 


4. > f3 


> d6 


5. w d4 


. a2 



White. 


Black 


6, on c2 


on c3 


7. » fl 


» d2 


8. » f2 M 1 / 
takes d2 i 


» d2 


9. on g2 


* g3 



** A tlngalar TOlame — to whiob we hara already referred In oar note npon the literature 
of tbe (amet of the andente— relating largely to the InTentlon and eappoeod d«TeIopment of 
the mir^Un, or the game of merriUst at the tathor st jlei It, la John ChrUtle*8 ** Enquiry into 
the aaelent Qreek game snppoied to have been invented by Palamedee'* (London 1801). The 
work Is full of mitapplled erudition. The writer argues that the game of Palamedee was tbe 
Qreek p«tteia^ from wbleh is derired the morris game, the ludtts lainmeulorum, and nltf. 
mately chess. He crltleises with some severity the writings of Hyde and Sir WiUiam Jones, 
and indeed all **the erroneous eoneeptions entertained of this game by the different eom> 
meutators upon It, for besides the remarks I have quoted from Bomaise, we find those of 
Meurslus, Sonter, Bulengerns and eren the great Casaubon equally contradictory and Ineon- 
elusive.'* He finally carries the p9tiHa from Greece to the north of China, where it passes 
into "an Intermediate state between the perfect chess and the genuine p*ttHa,** and where 
he finds the sacred square or line leg^ yQafAfAfi of Ihe jt^wia represented by tbe three men 

19 



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146 



CHESS IN ICELAND 



b. The men move: 




10. f2-e2 ab-al 13. f2-e2 


d5.b3 


11. gl-dl b2-a2 14. f3-d5 


White has won, as 


12. e2.feMM ^3^^^ 
Ukes d2 \ 


black is hemmed in. 



But black, just before the beginning of section 6, might have placed his last 
man on e2 instead of gS, leading to the following continuation, in which white 
obtains, in his 11th and 12th moves, a "double mill" or zwickmuhle: 



White. 

10. g2-g3 

11. f2-g2 M ! 
takes e2 

12. g2-f2 M ! 
takes el 

13. f2-g2 M ! } 
takes el ) 



Black. 
d2-d3 
d3-el 

a2-al 

b2-a2 



14. bl-b2 




a2-al 


15. gl-dl 




al-a2 


16. dl-al 




hemmed in. 


t)r 






16. dl-gl M ! 
takes a2. 


\ 


hemmed in. 



The author states, that, in his opinion, the morris game has a certain but 
not very close similarity to the great Japanese go-bang^ whic& makes use of 
a square board of 19 vertical and 19 perpendicular lines, on the intersections 
of which the game is played, each party having 181 men.*37 

Fox-and'Oeese (refek&k). — The second game of a minor character to 
which the hnefata/l of the saga period has been referred, is that, which, in 
the lands where English speech prevails, is known as fox-and-geese. It has 
a not dissimilur title in most of the continental countries, as, for instance, in 
Germany, fuchs- und hUhnerspielt "fox-and-hens" (or fuchs im hOhnerJiof)* 
As we shall shortly have occasion to see, it stands in an intimate relation to 
m^relles— -being of the same class of line games. One of the most notable 
authorities on Icelandic antiquities, the present head of the Reykjavik nation- 
al museum, following an earlier writer, of whom we shall speak on a later 
page, maintains that the game of fox-and-geese is identical with hnefata/L, or, 
at least, with one form of that ancient diversion. 

It is proper to say at the outset that the fox-and-geese board, in compar- 
atively modern times, has begun to be used for games more or less different 

morrU board, which he conceive* to be the proper origin of the inner iqaare of the nine men 
morrie, really repreeentlng a aheep-fold amonff the Scythian herdemen. Ont of thia inter- 
modUt« form in China grew the game of cheee, which eubseqaently spread to India and Ba- 
rope. The book it well worthy of eoneultatlon for the take' of ita ingenlooi errore and of 
Ita illaetrationc, eapeelally iu faneifol vignette portraying the origin— among ahepherda— of 
the morria game. 

^ Joat aa the fUlI proofli of thia aeetioa have been read there cornea a valaable referenee 
from Mr. John O. White, of Cleveland, United SUtea — whoie familiarity with every portion 
of eheas literature la now hardly excelled— which fortunately can be inaerted here. He aaka: 
" Have yon not overlooked Yon der Laaa'a auggeation that the different naraea and ahapee 
given to the men in the medlieval mirellea manuaeripta were merely devieee to aaebt In 
recording the movea? From examination of the gamea recorded, it aeema that all theae 
differently shaped and named men had the same movea, the aame powera. Apparently the 
thought of numbering the Interaeetlona had hot occurred to the anthora, and hence, the 
adoption of theee devleea aa a meaaa of notation merely.** Thia aeema to explain the mat- 
ter aatlafaetorily. 



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147 



in their nature, especialiy for one oalled in England solitaire and in France 
''Englisli solitaire"' and for another, known in Spain and Italy as asalto 
{assalto)^ in French as assaut, in Danish as belejringsspel. In this game, or 
in one of these games, the upper square of the fox-and-geese cross is trans- 
formed into a fortress, usually by drawing bastions or a wall around it, which 
a portion of the pieces employed are supposed to besiege ; but all such di- 
versions are much younger than the board on which they are played, that is 
to say much more modern than the original fox-and-geese. It is not easy 
however, to cite many early mentions of the game in any literature, since it 
has evidently always been, for the most part, limited to the rustic classes* 
with which, in English lands at any rate, it is still popular. 






V 



21 



4- 



^^ 






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22 



.2 



-71 



^ "i 



<^' 



\ 



^ 



^^ 



i& : 



N 
V jW/ 
\^/ 



...1%. 



/ ! \ 



e 



\ 



«l* 



-^\ 



2g| 4r.' 






Y. 



vt 



/ 



:il jM 



80 



91 S2 83 

Fig. 11. 

Pursuing, as nearly as may be, the same geographical order as in treating 
m^relles, we find no distinct data as to the age of fox-and-geese in Spain ; indeed 
we are left in some doubt by Brunet y Bellet in regard to the mention of this 
game in the codex of Alfonso. The modern author gives a drawing of the 
board, and some matter relating to the game in the very pages in which he 
is treating that manuscript, but he be8tx)ws no Spanish name on the board 
other than the recent one of ** asaltp,'* although, as will be remembered, 
he quotes the ordinary English title. None of the accessible Spanish lexico- 
graphers aid us. 



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148 CffESS IN ICELA ND 



In Italy, particalarly in its Northern and central parts^ the old style of 
board is still frequently seen. ''Le nouvelle Alberti'* (1855) gives first the French 
title, making it— as do most of the lexicons— jeu de renard^ and then inter- 
prets it in Italian as giuoco delta volpe. As a matter of fact, if it be some 
times called volpe (*^ fox "'), it is much more commonly named lupo e pecore 
(** wolf and sheep*'). In some of the dictionaries of low Latin is cited a 
game called vulpes^ but no date is suggested and no citations are given 
for the use of this title. Most of the Italian books on games describe 
the method of play. We abridge the rules given by one of these works, 
but the full text will be found in the note printed below :«» ^»lt is played 
with one piece (volpe) and with 13 pawns {poUi, ** chickens*') which are ar- 
ranged (fig. 11) on the 13 points (caselle) of the board numbered from 1-13; the 
opposing piece or fox is placed upon whatever vacant point its player may 
select.^ The pawns, (that is, geese or chickens) may also be entered on cor- 
responding points in the lower portion of the board. The fox may move 
forward or backward, to the right or left, or diagonally. The geese are per- 
mitted to go only forward and laterally, but cannot move backwards. The 
player ought not to leave his geese unprotected, or alone, as may be done 
with the men in the game of draughts [since in this game there is no exchang- 
ing of men ("polio" for **pollo")]. Skill at this sport consists in pursu- 
ing the fox, and in so shutting him in that he cannot move. The fox captures 
all the undefended or solitary geese and, in his movements, seeks to impede 
them ft*om passing into the court-yard (the uppermost square) amid 
their fellows, so that he can take them more easily. Practice counts for 
much in this game, as it is only by practice that the player can learn to 
imprison the fox. The geese move first. To-day, however, the game is 
generally played with 17 geese, the four which are added to the original 13 
being placed at the points 14, 20, 21, 27. The fox is allowed to capture two 
or more of the geese if, as at draughts, unoccupied points exist behind each 
of them, and wins the game, either when ho has taken captive all the geese, 
or when he has passed over the points indicated by the numbers 1, 2 and 3; 

** Omitting » paragraph eonUintog the Lydian story (reported In the French clutlon, 
on a page immediately foUowiog) the text of the Italian *' Gome potao dlTertlrmi ? ** (Milan 
1901, pp. 881-2S8) la a« foUowi: **I1 mallnello quintuple 6 dato da cinqae malinelll aem- 
pliel dlipotti a forma di croee, eome nella flgura 107. QueaU dlepoalaione d4 la bellesaa di 
83 oaselle, aalle quali li giuoea una partita aasal ourtoea addimandaU delta rolpe e de'poUI. 
Un reeehio libro franeeae mi acrve dl gal da fedele per deacrivere qnesto paaaatempo. *SI 
ginoea eon nn dama (volpe) e eon IS pedine (polli) ehe ai diapongono lu IS eaaelle della t*> 
Tola. I polli ai diapongono da una parte (in alto o in bauo) e la volpe a plaeere in una 
eaaella della parte oppoata ehe ne eompreude SO vnote. La volpe pu6 mnorerd innansl o 
Indletro, a deatra o a liniitra, o diagonal meute. I polli non poaaono andare ehe in aranti • 
lateralmente, ma non poaaono, perci6, tornare indletro. II gtuooatore non deve laaeiare 1 polli 
•coperti o loli, eome li pratiea per le pedine nel gioco di dama. L*abilit4 di qneato ginoco 
conaiate neU' inaeguire la Tolpe e nel ehiaderla di Ul maniera, ehe aon poaaa pit muoTeni. 
La volpe mangia tuttl i polli ehe aono teopertl o aoli e qneati devono Impedlrle di paaaare 
nel eoriile, in mesao a lore, pereh6 pib faoilmente potrebbo mangiarae. L* eeerolaio eonU 
molto in qneato ginoco, e perei6 i tele eon reiercislo ehe ai pu6 faoilmente rieaelre a far 
prigionlera la volpe.* I polli muovono per i prlml. Oggi, per6, ai gluooa eon 17 polli, e 1 4 venntl 
inaooeorao del 18 vecehi, al oolloeano nelle eaaelle 14, SO, SI, S7. La volpe pud manglare due o 
piii polli ae, eome nella dama, treva eaaelle vnote dietro a elaaenno dl eaal, ed h* vinto la par- 
tlu o qaando ha divorato tuttl I polli, o quando ^ arrivaU anile eaaelle aegnate eol nnmerl 1, 
S e 8,e la perde quando ai laacia chludere in maniera ehe non poaaa pi& andare innansl, tor- 
nare Indletro, o fuggire dlagonalmente.** 



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STRAY N0TB8 149 



and loses it when he has allowed himself to be surrounded in such a manner 
that he can no longer go forward, return backward or flee diagonally/* So 
far the Italian author. His assertion that the number of the pawns or geese 
was formerly 13 possesses some historical value, if it be true. The reader 
will notice the different positions, in the Italian and the English games, of 
the four additional pieces ; instead of the points 14, 20, 21, 27, they occupy, 
on the Anglo-American board, 14, 15, 19, 20. 

This modern Italian author, as the reader will soon be able to notice, is 
simply a compiler from French sources, not having apparently made any 
effort to study either the methods of playing the game or the records of its 
story in his own country. As in the case of other similar diversions both the 
practice and the history, as well as the name of the game, probably differ in 
the various Italian provinces. But only laborious inquiry can determine how 
greatly. 

As we have already seen, there have been published during recent years, 
in France, various hooKa on the games of social life, mostly compiled, unfor- 
tunately, by men of little learning, some of whom have allowed their imagi- 
nations to play with great freedom whenever they were unable to bring any 
actual knowledge to bear upon the subject they chanced to be treating. The 
result is that they have thrown a good deal of darkness upon several of these 
household diversions. Their evil influence has not only been felt in France, 
but, througl^ translators and compilers, in various other countries. The 
^* Grande Encyclopedic des Jeux'* ofMoulidars, to which we have more than 
once referred in preceding pages, cites a XVIIth century publication of a sim- 
ilar character, finding therein a fabulous story of the origin of the game, and 
then proceeds to explain its mode of play. He styles it the m^elle quintuple 
since its board is made up of five ordinary throe-men-morris boards, combined, 
as we have seen, in the shape of a cross. It will be noticed that he employs 
the orthography marelle. We insert here the whole original text (p. 101) 
relating to fox-and-geese : **0n obtient cette marelle par la Juxtaposition de 
cinq marelles simples, comme sur notre fig. [11 J. Cette transformation de la ma- 
relle simple pent aussi etre obtenue en se servant d*un solitaire anglais, so- 
litaire fran^ais diminud de quatre cases. On a ainsi un Jeu de 33 cases, qui 
sort k une partie singuli^re nomm^e ^ le Renard et les poules,* invents par 
les Lydiens, s*il faut en croire la 'Maison des Jeux acaddmiques* (Paris 1668), 
k laquelle nous empruntons la citation suivante : * Les Lydiens, peuple d^Asie, 
entre plusienrs Jeux qu'ils invent^rent, donn^rent Torigine et Tusage k oelui 
du renard, non tant pour le ddsir quMls eussent de le Jouer, que pour se fa^on- 
ner aux ruses et se garder des surprises que Cyrus, leur ennemi capital, leur 
dressait tous les Jours, lequel les appellait poules, k cause quMls aimaient les 
d^lices et le repos ; et iceux Lydiens le nomroaient Renard, k cause quMl dtait 
sans cesse aux aguets, et qu'il cherchait inccssamnient des finesses pour les 
surprendre. Ce Jeu est ing^nieux et r^r^atif, facile k pratiquer. On le Joue 
avec des dames ou des Jetons, k faute d'avoir des poules de bois et dUvoire 
en nombre de treize, poshes sur treize rosettes ou espaces dont la table est 
oomposde. Les poules sent en la partie d*en has et le renard est en la partie 
d*en haut, qui consiste en vingt rosettes ou espaces, et vous placez en Tune 
d'icelles le renard k discretion, qui pent monter et descendre, aller et venir 
au haut et has, k droit et travers. Les poules ne peuvent monter que de has 
en haut et ne doivent redescendre. Le Joueur ne doit laisser les poules de- 



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150 CHESS IN ICELAND 



coQvertes, ou seales, non plus qu*au jeu de dames. La finesse de ce Jeu est 
de bien poursuivre le renard, et Tenferroer en telle sorte quMl ne puisse aller 
de^ ni del&. Et est k noter que le renard prend toutes les poules qui sont 
seules et d^couvcrtes ; enfln, 11 se faut donner garde de laisser venir le re- 
nard dans la partie d'en bas parmi les poules, pour autant qu'il les pourrait 
plus facilement prendre. L*exercice peut beaucoup en ce jeu, et k force do 
Jouer, on s*y rend bien maitre. Les bons Joueurs ddmarent les poules 
premier que le renard. Celui qui a les poules ne doit permettre, s*il peut, 
qu^on ddmare le renard le premier, car cela ne lui est avantageux. 

"Telle est la rfegle de Tancien jeu, tel qu'on le jouait au XVII® sifeclo; on 
pla^lt les poules sur les cases 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 et 33 du 
solitaire anglais, ct le renard, n'importe sur quelle autre case. Les poules 
jouaient les premieres ; elles progressaient en avant, sant pouvoir reculer, 
ou horizon talement, k droit et k gauche. Le renard allait dans tous les sens, 
en avant, en arri&re, horizontalement et mdme diagonalement. D^s quMl trou- 
vait imm<^diatement devant, derri6re lui ou k c6t^ de lui, une poule Isolde, de 
rautre c6td de laquelle se trouvait une case vide, il sautait dans cette case, 
pardessus la poule, qui 4tait croqu^, c*est-&*dire enlev^ du jeu. 11 pouvait 
prendre diagonalement, par ezemple de la case 5 It la case 19. Tant de pr^ 
rogatives lui assuraient Timpunitd et il pouvait facilement atteindre Tune 
des trois cases 31, 32 ou 33, o^l il avait gagnd ; quelquefois il prdlSrait cro- 
quer une k une les pauvres volatiles, qui ne rdussissaient pre^ue jamais k 
remporter la victoire en Tenfermant de mani^re k le mettre dans rimpossi- 
bilitd de bouger. 

"Cette r^gle, ou tous les avantages dtaient en favour du renard, a M mo- 
difl^. On a fortifld les poules, en portant leur nombre k 17, les quatre autres 
se plaint en 7, 13, 14 et 20. II leur devient ainsi beaucoup plus facile de se 
protdger. Quelquefois mdme on convient que le renard ne pourra ni prendre 
ni marcher en diagonale; mais alors on l*affaiblit au point qu*il ne lui reste 
gu6re d^espoir de gagner. La meilleure manifere de Jouer cette partie est de 
prendre une tablette de solitaire f^angais dont on annule quatre cases, comme 
nous le disons en parlant du solitaire anglais; on se sert de 17 flches ou 17 bou- 
les ordinaires ; pour le renard, on prend une flche ou une boule d*une autre 
oouleur, par exemple une flche trempde dans Tencre. Le renard se place sur 
la case du millieu et les poules jouent les premieres. II est juste que le renard 
puisse marcher mais non prendre en diagonale. Quand le renard a n&glig^ 
de croquer une poule en prise on le dit blessd, et Tadversaire ajoute k son 
jeu une nouvelle flche, quMl place en arri^re des autres, sur la mdme ligne 
horizontale que la derni^re de ses poules ; dans rimpossibilitd d*agir ainsi, 
il attend pour prendre une nouvelle poule quMl y ait une place vacante sur 
la derni^re ligne horizontale occupde par ses flches. On peut con venir que le 
renard aura le droit de prendre deux ou plusieurs poules k la fois quand deux 
ou plusieurs flches ont un intervalle entre elles, comme cela se pratique aux 
dames ; mais il est prdfdrable de 8*en tenir k une poule k la fois. Le renard 
a gagnd quand il a croqud toutes les poules ou quand il est parvenu sur la 
demi^re ligne de leur camp (cases 30, 31, 32 et 33), il a perdu sUl se laisse 
envelopper au point de ne pouvoir plus jouer en avant, en arri^re ou en diago- 
nale. Ainsi rdgUe, la partie n'est pas sans intdrdt.*' In comparing all this with 
the summarized version which we have given of the Italian compiler's work, 
we find that the latter has omitted one or two features of what the French 



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STRAY NOTES 151 



writer tails as is the modern mode of play. Whether he has done this be- 
cause the Italian method differs from the French or not, Jt is impossible to 
say. These features are the placing of the fox at the middle of the board, 
and the law that he is privileged to move, but cannot captare diagonally. 

What is here and elsewhere denominated the** English solitaire** board, 
consists of points arranged like those of the fox-and-geese board, but not 
Joined together by lines, so that the cross form of the group is not so evident 
The French solitaire, a similar game, destroys all resemblance to the fox-and- 
geese board by adding four more points, two to the second line of the upper 
section of the cross and two to the next to the lower line of the lower section. 
The French also have the Spanish asaltit, called by them l^saui, played on 
the fox-and-geese board, on the old game of which, though differing consid- 
erably, it is apparently based. In the upper section of the cross, or fortress, 
are placed at will, two men, corresponding to the fox ; while the other sections 
of the board are occupied by 24 men of another colour. The 24 besiegers must 
always advance either vertically, or obliquely, capturing their adversaries, 
however, as does the fox in the original game. The game ends either when 
the besiegers have made themselves masters of the nine points of the fortress, 
or have captured the besieged, or when the latter have taken all the besiegers. 

As to England and America, we know of no other title given to this game, 
than the usual one. The oldest literary mention of it is in a play entitled 
**A fine Companion'* (1633) by Shackley Marmion, a minor playwright of the 
court of Charles I, well known as an imitator of Ben Jonson. It was acted, 
we are told, before King Charles and Queen Henrietta Maria. It contains the 

passage (II, v) '*Let him sit in the shop and play at fox-and-geese with 

the foremen." In the middle of the following century we find a second writer 
of somewhat greater note^in his day at least—alluding to the game in his 
only romance. This is the Irishman, Henry Brooke, a friend of Pope, who, 
in his ** Fool of Quality** (1766-68), makes one of his characters ask (I., p. 367): 
**Can you play at no kind of game. Master Harry t'* to which the reply is, 
**A little at fox-and-geese, madam,** the inference being, of course, that he 
who knows no other game than one so simple and so rustic must indeed be 
a fool. The literary reader will remember that Charles Kingsley was so great 
an admirer of this eighteenth century novel that he edited a reprint of it 
Fox-and-geese is, in fact, one of those games of which there are but few ap- 
pearances in general literature ; indeed, the game was even regarded as too 
familiar a sport to be treated in such compilations as the **Compleat Game- 
ster*' of earlier days, or the "Hoyle** of later times, and as certainly too 
rustic to be introduced into the higher fields of literature. In the farm- 
houses of America is often to be found a fox-and-geese board of wood, 
made with holes into which pegs are inserted, the peg denoting the fox 
being always a little higher than the others. In England the fox-and-geese 
scheme is, sometimes at least, drawn on a round piece of board, with cir- 
cular depressions at the intersections of the lines to receive the marbles with 
which the game is played, the fox being usually represented by a blue marble 
and the geese by gray ones. 

Strutt, in his already cited "Sports and pastimes** (1833, pages 318-319), 
has the following account of the game:— *' This is a game somewhat resem- 
bling that of mdrelles in the manner in which the pieces are moved; bvt in 
other respects, as well as in the form of the table, it differs materially; the 



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152 



CHESS IN ICELAND 




Fig. 12. 



intersections and angles are more numeroas, and the points, of course, in- 
creased, which adds to the number of moves. To play this game there are 
needed seventeen pieces, called geese, which are placed as we see them upon 

the engraving {tig. 12), with the fox in 
the middle, distinguished, either by his 
size or difference of colour, as hero, for 
instance, he is black. The business of 
the game is to shut the fox up, so that 
he cannot move. All the pieces have 
the power to move firom one spot to an- 
other, in the direction of the right lines, 
but cannot pass over two spots at one 
time. It is to be observed that this board 
is sometimes made with holes bored 
through it, where the dots are, and pegs 
equal to the number of geese put into 
them, and the fox is distinguished by 
being larger and taller than the rest. The geese are not permitted to take 
the fox, if he stands close to them, but the fox may take the geese, in like 
case, if the spot behind them be unoccupied, or not guarded by another goose; 
and if all be taken, or the number so reduced that the fox cannot be blocked, 
the game is won. The great deficiency of this game is, that the fox must 
inevitably be blocked if the game be played by a skilful hand ; for which 
reason, I am told, of late some players have added another fox ; but this I 
have not seen.** The writer, in his last sentence, is possibly referring to 
the French game of assaut which we have just mentioned. 

The American mode of play, which differs little or not at all from that 
prevalent in England, is thus concisely described in the "Century" dictionary 
(sub voce "fox'*): "Fox-and-geese, a game played on across-shaped board 
or on a chess-board with pins or checkers [draught-men], one of which is the 
fox, the rest the geese. The geese move forward one square at a time, and 
win if they can surround the fox or drive him into a corner. The fox can 
move forward or backward, captures the geese as men are taken in checkers, 
and wins if he capture all the geese.** 

In Germany the customary name for fox-and-geese is, as we have noted, 
fUcfis und hUhner {or fuchs-und hUhnerspiel); it is said to be styled in South 
Germany, or in portions of that region, der fuchs im hUhnerhof (" the fox in 
the chicken yard**). But, according to a recent book on games (A. Von Hahn, 
"Buch der spiele,** 3d. ed., Leipsic, 1900, pp. 252-3), it is likewise called, as 
in England, der fuchs und die gdnse ("fox and geese**). In this late work 
the author describes, first, the modern asallo, for which his name is 
das festungs' und belagerutigsspiel, he liaving no idea, evidently, that it is the 
development of another game, and begins his account with a description of 
the board. This he follows with a short paragraph on fox-and-geese, the 
text of which we quote in full : "Ahnlich ist das spiel: *der fuchs und die 
glinse,* welches auf einem gleichen brett, jedoch ohne festungspl&tze, gespielt 
wird. Eine flgur, der fuchs, steht auf dem mittelfeld und hat dieselben rechte 
wie die festungssoldaten. Er darf vorwlirts und riickwlirts marschieren, 
jedesmal von einem punkt zum nachsten, und darf eine gans nehmen, wenn 
das in gerader linie hinter ihr befindliche feld frei ist. Die siebzehn g&nse 



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STRA Y NOTES 153 



Bind auf der einen halfte aufgestellt, diirfen ntcht schlagen; sie haben 
gewonnen, wcnn es ibnen gelingt, den fuohs so einzuschliessen dass er nicht 
mehr Ziehen kann. Links und rechts neben dem Aichs ist ein leerer platz. 
Der fuchs gewinnt, wenn er letzteren umgeht und jene wegschlagt, " 
This attempted notice of the original game displays no very accurate 
knowledge of the matter, and is carelessly written. It is enough, however, 
to show that the mode of play corresponds with that practiced in other 
lands. It is still a common diversion in German rural districts. ^ 

The game is yet well known and practiced on the Scandinavian mainland, 
but exact information about it, in those colintries, is diffloult to procure. The 
printed notices of it are unsatisfactory and not infrequently erroneous. The 
Swedish ** Hand-bibliothek fOr sallskapsnojen/' heretofore cited, begins 
(II., p. 645) with the asalto^ styled belogringsapd, or sometimes, as the 
writer states, fastningsspel ("fortress-game"). At the end of the description 
we are told that he who plays the defenders in one game, generally directs the 
besiegers in the next. This is followed by fox-and-geese, to which the name 
rdfspel ("fox-game'*) is assigned (pp. 647-8). It is preceded by a diagram of 
the board unlike any other that we have seen. Instead of having 20 squares 
with 33 points on the angles, as in the usual cross-shaped board, it has 24 
squares with 37 points. The four additional squares are inserted in the 
angles made by the outer lines of the two sections of the cross, namely 
those formed (see fig. 11) by the figures 4, 9, 8; 6, 11, 12; 22,23, 28, and 30, 
25, 26. How much this novel board is used in Sweden and how much the 
older one, it is impossible to say. We are told that this scheme is 
composed of 26 squares, the writer's own diagram, however, showing, as we 
have stated, that there are only 24. He gives the number of the sheep {far) 
as 22, an addition of 5 to the game as we practice it in England and America. 
The "sheep" occupy the 22 points on the central and all other lines above 
it ; the fox is placed on any point below, at the will of its player. The 
mode of play and capture is as generally described. We are informed that 
the object of the fox is to make his way to the rear of the flock of sheep, 
that of the sheep is to shut in the fox. As in the heWgringsspel the opposing 
players take the sides of the fox and sheep alternately. It is not impossible 
that this form of the game may have superseded the older and usual one in 

^ A« a matter of intereat, vre trantlat* the compiler** aceonnt of tho a«aUo, or as be 
ealli it *<tho game of fortroM and tiege" (p. 25S): *'Thh game It played on a board, having 
the form of a erost and thirty thrre point* united by lines. Nine of these point* represent the 
fortress, which is defended by two soldiers. These two men at thu beginning of the game 
may be plaoed, at will, on any two point* appertaining to the fortress. The 94 places outaide 
of the fortress are oeenpied by the soldier* of the beeieging p«rty. Tbe ta*]c of ihe*o latter 
is to occupy ail the nine point* of the fortre**, and for this purpo*e to drive oat, or entice 
from it, the garrison of two men. The besieger* must advance on the line* toward the 
fortre**, bringing a man, at every move, nearer to the sought for goal. Bvcry besieger can 
be eaptored by the defendant which stands In front of him, whenever he is not protected by 
a man in the rear. From this it follows that the men mn*t advance maesod togHiher as far 
a* po*sible. If one of the defenders neglects to capture, then he can be "blown,** that is to 
say, captured. Under certain circumstances the defendant* are allowed to capture one or 
two men in order to draw them farther and farther out of the fortress. The defenders also 
move one step at a time, but can hop over a* roauy of tbeir opponent* a* are to be found 
with a vacant, or undefended point in their rear. When there are no longer enough beaiegers 
to fill the nine points of the fortress then the defendant* have won. If, on the other hand, 
the eoldlor* are either penned up inside their fortress, or have been expelled In soch a way 
that they cannot return to it, the game has been gained by the besiegers." 

20 



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154 CHESS IN ICELAND 



some, if not all of the provinces of Sweden, for wo do not find, in any work 
on games, an account of the ordinary board, until we reach the " Illustrerad 
spelbok" of "Tom Wilson" (see p. 136 and note 131), and so much of that 
work, as previously hinted, is transtated from foreign productions, that we 
can hardly trust it as a Swedish authority.*** 

Fox-and-geese has certainly long been practiced in Iceland, but just how 
long it is difficult to say. It is called in that island refshdk (fox-chess); from 
the signification of this name we may infer that the game reached the country 
after the introduction of chess. The theory has been mooted that it has an 
older title {hnottafl or hnettaft)^ and that under this term it is mentioned in 
the sagas ; but we shall refer to this supposition in detail hereafter. At 
the present time, special boards for refshdk are rarely or never found. It is 
oftenest played on a diagram drawn with chalk on a board, or marked on 
paper, or on a slate. In the work "fslenzkar gAtur," so often cited, the 
game is described as follows (pp. 298-300): "As in so many other sports 
refshdk is played, by two persons; one of them has a 'fox' {t6a\ and the 
other 13 'lambs* ijionib) [the latter being, of course, the English 'geese*]. 
Ordinarily the 'lambs* are placed at the points indicated (fig. 11) as 1 to 13 

^ The SwediBh text, under the heading <<BelftfriiigMpelot" (p. 645) it «'Till d«tta spel, 
•om p& tyaka kallas: da§ belagerung$'tpi«lf p& franska : le jeu d'a^Muty ocb hfir i Bverige 
Afven \iB\\aL» : /d4tning$Mpe1, erfordras ett brftde eller en tafla af det utseende motstjlcudc flgnr 
utviaar oeh dertlll S:n6 s&rikilt utm&rkta pjeser t]Wr soldater, som Tld »pekta bSrJan hafvit 
•ina plataer A flUtningen, taint andra 84 aoldater, Kom plaecrat & bvar tin af mndlarne utom 
flUtningen, ocb hvilkat bemSdande b6r vara att iutaga fiittuingen. Llnierna utTita, buru 
toldaterna m&tle framrycka, nemligen de angripande endaatpi derOda [lines], ett ttegbvarju 
gftng, utan att g& tlUbaka. De torn fSrtvara f&stningen fft Til ej heller ga mer an ett ateg i 
tender, men kanna gA pft b&de tTarta ocb r5da linfer fram ocb tillbaka, ocb kuiina ocb m&tte 
tl&llkatomi tebaok[?] ocb borttagahvar ocb en bredvid at&ende pjet, d4 nftata rum &r ledigt, 
aamt intaget. Detta giller fOr t& m&nga pjeaer, torn dcrtill gifva tillflllle, t&tom i dam. r& 
detta t&tt tCka fi>raTararne, att minaka de angripande* antal; men bSra akynda tig till baka 
i flUtningen. De angripande kunna deremot Icke «1&, utau m^tte jomt tCka att h&ila tig 
tlUbopa ocb bemSda tig att f& fdrtvararne utai&ugda fr&n flUtnlngin. Slir icke en fOrtvarare, 
d& dertlll ftr tillf&Ue, &ger den tpelare, torn fOrer de angripande, att likatom t dam htUta bort 
den, d. ▼. a. bortUga fOrayararne uUn rubbning i apelet, Hufvudgrundcn f^r apelet Uratl fa 
fOrayararne ur fbtningeu, fOr att kunna intaga alia 9 platserna, bvilket ftr enda yilkoretfor 
yunnet tpel. Kan det eJ ako, yinner den, torn anfSrer iSrayararne. Den, aom en giog fort 
fdrtvararne, fOrer merendelt nftata g&ug angriparne.*' The detcrlption of "r&fspelet** reads 
that : " Hirtill nytljat en flgur, tadan tom den motat&ende, med 26 [84] qyadrater, byilka i 
bvarje hCrn bar ett h&I, bvari paaaa a& yill den pjea, aom f5reat&ller r&fven, tom de, bvilka 
fOrett&lla f&ren, hvilkat antal ftr 88. En apclare forer den fdrra, ocb en annan de s«duare. 
Kan den fSrra komma bakom f&ren, ir apelet vunnet, likaaft & andra aidau, om de aednare 
kunna inneatHnga r&fvon. Fftrcn uppttilla tig i allab&l p& alia linler frAn ocb med a, [central 
line] till oeh med &, [appermoat line] och.rftfven f&r taga ain plata bvar honom bilst synea* 
F&ren g& ett ateg hvarju gdng, 8& val IJlngaAt qvadrateruaa sidor, tom deraa korsliiilcr, men 
de f& icke aid, hvaremot rafveii, aom bar aamma g'lug, f&r, likaaom i dam, el& hvart oeh ett 
f&r, tom bar tomt rum bakom aig, oeh flora p& en g&ng, om tillf&Ile dertlll erbjudia. Faren 
f& endatt g& fram&t ocb p& tidorna, men r&fven f&r g& oeh a]& fram orh tlUbaka. U&fven bCr 
bemGda aig att borttaga 8& mftnga t&r aom mdjligt, f6r att bana tig yftg bakom f&rakoekvu* 
F&ren &ter b6ra adka b&lla aig tlUbopa, att rAfven Icke kan f& tillf&lIe att borttaga n&gotj 
bvarigenom do ovllkorligen akola Inat&nga r&fVen. Man brukar, merindelt, att den aom ena 
gftngen fSrt r&fven, andra g&ugen forer f&ren." The ezpreaalon d« rCda ('*tbe red**) and 
tvarta oeh rUda linUra ("black and red linea ") refer, doubtleta to a diagram printed (In 
other imprettiona of the work) In two eolora. Here the diagram ia wholly in black. Prob- 
ably it baa been^ In other Inatancea, ao printed that the llnea in the upper tection of the 
eroat (the "fortreat") are black and tbo remain log liuea red. Although the board dlffert 
from the genuine fcz-and-geeae in having the four additional squarea, the manner of play, 
It will be teen , It exactly at In the Englith game. 



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STRA Y NOTES 155 



—the other op opposing man— the 'fox'— at the central point, 17. It is the 
aim OP object of the formep to shut the * fox ' in, that is, to arrange the 
'lambs' in such- a manner that the opponent can no longer move, while the 
latter seeks to defend himself and capture as many of the 'lambs' as possible. 
The player of the * lambs ' endeavours to guard his pieces, of course, as the 
more men he retains the easier is it to enclose the 'fox.' A capture takes 
place thus : If the ' fox ' stand close to any ' lamb,' that is, if the ' lamb ' 
stand on the point next to the 'fox,' and there is no piece on the point 
behind it in a direct line, the fox is permitted to Jump over his opponent 
to the vacant spot. The 'lamb' is then removed. If the 'fox' stand, for 
example, on 11 and the 'lamb' on 5 and there is no piece on 1, then the 
'fox' jumps over the point 5 to 1 and thus captures the 'lamb.' In other 
respects the manner of the moves can be readily seen. The ' lambs' follow 
the iines and the 'fox' chases after them. Both may move to any part of 
the board on right lines; both, too, go forward and backward (although 
some assert that the 'lambs' are allowed to march only in a forward 
direction). The 'fox' is in the greatest danger if it move into either of 
the four extremities of the cross, as it is more easily surrounded in those 
regions, but it sometimes, when hotly pursued, finds it necessary to retreat 
to some one of these perilous points. When the 'fox' can no longer move, 
it is considered to be shut in, or as it is termed 'burned in,' but to effect 
this the 'lambs' must stand on the next two points in every direction in 
order to prevent the jumping and capture process. For instance, if the fox 
is on 31 then, in order that it be ' burned in', < lambs' must stand on 23, t8, 29, 
25, 32 and 33. It is much more easy to play the 'lambs' than to play the 'fox,' 
for he who guides the movements of the former, if he has had considerable 
practice, is sure to win. There are no counters or men special to refskdk. 
Beads or coffee-beans are used for the 'lambs,' and something larger, for 
example, a button or thimble, for the fox." The author closes by saying : 
^^ Refskdk is the most common board-game which I have met with. J6n 
Olafsson remarks that every human being knows it. In his time (1750) 
it was played as it is to-day, or, at least, the board used was the same. 
SigurQur Ou6mundsson says that refskdk must be the same as hnottafl or 
hnettafl, which is supposed to have been practiced in ancient days, and 
J6n Olafsson likewise hints at the same thing." ^*^ 

*** The original leelandie U m follows: <' Treir meDH t&n« refskik, elna eg fle«t Onnur 
t6fl. Ann«r beflr l6a, en hinn heflr 18 Idmb. Bg aet a5 hornit 1 inUi tCb lambamanninuni, og 
■kipar hann ^eiin k r«itlna 1-13. Hfnn setur aptur t6una k miSreUinu, 17. I>a& er mark og mtS 
UmbananiulM a9 brala t6nna lonl, aklpa ISmbunara avo, aA t6an geti ekkert komlst, en hiun 
reynir aptur til aA varua ]>Ti, og laatar t6a sina drepa aem fleat 10mb. Lambama^urlnn T«r ^aa 
aptur eptlr maattl, >vi epiir >▼{ aem bann boflr fleiri lOmb, eptlr ^vi reitir bonum hiegra tA 
braala l6ana Innl. Dr&pi& far l>annlg fram : Kf t6an atendar k einhverju Iambi, >. e. ef Iamb 
atendur k reit >eim, aem er onatur t6aniil, en ckkert k )>eim, aem er annar raltttr fr4 henni, i 
beina linu, >& mi bda atOkkva yflr lambl9, og jflr & au^a reitloo. Hdn drapur )>& lambid am 
MA. fraS ar takt9 & burt, og er dr aSgannl. Ef t6an atendnr t. d. k 11 og lamb 4 6, en ckkert 
k 1, >& mk hdn atdkkra 4 1 og drepa Iambic. Q4ngarlnn er annara eMilegur. LOmbin fara 
leiftar ainnar og tdan eltir ^an. Baa&i mega fara 4 alia reiti i tafllna, eptlr belnam linom, 
bK5i aptar 4 bak og 4rram. Hmttaat er t6annl, ef bdn fer dt i hornln, og format bda >aft 
1»t{ etna og heltan eld. Aptar ncy^Iat bda atoudum ti] ^eaa, ef lOmbin reka hart 4 epUr. 
Pegar 't<^aii getor ekki komlst aeitt, er bdn brsid e«a bread Innl, en til l>eaa ver^a 16mb 
aA atanda 4 tTelmar n»eta reitam tI) hana, i allar 4ttlr, >vi ef a) elna vaari lamb 4 neata 
rait, ^ gati t6aa drepl^ >aft og aloppi^ avo. Ef toan atendar t. d. 4 81, >4 er bdn ^yi aft 
eiaa braold Inai, a» Idmb atandi 4 88, 88, 88, 86, 88 og 88. Mlkla er aaftveldara $A vera me» 



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156 CHESS IN ICELAND 



It will thus be seen that the Icelandic refskdk is what has been called, 
in a previous page, the older form of fox-and-geese, using only 13 men 
instead of the 17 common at the present time in other countries. Olafur 
Davilisson adds to his description an account taken from the Danish *'Spil- 
lebog for born'' (Copenhagen 1853, pp. 33-36) of asalto^ called, as we have 
said, in Danish bel^ringsspil. He gives its method of play exactly as we 
have elsewhere portrayed it. 

We should not forget to note that QuCbrandur Vigfusson, under the 
word ?iali (tail), defines halatafl as **a kind of game used synonymously with 
hneftafl, " to which he refers the reader. He furthermore says that the game 
was " probably similar to the English *fox and goose' [sic]." Then ho 
cites from the Grettis saga (144 A) this sentence, which we quote with his 
comments: "Twinn tefldi hnel-tafl, pat var stort hala-tafl (having a fox with 
a big tail) hann greip pd upp tofiuna ok setti halann a kinnbein Pcn-Umi 
(probably of the brick representing the fo^). " The word "brick" signifies 
here " piece " or " man. " The lexicographer then cites the report in regard 
to the archaeological museum at Rokjavik by Sigur6ur GuOmundsson (1868), 
and likewise refers, for the expression hali d hnefa-toflu^ to the Vilmundar 
saga ViOutan (chapter 8). There is no description of the way in which this 
hala-tafl (or "tail game") was played; but we shall hear more about it in 
the next section. 

In looking over what wc have been able to gather in regard to the his- 
tory of this simple game, and its practice in various lands, we may, perhaps, 
definitely conclude that it cannot be identical with the old saga game to 
which we have so frequently referred. Even if it were to be proved to bo 
the same as that diversion which was known as Freystafl^ we could hardly 
assign it to the earliest period of the saga age. We shall have to look 
elsewhere for anything which can throw a gleam of light upon the history 
or character of hnetafi or hnefatafl "*. 

IfimbiB en t6uDa, og ef i4 er g69ur taflmaftur, tern h«flr |>au, ])4 k hann rlnnioginn viaan. 
Ekkl eru nelnlr aSrstaklr taflmenn i refak&k. Gler tt9a kaffibaunir eru haf&ar tyrXv ISmb, en 
•UtbTa) atArra, t. d. boappar e&a fingurbJ5rg fyrir t6a. Refak&k er AlgelugaaU t«fl )>ar aem 
•g ]>ekkt til. J6n Olafiison aegfr lika, »A brert mannabarD kuiinl hana. Hi&n hefir rerl^ eina 
k baua dOgum og hdn er nA, eS« tA niinaU koatl er refakakarmynd %% aem hann heflr dregift 
upp, AlTeg elna og ati aem h£r er prontaS. Sigurftor milarl aeglr, «5 rebkik mani Tera aama 
aem hnottafi c5a hnett^ft t>«S, aem ti&kadlat i garala daga, og drepor J6n Ol&faaon ^ogar k 
^al).*" See Olafar DaTlSaaon'« "Skemtanlr" (tCfl, pp. 198-9). * 

*^ The auggoatlon that the early leelandie hiffaiafl and hnotUi^ were two difTerent 
gamea, and that one of thorn ia ropreaented by the existing foz-and-geeae, flrat ooeura in an 
article pnbliahed by the Copenhagen royal aoeiety of northern antlqaarlea in ita '* Annaler 
for nordlak oldkyndigbed*' (Copenhagen 1838-9, pp. 198-lM, the artlele having a large 
folding plate). Ita tillo ia "Om Skakiipil i det gamie norden i aulednlng af et rigtigt ftind 
paa Hebriderne/' and it is augtreatod by Sir Frederick Madden*a well-known eaaay In the 
Bngliah '< ArehaeoIogla'*.of 1832, "Hiatorical remarks on the ancient cheaa>men diaeovered In 
the iale of Lewis/* in which Sir Frederick takea the groand that the eheee-roen In queatlon 
were fabricated in Iceland — a theory which enables him to cite many of the allnalona to eheaa 
in the aneient leelandie writioga. His essay waa separately reprinted with the same date, and 
aubaeqnently reprodueed in the flrat volume of the '*Cheaa-Blayer'aehronlole*' (London, 1841). 
The name of the author of the Danish artlele ia not givon, but It Is said to be ** red oldaag- 
eommitteen " — the aoeiety*a committee on antiqultlea, but in none of the aeeeaaible pabliea- 
tiona of the aoeiety of northern antlquariea, Isaued in the years between 1880 and 1845. do 
we find the names of the members of this oommlttee. Two men who made part of It were 
pretty surely the arehsBologiats, J. J. ▲. Worsaae and 0. J. Thomson. The eharaeter of the 
artlele may be judged Arom the faot that Ita compiler la inelioed to eee aome eoaneettoD belweea 



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STRAY NOTES 157 



What was " Tables.*" >*^ — It is first necessary to consider what the me- 
diaeval game of tables really was. English writers, especially the compilers 
of lexicons, are all agreed that it was the diversion now known in England as 
backgammon^ in France, and in certain other lands, as trictrac {tricktrack)^ 
sometimes written tictac {ticktack)^ in Germany as pu/f, in Portugal as 
labolaSj in Spain as tahlas reales, in Italy as tavola reale. In Arabic lands, 
as we have stated (p. 92), or at any rate in Egypt, backgammon is styled 
li*b et taula (the '' game of tables '' or the ^* table game '*), which title, if 
we coald prove that it had a certain age, would tend to make sure its iden- 
tification with the old *' tables, '' but we fear that in the near East, both 
the name and the game, as now played, are comparatively modern impor- 
tations (within the last two or three centuries) from Italy— like so many 
other terms and customs in the Levantine lands. Perhaps the appellations 
UwoJa reale, (royal table) in Italy and tablas reales (royal tables) in Spain— 
as indicating a court game— may deserve some weight as testimony to the 
identity of the old and the new ^ames. Outside of England the identifi- 
cation by the lexicographers, of backgammon with tables, is not quite 
general; in fact, we recall very few out-and-out statements to that effect 
coming from authoritative continental writers, though their silence may be 
explained by the fact that they take for granted the continuity of U- 
bles-backgammon ; nor, in regard to this matter, does investigation into 
the precise significations of the various names bestowed upon the game 
help us much. The English lexicologists treat us, as usual, to a liberal 
supply of absurd etymologies, the only possible one of those suggested 
being bach -^ gammon^ back supposed to arise from the going back or 

Bk&k a« th« DAme of a game and the Garman §chdehtr (tee p. 60 lo the present volunte); that 
he declarce '*horae " to have been an old Kngllab name for the knight, and that the RogtUh 
appellation for ihe bltbop la *<foor*; that hondi <'!• aarely the oldest Northern name for the 
pawn,** (p. 157); and that the knight was, in the earliest times, styled In the North r«idArd]cur 
— all of which statements lack only tmth to make them Interesting. The foot-note on fox- 
and-geese (p. 160) Is as follows: ** Ilnotta/l signifies properly the gamo of 'anU* or a game 
played with pleoes of a nut-like form ; a huni 'boar,* or the 'young of a bear,' wai formerly 
the chief piece ; later 'fox* as tho only beast of prey In Iceland, took its place, for the game 
is now styled r€/»kdk. The remaining pieces represent nheep, or lambs, who are pursued 
by ibe fox. This also oocars in that variety of game with which the Laplanders (Finlapper) 
amnse themselves, but there the fox pursues the geese, as in the aermans' gdnaetpistf tbo 
Rngllshmen*B foote-plajf, the Dutchmen's gansMptelt and the Frenchmen *s Jeu d* oi«.*' This 
last phrase constitutes ono of the higher flights of tho lexicographical muse, for whatever 
the games therein mentioned may be they are pretty certainly not in any sense fox-and- 
geese. The author closes his note by Informing ns that In Denmark it is generally hund^n 
(the dog, the hound) — in pronunciation resembling the old Aiini— which in the same game 
pursues the hares, benee the Danish name. Whether the Danish hund og har^r eorresponds 
to the leelandio- r«/«ibifc or not there Is some doubt; Molbeeh In his "Danik ordbog*' eitos 
DO snrh phrase, but hai (sub han) horttavl, explainet^ as "a kind of game with counters,'* 
and gives a variant, "harespU.** The compiler Indulges in the usual historieal surmises, 
su^ as (p. 154) the opinion that the chess queen may "possibly In old times'* have been 
called Freya after the Seandiuavian goddess; that the bishop (p. 156) "in the psgan North, 
we think, had the name of hymingur (hornbearlng)," and so on. The artlete enumerates 
aeveral finds of ebes«>men In the North, and, besides the large folding plate, has many wood* 
cut Illustrations In the text, somtf from Madden and others from various other sources. 

^ There Is a close connection between this section and a previous seetlon ('<Tafi," 
pp. 69-98] of thU division of the present volume — so close that even a not very aareftil 
reader may drseover some repetitions, and perhaps some contradictions as well. But an 
attempt has been made to separate. In some degree, the mediaeval literature and philology 
of "Ubies" trmm Ite general history and the accounte of Ite varying methods of play. 



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158 CHESS JiV IGELA ND 



return of the men from one table to another, and gammon being the 
Middle-English gammen, gamen, and early modern English gamen= game 
(the final syllable -en having been dropped, in existing English, under the 
erroneous belief that it was a suffix). This is all doubtless correct as to the 
latter element of the word, but the best authorities confess that the first 
element is still an uncertain quantity. Trictrac, iictac, with their different 
orthographies, are considered to be variants of an onomatopoetic theme, 
having its origin in the rattling sound of the dice. This theory, however, 
though so generally accepted, seems more than doubtful. It may be that 
the word tricktrack {trictrac) is merely an alliterative reduplication (having 
reference to the route taken by the men), signifying a forward and back 
movement after the manner of '* zig-zag;'' or it may be the application — 
a point we shall treat later — of an onomatopoetic word already existing 
(signifying any sharp, clattering sound). As to ticktack {tictac), it can be 
regarded as a variant, possibly with a remote reference to the Italian 
toccare (to toutfh), which occurs in the name of the variety of tables (back- 
gammon) known as toccategli (=" touch itT')— a title, however, which has 
been apparently more prevalent abroad than in Italy. The German puff^** 
is generally supposed to be identical with our English "puff" in its ety- 
mology, but its raison d'etre as the title of a game, despite Grimm's expla- 
nation (" Wttrterbuch, " sub voce) — it his remark can be considered an 
explanation— it is difficult to comprehend. But there may very well be quite 
a different etymology, connected with the Spanish bufa (see p. 88), which 
the editors of Grimm would naturally not know. Tavola reale and tdblas 
reales^ in the two chief romance idioms of the South, imply simply that this 
game is the best or noblest of the varieties of" tables. " There is the usual 
confusion, not only of names, but of genera. In the English-speaking world 
(at least in the American part of it), for instance, is practiced a sort of 
backgammon called " Russian," in which not only is the playing, or move- 
ments of the pieces in accordance with the casts of the dice, but the men 
are "entered" upon the board by the same method of chance, before the 
play proper begins— the former style of setting the men beforehand in their 
appointed (place or) places being now esteemed old-fashioned. In the history 
of a sport like this, we constantly see changes occurring, new fashions in 
the mode of conducting the game, newer varieties of old forms introduced. 
The sense and purport of technical terms are frequently altered in different 
localities and in different ages. Sometimes we find, for example, tricktrack^ 
as in Hans Sachs, described as a variety differing from backgammon proper. 
* 

^** TrUtrae It now the qiore lunal name In most parta of Germany; but pH0^ li older. 
It la to be found In German lettera even before tbe day* of Hana Saeha (d. 1576), but the 
Nuremberg poet enumerate* some of the varletlea of it played in hia day, Including among 
these, trietraCf which he atylea, like some other anthora of hta timOi dieksdaek. He mitlcea 
one of hla charaotert sfty : 

Dergleich ieh den bretapiel anhang 

Ich kan daa hurt und audi daa lang, 

Pvf^ g9g9npuff und anch regal 

Diokedaok und die Utrtteh sumal. 

But far earlier— in the Itth eentnry in fact ~ In the writings bearing the name of tbe 
"Schulmeiater of Beallngen*' wo are told that "das drsto apll iat Uif genanni.*'. If the date 
be eorreet this would be written about the time Alfonso waa treating of the same game In 
Spain. In the eitaftion the word Iwrtteh is, doabtlosa, the Rnglish *< lurch.'* 



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STRAY NOTES 159 



We have had, too, in England a species of backgammon known as fayles, 
defined in the dictionaries as ^' an old game, a kind of backgammon,'* or as 
** a complicated kind of backgammon, played both with men and pegs,*' of 
which an account, written a century ago, has already been given (see p. 88, 
foot-note), in which we are told that the name of this variation of tables 
comes from the fact that by some particular throw of the dice, a player 
*'was disabled from bearing off any of his men and therefore fayled in 
winning tde game ^^— which assertion, we fear, is to be looked at as only 
an etymological surmise. '^ We have already cited (p. 79) what seems to 
us almost, or quite the latest instances of the use of the word tables in En- 
glish literature, namely in 1716 and 1753, but these were apparently isolated 
cases; the term really ceased to be in common usage before 1650. The 
earliest appearance of ^' backgammon,'* which we can recall, was in the 
same century, in a book of great popularity in its day, and still one 
of the best collections of epistolary literature in English, the *^ Familiar 
Letters ** of the traveller and student, James Howell (1596-1666), quaintly 
entitled by the author ♦' Epistolae Ho-Elianae, '* of which the first of 
many editions was issued in 1646. Howell writes it baggamon. So we 
may say— if further investigations do not contradict us — that as "ta- 
bles " went out " backgammon *' came in, which is at least a slight 
argument for their identity. The technical term hack-game was in use 
at the time of the change, and doubtless before and after. The play- 
wright, Colley Gibber, as the reader has been told (p. 79), speaks of " a back- 
game at tables. ** It is notable, too, that one section of a work published 
about that time, the **Compleat Gamester" (1674), is divided into "games 
within the tables ** and those " without the tables. ** It is soon seen that the 
former term means games played on the inside of the ordinary table-boards, 
for they are all varieties of " tables, ** or " backgammon. '* The names are: 
"Irish, hackgammony tables, quater, doubblets**— a list of much historical 
interest both because it contains the two names, " backgammon " and " ta- 
bles** of the same date, but in other respects — particularly looked at*from 
an Icelandic point of view, as regards quater. It will be seen A-om all this 
that there are very good reasons for believing that, both in Oreat Brit- 
ain and on the continent of Europe, the modern backgammon, as a generic 
term for all games played on the trictrac-board, is the proper representative 
of the mediaeval tables ; but it must not be forgotten that this name of it, as 
the appellation of its principal game or variety, belongs only to the English 
lands. On the continent its most common appellation is trictrac (France), 
while others are used in other lands, Portugal preserving the old tables 
(tabolas), while Spain {tabolas reales) and Italy {tavola reale) use terms de- 
scended from the ancient name. The essential features in the old game were: 
1. The double table (not meaning that there were actually two boards hinged 
or fastened together, such as we do indeed often see nowadays, thus made for 
the sake of convenience, but signifying that the board itself was divided into 

fl 

^^ There is a derivafcion even more ladlcroaa ihao this, given to tbe word tickiack. Id 
that once famous book, already kuown to us, the *'Compleat Gameslor,*' — the arst edition 
of which bears the date of 1674 — lu which we are informed that the game "is so called 
from < touch and take,* fur If you touch a man you must play him, though to your loss " — 
the etymological guosser not seeing that takt and ^^lay are words of totally different 
meaning. 



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160 



CHESS IN ICELAND 



two parts, both bearing the technical name of "tables," the men moving, in 
the course of the game, out of the one into the other) ; 2. The number of the 
men— 30 in all, 15 to each player; and 3. The use of dice in deciding how the 
men were to be placed or moved. These are likewise the chief features of 
backgammon {trictrac^ pufTn tavola reale). Only once, in any land, do we find 
an allusion to fewer men than 30, that being, as we shall see, in the work 
of a modern Icelandic writer, with whom it is probably the result of an 
erroneous assumption. The table-board, or backgammon-board, seems to 
have always had, in European usage, for the last six-hundred years, 12 
"points" on each board — 24 in all. Thus Tommaseo — as we remember 
(p. 86) — in his great Italian dictionary tells us (sub voce "tavola") about 
the tavola reale and its *' ventiquattro scacchi [=points]." ^^ In this con- 
nection it is well to bear in mind that the *♦ points " in backgammon cor- 
respond to the " squares " in chess, and that they are expressed in some 
languages by the same word, as for instance, in the Arabic {bit, " house "). 
Indeed, if we may give credit to a wood-cut occurring in Van der Linde's 






Fig. 13. 

account of the Alphonsine manuscript (*' Qliellenstudien," p. 72), the points, 
in the first European board, were represented as " houses, " that is, as 
quadrangular spaces. As to the little known about the treatment of the 
game of tables in this MS, the date 
of which is, as the reader will recall, 
as early as 1280, see the preceding 
section (pp. 87-89). 

On the North side of the Apen- 
nines, very soon after this time, seve- 
ral representations of the table-board 
are to be found in manuscripts pre- 
served in the public libraries. This 
fact, as well as^ the various dates 
which we have already given, prove 
that even before the days of Alfonso 




Fig. u. 



a large part of Europe was familiar with the game (see the many citations in 
the section " Tafl," pp. 69 fE.). The design showing two players at backgam- 

^ TocbnloAlly tho word tavola (iu [tho singular) now means in Italy the ending of * 
ebess-game by perpetoal cbeek, or the termination of a game of draughts, which is drawn 
because of the lack of a winning force on either side. 



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161 



mon (fig. 14) ^ is taken ftom a richly illustrated MS now in the British Museum, 
which certainly goes back to the very beginning of the XlVth century, or, as 
some scholars think, to the century before that. On tlie board between them 
will be seen the counters and some of the points, as also the dice, of which 
last, as will be noticed, three were used, as was not unusual. The absence 
of dice-boxes may likewise be observed, the dice, as we have suggested (pp. 74-5, 
note), having, as is evident, been " thrown " by the hand. It is plain that the 
partie is about to begin as none of the men have been placed. The next design 
(fig. 15) is from a later period, of the XlVth century, and belongs to a MS 
in ihe same library, *« being a notable and unedited treatise on the game 









Fig. 16. 

of tables, to which we refer in detail elsewhere. It shows a board com- 
posed of two tables, or four half-tables. Dr. Wright says: *' It was probably 
this construction which caused the name to bo used in the plural; and, as, 
the Anglo-Saxons always used the word in the singular, as is the case also 
with John of Salisbury in the Xllth century, while the plural is always used 

'^ Thl* ftnd the foUowtng out we take from the article "On domestic games and amuse- 
ments in the Middle Ages,** contributed by the archseologfst and literary historian, Thomas 
Wright, to the Ijondon '* Art Journal" (Mos. 49 and 51, January and March 1859). It 
afterwards formed chapter X ('* Amusements after dinner— Gambling — The games of chess 
— lU History — Dice — Tables — Draughts*') of the author's « History of domestic manners 
and sentiments in Europe during the Middle Ages '* (London 1869, pp. 194-255). The essay 
still merits separate reprinting, and with a capable editor, might now be easily much en- 
larged and made of greater Interest. 

*** As this Important codex, though often described, has, as it would appear, nerer yet 
been published, we reproduce the text here in full. The transcript was made, necessarily in 
some haste, in the summer of 1900 Ly tlio Icelandic scholar, Mr. Sigfds Blondal, now 
connected with the royal library at Copenhagen. It will be noticed that the MS is in such a 
condition as to present not a few obscurities : — 

Ludtu anglieorwn, Multi sunt ludi ad tabulas, quorum primus est longus Indue, et est Indus 
Anglioorum, et est communis, et e«t talis naturaj. Hie qui sedet ex parte .am. habeblt.xv. 
homines in puneto .^., et ille qui sedot ex parte . n<^.,babebit .xv. homines in punoto .a. 
Kt tunc ludunt cum tribus Uxillis vel cum duobus, supposito semper pro tertio taxlllo .ri. 
Tunc ille qui est ex parte .am. dueet omnes sues homines, qui sunt in .99. per paglnas ,<pt» 
ct . sn. et . m^. usque ad paginam ./a. et Ibi toilet eos. Ille antom qui est ex parte ,ntp. duoet 
omnes sues homines qui sunt in .a. per paginas ,a/. .jpn.ns. usque ad paginam ,tq}» etibi 

21 



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162 



CHESS IN ICELAND 



by the writers of a later date, we seem Jastified in concluding that the 
board used by the Anglo-Saxons and Anglo-Normans consisted of one table, 
like that represented in figure 15, and that this was afterwards superseded 

toilet •<>•. Ille auteni, qui prior abatalerit hoininet ■ooa, vineet. Kt •eiendam quod Ule qal 
•edet ex parte . am. poteat nod«re quodltbet panetam in pegina .mg. et in paglna ./a. 
exoepto pancto . a. quain oceupatar per duos homlnet adversarll sal rel plaree, et qttnm non 
eet ibi niii nnoe homo, tunc potest capere eum. Bt quleunqae potest inoipere aliqaem homi- 
nem adversaril uon uodatum In puncto, ubl termlnatur nonierae omnlam tcI •ingalorum 
taxiUoram ettorum, poteet eapore eum, et tuno ille homo captui redibit ad paginam . ^., et 
intrabit cum • vi. in . <., et eum . t. In • u., et ouin . Iv. in . sr., et enm . ill. in *y, et earn . II . 
in .«., et enm .1. in tp.f et boo si Ilia punota non fuerint oocupata per allqnem de fait pro- 
priia nee nodata per advereariam. Bt neque intraverlt illnm hominem eaptum, non potest la- 
dore. Notandnm quod muUum expedlt in hoc ludo nodare punctnm , g» et ./• per Jaetnm 




Fig. 16. 



taxlUi tertii, In qoo supponitur lempor . rl., quod punotnm . g» aodare impedlet egreesnm 
adyersaril sui ibidem eum .tI. Bt notandum quod in puncta nodata [ubique?] potes dneere 
quos homines rolaerls ; Item ubtcunqao inveneris hominem adrersarii tnl non nodatunii potes 
oapere enmi et faeere eum redire ad paginam, ubi prlmo stetlt in initio Indl. Bt eodem 
mode ergo ille qui sedet ex parte . nqj. potest nodare quodllbet punctom in paglna . n; et in 
pagtna • t<p, exeepto puneto ,tp. quum oecopatur per duos homines adrersarii sal Tel pluresi 
ot quum non est ibI nidi unicus homo, tuno oapere potest eum. Kt quicuuque potest Inoipere 
aliqnem hominem adyersaril sui uon nodatum in puneto, ubi termluatur uumerus taxiUorum 
suorum omnium Tel slugulorum, potest capere eum. Bt tune ilie homo oaptus redibit ad pa* 
ginam ./a. et intrabit cum . tI. In ./. et cum . t. in . «. et oum . It. in . d. et cum . iil. in . c. 
et cum .ii. in ,b etoum .l.in .a., et hoe si ilia puncta non sunt occupata per aliqnem de suis 
proprils nee nodata per advcrsarium ; et usqoe Intrarerit Ilium hominem oaptnm non potest 
ludero. Notandum qnod multum expcdit nodare puneta . «. et . <., propter causae quae supra 
dixi. Bt non prius quam ille qui sedet ex parte .n(p, duxerlt onines luos homines In psglna .^d., 
toilet eos sub ista forma : 81 allquos homines haboat in puneto . <. IIIos toilet eum .tI. Tel sue 
equlTalenti, Tldelieet It. 11. Hi, t. I., homines autem qui suut In puneto . u. tollentur eum • v., 
Tel sue equiyalenti^ ut It. i. ill. 11. tcI earn . Ti. si nollus homo fuerlt in puneto . L; homineii 
qui sunt in puneto . x. tollentur cum . It. toI suo oqulvalenti, ut 111. 1. et 11. 11., vel eum .vi. 
et . T. si non tuerint homines In ,t, nee in .u.; et sic delneeps si allqui homines Aierint In 
puneto .y. tollentur euni .ill. toI suo equlTalenti, ut .11. i., Tel eum .tI., . t., .It., si non lunt 
homines in . I. nee in . m. nee In ,x.\ et si allqui homines ftaerint in . s. tollentur eum . 11, Tel 
oum .1. .1. Tel oum . tI., . t., . It., . ill., si non fuerint homines In . t, aee in . u. . nee in .«. 



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STRAY NOTJSS 



by the double board. ** But wo have already suggested that the plural term 
may have arisen from the fact that the scheme essential to the game was 
composed of two tabular designs, each with twelve points, and that these 

ii«« in .y.; ot si allqn! homlnei fteerlnt In . <p, tollentnr per I. Ttl per .vi., .t., It., tit., II. al 
non lant homlnei In . L n«e in .«. nee In . x, nee In .y. nee in f. Bodem mode lUe qni le- 
det ex parte .am. toilet hominot raos In ptflnn ,/a,, et ille qui prior nbstalerlt homlnee eaoe 
de UbttU, nie hnbebit Tietorinm. 

Ret et nlla magna et ■ollemnis et mafni mafUlerii, at •! Ille qui ledit es parte tup, poMCt 
nodare pancta ». o. p, q. r. Ita quod puQctum t, enet apertuui, et qaod poult eompellere 
adTeriarium eaum ducere rill, bomlnee nique in panetum a., et tone facere quod babeat 
nnam homlnem in .t, et allum in .«., et allum In »x., et allnm in .y., et allum In .««, 
et allum in . <p. et eeptlmnm adbuo irredaotom ; et hise victoria Tooatar lympoldgng. Si 
autero tota pagina ,<p. fkiit ooeapata per adTertariom [nee reliquitar?] auum ad lutraudum 
[probablj tbe author meant if tbe **punctam «** be not open; compare whet follows] nbl 
agat [?] bomlne« luoi, non roeabltur ilia vietorla limpolding aed voeatnr lurching, Cautela 
antem in hoc ludo est, at ille qui ledet ex parte ,n4p. babeat lata poocia nodeta .n. o. p, 
g, r,, et quod panetum . «. tit apertnm, Ita qaod adversartua eaua poaslt exire oum bomlni> 
baa aula naque ad paglnam .mg, Kt eom ibidem doxerit ouam vel duoa de aaia, qaod atatim, 
qoam primnm fieri poteet, nodotur panotam . a . Ita quod non poaslt ampllna exIre uaqne 
omnee homiaea, quoa daxit In paglna . m^. ponantur in pnneto . a . et quod puneta . t, v, x, 
y. «. occupentnr per adversaria u. Bt tune aperietar punetnm .a., at turn poaslt exire earn 
aala homlnlbua in pagina . vig. et sio flat usque . vlll. hominee adversarll redduoantur In 
pnneto [.a.]. Bt tunc claoao poneto .a. fae adversarium implere cam sais homiolbna puueta 
,L ti. X, y. M, et tune remanebnnt dao homines adversarii In . ip, Bt tunc aperlatur pnnetam 
.a., et tone semper capias adversarinm tnum In puncto . f. et ipse te reeaplet per . vi., qol 
est semper iactns suppoeitus, Itaqne redlbis ad paglnam ,/a. et ibi intrabls, et redibis ad 
paglnam .n«. usque Ille babeat onum lactam, per quem oportebit Ipsom evaoaare pnnctum ,tp. 
de altero hominnm Ibidem repertorum, ita qaod tantam sit in . <p, anus homo, et rellqnantur 
puueta . t. u. SB, y. s, oecapata per earn, et tuno' eaples septimnm aanm homlnem vagantem 
et tone erit limpoldatna. Bet et alius modas ludendt mode snpradietua et [boo sine ?] taxillis, 
ut cum uterque ludcnllnm possit eligere laetum quem volaerit. Ille tamen, qal habet prnro- 
gatlvam ineipiendl, ipse vlneet si bonum ludat ; ipse eliget In primo suum laotnm . vi. vi. v.; 
qui tune proprlam laetum ellgit, adversarlus sans si vellt exIre cum duobua homlntbna ex 
pagina, in qua altaatur in prime ludi ; in prime iaetu eleeto podeat nodare semper earn, et 
eapere eum, ot facere eam redire eum homine eapto et slo perdet laetus duorum taxillorum, 

Bst et tertitts modus Indendl nt qoom anus ellgltnr iactua duorum taxillorum, et adver- 
aarias anus dat . vi. laetum tertii taxilll, vol si ntraque pars lactet aaoe taxlllos et pars adversa 
dat tertlum lactam. 

Paumm carU, Bat et alius ludua ad tabulas qui voeatnr paum* earUt et sit late ludna enm 
duobua taxlllla et aub hac forma. Nam debent duo ladentea caae ex una parte et duo ex «Ila, 
vol trea ex ana parte et posteriuf alii ex alia parte, et slo alterntrum. Flat autem sors qul- 
[bus 7] habeant prnrogatlvam Inclpiendl Kt ntraque pars habeblt .xv. homines. TiUdnnt autem 
sub hao forma. Com laetn prime ponet nnum homlnem in . a. et eum . II. ponet homlnem in 
. A. et eum . ill. ponet homlnem In . e. et cam . Iv . ponit homlnem in . d. et oum . v. ponet 
hominem in . « . et com . vi. ponet homlnem In ./. Bt potest uodari quodllbet panetum ; 
qunm tamen nnns homo invenltur aolua In puneto potest capl per adversarium, et tuno 
oportet ipsnm iterate Intrare at prins. Cum lutraverint homiucA snos In pagina ./a. statim 
tollent homines soos per leqnalea Iactua, per quoa eos intraverunt. Tile autem qui prior abatn- 
lerit hominea auoa Inclpiet sdjuvare adveraarium auum et toilet homines adversarii anl uaqae 
omnes tollantnr. Rt tano quot hominea babul t ab adversario sue, tune cum tot homlnlbua per* 
endet palmae adversario rum suorom, et Ideo voeatur paume cati; Notandnm tamen quod in 
iato ludo si allqols iacUvIt taxlllos Ullter quod slut nqualea, ut .vi. vl., v. v.,iv. iv., ill. Hi., 
II. II., 1. I., tam enm . vi. vi. ponet . iv. hominea In ./. et eum v. v. ponet Iv. hominea in .«. etale ' 
deineeps, et ultra hoc Iterate lactabit. Rt per eandem formam quum anfert hominea auoa, al 
iaetet taxlllos Ita quod taotna sint leqnales, cam illo iaetu aufert iv. homines si Ibidem totl- 
dem reperlantur. Kt quotlescnnque antem homo capitur redlntrabit de novo; Illo antem qni 
prior abstulerit homines auoa Ipse vinoet, aive eaplat hominea ab adversario ano, sive non. 
Ille antom qui nitlmom homlnee abstulerit, ipse inclpiet laetare In proximo Indo. 

Bst etiam allna modus Indendl in hoe ludo ; quum, nt praedletum est, Intrabont In pa« 
gina ./«• et prins ducent homines sues per paglnas . my. nt. usque ad paglnam . f^. et Ibl 



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164 CffESS IN ICELAND 



might have been, really were, and probably still are, in some localities, 
painted on a single piece of board. Dr. Wright adds: " It is hardly necessary 
to point out to oar readers that these two pictures of the boards show us 

eoi tollent, ut prsBdletum est. NoUndom tam«D, qaod in boo Indo poteit quodlibet panoUim 
nodari. Slo cum aliquis homo Tonerit in pagloam ,tq>. non potett amovorl do looo asqao lol- 
Utur. Bt 8l Aliqutii homo eapUtar ubfoucqae faerit oportet primnm rodire ad paginam ./a. at 
ibi intrare at prias, et post reddnot ad paginam . <a. et ibl tollt. 

Ludut Lumbardorun. Est et alius Indus qui Tooatar Indus Lnmbardornm, et est talis na- 
ture. l\\e qui sedet ex parte . vtp. habebit famlliam tuam in ./., et qol tedit ex parte .om. 
habebit famillam in . t. Tune ille qui sedit ex parte . n^. dueet omncs snot homines existen- 
tos in ./. per puneta .e. d. e, ft. a. in pagina . tqj. et ibi eos toilet. Cum omnes ibidem 
fuerint dacet, [?] et erit qf. primum punotum in ablaiione, et anferat omues homines ibidem 
existente« per . vi.; sic qui sunt in . e, auferentur per . r. et .▼! . [thus only, if no man Is 
In .go.; compare the rules of ludua Anglieortim] et tie delnceps. Rt si eapiatur aliquis homo 
suns, tune redibit intrando In paginam ./a. et redeat ad paginam .q>t,', et notandom qnod 
Intrare non potest in ./. cum fnerit oeeupatnra per proprios homines, nee In allqno pnneto 
nodato per adversarium. In punctis taroen . e. et . a. intrare potest, licet sunt ocoupata per 
proprios homines, ideo mnltum cxpedit ilia puneta nodare, ut habeatnr introltue si neeesae 
faerit. Item sa^po expedit nodare puneta . o. et ti, nt iropediatur introitus adveraaril. Bt slo 
oodem modo faciet adversarius suns in pnnetts contra se posltis. Victoria autem eat coBimi»- 
nls, Tidilieet ut qui prior homines sues abstalerit ipse vincet. Et flet iactns cum duobus 
taxlllia tantum et non pluribus. 

Imperial. Est et alius Indus qui yocatur imperial et est talis natnras. Ille qui sedit ex 
parte . ntp, habebit tertiam partem familin sute, sive . ▼. in . p. et aliam tertlam in . e. et 
allam tertiam in »t, Bt qnl sedet ex parte .am. habebit eodem modo famlliam auam In .k* 
g. /, Bt si para ,ntp. earn familia tota citius venit ad pnnotam ,<p, qnam adrersarins ad 
pnnetum . a. Ipse vincit, si alitor, ylncitur. Bt iict iaetus cum trlbus taxillis. 

P[ro]uineial. Est et alius Indus qui Tocatar p[ro]uineial et tantum varlatur ab imperial 
in sitnatIonehomlnuin,quam in hoc ludo orones horoinea ex una parte situantur in ponotla. jj/^ 

BaraUe. Est et alius Indus qui vocator haralie, et est tails naturie. Ille qui aedit ex parte 
. am. ai ultimo ftaerit lueratos ludam, vel habcat prnrogatlTam Iactns taxillorum ponet omnes 
suos homines in puneto .97. Et dueentur omnes homines utriusqne partia per . a/, usque ad 
paginam .gm. et in ilia pagina tollentur. Bt qui prior abatolerlt Ille vincet. Et si aliquia homo 
hine inde caplentar flat introitus in pagina . n*. et dueatur per paginam . fg? et . a/, ad pa- 
ginam .^m. Bt notandum qnod in quallbet pagina poteat fieri nodna. Bt ait iactns cum duobua 
taxillis, ct Bubintelltgitur nnmerns .vi.,pro tertio taxlllo. Si autem pMn. nip. rinoit, tnno ponet 
hominea soos In puneto . b» exeepto nno qui erit In .c; et pars alia omnea In puneto .a. et 
dueentur omnea homines usque ad paginam . n«. et ibl auferentar, ut prlna fiebat in pagina 
^mg.f et In Ilia pagina fiat introitna al aliquia homo eapiatur, et dueantor per ./a. <pU uaqne 
ad paginam . m. 

Fayly, Est et alius ludna qui voeatur faylye^ et eat tails natnrn. Ille qnl aedit «x parte 
. ntp. habebit totam famlliam snam Ip . U exceptis daobos, qui erunt in . a.; et qui sedet ex 
parte . am. habebit totam famlliam auam in ./. exeeptia duobus, qnl erunt in .99. Et Indunt 
enm tribns UxlUls, ai tot haboant, ai autem tantum babeant duos, tone dnpl[ie]abitur taxilhia 
minoria numeri. Bt tune ille qui aedit ex parte . n<p» dueet dnoa snoa hominea In . a. noqne ad 
.t, Bt primnm [in] eonaoetun modum omnea toilet. Et nodet omnia pnneta In pagina •<^. al 
velit. Et al Qapiatur aliquis homo suua redtblt ad paginam ./a. et ibl Intrabit et redibit ; et 
Intrare poteat In quolibet puneto, etlam si fuerlt oecupatnm alio vol allla aula hominlbna : In 
pnneto tamon nodato per adveraarlnm non poteat intrare. Eodem modo poteat ille facera ex 
parte adveraa, et faoiet cum eodem modo. Victoria autem talia eat. Qui prior abstalerit faml. 
llam propriam, ▼Incent ; tcI al adveraarlna anna allqua vice habeat talom i actum qui ludi non 
poteat la toto, tune aubito Ille vlncitur qnl talem iaotum habuit, et Ideo vooatur /ayUc. 

Bat et aliua ludna qui roeatur [myfi«, a word now Illegible or eraaedi but tbaa given by 
Strott earlj In the XIX th eenturyjcnjoe naturas talia oat. Unua eomm habebit dnoa hominea 
In .k, et .It. in ./. et ,\v in . «. et .t. In .9), et ilia habebic prnrogatlTam taxillorum. Bt 
flat iaetna enm duobus Uxillia et prnsupponentur .vi. pro tartio tazillo. Alia para habebit .iU. 
hominea In . f . et .ill. In . d. et . ill. in e. et . Hi. In . 6. et . III. in a. Bt omnee homlnaa 
utriuaque partia dueentur ad paginam ,mg, et Ibi auferentur. Bt qui prior abatulerit aiioa Ipaa 
Tincet. Bt ai aliquia homo hino Inde eapiatur llet introitna in pagina .na. et dneeator par pa- 
flnai% Ap, et . a/, oaqna ad pftgiwtm .ai^. et ibi anferentor eua tanpoa faarlt opporton«n» 



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clearly that the mediseval game of Ubles was identical with our modern 
backgammon, or rather we should perhaps say, that the game of baeitgamr 
mon, as now played, is one of the games played on the tables/' 

Sunt et in lusu tabularora qua enoteln aunt proprfse, qaerara printB Mt mx lodo angtle** 
ram, et ait sab tazlUls, qnom ana part hababit aapramum laatam . t1. H. vi. at bababM pv** 
ragakiTam inolplendl, altera autem para habubit aupremum Ueiom . il. !• I.; tile taineik qfd 
habet factum 11. 1. i. lUe irlneet ai bonam ludat ; quia cum luserint omnea poteat habere dnoa 
hominea in puneto . fc. al aederlt t-x parte . nip. vel dooa in pnncto . il. at acderit ex parte .aau; 
et tunc in proximo Insn eum . f. I. potest nodare pnnctum . «. toI . g. itaqna para adriraa ne* 
poterit exire, et tnno faeilltaT peteet ^ncere ai aciat ludere ; tcI al peaait eapere «a»m hemh 
n«aa da adveraario auo faeiliter poteat Ytncere, quod iUe homo capUia namqaai» poteet reddael 
in pagtnam» nbl debet tolli, aaqae alJoa abstulerit omnca anoa hominea exceptia duobaa qai 
stabant in pnneto ubi ille debet Intrare anum eaptuni. 

Est et alia fmpertia in luan tabnlamm ; nam lite qvl aodet ex parte . mp, habebit dvea 
hominea in puncte ,t. et alioe dnoa in .«. et ille qnl aedet ex parte . em. habebit oanm ho- 
ninem In . ip,, quern debet docere per paginam ,Up» an. mg. el aaferre in paglnA ./a. et evit 
semper iaetua anua .ir. It. It.; ille autem qui aedet ex parte .n^;. toilet aaoa qaataor hominea 
in pagioa ubi atant primum in rommnnem modum, et erit aemper iaetua anua . III.; me antera 
viocet ai aciat ludere, qaod enm . i. i. I. unum da aaia qooa babet in . t, ponet In . y. et In 
aeenndo lactn capiat bemlnero, qai eat in . ^., et hoe cum .1. i., et com tertlo J. penet te •>• 
alternm doarum qoi aunt in .u. Rt tunc ilia qui eat ax parte . a«a. intrabit heminem aoom 
cum .It. It. It. et ponet eom in .ti. et tunc ilia qai aedet ex parte .n. [97). homiaem auom 
captum In puneto .ae. Intrabit In puneto a. eum .1. et earn .11. ponet hominem auum In . x. 
qai prtua ftiit in .i, Rt tune para adreraa cum .«v. <e. to. itemm capiat hominem altertna In 
pnncto . a. et tune Iteraio ftUe qai aedet ex parte .n^. intrabit homlaom auam, et euaa . lU 
dueet earn In puneto . b. et enm tertlo .1. nodabit puaotnm ,x, itaqne paia adveraa nan po- 
terit intrare. Rt tone cam aeptlea . 1. I. i. dueet hominem qui eat in . ft. nsqae ad ponetum .«. 
Rt tnne In octavo luau toilet duos hominea qui aunt in . a. et In . <p. et poatea cum trlbua v\- 
cibua toilet IDoa hominea qui aunt in . y. et adhno remaneblt homo partia adreraie In . a.; 
itaqna vlneatnr. Kt aelal qood alio mode qnam at pnediatum eat non poteat fieri Tietorla. 

Kat et alia Impertia almilia priori, at al penantor . ill. homines in . /. ex una parte, et px 
parte alia erit anua homo In .x. qnl habebit iaetom nt prluf .iv. iv. It. at alias habebit lao- 
turn .1. i. i. Ille antem qui habet hominea anoa In ./. habebit praerogativau inelplendi. Kt 
cum . I. i. capiat hominem adrersaril an! In . x. et cum tertlo . i. ponet hominem hi . ». fli 
tane adTeraarlaa anna In . n. Bt tnne ille qnl aedet ex parte 4a<p. Intrabit hoalnam aoim 
In . a. earn nno . i. et enm . I. !• ponet hominem annm In . as. qnl prioa ftiit In • I. Rt tnne 
Ille qui aedit ex parte .ma. Iternm caplet allam In .a.; at tone Hie intrabit In .a. eapleua 
adversarlnm anum, ponena iUum hominem eum . I. i. in puneto . h. et tune cum tertlo .1. no- 
dabit pnnctum . s., Itaqne para adveraa non poterit Intrare. Rttnne laeraMtnr lodmn ut av 
pra In proxlma Impartla. 

Rat at alia Impertia, at ai tu qui aadea ex parte ,nfp» habaaa anum homlnam in .n. et .«• 
in puneto . t. et aeptimum In pnncto . 97. et In paglna . tq>. tolles hominea tuoa, et habebla 
prsBrogatlram Inelplendi ; ille autem, qnl sedet ex parte .ma. habebit tree hominea In pnncto./. 
et In paglna ./a. eoa toilet, at ambie partea habebunt mqnalea laetoa; magiatariam aatam eat 
tales Imagfaarl laataa ; maglaterinm autam eat talaa Imaginarl laetoa par qnaa potaiia indam 
loorari. Rt flat aub haa forma: primua laatna erit .W. W. It. et aacnndua Uctaa .vi. vl . i. at 
tertlua . tI. tI. tI. 

Rat et alia impertia, similia priori, nt al tu qui aedea ex parte ,n<p. habeaa nnmn hontl- 
nem in n. et .t. in puneto .4. et Ille qui aedet ex parte .oat. habebit . ill. hominea te pnaata 
./. qui debet tellere hominea taoa In paglna • tq>. habebiaqna prnrogatlTam laelplandl. Rt 
ainbo Toa hababia asqaalea lactaa, maglstcrlum antem est talea imaglnarl laetoa per qaoe potea 
ludum luorarl, aub lato tamen paeto, qaod nullum hominem toUea In primo laetu. Flat autem 
aab hae forma. Primus lactaa erit . Iv. !▼. Hi., aeaandna laetoa erit .tI. vl. I. et tartiaa laetaa 
arit . Ti. Ti. Ti. 

Rat et alia Impertia, nt ai to aedeas ex parte .no. habeaa trca hominea in . &. e. d. <|a4M 
debes duoere per paglnas . m^. et .n«. et toUere oos in pagina .tq>.\ Ille autem qui sedlt ex 
parte . ma. habebit unum hominem in . n. quem debet docere ad paglnam .fa. et ibi tellere, 
at aril lactaa snua semper . ill. 1., aed Iaetua tnua aeropar erit . tI. tj. et to habebla prmcoffe^ 
tlram iaoipiendl ; Tal alia de hoe non eat eora ; al antem Telia laatarl ludam opartal te e» 
pare an* et Ua ludere^ at ipse ta non eaplat. 



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166 CHESS IN ICELAND 



About this second British Museum codex (Reg. 13 A xviii), Dr. Wright 
has a few words to say, chiefly concerning the opening section. He remarks: 
^* In the manuscript last quoted the figure of the board is given to illustrate 
a very curious treatise on the game of tables, written in Latin, in the 
XlVth, or perhaps even, in the Xlllth, century. The writer begins by 
informing us, that ' there are many games at tables with dice, of which the 
first is the long game, which is the game of the English ; it is common, 
and is played as follows ' {multisunt ludi ad tabtilas cum taxiUis^ quorum 
primus est longus ludus, ei est Indus Anglicorum, et est communis, et est 
talis natur{B)y meaning, I presume, that it was the game usually played in 
England. From the directions given for playing it, this game seems to have 
had a close resemblance to backgammon. The writer of the treatise says 
that it was played with three dice, or with two dice, in which latter case 
they counted six at each throw for the third dice. In some of the other 
games described here, two dice only were used. We learn from this treatise 
the English terms for two modes of winning at the * long game * of tables 
—the one being called ' lympoldyng, ' the other 'lurchyng;' and a person 
losing by the former was said to be ' lympolded.' The writer of this tract 
gives directions for playing at several other games of tables, and names 
some of them — such as 'paume carie,' the Lombard's game {ludus Lombar- 
dorum)^ the 'imperial,' the 'provincial,' 'baralie,' ['mylis'], and 'fiiyls.' 
Perhaps this " long game " is the same as that variety, which was and 
sometimes still is styled in German " der lange Puff." Paume carrde is a 
title drawn from a variety of tennis. In the text of this codex throughout, 
it is to be observed that the small Roman numerals i to vi (and xv) repre- 
sent generally the throws of the dice, but sometimes the numbers of the men; 
while the small italicised letters a, &, c, d, e, f^ g^ h^ t, A;, ^ m, n, o, p, 9, 
r, ;, t, u, 07, y^ z^ and f refer to the points on the board as given in fig. 16. 
In the first game mentioned, known at that time as the "English game*' 
{ludus Anglicorum), the player sitting on the am side of the board places his 
fifteen men at f ; his opponent, seated on the tif side, enters all his at a. The 
men at f are moved through the tables ft^sn and mg into fa, where they 
are thrown off. His opponent moves his pieces from a through the tables 
af, gm, ns, into tf , whence they are thrown off. He whose men are first 
thrown off wins the game. Either two or three dice may be used, but, with 
only two, a third is supposed, its imagined throw being at each cast, 6. 
The men are doubled on the points, and blots are hit very much as in the 
modem game, but there are many minor details. In the description of this 
game *' limpolding," or "lympoldyng," and ''lurching" seem to be somewhat 
like the simpler jon^ in the modern French game, being applied. to certain 
positions of the men. In the paume caree four players take part, either 
two against two, or three against one. Two dice are employed, and appar- 
ently only six men. In the "Lombard game" the tif player places his 
fifteen men on f while the am player sets his on t. In the so-called "Im- 
perial" game the tif player has, at the outset, five men on p, five on s and 
the remainder on t ; his opponent divides his men between A;, p, and f. If 
the fif player brings all his men to the f-point before those of his adver- 
sary reach the a-point the former wins.' In the "Provincial" variety the 
method of play is the same as in the "Imperial," except that the men of 
one side are all placed on the points g and f (and, supposedly, those of the 



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STRAY NOTES 167 



other side on s and f). ''Baralie'* is a game in which the am player sets 
his men on f and leads them through af to gm where they are thrown out. 
The subsequent details differ from those of any previously-named variety. In 
'^faylys*' (which we have heard of before under the name of fayles), the nf 
player places his men on t except two, which are on a ; while his opponent 
has all his pieces on f, except two pieces, which are on f.' As in most of 
the other varieties, captured men must return to their original table, and 
again begin their rounds. Three dice are used, but if only two are at hand, 
then, at each throw, the smaller number is regarded as doubled. Appar- 
ently the variety styled ''mylis'' most resembles the modem English back- 
gammon, since the men are divided on each side among four or five points, 
one player having two on ft, four on f, four on e and five on f ; while the 
other has three men on ^, three on d, three on c, three on b and three 
on a. Following these named varieties half a dozen other games are des- 
cribed by the author of the codex in closing, but without names. A com- 
parison of this with similar codices in continental libraries is greatly to be 
desired. 

In Spain, if not elsewhere, we hear of table-boards made of precious 
materials and with great artistic skill, chiefly to be found, at a very early 
date, among the treasures of royal and princely palaces (see pp. 89-90). We 
have not been able to discover any such preciously adorned relics North of 
the Apennines, of a date earlier than the 15th century, but not a few, made 
in the two following centuries, are preserved in the great museums of Eu- 
rope, notably at Nuremburg, Munich, Paris and London — one specimen, of 
some little interest, from South Germany, existing in the archsBological 
museum of Iceland. They are not, however, as common as the costly early 
boards used for the game of chess, and when found are generally united 
with a chess-board. Their scarcity may be explained in various ways, the 
most plausible being the probable simplicity and cheapness of the boards 
used in early times. The game of tables, though often mentioned with chess, 
seems not to have been looked upon, either as so serious, so refined, or so 
courtly a diversion, and neither the material nor the workmanship of its 
implements would be so ornamental or so solid as in the higher class of 
chess-boards. Nor do the ''points" of the backgammon- board yield them- 
selves to the art of decoration as do the squares of the chess-board— so 
striking in their outlines and in their coAJ unction as to have been adopted as 
a decorative feature in all times — even in lands like Egypt where chess was 
unknown — in all branches of art, and in every material. The very earliest 
board for ''tables'' consisted doubtless of a simple design painted or drawn 
on a flat piece of wood, or perhaps canvas, with no costly adornments, no pan- 
nelling, no inlaid work, no colours — just as we find so many schemes, em- 
ployed for the various line-games of the ancient world, scratched on the 
stone steps of public buildings, or on pavements of courts and terraces in 
Rome and elsewhere. Moreover it must be remembered that we have no ar- 
tistic chess-boards until after the custom of distinguishing the squares by the 
different colours came in, and it is almost certain that the backgammon 
"poltats" were until a later period only outlined. 

In regard to the mode of playing the game of tables we have no precise 
information earlier than the XlVth century, since we have no access to the text 
of the Escurial MS prepared by order of King Alfonso in the Xlllth. There were 



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168 CHBSS IN ICELAND 



at that time, as in later periods, . many games differiog, in more or less im- 
portant ways, from each other. This was doubtless the case ev^ in much 
earlier ages. Alfonso enumerates some fourteen or fifteen such varieties, 
while another MS, of English origin, gives eight ; just as a recent French pub- 
lication treats of eleven. Some of these games, like the various games of 
cards, doubtless had their periods of popularity and oblivion. Perhaps, as 
now with the different sorts of backgammon, some were more common in 
one land, whil« others were more played in other countries. This is one of 
the marked differences between tables (nard, backgammon) and chess. There 
is only one kind of chess, and all efforts made, in older and later times, to 
introduce varieties, have been failures. They have scarcely been proposed, 
perhaps propounded and explained in a whole printed volume, when they are 
forgotten. Another thing to be noted, in this regard, is the fact that the im- 
portant element of tables is the board. Dice are used in other games than 
those practiced on the table-board, and may be even used for purposes of 
diversion, by th^oiselves ; while the counters, or men, belong to draughts, 
merelles, and other sports as much as they belong to backgammon. The board 
therefore is the only unique implement. Chess, on the other hand, possesses 
a board used in no other noteworthy game except in draughts, which is merely 
a derived and simplified form of chess, and the only enduring one which 
can claim such ancestry. The men employed on the chess-board are even 
mor6 sui generis. There is nothing like them in any other sport possessing 
either age or importance. They have doubtless been imitated in cards, but 
cards go back only to a date comparatively modefn. It is largely to this 
fact, namely, the exceptional character of the men, to which chess chiefly 
owes its individuality, and the slight modifications it has undergone through 
its long history. It is to the opposite characteristic that tables is indebted 
for its many varieties, so that, unlike chess, it even now bears different 
names in different countries. 

Now we must go back to an older epoch and to lands outside of Europe. 
Although there is no doubt that chess originated in India, and grew to a 
high degree of perfection there long before it reached Arabia, yet the early 
Indian chess literature, which has come down to us, is insignificant indeed, 
when we compare it with the numerous treatises still existing in early Arabic. 
It was in foot in Arabia that the practical and analytic side of the game, no 
less than its history, really began to be seriously investigated. It is, there- 
fore, perhaps not surprising that the oldest known allusion to chess in 
Sanskrit literature should be only a century earlier than the oldest known 
mention of it in Arabic letters. The name of the first Sanskrit writer is Rat- 
nakara, an inhabitant of Cashmere, author of an important poem called '^Ha- 
ravgaya'' in which the names of the chess- pieces are cited. His date is per- 
fectly well known, as he was a subject and prot^4 of a king of Cashmere, 
who reigned from A. D. 835 to 847.*« But it is noteworthy that the first known 
allusion to chess, as well as the first attempt to recount the origin of both 
chess and nard, belongs neither to Sanskrit nor Arabic literature, but to a 
peculiar period of what is customarily styled Middle-Persian literature, of 
which the written medium is known as Pahlavi. In 1878 the noted Semltist, 

*^ See the ftdinir«ble esiay of the dUUuguUhed SaDtkrit seboUr HermAaii Jaeobi, "Uber 
kwel &Uere erwl^hnungen des lehaclfipiels in der Sanakrit-liUeratur*' in the *'Zeit8obrift der 
deitUehen nior(|[enl|lndiBehen feBe11§cb«ft ** (1896, pp. 2S7-S93). 



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STBA Y NOTES 160 



Professor Theodor Naideke of Strassburg, published a Qerman translation of 
the '' KarnamaJ^/' a fkncifal account of the education and adventures of a 
Persian Prince, greatly resembling, in manner and matter, those prose and 
metrical tales, which abounded in the European literatures, during the Xllth 
and on to the XlVth centuries, from Italy to Iceland. In this ^' Story of Ar- 
dachshir,'' we are told that among the accomplishments which that prince 
acquired was catrang (as the word is now transliterated), a vocable represent- 
ing the Sanskrit caiuranga (pronounced tchaturanga), that is to say chess. 
This work was produced between the years 590 and 628 — let us say about 
the beginning of the Vlth century — and is the earliest yet ascertained au- 
thentic mention of the old Indian game in history or literature. In 1885 there 
were edited at Bombay by a native Parsi scholar, four other Pahlavi writings 
accompanied by a translation into Qi^yarati and a less well executed English 
version. At least one of these stories — and perhaps others — was printed 
in the original text, with a German rendering, at St. Petersburg by Dr. K. 
O. Salemann, director of the Asiatic museum in that city, in a volume en- 
titled *'Mittel-persische studien'* (1887)« This was an account of the inven- 
tion of nard and chess, being possibly the first allusion to the former game 
in any now extant work. The same tract was again fully described in 1892 
by Professor N61deke, in his *'Persische studien II,'* contained in the pro- 
ceedings of the Vienna imperial academy of sciences (philosophical and 
historical section). He speaks of it as** Das Pehlewi-buch vom schach- 
spiel,*' and places its date in the first century of Islam, that is between 622 
and 722. • 

The following is the tale in outline: '* A king of India sends the learned 
and sagacious Tachtaritus to king Chosrau Anosharvan with the game of 
chess, which had been invented by this sage — half the pieces thus trans- 
mitted being of emerald and the other half of ruby. If the Iranians, writes 
the Indian king, could divine the mode and manner of this game, thus showing 
that their wise men were not excelled by their contemporaries of India, then 
the Indians were to pay tribute to the Persians. If not, then tribute was to 
be paid by the Persians. At the end of the third day the Persian vizier, 
Vazurjmihr explained the new game of chess, and at once won twelve games 
against Tachtaritus. He followed this up by producing, himself, a second 
new game, to which he had given the name of the new Ardachshlr [that is, 
the "excellent"— or as some say "new"— Artaxerxes"], because Artaxerxes 
had been the wisest monarch who had existed during the last thousand years. 
This game was nard. The vizier declared that it represented human life and 
action, in their dependence on the course of the planets and zodiacal signs. 
The board signified the earth ; the 30 men the 30 civic days of the month, 
that is to say, the 15 white ones, the days, and the 15 black ones, the nights; 
the moving to and fro of the pieces portrayed the courses of the constella- 
tions ; the ace of the dice corresponded to the unity of the creator, the deuce 
to the duality of heaven and earth, the trey to the trinity of thought, word 
and deed, the quatre to the four primal elements of nature (dryness, damp- 
ness, warmth, .cold), as well as to the four points of the compass, the cinq to 
the five lights, namely the sun, moon, stars, fire and twilight; the size, to 
the gahanbar(8), or the six days in which God created the world. King Chosrau 
now sends the new game under strong escort to the Indian monarch. As no 
one is able to elucidate it, the escort returns with a double tribute. The nar- 

22 



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170 CHESS IN ICELAND 



ration ends by asserting, however, that in chess, reason and intelligence alone 
decide the contest.^ 

Next in time comes the Arabic writer, Jaq'ubi, who, about 880, relates 
the same story, ascribing, however, the invention of both games to an Indian 
sage at the instance of an Indian king. He adds^o the allegory of the Pah- 
lavi author that the twelve houses ("points") represent the twelve months 
and the twelve zodiacal signs; "das steht in Pehlewi-buche nicht," says 
Ndldelte. Then follows one of the most famous of the early figures in Arabic 
literature, Mas<u(ti, who, in his historical cyclopaedia entitled, after the 
fantastic manner of the Easterns, "Meadows of Gold," declares, 947 years after 
Christ, that nard was the invention of king Ardachsher Babakan (Artaxerxes, 
the son of Papak), who was, by the way, the very hero of the "Karnamak," 
in which occurs the oldest mention of chess. The allegorical description of 
the game by Mas»udi was the same, in all its features, as that given by 
Jaq*ubi. 

Finally the Persian poet, Firdausi, author of the greatest Asiatic epic, the 
Shahnamo" (the composition of which was finished in 1011), reproduces the 
principal incidents relating to nardy as they stand in the "Karnamak," chang- 
ing slightly the name of the vizier to Buzurgmihr, omitting some of the alle- 
gorical details and altering others. Dr. N5ldeke asserts that the Pahlavi nar- 
rative, without doubt, was the source from which Firdausi drew, unless the 
two authors availed themselves of a still earlier common source now lost. 
What the Persian poet says of nard — as is well known — is only a prelimin- 
ary, or an adjunct to his highly poetical narrative of the introauction of 
Indian chess into Persia. It seems to be generally regarded that fi'om the 
name given to the new game by the old Persian sage, pronounced nevoar- 
dasher, came ultimately the word 7mrd, and its other Eastern name nerdshir. 
We perhaps ought to state, before leaving this topic, that what is called the 
Pahlavi language is really the Persian of a certain period (which coincides 
with the dominance of the Sassanian dynasty, that is from the Hid to the 
Vllth century), mixed with some foreign, chiefly Semitic elements, and hav- 
ing a peculiar sort of half- cryptographic alphabet, which renders the read- 
ing of the texts a most difficult task ; indeed, as it seems, it may be taken 
as a rule that in this singular mode of graphic expression, all words are 
pronounced exactly as they are not written. 

In the matter of tiard — if the reader will excuse s brief excursus — the 
student will do well to consult, with the greatest care, the work of Hyde, 
the early date of which (1694) makes it of high importance, even in regard 
to* the European forms of this diversion. We are able to give here only a 
hasty and inadequate summary of his treatment of the subject, merely by 
way of reference to the student. The title given to the second volume of his 
"De ludis Orientali bus "— which is dedicated to John Hampden, the younger 
— is " Historia Nerdiludii," as the li^rger part of it is devoted to the his- 
tory of nard and other ancient games played with dice. He cites — we 
retain, for the most part, his transliterations — most of the technical terms 
in various Oriental languages, as well as in Latin and Greek, many of which 
we have already given from other sources. He states that in a large part 

^ For » more c*r«fttl Dotiee of oae of the booki horo etted, see a letter, by the preaeat 
writer, la the «*N«Uon" of New York, LXXI, 1900, pp. ISS-lM. 



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STRAY NOTES Vn 



of the East the Persian word nard has been adopted, with some changes of 
form, as the title of the game; he likewise mentions nerd ardeshir (derived, 
he says, from the name of the inventor, Ardesher Babakan), which became 
nard8?ier^ and remarks that a Hebrew lexicologist errs when he makes the 
last word signify ** dade al-nerd^ i. e. tesseras nerdicas,'' the dice used at 
nard. He goes on to state that the Hebrews formed from the Greek the word 
^*knbia'* (from xo^o^) as the name of the game; and that this word was also 
received into Arabic in almost the same form, a Turkish writer declaring that 
*'el-quba" is the game which is called nard, Hyde makes the game identical 
with the ^^scripta duodecim'' of the Latins, quoting many passages trom 
classic authors. Of English names given to various games played on the 
table-board he enumerates "tric-trac" ("in Anglia vocamus <ic-toc"), Irish, 
"back-garaon," "doublets" or "queens -game'* (the last being in French, he 
says, " Uibles rabbaiues or dames rabbatues, or dames avaUdes"'), He derives 
back-gamon, [sic] in the etymological manner of his age, from back-game- 
ofi, which he declares to be the same as "back again and then game on,'* 
referring to the forward and return movement of the men. The French title 
of a variety of tables, verquier^ he tells us is in Flemish verkeer ; in Danish 
forkeering and in German, verkehrung. 

"The points of the tables*' as he styles them in English, are called in 
French rayons; in Italian, case; in Arabic, haijut (sing, bit); in Persian kha- 
naha (sing, khana)^ signifying, in the last two languages named, "house." 
He records the appellations given to the die and dice in different tongues 
(writing erroneously in Danish, terming instead of teming)^ as Latin, tesserae 
(giving the derivation), and aleae ; old Greek, xu^o^ but called in the dic- 
tionary of Hesychius f^^XXo^; in modern Greek C^pi^ aCapi and td Cdpia; 
in Turkish, ^or, the writer taking care to assert that he does not know 
whether the Turkish comes from the modern Greek, or the modern Greek 
from the Turkish. He explains correctly the low Latin dadus and its modern 
derivatives; then follows a chapter on the terms purgos, turricula SkXid fritillus 
illustrated by many classical passages. It is in his chapter "Detesserarum 
jactibus, etde lusibus," that Hyde cites the writer Cardanus, an Italian math- 
ematical and miscellaneous author of the XVIth century : " In our age the 
best known games of the table are with three dice, spercunum^ sperdii and 
sperdionum, whence the board itself is called sperdinum. In the vulgar 
tongue of Italy they call them sbardinum^ dc." Calcagninus seems to de- 
rive the name from sperandOy but in Italian sbaraiare signifies to ^scatter' 
and sbarainum what is scattered. Other three noted games with two dice are: 
docadiglium^ which is of two kinds, the small and great [the long] ; also canis 
martius, which demands much more ingenuity; and another game called 
minoretta, also of two sorts, major and minor." Hyde then informs us that 
Bernardo da Parigi says that sbaraglino or sbaraglio [see a later page], is 
the game which is called in Turkish tauli or tawulL Hyde then continues, 
saying that the Orientals have a peculiar kind of game at tables, which is 
generally known as tawla or tavola; another, more intricate, is called in 
Arabic muroOi, which has been explained as signifying speratum or res 
speraH^ because in it victory is often hoped for but not obUined ; it is the 
tome as the above named Flemish or Dutch verkeer ; another is called tukati 
or taukati, perhaps the same as the English tic-tac. Then he mentions a 
game of the Persians, styled fertd meaning "simple." The general name for 



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172 CHESS IN TCSLAND 



nard in Sanskrit is duiu and a particular kind of it, oshkaka-kurido (t). He 
learns that the board is used in India for a game called tchupur; further on 
he gives extracts from the Greek (Agathias Scholasticus) reciting the playing 
of tables by the emperor Zeno [d.491] ; and from the Persian, Firdaun, and 
the Arab, Ibn Kalikan — all in the original as well as Latin translations. 
Subsequently he tells the various stories of the invention of nard by Pala- 
medes, Ardesher Babakan and others. 

So much for Hyde, of whose heaped>up erudition on this theme it is dif- 
ficult to give any adequate idea; his chapters relating to the game, before 
he begins to treat of the pure dice games, are entitled: I. De nerdiludii 
nominibus; H. De nerdiludii tabella; HI. De tesseris seu aleis; IV. De 
frustulis seu trunculis lusoriis ; V. De turricula, fritillo, Ac; VI. De tessera- 
rum jactibus et de lusibus et de aliquot vocabulis lusoriis ; VII. De primario 
nerdiludii scope; VIII. De nerdiludii antiquitate et prime auctore, including a 
section styled "De nerdiludio chinensium." It will be noticed, however, 
that the author is not very full or precise about the method of playing 
the various games or varieties which he names, but this is doubtless the 
result of the vagueness characterizing his Oriental and other sources. 

The impressions then, which we get from these narratives relating to 
nard are, firstly, that its origin, if we may regard the mythical accounts 
as of any historical value, is to be assigned to Persia rather than to India, 
although chess and nard apparently make their earliest historical appearance 
in contiguous regions of those two lands ; secondly, that among the Arabic 
peoples, at all events, nard preceded chess, or was at least as early as it. The 
Mohammedan legal traditions, as Dr. Van der Linde points out (^'Quellen- 
studien,'* p. 7), allude to nard as existing in the Prophet*s life-time, but 
make no mention of chess before his death. The first clear contemporary 
utterance in regard to Arabic chess is in a letter (780) written by the Caliph 
Mahdi, rebuking the people of Mecca for their loose habits, among them 
being the practice of playing both nard and chess; and in the so-called 
"Kitab el-ghani,"— apparently a poetical miscellany — the compiler of which 
died in 967, we find mention of nard, chess and of a game which resembled 
morris as well. The first Arabic author of a practical work on chess is stated 
to be el-^Adli, a noted player (the date of whose treatise is uncertain, but is 
seemingly to be placed before 862) who is reported to have likewise composed 
a book on nard (*'Kitab el-nard''). The two games long continued to exist 
beside each other, and to be contrasted with each other, in the Arabic world, 
for in the XVIth century Muhamracd Sukaiker, of Damascus (Hyde, II, p. 54, 
cited also by V. d. Linde, "Quellenstudien," p. 24) wrote a work to prove 
the superiority of chess to nard. In the Oamara, or Babylonian Talmud, 
appears, in a Hebrew form from the Persian, the word t^erdshJr, that is, the 
game of nard, in which place it can certainly not be much later than the 
Vlth century. If its insertion in that production, as seems undeniable, took 
place in Syria, it would be surely earlier than we could expect. to encounter 
any allusion to chess in that part of Asia. This Talmudio title of the game 
(nerdshir) is explained by various early European Hebrew philologers, such 
as Nathan ben Jechiel (Rome 1103), Kalonymos ben Kalonymos (1322), and 
others, all agreeing in the opinion that it signifies a game either identical 
with, or similar to nard. The word is also cited by Prophiat Duran (known 
as Bphodseus), a Hebrew from Northern Spain, in 1403— its latest appearance 



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in Europe according to Dr. M. Steinschneider^s exhaustive '^Schach bei den 
Juden*' (see V. d. Lindens '^Geschichte/* I., p. 157). No reference to chess 
occurs in the Talmud. It is historically significant that the Byzantine Greeks 
did not receive the word nard from Arabic, or Persian, or Hebrew sources. 
They only knew the game by its Latin title, which they adopted, and from 
which they made several derivatives (see p. 81), proving that the diversion 
came to the Greek world from the West, that is by way of Italy. On the 
other hand Byzantium, as the reader will remember, first obtained the game 
of chess and its name (Catpixiov) from the Arabs, at a time when its people 
had already come into contact with their subsequent conquerors. Nard, then, 
must have already had time to assume its European appellation (tables) be- 
fore it reached the Bosphorus — an important consideration. ^ 

Nearly all English writers — firom Hyde in 1694 to Wright 1859— just as 
they make '"tables" the same as backgammon, also regard backgammon as 
the modern representative of ''nard.** All that we have written makes us 
therefore ready— after the style of so many chess historians— for a series 
of conjectures, which is as follows: The existence of the game we are inves- 
tigating may be divided into three stages; 1. The period of nard, from Its 
invention or earliest appearance in Southwestern Asia — according to one 
tradition in Persia ^ before A. D. 800, to its arrival in Europe (shall we say 
in Spain, or in Italy during the Arabic occupation of Sicily I) during which 
period, so far as we can learn, it was always played with thirty men, whose 
movements were made in accordance with the casting of dice on a board of 
twice twelve "points"; 2. The period of tables, from its arrival in Spain or 
Itoly, coming from the Arabic world, to the XVIth century. In Europe It 
would find a more, or less corrupted Latin tongue still in use in Italy, and, 
possibly existing there and elsewhere, the traditions of an old Latin game 
called tabida or tabulae (mentioned under bn'e of those names by Justinian in 
the Vlth century, and by Isidore of Seville in the Vlllh century. Perhaps the 
old native game itself was still lingering, being possibly the Roman duode- 
cini scripta. Because, in this newly -landed game, each player had really 
his own "table," with its twelve points, it took the name of tabulae {ludtis 
tabularum) whence "tavole" and "tables," the dice used being called by a 
low Latin name, dadi. Unfortunately, during the early half of this period, 
beyond the facts that the game was played on a fiat table (somehow divided 
inlo two parts), and that the throw of the dice directed the movements of 
the pieces, we cannot, at present, give any deuiled account of its method 
of play ; in the latter part of the period we know much more about it. 3, 
The period of backgammon^ (trictrac) from the XVIth century until the pre- 
sent time, played, like the ancient nard, with thirty men on twelve points, 
with the essential assistance of dice, and, like the medissval tables, on a 
board divided into two parts, each with its two subdivisions. The change 
of name was not unlikely owing to the predominating popularity of a single 
variety of the game styled backgammon (or, on the continent, trictrac) aided 
by the fact that " tables " began to be regarded as a generic term for all 
diversions whose movements were carried on upon a fiat surftuM, or table, 

*"* Chaii CAB hArdlj be regwded m a caim of fraaC popalMrlty in the new Greece, 
although the eonntry*« later literature potaetaei a manual of iu practice, but among tboie 
' who do play it the eld Arable-Bysantlne term ii cUlI employed, alt«rnattfig with ffxaxi, one 
of the ttnmerene lean-worde from the Italiaa {scaechi) In dally oae In all the Qreek tewae. 



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174 



CHESS IN ICELAND 



and was no longer suitable for a special *' table-game/' After the comple- 
tion of the* change from the Asiatic-European to the better developed and 
more attractive modern chess— a process virtually ended, say in 1475— ta- 
bles was less and less practiced, and was nearly superseded, in higher cir- 
cles, by its revised and perfected rival Indian game. But the former was 
in time again revived, perhaps with prettier and more decorative boards — 
generally united with chessboards— with more neatly made dice-boxes and 
other attractive changes in the apparatus or in the mode of play, after 
which its new n.ames— ftocA^amniot}, trictrac, pu/f— -quite superseded its old 
one — only a shadowy form of which was left in the languages of the two 
Southern European peninsulas. It need not be said that to make all these 
hypotheses absolute certainties, a good deal of extended and careful research 
is needed. But on the whole w^ think that, after all the statements made, 
there is no longer much doubt that we may fairly be allowed to consider 
nard-tables-backgammon as one continuous development, constituting the 
story of a single intellectual outgrowth during some 1300 or 1400 years of 
existence. 

The variation of the problem which remains unsolved and possibly un- 
solvable, is the light in which we are to consider \he old Roman game, duo- 
decim scripta, the twelve-line diversion, which so many investigators have 
declared to be identical with the modern backgammon. Is there really, any 
historical connection between the twot 
Did nard reach Rome at a very early 
day by some mysterious route — by 
means of traders, or wanderers, or by 
the slow process of tribal contact, and 
taking a new name become natural- 
ized f Or did an original Latin or 
Etruscan or Pelasgic game make its 
way to the lands beyond the Tigris, 
and be there re-christened nard\ Or 
did the duodecim scripta die with impe- 
rial Rome, or slumber, half- forgotten, 
until its Oriental congener reached the Italic shores— so like in form to the 
Roman amusement that its arrival was virtually a revival of itt We have 
spoken (p. 122, note) of a remarkable publication by one of the most remark- 
able scholars of our day, Domenico Comparetti, being an essay upon an 
ancient Roman mirror, having on its reverse the graceful figures of two 
youths engaged at the game of duodecim scripta. We reproduce here (fig. 17) 
the table as there represented, but without the figures beside it. We have 
already noticed that no men are visible on the table. In the complete design 
the male figure at the left has his left arm raised with the hand extended, 
palm upwards, and nearly open, but as if it held some small object, or 
objects, not quite visible. The right hand points to the lines on the board 
and is resting just above them. Ck>mpar6tti seems to think that the eleva- 
ted hand holds the dice preparatory to throwing them, while the lower one 
indicates to the &ir player opposite that the game is about to begin. It 
will be seen that the board has twelve lines, with an open space around 
them Just inside the board's margin, that is to say that the scheme is not 
unlike that of tables-backgammon, except that here the twelve points formed 




Fig. 17. 



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STRAY NOTES 175 



by the ends of the lines on each side begin at the centre of the board 
and run towards the margin, whereas in backgammon they start ft'om the 
enter margin of the board, on either side, and run toward the centre. Compa- 
retti likewise suggests that the men are absent because the game has not yet 
commenced. Whatever may be the interpretation of this noteworthy relic 
of antiquity, it is satisfactory that we have at length some trustworthy testi- 
mony as to the exact shape of the apparatus used in this old Roman game. 
Whether it helps to establish any real relation to the game we have been 
treating of at such length, is another matter— one to be decided hereafter. 

An event which was not without its influence upon the old '* tables,'* as 
upon some other games of its period, particularly those into which chance 
largely entered, was the introduction into use of playing-cards, a form of 
gaming in many respects both more convenient and more attractive than 
that afforded by dice. This new medium of diversion contributed, doubtless, 
on the one hand, to the decadence of "tables,'* and on the other, perhaps, 
led to the modification of the principal form of the ancient table-game, and 
especially to its change of name— until it finally assumed the title, in En- 
gland, of "backgammon"' and, in France, of "trictrac." Nor is it impossi- 
ble that the same incident had something to do with the debasement of the 
morris game, and its banishment from court circles to become the amuse- 
ment of rude rustics. Cards, manufactured ft'om cotton, were pretty surely 
known in Spain as early as the last quarter of the Xlllth century, and very 
soon thereafter in Italy ; their use had already spread to France, Germany 
and Holland in the latter half of the XlVth ; and in 1403 their introduction, 
as well as that of chessmen, into England was forbidden (act 4. Edward IV, 
IV, 1) for the benefit of the home-made articles ; and a play of 1400 has the 
phrase, " Using cardes, dice and cupes smalle." Chess, as a game of pure 
skill, suffered less from the popularity of cards, in spite of the fact that the 
new mode of diversion owed many of its features to the Indian game, hav- 
ing to do, like that, with kings, and queens and knights (knaves), and 
having both its figures of high degree (the court cards, or, more properly, 
the "coat cards") and its pawn-like forges of low degree (the spot-cards). 

Allusions to the mediaeval game of tables are perhaps more frequent 
in the old French than in any other early literature. In looking at the 
practical side of modern backgammon, its assumed successor, we shall 
therefore begin with France. We give, in a foot-note, a brief account of an 
interesting and elaborate French XVIIIth century manual of the game by 
Soumille, in which we find how little is the difference between the trictrac 
of then and now.*M The most pretentious modern treatment of the game, in 

^ OoG of th« DoUble booki la the ■eanty Iltoratnro of baekgammon Is ifaal of the abbd 
Sonmillo, " Le grand Trletrao," the leeond edition of which was published at Avignon 1756 
<BOy pp. 488). Both Its sober style and Its neat typography make It an attraetWo volome. 
It eontahis many scores of positions on diagrams, which oeenr between two players, classic- 
ally denominated Gloria and Damon. The latter has the lower part of the board (or that 
nearest the reader), eqoiTalent to the position given to <* white" In chess treatises, whllo 
Olorls is supposed to sit opposite, or at the upper side of the board (like "black"). The 
teehnioal terms are very fiiUy ezplaloed, though no allusion to the history of the game is 
anywhere made. Each of tha four divisions, having six poInU, into which the board Is 
divided. Is ealled % jau ; each player thns has twojans; the one in which the men are pilrd 
np at the eommenoement of the game l« called the petit-jatif the other the grand-jan. Va- 
rioDfl positions brought about by different throws of the dice are likewise styled y«n« — the 
jam 40 rmemUnf for instance, being two exactly similar (or equal) first throws by the two 



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^76 CHESS IN ICELAND 



all its varieties, with which we are familiar, is to be found in a French 
work, the ''Grande encyclopddie des jeux** edited by Monlidare — a book 
already cited— in its chapter, "Le trictrac" (I., pp. 142-189). This treatise 
attempts to portray and explain no fewer than eleven games played, with 
greater or less divergencies, on the backgammon-board. At the outset, its 
compiler indulges in a little philology, literature and philosophy of a char- 
acter not very profound, but which we will cite in its entirety : " TriOrae 
would appear to have been known to the ancients, if it be true that its name, 
instead of being derived onomatopoetically (rom the noise made by the dice 

pUjert, wbilu tjbere ar« tlio Jan qui tup9ul,Jan de d4ux UhUt,J<» d* mMaa and amif-iM 
dt miziaM. The point*, alterDately bUck and white, of the board are atyled flSehM or UmMi 
the holea In the frarao of the board for marking gamea aro trout, and the moTable p«gi «"•* 
in theio, Jtohett, The men or pleeea are known oa damet, or, aceordlog to thia author, aoma- 
tlB«a aa tabUt, the board being the tablUr. A point on which two men are auudlng It » 
cage (eaa«=hottae)» and one on whieh there ia only one, a demi-case; the aame term ia •f- 
plied to certain poaltiona. and we hare the com du dia&la, cage de VieolUr, cat* du ei*q And 
ao on ; eaM« aUernt (or rateau) la a title given to a poaition in which erery alternate point 
of the board la void of men. A fatuse e€Ute ia a position brought about by erroneona or Ir- 
regular play, and has Ita penaltiea, aa do auch errora at eheaa. jSleoU ia a negleet to make 
or mark pointi, and to aend one & VieoU ia when the opponent, obaerriag the omiailon, 
add* the unoounted pointa to hia own aeore. The notation employed ia baaed on the indica- 
tion of the 24 fihch— of tho board by the 84 characters of the alphabet aoeh aa ia shown 
in flg. 16. Doublets, in throwing the dice, have the enatomary apeclal titlea aa : two aeas, 
aaifr«s-aa, or hna* ; two deueea, tout Ut dtux (aportively tout let diaux) ; two treys, UrMt 
(JMtingly, lanttmet) ; two fours, carmtt ; two Htcs, quintt ; double alxea, •onnit. The per*** 
ma/ be either a jtu ordinairtj In which eaeh pUyer la limited to hia own aide of the board, 
moTiag hia men only from m to a, or from ip to n ; or a ^cn do retour (a true ** baekgao- 
mon,** that is the gamo and hack). In which Gloria continues to more until the eonntezs are 
puahcd f^om m (by way of I, k, i, &c) dear to tp, or through both tablea ; whila Danoa 
playa hia from n (by way of o, p, q) to n. In beginning a game eaeh player plaeea his 
15 men in 8 or 4 piles on the point in one of the ontaide extreme eoruera of hia aide of the 
board ; the point then reoeivea the name of the talon, and the jan in whieh the talon Is 
beeomea the potit-jan ; the talon and potU-jan of the adveraariea are exaotly opposite each 
other ; for InsUnce, if tho eoontera of Gloria are placed on m, that point ia the fafoa and 
poUt'jan of Damon. The throws of the dice may be utilised to mere either one or two man; 
thas, with tiie throw deuce-trey, one man may be moved to a second point and another to a 
third, or a single counter may be moved to a fifth point. At the end of tho volame are 
many positions similar in character to problems at eheaa, intended to Indicate the proper 
method of play under certain cireumstaaoea. The book baa, in all, nearly three bandrad 
diagrama, llluatrative of games or exoeptional poaitiona. Theae are apparently not engraved 
but made up of backgammon type, compoaed of pieoea repreaentlog the four aides or rioM of 
the board (having the trout or holea, white on black); black and white pointa having one 
to three white or black men on them, or each supporting one of the dice to be placed where 
no pointa with men are needed, in order to abow the throw Jnst mado and now to be playod; 
and little eirdea to be placed noar the amall en da of the pointa to repreaent the eeore^pointst 
and so on. The eopperplate frontispiece of the volame pictures a game of backgammon on 
a very large board, placed on a handaome table in a fine apartmenti the playera bdof * 
gentleman and lady, with a second gentleman aa a apeotator. It is not known whether 
Bourn lUe waa the flrat to giro the namea of Gloria and Damon to the two auppoaed players 
in troatlaea on trictrac, but the tradition ia atill ao far powerful that Moulidara beatows on hli 
imaginary eombaUnta their inltlala (G and D). The author givea a brief deacrlptioa (pp. 891'') 
of trictrac d dcrire and (pp. 81^2-3) of a much alropler variety to be played by fonr or A^ 
playera, styled eourir la poulc. Some apace ia devoted to a diaouaaion of the poaalble eom- 
binaUona of the dice (pp. 806-816). There are aome aingular teehnieal terma, IndieaAiof 
phases of tho game, and which are now disused, such aa Margot la fondao and patoaf ^ 
pont, Aa a speelmen of Soomille'a atyle we cite hia notice of a method of vFinning sliU la 
vogue (pp. 890-891): '*Gagner noe par tie grandcbredoUillt c'est marqner 18 trona do aalM* 
tandla que I'autre JoUeur n*en marque aucun. Le premier qui commence 4 marqner •• <>" 
plualenra trona, n*ejclut paa Tantre du droit de gagner grandO'brodoiUHe, poarv6 qjoo ce 



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„athe counter., had '*» jrig'n in thej^ Ore^^. w a.^^. ^^^^^^^^ .„ 

hi, .voyage d'Anacharsie.- cla.m, lb" 't^^j^ ,j»*'j^l^ ,ori,.«. or ««<««* 
proved that the Romans Knew '\ J^\'^^^^^*^ 'Salmaeiu*. 158«-10r.«]. In 
Mr«^P»or«m. a. is demonatrated by 'f'""'';^; ^^j,,, ^ho modern ««v«r«.. 
aspecial treatise, in which he compares the ancient ^^ ^^^^^^^ ^. 

BuHn it. progre« this game ^-^--^^ZM mLu probahiy it. do- 
fore arriring at the point where ^l^rd^ZsraUUtues, which i. of great 
votees played the kind which we call dames ra^i 

..fri. h..ldl.«., .. «.«»•" t*;"^" *„*,;".?0».n* Trier.." «- « ',^,"5 ' „4 p.rb.p. b, 
W« .v.. «pt dfa." *''»»" "".dluJof tW. b, . t""",'' ."J ,"«*:.r. bl..r.pb.,«. 
«tk*n. A .k»Ub of 8o«mme'» Mf« *"' " ^, „ uk.ly »lw.y« «• .. u Jeu 

dX^Um..td. T....«." <<'"|:'irwM ..-»"•' >"•""' "V7" .«. -«i:.d. tr*.- 

(»"». pp. IM + >"• '""' f" "ecd «rl.. of "» P**"' • . ,u J.« da ,.T«rltor, da WuU- 
.b. .-PP'«-«»'("«r8l?Jd* .rUU-e. .....»■" '«• "X* "..f 0.n.». .. •« J..« [.<«! 

Ubl«, du lo»nie-cM«, *•' " cbarpenUor, •••"•"•„ .auioB. but It ""> •>• —" 

from tb. d.t. tb.t tb. .OPP ^_,n,.. c««Ul». «J. . |_^ j^, „,,„ „„k, 

tb« «meord.r (PP- "'"'*, to io: «Wl« tb. ln.port.Bt P"\" "* . , ,. ,,„,,n, th»t the 

oId-f«Wo«.a B«.1IA b..M.» 1^ '"»»'"'* '",v«r*Ttid. c. J.«. •» J« «••"- 



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I'W CHESS IN ICELAND 



simplicity, offering little scope for combinations ; next cAme jacquet^ scarcely 
more complex. We may regard as somewhat later garanguei^ and the game 
of Umte-table or gamon; and as coming last of all trictrac, made up from 
all the different table games, the invention of which appears to date from 
the XVth century. This last game has itself undergone modifications ; and 
its rules were not definitely established until about the commencement of 
the reign of Louis XIV, at which Ume it was enthusiastically cultivated by 
persons of quality. Regnard presents us a player possessed of the demon 
of trictrac and makes him say : (a. 1, sc. IV) : 

Une ieoU maadite 

He codte en un momeiit doQze trout tout de saite ; 
Qoe Je snis an grand chlen ! Parblea, J« te sanrai, 
Mandit Jen de trictrac ! on bien Jo ne poarrai. 

A little further on (a. l;sc. X) the poet puis these lines into the mouth of 
a certain chevalier (Tindustrie: 

Jo Boia pour youb aervir, gentilbonune auvergnAc, 
Docteur dana tone lea Joax et luaitre de trictrac ; 
Mon nom eat Tout-d-Ba», yicomte do La Case, 
Et Totre aervltenr, pour terminer ma pbraae. 



Jo eaia dana un trictrac, quand il faut nn tonnez, 
Gliaser des d6a lieurenx on cbargds on plp6B; 
i£t quand mon plein eat fait, gardaut mea avantagea, 
J 'en aubatitae auaai d'aatrea prudenta et aagea, 
Qni n*offhuit k mon gr6 quo dca aa k iona coape, 
Me font en un instant enfller douze trout. 

Je vexuL, par mon aayoir extreme, 

Que vons eaoamottez un d6 comiue moi-m6me. 

The italicised words in these citations are terms use<l at backgammon. The 
poet, Jean Francois Regnard, lived between the years 1655 and 1709. The 
editor of the **Encyclop(idie" thus continues: **The changes which su- 
pervened in court manners at the end of the reign of Louis XIV led 
gradually to less practice of trictrac, which nevertheless still remains a 
favourite household game, and, in its modified form, known as trie trac d 
dcrire, is yet held in honour in many drawing-rooms. The Greek etymology 
of the word trictrac, if it were authentic, would not signify that the game is 
extremely complicated in its method of play ; it would mean only that, to 
be played well, it demands much presence of mind and quiet calculation.'* 
Mr. Moulidars is evidently no very profound QraMsist. The huge Larousse 
cyclopaedic dictionary also has a historical reference to the game. After 
mentioning its invention by the Persians it goes on to say ^'Mais il est certain 
que les anciens connaissaient des Jeux analogues ou le trictrac lui-mdme; 
tels dtaient, entre autres, le diagramismos des Qrecs et le duodena agripta 
des Remains. On le trouve d^sign^, dans les auteurs du moyen &ge, sous 
le nom du Jeu de tables , qu*il porte encore aujourd'hui en ^lemand {brett- 
spiel), et en Portugais {jogo de tabolas)/' The last statement is not wholly ac- 
curate so far as the modern German is concerned, brettspiel being generally 
employed as a generic term for all games played on a board. 

Not infrequent are the appearances of backgammon in the literature o^ 
the French lands. As wo shall see, when treating of the technical vocabu 



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Ury of trictrac, the game was known to Rabelais in the XVIth century. A 
passage ascribed to the poet Villon in the same century, to which we shall 
also refer later on, contains the word trictrac, but not as the denomination 
of a game. Francois de Bonnivard (b. 1496)— the original hero of Byron*s 
"Prisoner of Chillon '* — in his ''Chronique de Geneve** (IV, 4), says that 
before the battle of Pavia (1^5) the Spanish and the French ''se pour- 
menoient par sur le Piedmont et y Jouoient au trique trac."' Nearly of the 
same time is the occurrence of the word in Etienne Pasquier^s '^Recherches** 
(1560) in a passage soon to be cited. The word Is found in several early 
Latin treatises on games. Salmasius tells us that '^prseter trictracum quern 
vocamus, alinm etiam ludum cum tesseris et caiculis in tabulA lusitare con- 
suevimus;** he speaks also of what both French and English authors long 
called the ^^ grand trictrac,'^ saying "hodie in eo trictraci genere quern 
magnum vulgo vocant;'* while Bulenger (1626) informs us that '*apud nos 
hodie 12 linesB, 24 [tj calculi, vocamus nu^jarem trictracum,'* In the same 
way, many years before, Hyde shows himself familiar with the vord, with- 
out giving it a Latin form, as when he comments on the extremely com- 
plicated character of French trictrac ; *' Inter lusus ad tabulam, omnium dif- 
ficillimus est Qallorum trictrac^ quern modo sibi peculiar! exercent.** The 
essayist. La Bruy^re (1646-1696), in his ''Caract^res'* (1688), has an amusing 
description of a distracted backgammon player: ''II Joue au trie trac; il de- 
mande & boire, on lui en apporte : c*est & lui di jouer, il tient le cornet d'une 
main et un verre de Tautre, et, comme il a une grande soif, il avale les 
d^s et presque le cornet, Jette le verre d*eau dans le trictrac et inonde celui 
centre qui il Joue.** In a private letter Madame de Maintenon, the consort 
of Louis XIV, says ''Mme. de Dangeau demandera, en bftillant, un tric-trac.,». 
voila comme on vit it la cour.'* This is in a communication to the due de 
Noailles, dated January 7, 1700. Some years before, Madame Dei^ardins, 
better known as Madame de Villedieu (1631-1683), allows us to catch a 
cirliropse of the game in two countries as it were. She says, late in the 
XVIIth century, writing about Holland: ''Nous Jouions ensemble au rever- 
quier, qui est le trie trac de ce pays-lli.** In a previous generation we find 
a minor writer (Etienne Tabourot, known as the seigneur des Accords, whose 
book was published in 1648) employing the word triquetraquer in the sense 
of a player of trictrac, reminding us of the Dutch tiktakker. Voltaire says, 
in a latter dated December 8, 1767 : " J*avance que ce peuple [les Indiens] 
dont nous tenons les tehees, le trictrac... est malheuresement d'une super- 
stition qui eflnraie la nature.** 

If we mistake not it was the Swiss litterateur Bonstetten, who said about 
the beginning of the XlXth century : 

Mala lora qoa aoixante ana nooa vimdront renfenner, 
Jl faat le tri<i%ulrae et les eartea aimer. 

Another and a greater writer, who died nearly two generations since, Balxae, 
the admired of Thackeray, spoke of backgammon in less pleasant terms : 
" Le bruit du trictrac est insupportable & ceux qui ne savent pas oe Jeu, un 
des plus difficiles qui existent.** The game has produced in France one or 
two singular phrases, such as that which characterizes an able player at 
backgammon as one who is able to abbatre bien du bois-^ihe bais reforring 
to the wooden men. We must leave other passages containing direct or 



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180 CHESS IN ICELAND 



remote references to the game, or to the terms and phrases used by its play- 
ers, until we have given.some account of the game itself as practiced by the 
French. 

The Moulidars manual describes, first of all, trictrac^ to which, as the 
principal form of backgammon, in France, it devotes no fewer than thirty-five 
pages. This section is occupied first with the apparatus employed, then with 
the general method of play; afterwards follow sections on the dice and their 
possible combinations, on Vdcole, on the Jans, on the bredouWe^ on privileges 
allowed under certain circumstances to the players, on the methods of count- 
ing and marking, on the value of the different coups; to these succeed a 
vocabulary of terms, the laws of the game, advice to the players, and there- 
after a complete game, recorded in detail and illustrated with notes and 
diagrams of positions. The apparatus of the game, we are told, consists of 
the board, the fifteen black and fifteen white men, the three bredouUles for 
marking the minor points, the two ficfiets, or pegs of ivory or wood, for 
marking the game points, and the two dice. 

Each player begins by placing his fifteen pieces in three piles, of five 
men each, on the tcUan, which is the first or starting point. The writer ob- 
serves that almost all the rules published at the present time state that the 
tcUon is the point on the board at the extreme left of each player. This is 
a grave error. It is the extreme left point for one player, and the extreme 
right point for his adversary, since it is necessary that the two talons should 
be 'opposite each other. If the play take place during the day, the board is 
to be opened near a window and the men are to be piled and placed on the 
side which is more remote from the light. That is to say, if the window bo 
at the left of one player and at the right of another, the first places his 
pieces on the first point to the right and the second on his first point to 
the left, in such a manner that the men of both parties are opposite the light. 
The pieces of one color are .then moved in a direction opposite to that taken 
by the pieces of the other color; while, if the two players place their taion, 
both either at their right hand or their left, as other contemporary manuals 
explain, the pieces of both would move in the same direction, which would 
not produce the result desired, since each player is to make with his men 
the tour of the table, starting from his talon^ and finishing at the point op- 
posite to it, that is at the taUm of his opponent. If a game be played at 
night, then the talons are at the end of the board farthest from the lamp, or 
other principal light in the apartment. By agreement, however, the talons 
can be fixed, and the game begun at the other extremity of the board. Each 
player plays, in any case, through his own side of the board and then around 
into the side of his opponent. It will bo seen (fig. 18) that the quarter of the 
board from 1 to 6, is called the petit Jan, and that from 7 to 12 the grand Jan, 
In moving, according to the numbers thrown with the dice, the talon is not 
counted, so that if a six-throw is to be played it would go to the point 
marked 7. In deciding upon first moves, each player throws one die, and 
the player having the larger number of pips opens the game. The names 
given to the doublets by Moulidars are: double aco, ambesas, beset, or tous 
les as; and then in their order, double deuoc; teme or toumes; quateme or 
carme; quine; and sonnejs. If a player feil to mark his points before again 
touching his men, his adversary adds the points to his own score, which 
action is called, as in Soumille*s time, envoyer son adversaire a Vicole, 



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STRAY NOTES 181 



We are farthermore told, as an etymological guess, that the word Jan 
comes from Jamis, **a Roman divinity having many faces, thereby symbol- 
ically designating the divers aspects in which trictrac may be viewed— the 
jan being a coup which may result to the advantage or the disadvantage of 
either side** (another writer— it may be stated in passing— suggests its 
derivation from the proper name Jean, perhaps in its sense of ^* Jack**). 
These coups are eleven in number: the Jon de six tables ou de trots coups; 
the Jan de deux tables ; the contre-Jan de detta* tables ; the jan de nUs^as or 
M4s^as (written both with and without a capital initial); the contre-jan de 
m^^as; the petit Jan ; the grand Jan ; the Jan de retour ; the jan de recom- 
pense ; the Jan qui ne peut ; the Jan de rencontre. Most of these ^an-f count 
in favor of the player, who, by the throw of the dice either may or must 
effectuate them (that is, bring about the positions indicated by their names); 
in some other cases they count in favor of his adversary. In order to under- 
stand what a Jan of this sort is, we translate the descriptions of two : '*The 
'Jan of six tables,* or ^of three moves,* is when, at the beginning of a game, 
a player is able to move six of his pieces by three casts of the dice, five to 
points 2-6 and one to point 7, called the sonnet point. It counts for four 
(minor) points for the player making it. The •jan de retour* is when one 
has occupied, by more than a single piece, each point in the adversary's 
first quarter of the board, called the petit Jan.'"* Again, we learn that a 

player is said to be en bredouille when he makes twelve points before his -^'l 

adversary has made a single point. La grande bredouille is when the player 
has made two game-points {trous), his opponent having scored none (the 
bredouilles^ as the reader will recall, also signify the three round counters 
mentioned above, used to score the minor points as they are made); when 
twelve such minor or playing points have been made, the player scores 
them as one game-point, with his fichet in the holes on the rim -of his side 
of the board. 

We group together, without attempting to class them in their proper 
order, some other notable rules and particularities of trictrac. The player 
winning the first twelve points, or, which amounts to the same thing, scor- 
ing his first game-point {trou\ is entitled to say whether he will "go off** 
(s'en aller)^ or whether he will "hold on'* (tenir)^ that is, continue to play 
the game as it stands. In the former case, the points made by his opponent 
are wiped out (as are his own surplus points above the twelve demanded 
for his game-point), and the pieces of both parties are re- entered, as before, 
on the talon of each player in three piles. A renewal {reprise)^ that is, a 
second section of the partie, is then begun. If the winner of the first section 
does not declare his intention to "go off,** then the play, after he has marked 
his trou, goes on, as previously, the defeated player keeping the points he 
has already gained, and the winner marking those remaining, if any, after 
he has used twelve to make his own trou. It is often difficult to determine 
whether the winner of the trou shall insist upon commencing anew, or 
whether he shall risk a continuation of the game flrom its existing position. 
If he consider the state of the game so favorable for himself that it outweighs 
the minor points already secured by the loser, and with which he will begin 
his scoring in the reprise, then he will decide to go on. Otherwise, he 
"goes off.** As the game progresses, each combatant— a matter to which 
we allude elsewhere- must carefully watch the play of the other, since each 



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reckons not only the points he himself makes, but also those which his 
opponent through carelessness flails to score. If a player declare himself in 
a position to make a •*hif' (a situation in which he might, by the rules of 
English backgammon, capture a man), his opponent must see that it would 
not be a false "hit" (a case of battre d faux). Such a false "hit" would be 
when his throw, say 6 and 3, might "hit the blot," if the numbers of the 
dice were played in combination (as 9), but which could not do so when 
played singly (as 6 and then 3), because both the third and the sixth point 
from the man to be moved are covered— that is to say, are each occupied 
by more than one hostile man, thus barring the removal of an adversary's 
man to either. Another peculiarity of scoring is that when a block of six 
covered points exists, and one player, being unable to pass it, cannot play any 
of his men, his opponent scores two minor points for each successive cast of 
the dice which cannot be utilized. 

We add the briefest possible definitions of the games, other than trictrac^ 
which are played in France on the backgammon-board. The trictrac d ^crire 
is a game composed of a large number of points, so that the points cannot 
bo marked by the pegs and trous^ and must therefore be written. Its rules 
differ very slightly from those of the ordinary trictrac. A modification of 
it is the trictrac a la chouette^ played by two persons against one, the one 
who is alone moving continuously to the end of the game, the other two alter- 
nately after having scored twice; another modification is the trictrac d toumer^ 
the players being likewise three, each playing for himself. In the beginning 
two combine against one, but the first one of the two who loses a point, that 
is makes an error, goes out, but apparently resumes his place, when one of 
the actual players loses two points. The one of the three first obtaining the 
score agreed upon, wins the game. A second prominent variety, garanguet^ 
is played with three dice. The men are entered at the beginning as in tric- 
trac. When two of the dice thrown are alike, (that is, form a doublet) they 
are played doubly (that is, as if they had been four dice, each with the same 
number of points); if all three dice at one throw are alike, that is, if they 
form a triplet, they are played three times. The jeu du toe is the tokkategli 
or tokkadille of the Germans. The pieces are placed as at trictrac; they move 
in the same manner. The marking is, in general, the same, but the game 
is only a short one— he who scores first twelve minor points winning it. 
The movements of the men appear to be limited to the petit Jan, that is to 
securing the six points of that quarter of the board. T\iBjeti duplein is a 
variety of trictrac in which a player scores the game, having made a plein 
("full"), that is, having secured, by at least two pieces on each, every point 
in that division of the board known as the grand Jan. In the jeu du toe doub- 
lets do not count double, which they do in the jeu du plein. We ace told 
that the title of the variety denominated revertier is derived from the Latin 
revertere meaning to turn, because the player causes his men to make the tour 
of the table, returning them into the division from which they started. Here 
the two players set the three piles of their men each on the extreme comer 
point at the left of his adversary. Their march is at first from the opponent's 
left to his right; having reached the extreme right comer of the opponent 
they pass on to and through the extreme left point of the pla^'er, and continue 
from his left to his right. One or two new terms are used in this game, but 
the rules, except as they concern the original placing of the men and the 



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STRA Y NOTES 183 



course of their march, are very much the same as in trictrac. The next 
variety is known hajacquet. We must first observe that, contrary to the 
statement of Moulidars, Littrd makes this to be the same as the ordinary 
English backgammon. ''C*68t le m^me/' he says ''que les Anglais nom- 
ment backgammon, et qu*en France on appelait autrefois tautes-tables^ parce 
que les Jouevrs placent, en commen^nt, leurs dames sur toutes les tables 
du trictrac/' It may be that jacquet was once styled toutes-tables (lotUe- 
table)j but there is no doubt that the variety now so called is nearly or quite 
identical with our usual game. But to return to Moulidars. The men in 
jacquet are set as at revertier, A peculiar feature is that the men cannot 
be doubled upon any point until one of them has been made to pass through 
all four divisions of the board— this advanced piece receiving the name of 
the courier. To take him to his destination the player usually avails him- 
self of his first doublet. Having thus pushed forward his courier the player 
may then proceed by advancing the others, by establishing cases (that is, 
by securing points through placing at least two men upon them), or by 
barring the passage of his adversary. The men who are not able to reach 
the fourth division receive the name of cochonnets ; and a player left with 
a single cocfionnet on his hands loses the game. The doublets are quad- 
ruplets (that is, double fives, for instance, count as twenty). A variety of 
jacquet is styled the jacquet de Versailles, and was invented to accelerate the 
game. Here, instead of multiplying the doublets by four, each number of the 
doublets thrown is multiplied by itself, thus double ace (one by one) is reckoned 
as only one; double two (two by two) gives to the player the right to play four 
points ; while double six (six by six) permits him to play thirty-six. There 
are one or two minor changes in the rules, otherwise the game resembles 
the VLBUhl jacquet. The wordjacquet may, or may not be connected with the 
Spanish name of backgammon, chaquete^in regard to which question see 
the pages which follow. The next game, jeu de lotUe-table, differs essentially 
from trictrac, being the ordinary, old-fashioned English game of backgam- 
mon, as it has been played by the Anglo-Saxon race for the last three or 
four centuries— the men, of course, placed in the beginning as in the figure 
given later on, in the section relating to the game in England. Moulidars 
says : '' Le jeu de toute-tabla est k pen pres oublid en France ; mais ii est 
encore tr^s r^pandu en Angleterre, sous le nom de backgaimnoti."' The Jeu 
de toume-casCy says the compiler, "is an original variant of trictrac^ in which 
each of the two players has only three men which are to be moved until 
they are united on the last corner point, hence the name of the game — 
tourne [terne f] having signified three as an old technical term in games.'* 
The men are first placed outside of the board — the three of one player at his 
left, as they are to be moved [after duly entering each at the first point 
of the player's table?] one after the other to the cornor of the second table 
which is at his right; the other player puts his pieces at his right and has 
to play them to the corner at his left. In this way the men of the two 
players start from the same side and move in the same direction on opposite 
tables. If either player throws a doublet, it is counted only as one, that is 
a double six is treated as six. A singular law is that each player must 
advance his men in order, as they are not permitted to pass each other. If, for 
instance, a player's first move is three points, and at the second he has the 
right to play four points, he must move the same counter, since the second 



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184 CHESS IN ICELAND 



cannot go beyond the first, nor the third beyond the second. Nor can they 
he placedPon the same point, except at the .twelfth or final point (the coin de 
repos). The course of the men is thus one of peril, since they are frequently 
captured by the enemy. A piece is captured \^hen a piece of the adversary 
can be placed upon the point in the opposite board occupying the same po- 
sition and bearing the same number. To give an example, suppose that a 
player has a man on his seventh point, and that the adversary puts one of 
his men on his seventh point, exactly opposite that of the first player; the 
piece of the first player is captured, and the player must remove it from the 
board, putting it in its original position, from which it must recommence its 
march. He who first unites his three men on the twelfth point gains the 
pariie. If he do this before his opponent has brought a single man to the 
coin de repos he wins a par tie double. 

The final variety described in this French treatise is styled les dames 
rabattues, that is to say, the game of the "unpiled men." It is one of the 
simplest of table-games, being one of pure chance. Its name comes from 
the fact that its players are obliged to ** bring down" {rabaUre), from the 
piles in which they lie, one of their men after the other. Each player puts 
his fifteen men in the side of his board nearest the light, in six piles thus : 
two on each of the three points less lighted and three on each of the three 
points nearest to the separating bar (or the hinges) of the board. There are 
then three piles of two each, and three piles of three each. A throw which 
cannot be played by a player may be played by his opponent, and he who has 
thrown a doublet retains the dice until he has thrown two differing ones. 
The first player casting the dice ** brings down" two men from those on the 
point indicated by the dice. This he does by lifting the top piece from the 
pile and placing it in advance of the pile on the same point, that is nearer 
the pointed end. Having thus **fiattened out," or placed all his men singly 
on the points, he then proceeds to repile them again, in accordance with the 
casts of the dice, as they were before. He who succeeds in first doing this 
is the winner in this very artless game. 

The summarized account which we have given of the methods employed 
in trictrac^ the principal form of backgammon in France, shows that the game 
has undergone little change in that country during the last two centuries. 
It is, in every important respect, identical with the description which wo find in 
the abbd Soumille*8 treatise ^* Le grand trictrac," the first edition of which 
appeared in 1738. The older work, however, not only presents us a picture 
of the game in far greater detail, but is much more systematic in its ar- 
rangement and clearer in its language. The volume, except in its utter lack 
of historical information, is, in fact, one of the most comprehensive and in- 
teresting productions ever devoted to any game or sport. Its pages are almost 
wholly occupied with the single game called trictrac, although it describes 
briefly the trictrac a icrire, and a very simple diversion on the backgammon- 
board styled courir la poule, in which four or five players may take part 
(pp. .^1-2). How far back this trictrac game goes, and how far it represents 
the most common variety of the medi»val "Ubles" it is, of course, not easy 
to decide. 

Three things will strike the English observer, as he becomes fiimiliar 
with the French trictrac, namely, that, in several characteristics, it difl'ers 
widely from any kind of backgammon known to the Anglo-saxon world. In 



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STRAY NOTES 185 



the first place, its method of counting consists in points gained by bring- 
ing about, with the help of the dice, certain particular positions; by pen- 
alties imposed on the adversary for errors and omissions, and by ability 
to attack (*^hit'') the weaic points of the opponent. In the second place— 
and this has to do with the final peculiarity just mentioned— the French 
game admits of no captures. A player is not allowed to really **hit a blot/* 
but only to put himself in the position of ^'hitting a blot.** In other words, 
he receives a certain number of points when he is able to capture an enemy *s 
man standing alone on one of the points of the board, but he cannot proceed 
to actually effect the capture. In the third place, the points to be scored, to 
which we have hitherto alluded, and which we have ventured to call minor 
points, are marked by three tally -men, of which one is in use by one player 
and two by the other at different periods of the game. Moves, positions, 
threats to capture and the like sometimes count more, when they are, or 
might be effected as a result of having thrown doublets. When these mi- 
nor playing-points amount to twelve or more, they form a miOo't or game- 
point, which is scored by means of a peg in one of the holes on the rim of 
the board, as we have previously explained. In the fourth place, a final no- 
ticeable dissimilarity between this French variety and the older English 
one consists in the fact that in the former the men are never ^Uhrown out** 
of the board, or in any way removed from it. When the peg, scoring the 
major points, has been advanced through a certain number of holes agreed 
upon, or through all the twelve holes on the one or the other side of the 
board, the game is ended, leaving all the men in the board. It will be seen 
from what we have said, that trictrac is an amusement demanding much 
closer attention than either of the usual English games. This partly arises 
from the necessity of keeping the score as the game proceeds, partly from 
the number of possible positions, through the attainment of which the score 
may be increased, and partly trom the necessity of attending not only to 
the points made by one*s own play, but to the points which one*s opponent 
omits to make. 

To understand completely the philological character and relations of the 
word trictrac much further investigation is necessary. The word has more 
meanings than one, and it is difficult to say which is the original sense. 
In old French it signified, we are told by one authority, both the noise of 
dice — for that reason becoming the name of a game played with dice— and 
the noise made by hunters to frighten up ducks and other birds. It was 
also employed in the sense of the French train^ that is ** suite,** ^^attend- 
ants,*' "equipage,** "movement,** and so on— Littr^ citing the following 
as an illustration of this last signification: "Mdditer la patience de Dieu 
sur les p^h^s des hommes, et consid^rer le trictrac du monde d*aujourd*hui, 
qui est autant fou que jamais.** This is from the letters (tome II., p. 421) 
of Qui Patin (1602-1672), and the word has here apparently the sense of 
"goings-on ** or "march** (possibly resulting from its use to imply noise or 
conAision). Trictrac also means what in French Is called quinconce^ a word 
which comes from the Latin quincunx {quinque unciae)^ and which in the 
Roman tongue means a copper coin marked by (five) points, or small balls, 
to represent its value, being five-twelfths of the as. The French word quin* 
conce however denotes— more definitely speaking— an arrangement of ob- 
jects in relation to each other like the points, or circular "eyes,** on the 

24 



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186 CHESS IN ICELAND 



dice used in playing backgammon. It occurs in the technical phrase en 
trictrac, applied to a plantation of trees, or other plants arranged in straight 
lines, but why such a phrase is used in arboriculture no French dictionary- 
maker has apparently been able to comprehend or ascertain. It comes, 
without doubt, from the resemblance of rows of plants, so arranged, to the 
lines of points on a backgammon-board. A similar phrase, en ^cAsgut^, is 
likewise employed by writers on the culture of trees^implying a distribution 
of plants in transverse lines like the squares of a chess-board. Another techni- 
cal meaning of trictrac, used among hunters, is defined by Larousse, in his 
'* Grand diotionnaire universer' {sub voce), as a *^ bruit fait par des chasseurs 
pour affaroucher les oiseaux aquatiques lorsqu*ils veulent les fairs tomber 
dans leurs pi^ges.*' Still another is as a name applied to an **Ancien moulin 
k tabac manoeuvre k bras," or, as it is defined, at greater length, by Littrd, 
as the **Noms de certains moulins pour le tabac, k vis de serrage et bride 
sup^rieure, qui ^talent manoeuvres par les hommes agissant directement k 
Teztremite de leviers fix^s au sommet de Tarbre vertical de la noix.*' Fi- 
nally it serves as the vulgar name of two birds, better known in French 
as the '^draine" and the 'Hraquet." But all these last definitions have 
nothing to do with the game of backgammon; they only serve to show 
that the word trictrac, as the representative of a peculiar sound, is of wide 
extent and great age. As we have elsewhere remarked, a very early occurrence 
of trictrac (in the writings of Villon, or, one of his contemporaries, in the 
XVth century) seems to be in the sense of ** noisily.** From this, and other 
instances near that date, it would appear as if the word were already in use 
before its application to the game of backgammon, that is to say while the 
word ^* tables** was still the general term to denote the game, or an old form 
of the game. Originally, then, as we feel authorized to assume, trictrac was 
one of a class of vocables formed by duplication, either through rhyme, with 
a differing initial, like "hurly-burly,** or through a change of vowel in 
the two elements, as "knick-knack** and "zig-zag.** This class of words 
is a very large one, and has not yet been adequately nor very scientifically 
studied. Not all of them are onomatopoetic. Moreover, such words are 
often formed in conversation, and do not always find their way into the 
dictionaries, Just as one might say, in a rapid description, "mish-mash,** 
thereby meaning a confused mixture, or ^'crish-crash,** as describing a 
confused breaking. In this view it might be more proper to say that, in 
one or more of the Romance languages, a word already in existence, in 
other senses, was applied to the game of "tables** when its old name fell 
into desuetude. Meanwhile all the linguistic authorities, copying the 
French etymologists, insist upon the fact that the word trictrac origi- 
nated as an imitation of the noise made in shaking the dice and casting 
them; one dictionary, that of Hatzfeld and Darmesteter (1900), goes even 
ftirther, and includes in this assertion also the noise of the pieces as 
they are moved IVom one point to another, or piled upon each other 
on the same point (des dames qu'on case)* It is to be noted, on the 
other hand, that in the medisaval game the dice were not shaken, but 
thrown from the hand, a fact already hinted at, and also that the noise 
made by placing the counters on a point or upon each other is certainly 
very slight. £arlier in these pages, too, we have suggested that the com- 
ing into use of new-fashioned dice-boxes, making the noise of the dioe 



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STRAY NOTES 1«7 



more observable, may have had something to do with the modem French 
name of the game. It is not unliJiely that the first statement, asserting the 
ODomatopoetic origin of the word trictrac^ is that found in the following 
passage from the '«Rteherohes de la France*' (1560, YIII, p. 671) of Pasqniers 
^*I1 ne fikot pas obmettre nostre Jen de trie et trac; car, sMl nous plaist 
considerer le son que rapportent les dez estans Jettez dans le tablier, 11 n'est 
autre que le trie et trac;'' but this implies the previous use of the word in 
its literal sense. Nor is the meaning of ^^noise*" or ^'oonfiision,'* pure and 
simple, as an interpretation of the word trictrac uncommon. Moli^re says 
in his eomedy of *'L*Etourdi'' (1658, iv, 5): 

Puis, outre tont oelsy roos fidales aoiu it table 
Un bruit, nn triquetrOG de pieds insupportable. 

The phrase, '*I1 alloft son beau pas trictrac,'^ credited, as we havesatd, 
either rightly or wrongly, to Villon, the XVth century poet, is another in- 
stance. We also find the same signifleation in Italian at an early date. The 
dictionary of Tommaseo so explains it, and presents us with the differing 
ftmns trie trae^ trich trach and trieche tracche^ but states that the two lAtter 
forms are provinelally applied to an irresolute person (ehi turn conclude mat 
nuUa); while Alessandro Piccolomini (1508* 1578), in his manual of advice as 
to the proper conduct of young ladies in love, styled '* La Raffaella, owero 
della creanza delle donne'' (Yenezia 1574), says of certain persons that they 
^^vanno per la strada con una certa fbria, eon un trich (rack di piiinellette, 
che par ch'elle abbiano il diavolo fra le gam be.'' There is an old Italian 
conversational adage, now or never used, which was applied to persons of 
undecided character: **8iamo sempre sul trieche tracche^ e non si sa che par- 
tito prendere.** On the other hand, the valuable '* Supplemento a*vocabolarJ 
italiani'* (1857) of Oherardinl treats us to a passage in which several games 
are ennmerated; **Abbiasi la ericca, li sblrri.... il flusso, ed fl trentono, le 
donne, 11 tricchetraeehe o il dormiesti " drawn firom the humorous prodcwtlort, 
'^Capitolo del gloco della primiera, coM commento di messer Pietropanio da 
9an Chirleo** (Roma 1526), the real authorship of which is uncertain. In cit- 
ing this, Oherardini condemns the Italian orthography tric-trac^ styling tt 
^^pessima lessigrafia. '* 

The recent '^Diccionario etymologico da lingua Portuguezt,'' by Adolpho 
Coelho, has triqnetraque In a new sense; explaining it flrsl as *• backgammon'* 
(o jogo do gamao), he afterwards says that an old signification of the word 
was what the Americans call •♦squib" or ••fire-cracker." This meaning occurs 
likewise in Spanish. The lexicon of Delfin Donadlu y Puignau— a work 
entering under each vocable the Catalan form— first givea the literal mean- 
ing of triqtistraque (or trichtrach, as written in Catalan) ae a noise like that 
of repeated irregular blows, as well as the blows themselves (''ruido eomo 
de golpes repetides y desordenados, 6 los mismos golpes*'), and then follows 
it wfth the secondary sense of •• fire-eracker," describing that article f^Uyr 
•*Pap^ con pdhrora, liado y atado en vario« dobleces, de eada lino de Vm 
* cuales resulta un tirillo, pegindole fuego por la meeka fue tlmi€ en Qao> de' 
tnm extremes " (but in Catalan this has another name). There la a Spaniaki 
phrase derived from the expression ot suddennese of wcmnd-^m ctida Priqui* 
traqne ('^at every moment"). The lexieograpbleal work mentlooed does not 
cHe the word as hartng the signification ef **'haekgammon."' 



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188 CHESS IN ICELAND 

As to tictac^ Littrd explains this to be an onomatopoetic expression for 
a snapping noise resulting from a regulated movement, citing the phrase, 
"Le tictac du moulin" and the following quotation A>om the ^* Baron d'Al- 
bikir " of Corneille (iii. 5) : ^*Sans cesse aupr^s de vous lecoeur me fait iietac:' 
Scheler, treating trictrac as a *'mot de fantasie/* regards tictac as a more 
ancient form, and follows this assertion with the usual explanation, ^^ono- 
matop^ tir^e du bruit que font les d^s lancto sur le damier/* But Littr^ 
has .nothing to say in regard to tictac as a game. Whether it be a corrupt 
abbreviation of trictrac^ or whether it be older than that word, it is certain 
that it was used to express backgammon, or a form of it, in many languages 
— in some even more ft-equently than its longer congener. This was the esse 
especially in Dutch. The orthography differs, as does that of its variant, bo 
that we have ticktach, tiktak and, in Portuguese, tiquetaque. The Centary 
dictionary looks upon Hck-tack as the legitimate English form, and adds 
"honce by variation trick-track/" In general, tictac and trictrac are to be 
regarded as having, so (kr as backgammon is concerned, the same signi^- 
cation. 

Of varieties of the game other than trictrac at present played in France, 
one of the most notable is that called the (Jeu de) Umte-tablef equivalent to 
our most common and oldest existing English form of backgammon proper, 
which in German, in later treatises, is known as gammon. This, as the 
reader will remember, is believed to be the table-game appearing in King 
Alfonso's list as todas tablas. For some reason it has been for many centuries 
the favorite variety in all English lands. A differing sort, entitled revertier, 
is also a wide-spread variety. In the XVIIth century " Compleat Gamester" 
it is styled verquere, and is there said to be "originally of Dutch extraction, 
and one of the most noted diversions among the Hollanders.'* The former 
German title was verkehren^ but in modem treatises the French name Is 
employed. There is in the French a second name, now generally disused, 
reverquier^ probably an echo- word from the German verkehren. In Holland 
the name is verkeer. As to the Scandinavian languages, the German term, 
or a corruption of it, is used in all the older manuals, but forkcering occurs 
in Danish. The name of one French variety, garanguet^ is found, separately 
entered, in no French dictionary, etymological or otherwise. The word has 
been transferred to German by later writers on games. The simple game of 
les dames rahhatttes has long been known in England, occurring not only in 
the "Compleat Gamester,'' but even in Hyde (II, pp. 36-37). It, or some form 
nearly identical, seems to have been likewise known in Prance in old times 
as renette^ the early dictionary of Cotgrave (1611) translating it "a game like 
doublets or queen's game." Hyde considers that the word is properly rei- 
nette, since Salmasius makes note of a game which he calls ^^reginula vulgo 
regineta,^^ 

The lexicographers who treat the word Jacquet (rarely written jaquet) 
unite in deriving it as a diminutive from the proper noun Jacques, in its 
meaning of " lackey " (French laquais)^ from which comes likewise the English 
"jockey" with a similar sense. They do not however assert, although they 
imply it, that in the meaning of a "jeu analogue de trictrac," as Hatzfeld 
and Darmesteter define it, its etymological origin is the same. The word 
has been introduced into Italian as giacchetto. It would seem that it must 
have a connection with the Spanish chaquete (backgammon) alluded to here- 



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STRAY NOTES 189 



after, the orthography of which is sometimes given in the dictionaries as 
Jaquet, which according to Donadiu y Puignau is the Catalan form ; both 
are used by Brunet y Bellet (see in '♦£! ajadrez," pp. 143, 254), but that may 
arise from the fl&ct that the learned author is a Catalan. It is possible that 
the word, and the game which it represents, may go much further back in 
Spanish. In the list of games treated by King Alfonso, under the general 
heading of ** tables,*' there is one variety styled laquet. The list is accessible 
only in the pages of Van der Linde, in which there is at least one slight 
error. Why may not laquet be an erroneous transcription of an old form 
representing chaquete or Jaquet f No Spanish etymologist suggests any 
etymology for chaquete. Another of the different kinds of trictrac mentioned 
by Moulidars is the *^jeu de toe." This may or may not be the same as 
toccadiglio. Scheler gives the word toe as a verbal substantive from toquer^ 
an older form of toucher, Littrd cites toe as an ^^onomatop^ d*nn bruit, 
d*un choc sourd,'* and shows that it is used, as a reduplication, toe toe, by 
Perrault, Madame de Qenlis and others, in an effort to express repetition 
of sound. 

There is, as the reader will already have perceived, much confusion in 
the names given to the many varieties of backgammon. Nor is a variety in 
one language always represented by the proper and equivalent name in 
another. With his usual acumen Hyde (II, p. 35) notices this fact when he 
remarks: **sed iste non est unus idemque lusus apud omnes gentes;** and 
even finds divergencies in different parts of the same country, saying that 
''apud noR nomen eundem lusum notat secundum diversas Angli» provin- 
cias rerum denominationes aliquantulum variantes.** 

A whole chapter might be written on the French technical terms used 
in playing trictrac. Of jan we have already said something. It has been 
transferred to other languages, although sometimes with a somewhat dif- 
ferent signification. It is remarkable that the " Compleat Gamester,*' early 
in the XVIllth century, in its account of " Verquere," which represents the 
French variety of backgammon, revertier^ Kas the technical word " John," 
which is even used as a verb, "to John" one's opponent, while in its no- 
tice of the " grand tricktrack " game it talks of " Gens de retour, or Back- 
Game." Whether these citations throw any li^ht on the origin or general 
use of Jan is questionable; they may merely result, the first from' a desire 
to anglicise the word, or both that and the second from ignorance of 
French orthography. The late French dictionary of Hatzfeld and Darme- 
steter says that the etymology of Jan is uncertain, but that it is '* peut-etre 
du nom propre Jean"— abandoning the Janus hypothesis as evidently of no 
value. Jan occurs as early as the time of Rabelais (d. 1553), for he says : 
" L'on diet que le jan en vault deux." The definition of the lexicographers 
Just cited is a "coup par lequel un joueur perd des points, ou en ttAt perdre 
& Tautre," which is concise enough. The etymologist Scheler omits the 
word. Littr^ enumerates all the Jans and contreJanB^ (1-10), as we have 
seen, and then notes the broader technical meaning of the word: "Par 
extension, on a donn^ le nom de Jan aux parties de trictrac ou ces Jans ont 
lieu : on dit * le petit Jan,' ' le grand Jan,' ' le Jan de retour,' pour la pre- 
miere partie [of the tables], la seconde, et enfin la premiere de I'adversaire." 
The best French-English lexicon, that of Fleming and Tibbins, translates 
Jan by itself, thus showing that the term must have been in use in Eng- 



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190 CHS88 IN ICELAND 



land, and reopen petit Jan by 'Meft hand table/* grand Jan hy *' right hand 
table" and ^'an de retour by '* outer table/' No dictionary endeavors to 
explain the derivation of M4s^as {m^sdas) in the name of the Jan de m^zdas. 
The £act that it is frequently written with a capital M would seem to indi- 
cate that it is a proper name; but the termination ~c» (meaning ^^ace *') leads 
us to believe that it is a compound, and the definition of the term appar- 
ently supports this idea: Le jan de m^s^as **a lieu quand, au d^but d'une 
partie, on a pris son coin de repos, sans avoir auoune autre dame abattue 
dans tout son jeu, et quand on amene ensuite un ou deux cu/' Perhaps it 
is a corruption of '* le jan d'ambesas,"" signifying the **Jan of two aces.** 
' Talon is the ordinary French word for ^^heel" or '^heel-piece;'* hence it 
signifies the extreme point of the board. The term bredouille, is generally 
confined to trictrac. It has been formed from the verb bredouiUer, to ** pro- 
nounce rapidly/* to '^sputter/* It is defined by Littrd thus: ^^ Marque in- 
diquant qu*on a pris de suite tous les points qui ferment un trou on tons les 
trotts qui font la partie, sans que Tadversaire ait marqu^ ou des points on des 
trous. La hredouille des points se marque avec un double jeton, .quand 
Tadversaire a pris quelques trous au commen^nt de la partie. 2^ Tavan- 
tage qui en resulte, qui est que les trous ou la partie sont gagn^s doubles.** 
The following phrases are cited: Petite, grande bredouiUe; avoir la bredoutUe; 
Stre en bredauille; perdre la partie bredouiUe, Cotgrave renders bredonUle 
into English as *' lurch.** As to the term plein at trictrac^ Littr^ defines 
the phrase '^faire son plein** as signifying amvrir de deux dames lea mx 
fleches d'une des tables^ and cites ^'Le Joueur ** (1. 10) of Regnard: *'Et quand 
mon plein est fait, gardant mes avantages.** Other phrases are; ^'conserver 
son plein/* *^'tenir son plein,** '^rompre son plein.** 

We have enumerated elsewhere (see p. 180) the modern French forms of 
the names given to the dice doublets. From the old French forms the Eng- 
lish names are derived, as well as those in some other tongues. This 
seems to indicate a peculiar and long prevalent taste for dice-games in the 
QaUic race. An^bes as is Xllth century French^ remotely from the Greek 
£(fcf <» and directly from the Latin ambo (old French arnbef even in its earliest 
age a term of play)— om^o meaning '*two,** ^*both,** "double,** **dual.** 
In Bngiish the term likewise occurs in the Xllth century. We have it in 
the old production, ''The Harrowing of Hell** (1300) in the lines: 

Stni be thoa. Satbuns ! 
The js fldkn wmibm mat. 

The lexicographer and grammarian, Robert Sherwood, has in 1650 " to cast 
anibes ace;'' and the philosopher Hobbes, a contemporary of Sherwood, has 
(1656) " casting ambs-ace.'* Another word for " double ace " is beset (some- 
times beset, and not unusually besas), which Littr^ defines as ** deux as 
amends d*un coup de d^.** Its etymology js bis (two) and ox, bis being a 
Latin corrupt form otduis (twice). Temes, generally in the plural, is firom 
the Latin temus (triple). It occurs in a poet as early as Yillon: 

AbQa6 m*% et fiiiot oatflBdre 
D'ambeMS qno oe ftiasent tomM. 

The word is used (tema) both in SpaiihA and Provencal. Double fonts in 
Preach is carmm, fomerly written in the plural canmes^ and stiU so cited in 
tbe dielioMry of the French academy. It is a cemiptioa ef oasnms^ nstd 



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STRAY NOTES 191 



ia the time of Mtoage (1613-ie92), and is l^om the Latin quaiemus ('' by 
foars/* from the Latin quatuar). Quine^ according to Littr^, is a trictrac 
term signifying a '* coup de dds qui amtoe deux cinq/' It is as old as the 
Xllth century, occurring in the ''Brut** (see the present volume, p. 76), a 
French poem of that period: 

Et deas et d«iix giettant et mhum 

Et ambM m et le tiers temdt, 

A 1» foite gi«tUBt qwinet 

Et $$nn$i ; et eo ftwt gnnt aignee .... 

a passage of interest from the number of dice-terms employed. Very pecul- 
iar is the term for double sixes, sannes (pronounced in one syllable san, 
but written also sonnes and sonnet). It is from the Latin seni^ an adjective 
meaning '* six by six,** '' which are six.** It is employed in an ingenious 
passage of ''La flUe capitaine** (1. 9), a poem by Antoine Jacob called 
Montfleury (1640-1695): 

De cat gneox fkiutentt, 

Dont le lort ett terlt snr lee m d'an comet 

Dont lee commAndeare eout lee tmrmM et lee tansitft 

Et qui font ohes Frldor tontee lean caravenee. 

It is needless to say that "les os d*un cornet** are the dice; Fridor was 
the proprietor of a " maison de Jeu ** at Paris about 1671. It is interesting 
to compare with these the Italian names of the doublets. They are cmibasH 
(more modern, ham}nni)\ duini (dUetti); temi; quademi; quini (singular 
sometimes china); and sena (also dodici). 

In the Iberian peninsula the story of tables-backgammon begins with 
the extraordinary codex, still preserved in the Escurial near Madrid, which 
was compiled at the instance of the Spanish kiog Alfonso X, during the 
latter half of the Xlllth century. This still partly inedited manuscript treats 
of chess, of pure dice-games, of " tables ** in its many varieties, of some 
abnormal table-games, and, if we may believe Van der Linde (" Quellenstu- 
dien,** pp. 277-8), also of several different forms of the morris game. The 
dozen or more various sorts of " tables ** form the third book| or division, 
of this comprehensive treatise. Many of these diverse kinds of backgammon 
have come down to our own times, and not a few of them have even preserved 
the names given to them in that early age. Indeed, if we wish to assure 
ourselves of the vitality of human amusements, we have but to compare the 
later manuals of games " played within the tables,** with this treatise of Al- 
fonso, and with such codices as that "De ludis tabularum** now in the British 
Museum, which was composed less than a hundred years after the work of the 
Spanish monarch, and which we have printed at length in preceding pages. 
We must repeat that our knowledge of every portion of the old manuscript 
so long and so carefully guarded in the Escurial library, except of its early 
sections relating to chess, is very slight indeed. A transcript of the unknown 
portions is, of course, essential to a knowledge of our game in old Spain. 
Nor have we been able to obtain information much more full in regard to 
the later practice of the game in the peninsula. There may possibly be 
modern Spanish manuals of games, such as exist in great numbers,in other 
lands, in which they are known under the title of '* Academies des jeux ** and 
the like; but we have been unable to discover any publication of this class 



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192 CHESS IN IGKLAND 



in the Castilian tongue. Dictionaries and cyclopedias have been our only 
sources; and these are, naturally, of the most unsatisfactory character. ^ 

We find in Spanish two words representing the French trictrac and the 
English backgammon. These are tablas reales and chaquete. In some of the 
lexicons, if we search for the former term, we are told that it is '* a game 
similar to chaquete; " if we look for the latter, we are informed that it is '*a 
game resembling tdbUis reaJLesJ*" The former denomination is, of course, the 
tabulcB of the early middle ages, still keeping its plural form, and with the 
addition of the adjective reales^ which may signify either that it was considered 
to be a court game par excellence^ or that it was the principal, most important 
and best of the varieties of backgammon. Just as the French speak, with a 
similar significance, of '^ le grand tricirac,^^ The exact origin and meaning 
of the other name {chaqxiete) is, as has been hinted, at present very much 
of a puzzle. In the province of Catalonia, especially noted for its early lite- 
rature having reference to games, chaquete becomes jaquet, reminding us of 
the French J acquet; while among the varieties of tables enumerated by Al- 
fonso we have laquet^ in which the initial letter may or may not be, in Van 
der Linde's list, a misprint for j or ch. But this suggestion can scarcely be 
regarded as assuming even the doubtful dignity of a surmise, and can be 
verified only by an examination of the manuscript. In addition to the repe- 
titions, in which we have already indulged, we must again state that in 
Spanish no congener of trictrac is employed as the title of a game. The 
word triquilraque signifies in Spain either a certain kind of noise, or a ^' fire- 
cracker'' (French, pStard). In both meanings this word occurs in modern 
Spanish literature. Thus Jos^ Francisco de la Isla, a noted Jesuit miscellaneous 
prose writer (1703-1781), speaks of *' esos retruecanilloses, ese paloteo de 
voces, y ese triquitraque de palabras con que usted propone casi todos los 
asuntos des sus sermones es cosa que me embelosa.'' In the other sense, 
we find it in the works of the fertile and popular comic and dramatic poet, 
Manuel Breton de los Horreros (1796-1873), as is shown by these lines: 

Si ya DO ha reventado 
Lo mismo qne an triquelraque, 
No ea soya la oalpai do, 
Porqao le tiene nn oon^fe 
A la vida .... 

From the huge "Diccionario enciclopedico Hispano-americano," issued 
in late years at Barcelona, we take this definition of chaquete: "Especie de 
Juego de tablas reales en el cual se van pasando alrededor todas las piezas 
por las casas desocupadas, y el que mas presto las reduce al extremo del 
lado contrario y las saca, gana el Juego." This is followed by a single citation 
taken from the poet and essayist, Gaspar Melchior de Jovellanos (1744-I81I): 

« At this point of our writing wo learn that the vatt collection of chois work* belong- 
Ing to Mr. White of Cleveland (Ohlo)» to which allusion haa ao often been made, Inelodee 
careful coplei of all the known medieval MBS relating to the Indian game - among them 
the famoui one in the BK'urial. Tbeae tranacrlpU embraco also the aeotlona treating of other 
table-gamea than ebeaa, whenever anch occur. Mr. White diaplaya a liberality not alwaya 
exbibited by book-owaera In placing hia copiea, which mnat often have been obtained under 
great diffleultlea, at the aervlce of inveatigatora on both aide* of the Atlaatlo. Availing 
ouraelvea of this generosity we may be able, In the errata-aupplement attached to thla vol- 
ume, to dlaperae some of the clouds which have hitherto obeeured thoae chapiera of the 
CastUlan king'a codex having to do with the garoea of morrU and tables. 



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STRAY N0TB8 193 



^* .... con enouadernacion de libros, siesta, chaqueie.... y una partida de ba- 
ciga o malilla, tiene nsted el compendio de la vida interior y esterior que 
hago, etc.'* The same encyclopedic work gives this description of the game 
of ehaquete^ which, it will be seen, is too brief to be of much interest; but 
such as it is, we copy it: ** A este juego se juega con dos dados, y segdn 
los puntos que se marquen al tirar los, se colocan quince tantos 6 damas en 
varias cassillas 6 puntos marcados en el tablero especial de este juego. Para 
jugar al chaquete es preciso que cada jugador tenga quince damas 6 peones, 
como se les quiera llamar, tres tantos y dos fichas que son las senales que 
se ponen en cada punto, segun los que se ganen. El chaquete se juega entre 
dos personas: al empezar el juego se hacen dos 6 tres montones con las damas 
que se colocan en la primera casilla o flecha del chaquete; k esto se le da el 
nombro de monte 6 fondo. No hay regla que flje la cabecera, y es indife- 
rente que el monte 6 fondo de damas se coloque en uno u otro lado. Para 
jugar con orden es preciso, si al principio se empareja, jugar dos damas del 
monte y colocarlas en el as, que es la flecha sobre la queestan amontonadas 
las damas. Se puede jugar todo de una vez colocando una sola dama en la 
segunda flecha. Lo mismo sucede en las dem&s combinaciones, que pueden 
verificarse o jugarse k la vez, si se quiere exceptuando, no obstante, los nu- 
meros cinco y seis, que deben jugarse precisamente cuando salen en la pri- 
mera jugada, porque las reglas del juego no permiten que quede una dama 
sola en la casilla llamada de reposo. De la habilidad, 6 mejor, de la prudencia 
del jugador, dependeponer dos damas juntas en la flecha en que esta el monte 
de las damas, que por lo regular es la primera. Se pasa luego k la~ casilla 
del reposo, la cual se efectua colocando en ^1 juntas dos damas, algunas 
veces en las de su lado cuando lo exigen las lances del juego. En cuanto 
se tiran los dados, y segun las puntas que se hay an sacado, debe verse la 
ganancia 6 p^rdida que se haya hecho antes de tocar las damas, porque es 
regla del juego que dama tocada dama jugada, k menos que la dama 6 pe6n to- 
cadono pueda jugarse, case que ocurre cuando nnjugador puede colocarse en 
una casilla de esquina no ocupada, de donde otra dama no podria entrar ni 
salir sola 6 bien que trdpiece con el juego del contrario, antes de que se le 
haya abierto brecha. Segiin las reglas del chaquete^ cuando se ganan dos 
puntos deben marcarse en el extreme delantero de la flecha segunda; los 
cuatro puntos delante de la flecha cuarta; los seis puntos en la linea 
de separaci6n; los echo puntos al otro lado del la linea de separacion 
delante de la flecha seis; los diez puntos so marcan en la ultima linea; 
los doce que constituyen la partida doble se marcan con una flcha. £1 que 
tira los dados tiene siempre el derecho de marcar el punto que gana antes 
que su contrario sefialc el que pierde. Hay que advertir tambi^n que, cuando 
uno de los jugadores se ha apoderado de una de las casillas de esquina y 
el contrario no lo ha efectuado aun en la suya, cada vez que se tiran los 
dados vale cuatro 6 seis puntos, si con dos damas se combate el rincon 
vacio del adversario, es decir, seis por doble y cuatro por sencillo. Segun 
el ^Diccionario de la lengua Castellana' por la Real academia espaliola, * 
*el antico juego llamado de tablas reales era muy parecido al moderno 
chaquete.' " 

The description here given is too obscure, and is characterised by too 
many omissions of essential features, to make a translation of it either feasible 
or useful. Its rule that two men must be placed simultaneously on the 

36 



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194 CHESS IN ICELAND 



** corner of repose '* (the extreme point in each player^s table) seems to ally 
it with the French trictrac^ but, on the other hand, many important character- 
istics of that principal French variety are not mentioned by the evidently 
ignorant Spanish compiler. It would be satisfactory to find that there was 
a real relationship ^ as well as a resemblance of name — between chaquete 
and the French jacquet^ but the reader, on examining the few lines which 
we have devoted to the latter (p. 182), will notice that no mention is made 
in the Spanish account of the avant-courier, or single piece sent forward in 
the French game to the final board. Nor are we told, either by the writer 
cited, or in any other accessible publication, what the real difference is 
between tablas reales and chaquete^ the dictionaries even, as we have stated, 
onl^ vaguely informing us that they resemble each other. It is not at all 
impossible that at present in Spain they are two names for one and the same 
thing. As to the Spanish dictionaries, they are all worse than useless so 
for as our purpose is concerned. The most noted one, that of the Spanish 
academy, has for the most part been superseded by newer works. But the 
best of its successors, the *' Diccionario de la lengua castellana ** of Donadiu 
y Puignau does little more than to copy the very brief description of his 
predecessor (under chaquete) : ^' Especie de juego de tablas reales, eh el cual se 
van pasando alrededor todas las piezas por las casas desocupadas, y el que 
mis presto las reduce al extremo del lado contrario y las saca, gana el juego ** 
— just as it has likewise been reproduced, as a definition, by the compiler 
of the ** Diccionario enciclopedico.*' Donadiu y Puignau adds nothing to this 
except to give the corresponding Catalan form Mjaquet. 0{c?iaquetehe sug- 
gests an etymology, which certainly has a dubious look; he says that it is 
derived flrom the old-French eschac, signifying "booty" (butin), "capture'' 
or "prey'* ipresa), and so "game" U^ego)—9, derivation which has been 
copied and tacitly endorsed by other Danish compilers. The early French 
word he cites has to do with our Oermanic friend, which we treated some 
pages back, from which, in its Old High German form {scdhhdri), is descended 
the modern German vocable scMcher ("robber"), and which has been used 
in attempting to ascribe to chess a European origin." Under triquitraque the 
same lexicographer has the two usual meanings, telling us that in the sense 
of a repeated noise the Catalan orthography is irichtrach, while for " cracker" 
or "squib" it employs quite another term (carretiUa, piule). The French- 
Spanish dictionary of Salv& (1876', 6th ed.), the compiler of which was a scholar 
of high reputation, translates "trictrac" by chaquete, and "revertier" as 
Juego de chaquete, while the French "jacquet" is defined 9^8 Juego de tablas 
reaZes — than which nothing could be more indefinite. Other definitions 
relating to backgammon are; "jan," las dos tablas del Juego del chaquete o 
de tablas reales ; " faire sa jan de retour," volver a su propria Juego, des- 
pties de haber pasado todas sus damas al Juego del cotitrario ; "Contre jan," 
cotttraenvite, Uamada falsa en aXgunos Juegos. These explanations are all 
inexact, to say the least. The following are more correct, and relate to the 
names of the doublets : " ambesas," ases, voz que usan losjugadores de chaquete 
cuando sale el as en dos dados, o en los tres; "ternes," tetmas o treses, pa- 
r^'as de tres puntos en el Juego de dados ; "carmes," cuadernas o cuatros, las 
parkas de cucdro en el Juego de tablas o del chaquete; "quine," quina, par^a 
de cinco en el Juego del chaquete. We find no rendering of the French "san- 
nes" (double sixes). It is worth noting that the Spanish and Italian words 



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STRAY NOTES 195 



for ''die*' {dado) are identical, and that por^'a, in the former tongue, Bignifles, 
"doublet." 

As to Portugal the lack of information is still greater than in the case 
of its peninsular companion, and we are obliged to depend almost wholly 
upon the makers of dictionaries. We discover from them that there are four 
expressions used as names of games played on the backgammon board : 
1. [jogo de] iabulas; 2. tiquetaque; 3. [jogo do] gamao;And 4. tocadilho. In 
regard to the first we learn that the orthography of this derivative of the 
Latin tabula vacillates (in the singular) between tahola, tabula and taboa. 
Tdbola is also given with the signification of "pawn'' or "man;" while 
Adolpho Coelho's " Diccionario etymologico da lingua portugueza " states 
that it not only has this meaning (p^pa redonda para o jogo de gam&o) but 
also signifies the board {e ouiros de taboleiro). Tiquetaque is said by the 
" Century dictionary " to be the Portuguese for backgammon or tricktrack, 
and is indeed found in most of the Portuguese vocabularies in that sense. 
Coelho does not cite this form, but in his definition of tocadilho he refers to 
triquetraque {J^tfo ^^ tabulas similhante ao triquetraque\ but when you look 
up his rubric of triquetraque^ you can discover no mention of it as the name 
of a game, but only as a " fogo de artiflcio que da estalos"— evidently the 
" fire-cracker." Coelho declares that it is an ancient term. The most interest- 
ing of the denominations in our list is, however, ^{7mdo, the more interesting 
that its origin seems to be still a mystery. It is also, we believe, the most 
common of the Portuguese terms. Coelho speaks of " o jogo do gamSo," and 
of " taboleiro de Jogo do garo&o; " and tells us that it is the same as the 
Spanish triquitraque (which, as we have already learned, does not to seem 
to be known to Spanish lexicography as the name of a game) and the French 
trictrac or tHquetrac, Elsewhere he defines gamSo as a "jogo de azar e cal- 
ctilo," adding that it likewise means " o taboleiro [board] sobre que so Joga." 
Other Portuguese dictionaries describe gamHo as sbaraglino (an Italian name 
for a variety of backgammon); one renders the word trictrac Ksjogo de ia- 
boUis^ gamfto; and the Italian sbaraglio (of which we shall hear soon) is 
translated by gamBo de tres dados. Whether gamSo be the English "gammon ; " 
which it resembles in pronunciation ^received into the language possibly 
through the French— it is altogether impossible to decide except after more 
thorough investigation. Our fourth term, tocadilho (which,as wehaveobserved, 
does not seem to be Spanish), is found in the vocabulary of Coelho, as well as 
in those of other lexicographers, btit without any suggested etymology. In 
one dictionary it is rendered by the Italian tavola reale. In an English and 
Portuguese dictionary by Lacerda (1866), our "trictrac" is rendered by io^o 
de tabulas^ and our "backgammon" by gam&o; but in the Portuguese-Eng- 
lish part (1871) of the same work we have Jogo das tabulas interpreted as 
"the game called tables or draughts"— an ordinary instance of lexicological 
fallibility. All this is very meagre. There ought (as we have said in regard 
to Spain) to be some treatise on games, published either in the mother country 
or in Brazil, which would enhance our scanty information, but we have failed 
to find any which presents any features of much value. The fourth edition 
of an anonymous "Manual dos jogos" was indeed issued at Lisbon in one 
of the last years of the century Just closed. It is printed in large type, 
treats 46 games of cards ; 14 "jogos dilTerentes," among them the usual table 
games (except morris); 4 "jogos de sport;" and a multitude of social or draw- 



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196 CHESS IN ICELAND 



jng-room amusements. ^ To each game are assigned certain very brief 
numbered paragraphs. Thus, billiards is taught in 25 such paragraphs, the 
longest extending to fewer than six lines; draughts is presented in 17 para- 
graphs; and chess in 34, that is in fewer than 88 of the large-type lines. 
GamcU) (trictrac) has also its place (pp. 150-153), embracing 26 numbered 
paragraphs, the longest of 8 lines. A few unimportant illustrations adorn 
the volume, one being a vignette on the cover title-page, repeated on p. 139, 
representing the assalto board, that is the English fox-and-geese board hav- 
ing the upper arm of the cross transformed into a fortress; while others 
exhibit the method of laying out a croquet field (p. 173) and a tennis court 
(p. 189). 

In treating all the table-games there is a general lack of precision, 
which can only arise from lack of knowledge. In draughts {damas), for in- 
stance, we are told that " ordinarily the men (pet^s) are placed on the white 
squares'' but that ^Hhis, however, is of no importance since they may be 
placed indifferently on those, or on the black ones"— without any allusion 
to the fact that the squares must be those in the diagonal lines. Nor is either 
the number of squares or the number of men necessary to the game stat- 
ed, the compiler having, perhaps, heard vaguely of "Polish draughts" and 
not wishing to betray, unnecessarily, his ignorance. At the end of some of 
the sections, forming the final rule or paragraph, is a general apology declar- 
ing that the game under notice is of such a complicated character that it 
is impossible to treat it in detail. In reference to chess (ocadrejt) we are 
' told (pp. 162-166) that the men are called peSo (plural, peZes); and the pie- 
ces ret, rainha, roqtie (plural, roques), cavallo (plural, cavallos) and delphin 
(plural, delphins). By the 22d rule we are advised that '^when a king is se- 
parated from the hostile king by only a single square it is said to be in op- 
position " {quando um ret estd tmicamente separado do rei inimigo por uma 
casa^ diz-se em opposifao). A similar dubious definition is that given in the 
25th paragraph: '^To sacrifice a piece [pegcC^ to the enemy in order to secure 
a more open {niais desafogada) position is to play a gambit {jo9(iT um gam- 
bitoy Castling, according to the meaning given to it in rule 27, is a mat- 
ter of great simplicity: ''To play two pieces at once is called castling 
{chama-se rocar).'^ We enumerate these naive definitions merely to give an 
idea of the character of -the work. We find cited only a few technical chess 
terms. Among them are: cJieque ao rei; cheque a descoherto; cheque do- 
brado; cheque perpetuo; mate abafado. 

And now we come to gamBo^ which is subdivided into 26 brief para- 
graphs. We note, as we run our eye over the three pages, that the men 
are called damcis ; and the points to be counted pontes. The 15 damas of 
one player are white, those of his opponent either black or green. The 
game requires likewise 2 dice {dados), three markers {tentos) and two pegs, 
{pregos^ in French fiches) of bone or ivory. The dice are placed in a copo 
de couro (literally *'cup of leather"). The men, at the beginning of the 

1*4 Tb« title of the book In full is : '* Manual doa jogos — Jogoa de Cartaa peqaenos Jogos 
de eala e Jogoa direnos — 4* ediffto Interaiuente refundlda o augmentada eom todof oa Jogos 
modernos uaadoa nos elubs e na boa soeledade taea eomo Bluff, Wblat, Boston, Baeearat, 
BMqne, Piquet, Lawn-tennia, Foot-ball, Croquet, Cricket, etc., etc. Llsboa •»< 1899 editor 
^ Arnaldo Bordado. 49 Kua da Victoria — 1**' —B* pp. »62. — which we gWe with Ita peeoliar 
psBotnatlon. 



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STRAY NOTES 197 



game, are piled in three lieaps on, the first point (here fiecha^ ttom the 
French) marked on the backgammon -board {gam^). The white men are 
considered to be the *' pieces of honor** {damas de honor). Casar means to 
establish a cas<iy that is to make a point safe by '^doabling** a man on it; 
at (plural, azes) is ace; lanfo is a ^'move;** componho corresponds to the 
FvencYi yadoube 9X chess. The author*s final paragraph reads thas: ^Hhere 
- are many and good treatises on the game of backgammon. They are all, 
moreover, books containing abundant matter {livros de copiosa mcUeria)^ 
some of them exceeding, in the number of their pages, the present manual. 
Amateurs will consult those works.** In the preceding paragraph (25th) he 
had given his customary apologetical utterance about the deficiencies of his 
book: ^^N*um pequeno resume de J6gos como o nosso, comprehende-se a im- 
possibilidlide que ha em desenvolver aquelles que, como o gamSo, obedecem 
a complicadissimas regras.** 

It would be difiicult for the tyro, even with the closest study, to learn 
to play the game by the sole aid of the meagre instructions thus given. Nor 
can one easily decide what variety of the game is here described, but it 
seems to correspond more nearly to the ordinary French irictrac than to 
any other. We are first informed that each player has *^15 men which lie 
disposes artistically on the points indicated in the board** {quinze damas^ 
as dispJie artisticamente sobre os pantos marcados no taboleiro)^ and then that 
the game is begun by entering the 15 men, in 2 or 3 piles, on the first 
point designed on the board (gam^). Rule 12 tells us that no isolated or 
single man can be placed on the ''point of repose** (casa de descangoy which 
is immediately afterwards styled casa de repotiso)^ and the inhibition is re- 
peated, in another form, by the statement that a casa can be made on that 
point by placing on it, conjointly, two men (collocando n'ella, cot^unctamente, 
duos danuzs). The rule for reckoning the minor points, as well as the game- 
points, are virtually those which we find laid down in the treatise of Mou- 
lidars for trictrac. If we may draw any conclusion flrom this work it is that 
the modern Portuguese game is that most taught and practised in France. 
The only name given in the ''Manual** to backgammon is gamdo. 

If we regard the identity of the Roman duodecim scripta with nard- 
tables-backgammon, or with some form of it, as not yet determined, then 
we must assume that the oldest historical monuments connected with the 
history of our game in the Italic peninsula are those remarkable manuscripts, 
of which the earliest extant texts are to be found in Florence and Rome, 
and which treat of what has been characterised as the triad of mediaeval 
diversions— the games of chess, morrjs and tables. These ancient codices, 
in their existing shape, all date f^om a period between the XlVth and the 
XVIth centuries. They were originally written in Latin, and, therefore, it 
is not impossible that there may have been texts, now lost, going back to 
a somewhat earlier date. The portions relating to the morris game and to 
tables have not been, so far as is known to us, subjected to an accurate 
comparison with the Alfonsine MS, and hence we can form no trustworthy 
judgment of the relations they may, or may not bear to the Spanish text. 
We only know that certain methods of playing tables are indicated by the 
same, or very similar names, tn both. That Latin is the language of the 
early North-Italian documents and Spanish of that of Alfonso might indicate 
the greater age of the former, but this difference may well be owing to other 



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198 CHESS IN ICELAND 



circa mstances than age. The development of vernacular literatures in both 
lands was nearly contemporaneous. While the wise Alfonso, to whom the 
Escurial MS owes its being, was writing his famous code and his chronicle 
at Seville, the emperor of the Holy Roman empire, Frederick II, was inditing 
Italian verses at Palermo, and Guide Guinicelli was composing the earliest 
sonnets, canzoni andballate at Bologna— works which made him, in Dante*8 

opinion, 

11 padre 

Mio e degli altri miei migUor, ohe mai 
Rime d' amore nsar dolci e leggladre. 

But Alfonso "first made the Castilian a national language," as the chief 
historian of Spanish letters tells us— and, singularly enough, by the same 
means employed by Luther, long afterwards, to give vitality to thb German, 
namely by translating the Bible into it — and would naturally see that his 
book of games, like nearly everything else with which he had to do, was in 
the vulgar speech. Political relations did not exist between North Italy and 
Spain until almost three centuries later, when, under Charles V, they be- 
came intimate enough; for the struggles between the other Spanish Alfonsos, 
Alfonso V and VI of Arragon, and the republic of Genoa were mainly 
confined to the sea, although the latter monarch, after the disastrous naval 
battle oflf Ponza in 1435, was, for a brief period, a prisoner-guest in the 
hands of the last Viscontr duke of Milan, to whose custody he had been 
consigned by the victorious Genoese. No doubt there was, in those days, 
a fairly close ecclesiastical connection between the two prominent Latin 
nationalities, so that, through the convents, or through various channels 
meeting each other at Rome, an author of any production in one country, 
would be pretty apt to hear of and to get sight of any preceding work on 
his theme written in the other. It is not unlikely, however, that the strong- 
est link uniting the two peninsulas, just at the time in which we are in- 
terested, would be the great university of Bologna, which was at its highest 
point of fame and frequency between Irnerlus in the Xllth century and 
Mondino in the XlVth; one of its earliest foundations — still to be seen— 
is the *» Collegio di Spagna,'* anciently thronged with students f^om beyond 
the Pyrenees, Very notable certainly is the similarity of the Spanish and 
Italian MSS, both principally devoted as they are to three amusements, chess, 
morris, tables. Did the authors of both independently select these three 
subjects, because in both lands they were the most notable table-games? 
Did those of Italy imitate the Spanish production, or did the Castilian mon- 
arch get the idea of his compilation f^om or through Romet Or did both 
follow in the path of earlier compilers ? In one respect they are understood 
to differ :— the Italians pay no heed to games of pure chance, in which dice 
only are used without board or men, while a certain number of such 
games appear to be described in the Escurial codex. Was this because the 
North-Italian compilations were for use in school and cloister, and the other 
was prepared for the diversion of a court? The testimony of age, proving 
what it may, so far as we are now in a position to gather and appreciate 
it, is assuredly in favor of Spain. We know that the compilation which 
bears the name of Alfonso was completed before 1285; we cannot, taking 
the most favourable view, ascribe so high a date, by at least a half century, 
to any of the venerable works which we are about to describe. But, as has 



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STRAY NOTES 199 



been said by others, there may have been older texts, which have disap- 
peared. 

The original and oldest forms of these works are to be found chiedy 
in three collections, namely, the great Victor Emanuel or government H* 
brary at Rome, in the library belonging to Prince Barberini in the same 
city, and in the National library — the largest in Italy — at Florence. It is 
possible, though not probable, that one or two of these codices go back to 
the xrvth century, but the others, as we have just said, are to be referred to 
the XVth and XVIth. Though not all contain positions in chess, merelles 
and backgammon, most of them include problems in all three, generally with 
an explanatory note attached to each, showing how it is to bo played and 
resolved. The chess problems always come first, are much the most numerous, 
and are followed in varying order by those at morris or tables. It is in our own 
times that attention was first called to the texts in Italy —a little subsequent to 
the middle of the XlXth century— after they had, for a long while, vanished 
from the knowledge of the general public — hidden away, in the unsatisfac- 
torily catalogued MSS rooms of the vast Italian book-collections we have 
mentioned, as securely as if they had been sunk to the bottom of the river 
Lethe. Tor subject-lists of collections of codices and of archives are almost 
non-existent on the continent of Europe, and in ordinary alphabetical author- 
catalogues, anonymous and pseudonymous producUons, if entered at all, arc 
generally so entered as to be almost hitrouvables, unless the searcher be 
not only an expert, but an inspired expert. The story of their refinding, 
which was given to the public by the London Illustrated News in 1854,^ re- 
minds one of the rediscovery by Pierre de Nolhac of the precious Potrarch 
autograph MSS, belonging, in the XVIth century, to the Fulvio Orsini col- 
lection, but which, for several generations, had been concealed from human 
ken, their very existence forgotten, in the rarely-opened presses of the Vat- 
ican treasure-house. That event was almost like the reappearance of the 
Italian poet himself, pen in hand, among the raqks of the living. In the 
other case, the little world of chess was astounded to learn what stores of 
the chess wisdom of our ancestors had been almost unwittingly preserved 
for our delectation. So far as their chess contents are concerned the newly- 

^ The aiiAouiiecmont of iLo diacuvery of tbcto UBS wan made Ib tho London lUu»traUd 
lf9W9 (tbo ohvss-eolumn of wblcb was tben edited by Howard Staunton) of July 1, 185i 
(page-number 6S2) In an article entitled *' Bemarkable disccvury of valuable MSB on cbees.** 
Tbe diioovery wat laid to bave been made in tbc two moRt Important libraries of Florence 
(probably ibe Maglabeecblan and the Palatine, since tbat time united aa tbe National library) 
by a tignor Fantacci, wbose conmunleation was written from tbe Tuaean ministry of tbe 
Interior (Hlnlstero dell* interne). Tbe article states tbat Mr. FanUcel bad procured eopiee 
of tbo eblef works wbleb be bad found, and bad sent tbese transcripU to Mr. Stonntou. 
Tb«n follows a brief list of seven MSS, of wbicb tbe first four, two on vellam and two on 
paper, are among tbose wbleb we have treated in tbe preseut section. The first of tbese Is 
tbe oldest, *' Bonus Sodas*' — this anonym is bcre seen for tbe first time In print— wbleb 
is said by Mr. FanUeel to be of tbo latter end of tbe Xlllth or the beginning of tbe XlVih 
century ; the other vellum Is assigned to tbe XVth century ; tbe third eodex is a Latin paper 
MS, and the fourth an Italian paper MB, both Ultewiee of the XVth century. The last three 
MSS consist of au anonymous paper codi-x of the XVIih century entitled ; " L* eleganala, sot- 
tiliU e verriti [tie] delta virtuosisslma professlone degli seacchl ; ** an Itatlan vellnm eontalo' 
Ing a work by Lnigi Gnleclardini, being a " comparaaione del'giuoco degli seacchl all* arte 
milllare, " without date; and a parchment MS of Greco *s " Noblllssimo giuoco de scaechl** 
with the date of 16S1. The account of tbese MSS Is copied word for word Into the Chtu 
Player** ChronicU (new series II, pp. SSO-ISl), likewise then edited by Mr. Btaanton. Short 



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200 CHESS IN ICELAND 



found MSS have been studied with much care and judgment by Van der 
Linde and Von der Lasa, but the portions of them which are devoted to the 
other mediaBval games still await an editor. He should not much longer be 
lacking, for it is easy to understand that no history of tables- backgammon, 
in its European period, can be written without a previous minute study of 
all these manuscript sources. In such days as ours, when so many scholars 
are crowding each other in their efforts to delve among the literary and 
other treasures of the past, it is rare to find so much unwrought material, 
on any subject, so easily accessible to the student. 

These documents of Italian origin fall into two families or groups, one 
(believed to be the earlier) having for its compiler a writer who styles 
himself "Bonus Socius." This signifies literally a "good companion" or 
"good fellow,'* but has also been interpreted to mean "teacher," "tutor," 
** instructor," " decent " — from an alleged mediaeval use of the term in uni- 
versities ; but why should it not be regarded as signifying a man fond of 
company and pleasures — and pastimes, in fact a "boon companion," for 
"bonus" is "boon." In some of the texts or versions the compiler's or 
editor's name is given as Nicholas de St. Nicholai, and he is said to be of 
Lombardy. If "St. Nicholai" or "S. Nicolii" represent his natal pflaoe the 
matter is not thereby much helped, for there are numerous communities so 
called in Italy— especially in the Southern provinces, where the cult of the 
patron saint of Bari once greatly prevailed — to say nothing of others in 
other lands. There seems to be no such locality well or widely known in 
Lombardy, but there is one just over the border in Venetia. Von der Lasa 
suggests that the real "Bonus Socius'* may have been born in any country, 
and have lived in Northern Italy as a member of a monastery, which makes 
the effort to identify his birthplace well nigh a hopeless task. The MS of 
his work which furnishes the earliest known text is found in the National 
library at Florence— a handsome vellum codex (B. A. 6 — p.2.-no. 1.); while 
others, complete or incomplete, in the original, or in French or other render- 
ings, are preserved in the libraries of France (at Paris and Montpellier) ; of 
England (at London and in the possession of the Fountaine family, Narford 
Hall, Swaffham, Norfolk— but see a later page of this section, where it will 
be noted that this rare and beautiful volume has ceased to be the property 
of the Fountaines); in cities east of the Rhine (Prague, Munich, Wol- 
fenbijttel) ; and even in the United States (at Clevelan'd, Ohio). The last men- 

M the arUdd Is It i» not without blunders, and ulUmately gave rise to other misstatcmenU. 
The titles of the fifth and the sixth MSS are erroneonsly copied, and we do not Tooeh for 
their correctness In the forms in which we have cited them ; Mr. SUnnton apparently and 
Van dor Linde certainly (<* Gesehlohte " I, pag. S84), in their ignorance of Italian, mistook 
the word mini9t€ro for minisirOf so that the latter plainly spealis of '< den wlohtigan fend 
des tosltaDlschen ministers.** In the Jlluttrated 2iew* of July St (pag. 67) the editor, in 
reply to a inpposititlons correspondent, says that although tbe Guicciardini MS Is not dated, 
it Is qalte easy to ascertain its age approximately, since It is dedicated to the lUnstrious 
Cosimo de' Mcdiei who died 1464, not notielng that tbe list of MSS in his own article states 
that it was dedicated to Cosimo, the second duke of Florence (dnca S<>), who died not In 1464 
but in 1574. As Lulgl Guicciardini, who was the nephew of the historian, was born Id i&SS 
and died in 16S9, he could not well have dedleated his work to Cosimo tho older. Y. d. 
Linde seems to have rcoelTcd a much later note f^om Fantacoi, dated at Rome, December IS, 
187S. It is proper to observe that Fantaeei*s list does not include the 1464 Civls Bononiss 
codes, which the grand-duke of Tuscany is supposed to have carried away from Florenoe a 
few years later* 



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STRAT NOTES 201 



tioned is in the collection of Mr. John G. White, being a codex formerly in 
the possession of Mr. Robert Franz of Berlin, containing chess positions 
extracted from "Bonus Socius** by an editor, Paulus Guarinus (Guarino), 
of Forll, a town just below the Southern boundary of Lombardy. ^ 

The other (presumably somewhat later) family of these early manuscripts 
has for its compiler a scholar styled by himself a citizen of Bologna, "Civis 
Bononiae," whose identity has not even been surmised. The pseudonym, 
however, strengthens, although perhaps slightly, what we have ventured to 
hint concerning the possible relation of the most venerable of the learned 
institutions of Europe to these Italian treatises. Copies of this " Civis Bo- 
nonise** compilation are not so common as those of its predecessor; nor are 
there any known translations of it into modern languages except in* the case 
of a few of the backgammon positions. Among the two oldest existing texts, 
as Von der Lasa tells us, are those of the Victor Emanuel library at Rome 
(MSS Vitt. Em. 273), and the one belonging to Prince Barberini, also in the 
Italian capital. ^^^ He states that they are ascribed to the Xlllth or XlVth 

^ It is flaguUr, thoDKh by no meaus flattortag to the Italiao and Auglo-Baxon nalloo- 
alltief, that thit Italian field hat beoo tilled only by German seholart. The eame may he 
UkewiM said of tbe most momorable and most veuorable of all writing! doTotcd to medisTal 
games, th« Alfonelue oodex ; for, althongh Brunet y Bellet baa indeed given a Taluable deeerip> 
tlon and reprodaetion of tbe introduetory portiona of th« acaeebio part of tbat MS. be doea 
not pretend to treat tbe pcaltfone of aren tbat aeetion, and baa llltle or notbiog to aay aboat 
tbe pAgea filled witb cxamplea of other gamea. Tbe dUition (abtchniU) of Von der Laaa*a 
admirable treatiae, '*Zur geacblcbte nnd llteratur dea tcbacbapiela*' (1897), devoted to ibeae and 
otber MSS of a practical character (that la, relating to tbe movementa of pleeea) la tbe alxtb 
(pp. llS-168), divided into two ebaptera. Tbe beadinga to these in tbe table of oontenta are: 
** VI. I. — Altea problemweaen : Spaniaeber codex dea Alfonao. — Gruppirung der ftbrlgen band* 
acbriften. ~ FransOalaehe MSB. CoUon Cl*op, nnd Bibl, R*g, su London. — Die engllaeben 
bandacbrifton Porter nnd Atbmole (Hartwell). — VI. S. — Altea problem weien : Bonu» Sociut 
MS, nebat Fountalne, nnd Parle (alte aig. 73900), Pieard (alt 7S91), V^olfeubtlttel extrav., "MSB 
liobkowits and Kottmaaner. -^ CivU Bon^nia* MS. — Dreaden MS. ~ Floreni XIX. 11, 87.— 
Bicardiana MS nnd Alia rahio$a. — Gaarinua. — BibL Caaanafaiija." Van der Linde, if loaa 
oritioal, la, eo far aa ebeaa goea, more nearly complete, endeavouring to reprodnee tbe prob* 
lema and end-gamea ft-om tbe moat Important compUatlona of tbe middle agea. In bla 
** Qoellenatadlen ** (1881) *'Daa aebaebwerk Alfonao*a X*' forma the third chapter of tbe firat 
diviaion (pp. Tt-lte), the few Unea which be devotee to tbe "Libro de laa Ublaa" of the 
royal MS oeonrrlng on pp. 7S-S. Tbe following (foortb) chapter treata of the "Bonoa Boeiua** 
MSS under tbe title '*Daa latelnlacb-pikardlacbe aebaebwerk dea Micbolaua von S. Nlcbolai 
(am 1850-1513),** extending throogb pp. Itl-lSft, there being aome alight allaaiona to tablea, 
aa on p. 184. Tbe eubject ia completed In tbe aabaequent (flflb) chapter, ** Ueberaetsnngon 
nnd frei bearbeituagen (am 180O-1660),'* pp. 186-S80. Van der Llnde, in bi« work here elted, 
doea not mention tbe paendvnym "Clvla Bononlie," apparently inclading all the problem eom* 
pilationa of Northern Italian origin under tbe name of tbe otbor and probably aomewhat 
earlier collector, " Bonua Sociua,*' whom both be and Yon der Laaa concur in identifying as 
Nieholaa de S. Nlcbolai, and to whom Italy, France and Germany lay claim. Nor doea 
** Clvla Bononin** occur in tbe index to Van der Llnde'a larger work, tbe "Geaehlohte and 
llteratur" (1874). 

^"^ Of thla vellum <'Civia Bononln'* codex in tbe Barberini palace (preaa-mark, X. 78), 
wo are able to give a few general particulars. It ia somewhat smaller than tbe codex Vitt. 
Km. 87S, meaauring 81 eentimetera by 15 aa agaiuat tbe latter's 88 Va by 17, but this dif- 
ference la largely dae to tbe binder'e knife. The Barberini manuecript logins, like the 
other, with tbe prologue In aix rhymed veraea, but the opening initial (U) lacks tbe group 
of flgurrs, being executed In aimple blue. YTblltt tbe Viotor Rmanuel codox la apparently 
the work of two dllTerent banda (cbeae by one and tbe two otber gamea by a aeeond),-tbe 
Barberini, on tbe other band, exbibita tbe aame chirography from beginning to end. The 
number of backgammon poaltlone in both ia tbe aame, bat we are told by a aebolar whoae 
examination haa evidently not been very complete that no worda almilar to «6ara<U or tba- 

26 



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CHESS IN ICELAND 



century, but seems to doubt the former ascription; indeed he himself, later 
on, in his last great work (p. 153), speaks of them as "' MSS aus dem 15 
Jahrhunderte. " They are in fact, as it would seem, of about the middle of 
the XVth, and are admirable specimens of the book-art of the period, both 
as to the vellum, the chirography and the illuminations. A third copy, also 
on vellum, which bears marks of a somewhat greater age than these, was 
acquired by Von der Lasa himself at Rome, and still— it is to be supposed 
— forms a part of the noble library he left behind him. A fourth vellum 
codex is reported to have existed, until a recent period, in Florence, but has 
now disappeared, carried off, according to a theory of Von der Lasa, by the 
last grand-duke of Tuscany, whose personal property it is supposed to have 
been. It is said to have borne the date of 1454. The fourth text is a paper 
codex in the Florentine National library (XIX. 7. 37), judged, from internal 
evidence, to be considerably later than the foregoing, but to have had an 
editor of more than usual ability, a fact which gives it importance. The 
chess portions show a knowledge of various preceding texts; certainly, so far 
as that game is concerned, it is, in many respects, the most valuable, flrom 
a textual point of view, of all the " Civis Bononise'' MSS, though inferior to 
all in its external execution. Besides these manuscripts Von der Lasa cites 
another belonging to tlie British Museum, of the year 1466, which is less 
complete than the Italian examples. This exhausts the list of these codices. 
We shall now endeavour to give some brief notes on most of those still to 
be found in Italy, and therefore pretty certain of Italian origin. 

Undoubtedly the oldest of the "Bonus Socius" family is the vellum of 
the National library at Florence (B. A. 6-p. 2-no. 1). It begins, as Von der 
Lasa has already told us, with a much impaired illuminated frontispiece of 
a crowned king (at the left), apparently engaged at chess with a Moor or 
other personage (at the right)— hardly a cardinal as suggested by Von der 
Lasa—in a red, hood-like cap and robe; two female figures are standing in 
the background, not, however, gazing at the board. The prefatory matter 
is on the obverse of the next folio, facing the frontispiece. This is the sole 
text of the ** Bonus Socius" group, of any approach to completeness, now in 
Italian libraries. 

The finest as well as one of the earliest of the '^ Civis Bononia) ** codices 
in the Italian book-collections is that of the Victor Emanuel library (273) at 
Rome. It is a fair sized quarto of 213 vellum folios, of wich the first 3 are 
blank, as is the obverse of 4. The reverse of 4 contains six rhymed stanzas 
by the compiler, each beginning with an illuminated initial, the first at the 
top of the page being a large U, enclosing a perfectly preserved design of a 
youngish personage in green garments (left), engaged at chess with a bearded 
man in lilac robe and hood (right) ; close by, in the central background, sits 
a figure in scarlet dress and hood, gazing at the board, with his finger on 
his lips, indicating, perhaps, the silence necessary to be maintained by a 
spectator at chess; the feet of this person are visible under the table. This 

railUn sMm to occur Aoywbcro. Tbe texts of the tlx prefatory veraos are identieal in tlio 
two codices. There la nothlog lu Barberiui X. 7S. to throw any further light on the queation 
of the compiler** personality. The name, in a hand comparatively recent, on the margin of 
the first written page, Una [GiovaontV] Domenleo Rinaldi, Is most likely that of a former 
owner of the volume. A polyglot title to the Tolome, given on the preceding blank loaf, 
*' Liber Tarforam ladornu vldellct^t di scaochi^ abaraglino ete.,*' is likewise modern. 



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STRAY NOTES 203 



is all of fine execution. An excellent water-colour of this illuminated front- 
ispiece—the only exact reproduction of it ever made— is preserved in the 
Reykjavik National Library. The stanzas which fill this initial page have 
been cited in full by Van der Linde (*' Quellenstudien/* pp. 183-4) but, as it 
fioems, his transcript is from the missing 1454 Florentine manuscript. We 
shall, therefore, copy them from the Roman (Vitt. Em.) codex; the variants, 
however, are few: 

Ubicumqae facris nt kb gntiosas 
Keo te Bnbdes otiis nam Tir otiMcn 
Sire ■!( ignobilis Bive generoras 
Ut testatnr lapieiia erlt TltioiiDs. 

Ut a te remoyeas ritiom prefifttam 
Legaa et intelligaa hnnc menm trnotatmn 
Efc sic earn nobllibiu cordis adoptatnm 
Certoa Bom qcot poteris inreDlre atatnm* 

Statim ad scacarij me toIto partita 
lo qao maltipliciter flnnt'lniliiita 
Qaorum hie sunt plarima laealeiitor icita 
Ke forte mens labilis qvloquam sit obUta. 

Hie semel positam nnmqaam iterator 
Pi/stea de tabalis certam dogma datnr. 
Tone merelloe doeeo qniboe plebs ioeator 
Et sio sab compendio liber terminatar. 

Heo hnins opnsoali series eat tota. 
Qais aim scire poteris tradens tot ignota. 
Verium prineipiU aillaboM tu iwta 
Earundem media liUera rtmota. 

CfivU mm b&nonie iHa qui ^llegi, 
Qoi sab breviloqaio varia eompegi, 
Disponente domino opaa qood peregi 
PresentaTl prineipi poosit dve regi. 

Like Van der Linde we have italicised the three enigmatical lines which are 
supposed to give a clue to the compiler's name. Like Von der Lasa we 
regard the puzzle as virtually insoluble. The verses, as Von der Lasa has 
remarked ( '< Oeschichte und literatur,*' pp. 153 and 155), are lacking in the 
very notable Florentine paper codex; he notices the fact thus: "da aber in 
der handschrift ersichtlich ein paar der ersten blatter fehlen, so kdnnten die 
verse mit diesen verloren sein, was mir nicht warscheinlich vorkommt. " It 
is needless to say that in the opinion last expressed, after a most careful 
examination of the manuscript, we coincide. In the Florentine codex (XIX. 
7. 37.) has been substituted for the verses an extract, sliglitly altered, from 
the *' Vetula," a Latin poem once believed to be by Ovid. As this substituted 
^ citation contains no allusion to tables or merelles we pass it by. <^ The other 

^ Of the psendo-Ovidian poem, ** Uber de VetuU,*' a considerable number of mann- 
•eripta exlit in the libraries of Europe (see Van der Linde, ^'Oeschichte,** II„ pp. 149-156, 
where the aeconnt of the work, so far as the chess portlona are concerned, and of its va- 
rious editions, is eommendably fall). It was long eitad as a genuine production of Ovid, as 
far back as by that dear-headed scholar, Richard de Bury (1286). Its oldest manaseript, a 
quarto vellum at Moatpelier (n^ 866), is certainly nearly or quite contemporary with iU 
author, now identified, with tolerable certainty, as a famons romanHer of the Xlllth century, 
Richard de Fonrnival (Fournlvalle, FoumlTanx), who held a eananiaate at Amiens, France, 



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204 CHESS IN ICELAND 



Roman codex (Barberini) we have not examined. There is a fairly good 
transcript of it in the National Library of Iceland. 

After these prefatory remarks we shall now turn to the oldest of the 
''Bonus Socius" MSS (Florence B, A. 6-p. 2-no. 1). Its contents may be thus 
enumerated: folio fl], obverse blank ; reverse, injured illuminated frontispiece; 
f. j. obverse, preface; ff. j reverse-^98a, chess; 98b-112a, merelles; 112a-118a, 
tables; 118b-119a, blank; 119b, note in finer writing by a later hand. There 
are 24 merelles positions and 11 at tables— all on diagrams. In ''Bonus 
Socius" the tables diagrams are drawn perpendicularly as to the length (or 
longer extent); in "Civis Bononise" they are perpendicular as to the height 
(or shorter extent). In this manuscript the descriptions or solutions of the 
positions are on the opposite page (the left-hand page of the "open," as 
the Icelanders style it). Therefore the positions are at the right, as the book 
is held open. Two problems are given on a page, one above the other, 
except in the case of the ninth, which, owing to the length of the opposite 

and !• Inde«d tomewrhero ftyled efa«ncellor of that city (<<e&nce11«rliu ambUnentia "). Several 
of his amatory romances are preserved In a manascript form at the French National library. 
The earliest printed edition of the "Vetala** is that of Coloffno, having neither date, plaee, 
printer's name nor signatures, of about the year 1470, which bears the title of "Pnblii Ovidti 
Nasonis liber de Vetnla.** A later edition was Issued in the same city in 1479. We elte the 
edition of Wol fen battel 1668, a volume In which it appears with the "Speenlom stnltorum" 
of another writer, under the common title of "Opuseula duo aoctorum ineertoram." The 
**VetuIa" closes the volame, and Is separately paged (forming 96 pacres) : It Is divided into 
numbered sections, that relating to tables beginning (p. 21) with seotlon XXVIII of book first 

as follows : 

Excasare tamen speclem Ludi deeiorum 
Nituntur, cum qu& deducitur alea pernlz : 
Ipsam, dieentes, paueo discrimlne rernm 
Pasei posse din tanta eat dilatio ludi, 
Tanti Inorl damnive mora est : saeoeaaio oujns 
Tot parit eventus, quot Jaetus eontlnet In ae, 
Fine tenns, Indus, nee solA aorte, sed arte 
Prooedunt acies, & inest industria mira. 
PrsBserUm oum multimodd mutatio Ludi 
Qnolibet In Jactu dlaponl posalt, e6qaod, 
Sleut prsseessit Jaetus, diversificantnr 
In punctatura propria : quia schema eadendi 
Nil operatar In hoc, sed punctatura docet quid 
Lnsoris faciat vtao aolertia Jaotu. 

By a eareftil axamln^tion of the whole of the matter relating to baekgammon it would not 
be dlfflcnlt to obtain a definite Idea of the method of play which prevailed in Kranee aoma 
aiz hundred years ago. This remarkable poem was rendered into French by Jean Ijefevre, 
born at Resaona sur Mats (near Compline), acttording to some critics between 1815 and iS80, 
according to othera In the laat yeara of the XlVth century. Hia version, or perhapa U should 
rathar be atyled a paraphrase, waa only printed in 1861 the text being drawn from two 
early mannaeripU in the Paris National library, edited 1^ HIppolyte Goeberis. The Inta^ 
resting opening lines are copied by Van der Linde (op. clt., p. 164). The chapters have 
headings, that ooncerning tables being: '^Dn Jen des tables et comment Ovide dit qn'lls ne 
sont point mains dommagablea que les des," the opening lines (p. 66) being 

Ancnns ae veulent exenaer 
Dn gleu dea des, ponr amnaer 
Au glan qui eat de trente tablea [men] ; 
Ne aoBt gatrea malna dommagablea, 
O'eat an glen da gnerre partie, 
Qnittse en a de ebaaenne partie. 
81 dleat quant a lenr oppoee, 
Qa*oa palat la glen be pou da ohoae, 



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8TRA Y NOTES 205 



solution, is alone in tho centre of its page. On ttie inside of the manuscript's 
first cover is a note by a former owner recording the fact in regard to the 
codex, that it ^^^ molto tempo che si trova in casa nostra de Baldouinattj/' 
The work has, of course, no proper title, but, in his preface, the author, 
after some philosophising, and not a few moral reflections, says: O'Idcirco 
ego bonus socius, sociorum meorum precibus acquiescens, partita que uide- 
ram...,")—** Therefore I, a good companion, yielding to the prayers of my 
companions, have edited in this little book those positions which I had seen, 
as well as those which I have made by my own study, in the games of chess 
and tables as well as in that of merelles (**de ludvs scaccorum alearumque 
ctiam marellorum in hoc libello**), thus reversing the order in which, in 
the text, merelles and backgammon actually occur. There are, later on, in 
the opening of the description or solution of the first tables (backgammon) 
problem, a few special preliminary words, in which the reader is told that 
theso problems {isia partita) are of tables, that some are played out with 

Car g**lDg nt vient pM en Teure, 

Rt la dommalga atMi demeare. 

Par la longoa dllaoion 

Dn giea par Tarlaeion ; 

Gar aatant 7 a d'aTeDtar«s 

Comme oa 7 fcecte de polntores. 

Le glea ne ee fait point par aort, 

Mais par art aaaa^olr plaf fort. 

De deax eoulonrt qnl lea ehamplaaeat, 

De deoz ohaateaala en nn ehamp yaaent. 

Dont nKirreilleuae eat rindoatrle, 

Rt soutille en eat la malairle, 

Ponr ee qn'on paet multiplier 

Son glen, par aea tablea Her, 

Belon lea polna de la eheaooe, 

Qui enaelgnent quelle ordonance 

Le Joneor pent de aea gena faire, 

Rt eommeunt doit aea tablea traire 

Par devera ao7, et eomblner 

81 a peril an ehemtner. 

Tbeae foriOt reekoning a repeated eouplet wbieb we have omitted, llnea 1M9-1>98, but tbe 
wbole tablea aectlon la continued to line 1416 (p. 66-78). Free aa la the veraion, or perhapa 
beeanae of ita freenea% tbe French poem greatly faolUtatea tho nnderatanding of the Latin 
original. We add likewSae tbe opening llnea of tbe brief merellea aeotlon (p. 86), wbieb 
bare the deaeriptWe beading: **CI parle du glea dea merelles anqnel aoulolent anelonnement 
jouer lea pucellea.** They begin: 

Autrea gleaa aont que lea pneellea 
Seevent, mala petltea nonToIlea 
Sent dn dire et du raconter 
Choae qui a pon pent mooter. 
Gea gieax aont nommea aux merellea, 
Dont joTenceaulz et Jnvenoellea 
So jeneut deatna une table. 
Douse oa nenf font le glea eatable, 
llaia a douse prent aana falUir 
Oelle qui pnet oultre aallltr 
Deeaua 1' autre par advanture. 

The whole aeetlon forma llnea 1785-1764. The worda " donee on neuf *' look like a relatlenablp 
to the '* twelve men roorria" and ** nine men morrla** of Rngland and Amerlea, altbongh a 
mneb later maauaerlpt (1660) of the poem ipeaka of tbe game aa one *<qui ae fait par nenf 
on par dix merellea,*' where <'dix** may poaalbly be an error for ** donee.'* 



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206 CHESS IN ICELAND 



two dice {cum duobus taxillis) and some with three, and that some are 
optative games (Itidi op totmi)— ending with the phrase which we copy lite- 
rally; '* ut ho sine taxillis optet qd' uelit/' Thereafter follows the descriptive 
solation beginning: '^Et est iste primus Indus huffa in duobus taxillis/* 
Here we have again the hufa of king Alfonso, the remotest form of the 
present German name of backgammon {puff). These solutions generally 
record, at their very beginning, the number of dice employed at each throw, 
or otherwise comment on the nature of the problem, as, for instance, (117a). 
" Istud partitum optimum sed difficilimum ad plenum " {ad plenum being, 
perhaps, the modern French "plein"); (115bl) "Iste Indus est ualdedecep- 
torius;** (115b2) "Ludus iste est optatiuus in tribus taxillis.'' The positions 
mostly demand three dice, which, for various reasons, seems to us the 
older method, at any rate in European tables. Among the technical words 
occurring we notice cfoww* (home-board), albe (plural, white), Tieprt, (black), 
a.?, deus^ trai, quater^ cine, sis, amesas {ambas as)^ temes, sines. The eleven 
positions at tables to be found in this volume all appear again in the incom- 
plete Italian codex (XIX. 7. 51) in the same Florentine library. 

We come now to the Roman vellum codex (Vitt. Em. 273) of the " Civis 
Bononise** redaction, certainly, in its execution and in its present well- 
preserved condition, the most splendid of them all. It starts with blank 
folios numbered (numbering modern) 1,2, 3, followed by 4, of which the 
obverse is blank, while the reverse begins with a very ornate initial U, 
enclosing the illuminated group of three figures already described (a youngish 
personage in green garments seated at chess against a bearded man in lilac 
robe and hood, with a third person in scarlet vestments sitting in the central 
background, looking on); then come the prefatory verses we have cited, 
written as prose, each stanza forming a paragraph commencing with a fine 
initial in* two colours; to the first of the stanzas appertains the much larger 
initial U at the head of the page. After these follows the chess text, the 
first position on f. 5a, the last on f. 148b. all the diagrams filled. The 76 
partita at tables occupy ff. 149a- I86b, and are followed by 4 unused or vacant 
diagrams on ff. 187a-188b. The volume ends with the 48 merelles problems, 
ff. 189a-212b, concluding with an unused morris diagram on the last folio 
(213a). Throughout this beautiful vellum every page opens with an illuminated 
initial letter in two colours. The design of the diagram for tables represents 
(for the first time?) the one (half) table joined to the other by hinges, so 
that the two can be shut together like a modern backgammon (and chess) 
board; the table has, however, as usual at this early period, houses instead 
of points. Each one of the positions, chess, tables or morris, is placed in the 
centre of the page, having the descriptive text around It on the three exterior 
margins, the brilliant initials (blue and red, or red and violet) being uniformly 
in the upper left-hand corner. The diagrams are in blue, having the space 
between the external lines in faint olive green; the men are in red (=light 
or white) and blue (= black). In these backgammon diagrams every man is 
figured by a coloured disc (never by numbers, showing how many stand on a 
certain point). 

It is impossible, within our limits, to copy much of the text of this mon- 
umental codex. We give, therefore, only the opening lines of some of the 
descriptions of the partitaj premising that we have not often ventured to 
change the orthography, and that we have underscored the names of the 



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207 



various modes of play: (151b) ^'Istud partitum est de testa optatiuum de tribas 
taxillis;*' (152b) ''Iste ludus est optatiuus in tribus Uxillis;'' (156b) ''Istud 
partitum est de sharail cum duobus taxillis;'* (163a) ^'Istud partitum est de 
sbarail optativum;*' (163b) ^^Istud partitum est partitum optatiuum... et est 
de minoret;'^ (167b) " Istud partitum est de minoret in uno taxillo et uocatur 
le merlin;*'' (168a) *'Albe [usually written instead of aZ5^] primo trahunt et 




Fig. 18. 

faciunt minoret et negre maioret; " (168b) "In isto partite de minoret trahunt 
primo nigre ; '' (175b) " Istud t>artitum est de la hiif in duobus taxillis et 
stant omnes in dome;*' (178a) '* Istud partitum est de sbarail;"" (178b) *'0mne8 
utriusque partis suntaffidate, et est partitum del sbarail in tribus taxiliis;" 
(181a) '^In isto partite tam nigre quam albe stant in domo ad eleuandum, et 
est de sharail in tribus taxillis;'' (182b) '* Istud partitum est de bethelas in 
tribus taxillis;'' (183a) "Istud partitum est de ludo qui dicitur baldrac, qui 
est ludus subtilis et non multum usitatus;'' (183b) "Istud partitum est de 
limperial in duobus taxillis et sex semper in terno;" (184a) "Istud partitum 
est de limperial in duobus taxillis et sex pro terno;" (184b) "Istud partitum 
sic precedens est de limperial in duobus taxillis et sex in tertio, et habent 
nigra uoltam;'* (185b) "In isto partite omnes sunt affidate." The text in- 
troducing the first tables position (149a) begins with the general statement: 
"tsta sunt partita tabularum/' where we find the name given as iabulce {in 



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208 CHESS IN ICELAND 



genitive, iabularum). It will be observed that we have here many of the 
Alfonsine names of the varying methods of play (varieties), like buf (Spanish 
*'bufa'*), imperial (very likely '*emperador'*), haldrac ("la bufa de baldrac"), 
as well as an early form of the Italian "sbaraglio" {sbaraiC), hereafter to be 
treated; likewise certain of the varieties cited in the British Museum codex 
(MSS reg. 13. A. XVIII), the text of which we have reproduced (pp. 161-165), 
such as imperial and sbarail (**baralie"). Very likely other coincidences 
between the manuscripts of Madrid, Florence (and Rome) and London might 
be discovered by a capable investigator. 

The last of these codices of Italian origin on which we shall bestow 
more than a cursory notice, is the paper **Civis Bononias" one of Florence 
(XIX. 7. 37) *se. The folios of this manuscript have been neatly numbered 
by means of printing-type (stamped by hand), and the positions, as usual, 
are in colours. The anonymous editor has an introduction, which Von der 
Lasa ("Geschichte und literatur," pp. 154-155) has reproduced in the original 
Latin. It seems to be his opinion that this editor prepared the exemplar for 
the use of teachers, or perhaps for those whom we now style *' professional 
players.*' The chess positions, as in general, come first, and are directly 
followed by those at tables (72 in number), occupying ff. 157a to 192b, when 
they are succeeded by the 44 at morris (merelles) ; there are then added se- 
veral supplementary chess problems; the inserted ten MS folios by Von der 
Lasa finally complete the volume. The diagrams are drawn at the bottom, 
or on the lower half of each page, the upper portion containing the descrip- 
tion or solution of the position. The three colours used ape yellow for the 
board, and red and black for the men. In the backgammon partita the men are 
sometimes represented by small discs (red and black), sometimes by num- 
bers (red and black), defining the number of pieces occupying the points on 
which the numbers are marked. The points to which the pieces are to be 

^ In this codex, XIX 7. 87, are to be fonud do taoh beauilfal chirograpby, do each 
brilliant illnminationi aa are to be teen Id tbe earlier ones of which we have been writing, 
but it !• a piece of work of no little elegancci and, ai has been stated In the text, of exoel- 
lent editorehip. It will always, In the shape In which we now see It, be of high interest to 
the stadent of chess literature because of the ** Complemeuto al codlce classe XIX. 7. 87 
della R. Biblioleea Nasionale Gentrale di Firenso,** as he styles it, thoughtfully appended to 
it by Yon der Lasa, after one of his visits of research to Italy. It opens with a prefatory 
note written in exoellent Italian by himself, as follows: ** II eodiee chart. XIX. 7. 87 t 
alquanto incompleto. Dope la carta 46 Terso trovasi maneante on intlero quinterno, e la 
nnmerHslone riprcndo colla carta 55 recto. Maneano anche due psgino lutorno la 108^ earta. 
La Biblloteca Nasionale Centrale Vittorio Emannele ^i Roma possitde un codlee membr. 
n* S73 eompleto e quasi eguale al flortntluo. Questo manoscritto S7S eontlene 286 poslstoai 
del giuoco dl scacchi ed altre figure *' tabularnm et merellorum." Le poslsionl sono le 
stesM come quelle sulle carte 8-151 terxo del codlce di Firenxe, e possono supplirue i nu- 
uieri mancauti. Per altro 1 partlti florentini dalla carta 15£» alia 167& rerso, slccome 232 
rrcto-259 recto, uon eslstono ncl manoscritto della Biblloteca Naaionalo dl Roma, nh pure 
in un codico membr. della roia biblloteca propria, csclnsivamento dentlnata al giuoco degli 
scaeclil. 11 cod ice XIX. 7. 37, dunqae, comprende pid degli altri.** This is followed by 18 
cliess-positlons, with explanatory texts, on 9 folios — the diagrams In blue and the Indications 
of the pieoes iu red and black. The wholo is a notable piece of work, carried out with all 
tbe writer *8 known lucidity and cxaetncfs. At bottom of the reverse of the final folio it his 
attestation and signature as well as the date : '* Pro vera copla : Wiesbaden 18 Maggio 1891. 
Heydebraud nd Lasa." 1 he abbreviation after " Heydebrand '* may be either ud (and der), 
or vd (von der), both of which, as the reader is aware would be proper and both of which 
he used. It need not bo said that this " complemento '* will greatly lighten the laboar of 
future Investigators. 



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STRA Y N0TB8 809 



moved are often indicated, on the diagrams and in the descriptions, by let- 
ters as a, 6, c, (black and red), generally of a Gothic (black-letter) form. 

We shall now again quote the opening lines of several of these solutions, 
to show their similiarity to those previously cited, and shall then call atten- 
tion to some of the technical words and phrases employed. The first problem 
(157a) begins with a brief introduction to the backgammon collection: 'Msta 
sunt partita tabularum,*' and so on. In some, if not all of the descriptions, 
the player of the white ((m cum albis) is addressed. The text to the eighth 
position (160b) commences: 'Mste ludus est optatiuus in tribus taxillis et 
quicquid facient albe facient et nigre, et albe stant quinque in domo sua, 
nigre in sua tres et vincunt albe. Primo de albis fac buf de quatorn de 
tabula eztrinseca...; ** then (163b) "Istud partitum est in sbaraille cum duo^ 
bus taxillis et sex semper pro tertio, et primo trahunt albe et sunt omnes 
affldate et nigre non sunt affidate;'* (164a) ''Hie ludus est de ntenaret in 
duobus taxillis;'' (170a) ^'Istud partitum est de sbaraiU^^ (the word texta 
having been erased and sharaill inserted in its place by a later hand); (I74a) 
''Istud partitum est de menorel in uno taxillo tantum et uocatur le nierliti]*' 
(176a) ''Istud partitum est de testa in tribus taxillis;'' (178b) " Istud parti- 
tum est de testa et luditur in tribus taxillis et est domus albarum vbi stant 
12 albe et domus nigre ubi stat sola alba et habent albe tractum et perdit 
nigra (t) ad fallum." (Now begins the play proper) *'Tu cum albis lude et 
denuda tot quot potes... ; " (180a) '' In isto ludo trahunt nigre primo et est 
de testa cum tribus taxillis et veniet ilia extrinseca ut eleuentur;" (180b) 
"Istud partitum est de testa et luditur cum tribus taxillis et habent nigre 
uioem et stant ad eleuandum et alba habet circuire tabulerium et eleuare 
sicut moris est. Vnde si non percutiet aliquam de nigris perdis sed nigre 
sunt priores quia ut plurimum accedit duo autas...;" (181b) ^Mstud partitum 
est de la buf in duobus taxillis et est domus in punctis et introitus vbi sunt 
albe;" (182b) '^Istud partitum est de la buf in duobus taxillis. Ponetes tres 
pro uno et pone unum pro tribus;" (183b) *' Istud partitum est de sbarail in 
duobus taxillis;" (184b) *' Istud partitum est de sbaraillin in duobus taxillis 
et 6 semper pro 3^ et habent nigre tractum;" (184b) '' Omnius utriusque sunt 
affldate et est partitum de sbarail in tribus taxillis; " (185b) *' Istud partitum 
est de sbaril in tribus taxillis;" (188a) *' Istud partitum est delimperial in 
duobus taxillis et sex pro tertio;" (189b) ^' Istud partitum est de beihelas in 
tribus taxillis;" (190a) '' Istud partitum est ludo qui dicitur baldrac, qui est 
ludus subtilis et non multum vsitatus" (the third letter in baldrac having 
been inserted by way of correction; (190b) "Istud partitum est de limperial;"" 
(192b) "Istud partitum est optatiuum et in tribus taxillis et luditur ad modum 
mtnoreti et nigre habent tractum." 

Much of this is repetition but it serves to show how similar are the two 
" Civis Bononisa " manuscripts, the Roman and the Florentine. The follow- 
ing names given to varieties will be observed: sbarail (sbaraill, sbaril), 
coincident with the '•^baralie*' of the British Museum manuscript and the 
later Italian "*6ara^/io; " 56araiWm (probably the Italian ^'sbaraglino"'); 
testa {teccta) merlin {le merlin); imperial {jLimperial) — reminding us of "empe- 
rador " and " imperial " in foreign codices; beihelas; baldrac (occurring among 
the Alfonsine names); minot^etus {mifioretum ?), the minoretto " of a sub- 
sequent period in north Italy); buf (la buf, to which we have frequently 
alluded). It is also to be noted that several of those names are preceded 

27 



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210 CHESS IN IGSLA ND 



by a modern Romance article, as la buf, limperial, le merlin, perhaps show- 
ing them to have originated in the vulgar speech. As to technical words 
in general we have gathered, in our hasty study, a good many which we 
give, wherever possible and necessary, with interpretations. We draw from 
all the Latin manuscripts here examined : affidatus, affldati; alios (the white); 
amb as, ambas, amesas (double aces) ; as (ace) ; avantagium (advantage, better 
position); baldrac (a variety at backgammon) ; bethelas (a variety at backgam- 
mon) ; buf, la buf (a variety of backgammon), used also as a technical term 
in such phrases as buf de as, buf de du, buf de cine, buf de terne, buf de 
quateme, buf de sin (sine), as facer e buf de as; cine, cinque, cinques (five 
or fives); deus, du, duos (deuce, deuces); domus (home-board), as in domo (in 
the home board); elevare, ad elevandum; adfallum, hs in perdere ad fallum; 
imperial (a variety of backgammon) ; introiius ; merlin, le merlin (a variety 
of backgammon); mc^oret, used technically as a contrast to minoret, as fa- 
cere minoret, facere mc^'orct; minoret, menoret (a variety of backgammon,, 
but used technically in facere minoret ; nigroe (the black) ; optativus; ad plenum; 
quater, quatre^ quatema, quaiemes (four, fours); quines, quinques (see cine); 
sbarail, sbaraill, sbaraiUd (a variety of backgammon); sbaraillin (a variety 
of backgammon played with two dice); sines^ sanas; si, sex (six, see also 
tertium); tabula (man, piece) ; tabtU&tnum (board) ; taxillus (die) ; tertiuni in 
the phrases sex pro tertio, sex semper pro tertio, meaning that six or sixes 
are to be counted for a third (imaginary) die, when only two dice are 
actually used, as in (cum) duobus taxillis etsex pro tertio; texta, testa, (a 
special form of backgammon) ; tres, terz, terne, ternes (three, threes). Some 
of these words are cited from imperfect copies of extracts from the manu- 
scripts and are doubtless more or less inexact. 

In addition to the codices to be found in Italy Arom which we have 
already quoted, we ought to mention here the paper manuscript preserved 
in the great Florentine library, where it bears the press-mark XIX. 7. 51. 
It is a compilation in Italian, and can hardly be said to belong either to 
the " Bonus Socius " or the ** Civis Bononise " family. The most interesting 
description of its chess portion is that given by Von der Lasa (*' Geschichte 
und literatur," pp. 163-165), who ascribes it to the beginning of the XVIth 
century, " oder mag ein wenig &lter sein.'* He likewise, from the occurrence 
of certain vocables, believes it to be of Tuscan origin. This codex is imperfect. 
It has chess diagrams on ff. 1 a — 149ab, with Italian descriptions below 
most of them, but the diagrams on ff. 25b-27b, 30a-50b are blank, and the 
problems ff. 146a, 147b, 148a-149b lack the descriptive solutions; f. 149 is 
followed by many unnumbered folios with blank chess diagrams. There- 
after come a numbered folio, 186a, with a 7>knights puzzle limited to the 9 
squares in a corner of the chessboard, and 186b with a 16-pawns problem; 
next we have 24 merelles positions with descriptions.; and finally 10 (or lit) 
problems at tables, only one accompanied by a descriptive solution, which 
is to be regretted because of the Italian technical terms thus missing. Von 
der Lasa specially mentions an example of the chess puzzle known as the 
"Knight*s tour'* on f. 28b as ''das &lteste beispiel eines vollkommenen r5s- 
selsprunges.*' The single problem in the section devoted to tables, which 
has an explanatory solution attached, has over the diagram a title which 
seems to read: ''L'abbaco de fuorj.'' Copied as accurately as may be, the 
description is as follows ; '' Li bianchi sono in casa per leuarsi, et cosl li 



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STRAY NOTES 211 



sej neri et hassi a rimetter quella che sta fuorj. Oiuocasi con tre dadj et 
hanno il tratto li neri, et ci6 che fanno li neri hanno a feir li bianchi '' (a 
very common phrase this last in the Latin codices) **et vincere li neri per 
leuarsi prima che H bianchi et fa cosK Con li neri chi hanno 11 tratto farai 
.6. et .2. rimettendo quelle che h fUora, et .2. leua quella che k in suldua, 
li bianchi faranno duino et cinque et non potranno leuare nulla. Le neri di 
poi facciano terno et cinque levandoni 3. Li bianchi faranno il medesimo, 
et leueranno dna, et riferanno una, tu poi fa con le neri cinquino et sqj, et 
leuansi tutti/' This is probably the oldest bit of Italian, having to do with 
backgammon, to be found in Italy, but may be exceeded in age by the Italian 
passage now to be noticed. ^ 

*"* Very little ba» hitherto b««n knowa of Paolo Ouarino (as the nania lUada In the Tor- 
naenlar, a Tarlant belug **Gu«rinl**), althoufh be haa lonff bven reeognited by tba hiatoriana 
of cheiB letters a^ the editor of ao important and well-made eullectlon of aeTenty-slz poaitioB« 
•elected In 1511 from the Florentine manuteripta (seo Von der Ijaaa*a "2ar tM^lkl«^^''»" 
p. 166, and more partlcalarly Van der Liude*t '^Getehlcbte,** II., pp. W5*7). Tbauka, 
for the moat part, to the reaearehea of the learned lullan palsographer, Dr. Giuaeppe Maa- 
satlntl, profeaaor In the royal lyceum at Forll and librarian of the rbrllToae eomnnnal library, 
we are now, howoTer, more or Icaa familiar with aome of the prominent Incldenta of Qua- 
rino*a life. He waa a man of more than uanal mark in hla day and lu the ancient provincial 
rity in which he waa born and reaided, thoufh deaeended from Bologncae aneeatora. Beaidea 
being a eultlrator of general llteratare, he waa an arehlteet by prof«aaion, and, m aneh, In 
a period of atreaa (1508), waa one of the eommlaalon which anperintended the t4ak of atrength* 
enlng and otherwise improTlug the castle, or rocea, of Forli, which waa, at the aaue time, 
the chief feature in the worka defending the city, and the abode of ita princea. He afler- 
warda (1517) furniahed a plan for the erection of a notable chureh (S. Uickele de' Battoti 
Koaai) in hla native city. Gaarino alao underatood and praetiaed the art of printing — not 
an ordinary aecompliahmeut In that remote trana-apennlno region In the rloalng yeara of 
the XVth century. To him la owing the laane of the flrat book printed at Forll, a work of 
unique typographical Intereat, the aingalar aiory of which can be told here only In the barest 
onUine. It aeema that Nicola Ferettl (NIoholaa Ferrettua), a pupil of thoae ihreo great human- 
Isu, Valla, Fllelfo and Laaearla — hiroaelf , later, the head of a widely-renowned aehool of 
grammar at Venice — reaided for a while at Forll, and there eomposcti a treatise, "De ele- 
gantia lluf^aae latinae,'* aubaequently publlahed both at Paria (without date) and at Venice 
(1507). But ita eariieat edition aaw the light at Forll, being, aa we have hinted, the flrat 
production of the then comparatively new art in that town. It la a thin quarto, printed on 
rather heavy paper, eonalating of SO unnumbered folloa, the expressed signatnrea extending 
from a ti to a Mi, having a page cvmpoaed of 40 to it linea (usually not exceeding the former 
number), and eloaiug with a printer*a mark occupying nearly all the available apaee of the 
final page. Thla last, like ao many of the kind In that and the following age In Italy, waa 
made up of a double erosa aurmounting a elreular deaign, wltn the inltlala P [= Paolo 
(iuarino] above the cirelea on the left aide, and I I B [s Joaunea Jaoobua do ncnediciia] in 
the aamo poaitlon at the right. Below, In the cornera, arc the Initials C O [CaB«ar Ociavia* 
nua?]. In Uie colophon, on the obverse of the final folio, the book is said to be issued 
'* Opera & impSaa Panll guarini de gnarinis ForollulSais " [that is, in the vulgar, Paolo 
Ouarino de*Oaarin{ of Forll — the form of the name indicating the nobility of the bearer] 
**& lo&nia laeobi de Benedletia Bononienaia Impreaaoria : et aocli : boo opua eat Imprea* 
auw Forli uil : emendatum uero perHpaum auctorem : ut apparet In eiuadem epistula: in fine 
aecundl llbrl: Anno ildel ohriatlane, M . COCC . L xxxx V . xvl klSdaa Mall.** From all thla 
we deduce that Paolo Goarini waa the publlaher, at whoae expcnae tbo work waa done by 
the printer (iaipraaaor) from Bologna, Giovanni Jacopo de Bencdlctis (or du* Beuudettl), with 
other aaaoelatea («l aoei<=**attd company**); that the prosa waa at Forli (f^orllvit); that 
Feretii'a manoacript had been corrected by. hia own baud, " aa appeara f^om hla letter at 
the end of the aecond book " (the treaUae being In thr«e booka); and that tbe printing waa 
completed Hay 16, 1405. So far there la nothing extraordinary in the matter. Ouarino hud 
evidently Induced a Bolognese printer to come and eatablish hlmaelf at Forli, had united 
^Ith othera In an attempt to mako the novel undertaking aucceaaful, and had aaaumed the 
general direction of the a0Ur. For lU flrat work the new prlutlng-olBce had received from 
aome aource (apparently from the author himaelO the manuaeript of Ferettl, and had entered 



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212 CHESS IN ICBLA ND 



We return to our consideration of the "Civis Bononise'' collection; and 
this is, therefore, the place to mention another fragment of an Italian Yersion 
of this second great compilation (or, as Van der Linde will have it, of tlie 
" second edition " of the ** Bonus Socius " work). In the British Museum 
there is a quarto manuscript volume containing three very different treatises, 
the second one being a transcript of the Latin '' Civis Bononiae '* (AdditioDal 
MSS 9351, lettered on the back: "Tractatus varii de ludis etc."). There is 
little that is attractive about the transcript. Its chirograpby is poor and 
its paper of a very ordinary sort. The diagrammed positions of the three 

in good earDett npon the Usk of making iu czlRUnoe felL Now eomea tlM remarkable part 
of tbe Ule. A very few dajt after the appearanee of the Inne of the "De elegnntla" bear- 
iof the name of Guarlao lu Ito Imprint, another edition of the tame trcatlee cones oatflron 
another preas In the vtrj tame town, bat differlnff freatly from the precedfar on% is io 
typography. It waa likewise In quarto, in tbe Latin type, embracing t9 onBambered foUot, 
tbe printed tlgnatarei mnnfug from a << to e iij each page having IU 40 to 49 Hnea (ordlaar 
lily limited to the former number); bat it waa printed in type of a notably different face, 
and bad at the end no veritable printer's mark. Unlike the Isaae of Onarfno It la aderoed 
with two very striking cuts, taken f^m Tenetlan worka of a little earlier date, one en its 
Hr^t, the other on I to last page. The first represents a proffssaor seated. In the niddls 
backgroand, on hia cathedra, a large book resting on a table In fk-ont of hfm, engaged ia 
instrootlng a body of stodeato in hoods and robes, which is divided into two groups, aeale' 
on benches on either hand, before each gronp being a low deak, on whieh booka rest, whlla 
two boys, holding books, are placed on stools In tbe foregronnd, with a dog (eat?) seatsd 
between them ; the other eat, on the reverse of the final folio — possibly It may be Intended 
to serve as a printer's mark— precedes the eolophon and deplets, in the central baekgrooad, 
a hill, surmounted by a temple or other structure, at the left of the anmmlt a gronp of thrse 
standing female flgares, one erowned, on tbe right a greop of three cattle, while in the mid- 
die foreground Is Uking place a combat between a maa and a cenUnr. Furthermore, this 
edition Is dissimilar to the elder one in having many Florentine chapter>iniUaU Instead of 
the small spaces left for the inserMon of hand-made (iUnmlnated) Initiala as in ito predeces- 
sor, In Its namcrous printed marginal references, and In ito ftvqaent employment of ths 
paragraph-sign (Q). The newer edition haa one considerable onlaslon. Thla fa in the se- 
cond epistle to Octavlan, ruler of ForJl, plaoed at the end of the second book, nearly twe 
pages of matter falling out (between the words Ci naldc ptecefrtl and P«Ux Hm opt» PrUetp*) 
— an exclusion which seems to indicate that the author had llUle (or at any rate less) to do 
with the issue coming trom tbe more reeent and rival esubliahment. Tbe eolophon of tbis 
edition reads thus : *< C, ^^ C'pvs eat impressnm Forlivll per me Bleronymnm Medesanam 
Parmensem : noulter^ p Ipsum Anctorem eorreptnm aditam h emendatum Anno domlai 
. M . ocoCLZxzxT. die iiero .xxv. Mai Regnanie Illnstrlssfmo Priolpi nostro domino Oetaoiaao 
de RIarlo: ae Inrllio dt mluo Tacobo Pheo gohematorl dignftisatmo.** — the governor Gia 
eomo Feo here eltrd, it may be well enough to say, was slain this very same year (Idt^f 
on account of a false simplclon of treason. It will thus be seen that the printer ef this 
edition Ih from Parma, lits name. In Ito vernacular form, being, perhaps, GIroIamo MedC' 
sano; and that the date, " . xxr . Val,'* Is here substituted for '* xYi k1«das Mai,'* of the 
other Issues, the month and year being the aame In both editions. Tbe explanation of this 
singnlar typographical puiale mast be left to tbe ftarther revearohes 5f Italian bibliogra* 
phers. The sole library, so far as we know, in whIeh both of these rare impreeaioos are 
to be found Is that of tbe BritiKb Museum. The only other printed work with whIeh the 
name of Paolo Ouarlno It In any way associated, Is an Importont document (** diploma**) 
executed by him In an imprcMion of 300 coplea for the dissolnto Cesar Borgia, whose out 
redeeming quality, as In the case of his even more infamous alster, was a willing patro- 
nage of letters and lettered men. This bore, aa there is reason to believe, tbe name or 
other sign-manual of Guarino, and was dated at Forll, December 81, 1600, Indieating the 
continued existence, five years later than tbe appearance of FeretU*s tractate, of Goarino's 
ForliTose press, whether meanwhile active or not. No copy is now known, bat an aeoooat 
of it is given by the chronicler Bernardi (I. f. 85S a). In tbe prevlooa year another 
striking cTent in the life of Goarino oceorred. Tbe real ruling power in Forll, at thet 
date, was the celebrated Caterina Sforxa -> whose eareer is the theme of one of the ablaft 
of reeent Italian biographies — a natural daughter of Oalear.co, duke of Milan; she had 



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STRAY NOTES 213 



^ames are in black and faded red, occupying the lower halves of the pages, 
having the explanatory solutions above them. Each page contains two prob- 
lems side by side, and, of course, two paragraphs of descriptive text. Folios 
8-10, 17-35 (according to the numeration, which is very recent, ff. 11-16 are 
lacking, but thdre is nothing to show that the numeration itself is not er- 
roneous) are occupied by the tables positions; ff. 36-48 by those at merelles, 
and ff. 49-69 by those at chess. At the beginning of this last section, in a 
comparatively modern hand, is written a date which Von der Lasa gives as 
1466, but which, whatever it may be, seems to be of little value. The binding 

MpooMd GlrolaiDo Riario, lord of Korli and Imola — nominally a nephtw bat really a ton 
of tba ararielova and wealthy pope, flixtua IV— and waa married later In life to OtoTanoi 
de* Medlol. By Girolano Btae had six children, the eldeat of whom, OeUTfan, had, In name 
at leant, saeeeeded to hit father*a principality. The teeond, Cotare, throngh the peraaaalve 
ellbrto of hie mother, was dealgnated In Jannary 1490 by that wlekcdeat of all the popet, 
Alexander YI, to the eloTated office of archbishop of Pita, and Paolo Ouarino waa telected 
to accompany the new prelate to hit tee In the high oapacity of teueichal. Cetare waa only 
nineteen yeara of age and could therefore hardly be regard* d at a venerable eedeelaatieal 
dignitary, bat Caterlna, In her letter to the head of the chareh, had commended him at 
** pieno dl ogni rlrtik e modettla.** He ultimately received the title of bishop of Malaga 
(IS 18) and eloied a peaceable life tome yeart later at Padova. Ouarino toon returned to 
his home. In 1609 he waa aent by the magistracy of Forii on a mission to the cardinal 
leitate, or papal gorernor of Romagna — the holder of an office which, some months laUr, 
waa conferred on cardinal de* Medlol, afterwards the brilliant pope Leo X — *' d* onde tornard 
eon patenti favoreuoll." ' In 1618 -- the very year In which Guarlno was at work at hit 
'' Liber de partitia scacoornm ** — the horrors of real war were raging in hit native region, 
in which French and Spanlah, papal and other Italian troops were taking part. The French, 
who had followed to luly that renowned general, Gaaton de Folx, duke of Keroonrs, had, 
by their threatened movements, led to the flight of a large portion of the wealthier Inhabi- 
tants of Forll. But a few of the patriotic leaders of the people remained. A French com- 
misloner suddenly viaited the city and demanded an immediate supply of stores, for the use 
of the not very distant French camp, from the already impoverished citlcens. The few no* 
table ilenlsens atlll within the walls, among them •' Ser Paolo Guerrlnl," aa he ia styled by 
the narrator of the event, assembled for deliberation, but were xoon satisfied that the sup- 
plies asked for most be forthcoming in order to avoid the destruction of their homes. Qua- 
rino was appointed a commissioner to arrange, with the aid of another memtier of the 
small company, the difflcolt affair, which he did with ao much energy and tact that the 
town was finally saved from the menaced danger. Thia good cltlsen was blessed, we are 
told with an amiable and Intelligent wife, Maddalena, daughter of Antonio Ostoli, who bore 
him two sons and three daughters. He was an Intimate friend of the chronicler, Andrea 
BernardI, (called "Novacola** after the manner of his day), whose *' Cronaehe forlivesl ** 
flnaliy became aceeesible to the reading world, edited by G. Mauatinti, In the edltloo of 
Bologna 1896-6 (In three, or, titularly, two volumes). Not a few mentions of hia friend occur 
In Its pagea. Bernardi left a number of volumes by will to Ouarino, who, as we shall see, 
was a great colleetor of whatever bore upon the history of Forll. Ouarino muat have been 
likewise known to I^andro Albert!, author of the *< Der erittione dl tutU Italia," the firat 
edition of which la of Bologna 1&60, but which remained, for more than a century, the chief 
authority on Italian topography. In that earliest impression Albert! gives us the date of 
Guarino's demise, with a pleasant charactarisatlon of his character and pursuits (f. S8(f, obv.): 
** Paas6 nelP anno 1690 4 mcgllor ulta Panolo Gulrlno p snol autenati Bologneae, huomo dl 
dolciaeimo Ingegno h uiolto nrbano k eiuile. Kt benebo non hauesse gran eonoacenea dl 
lettare latlne, nondlmeno riport6 assal lodo de i nerai uoliarl, do 11 quail molto se delattaua 
e6 Maddalena sua amatlsslmo cSsorto. Molto a* alfatic6 in raccogliere le cose memorablll dl 
Fori! c6e dalll librl da lui tcritti, conoscere al pu6. ** Of bit Italian poetry (If any) and of the 
hietorical works of Guarino, here recorded, we have no nearer knowledge. Some of them 
may still exitt, hidden away in one or more of the old libraries or archlvea of Romagna. 
Another hiatorleal work, the '< Svpplemento Ittorleo dell' antiea cltt4 dl Fori! ** of Slgl- 
tmondo Maroheal (Fori! 1978), alto containa allntlont to Ouarino, of which we have already 
availed onraelvet. The volume givet a repretentation of the Gnarino armt (p. 98f), which 
are desoHbed aa "eampo d*oro, aqulla nera, [8] fheele nere. " 



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214 CHESS IN ICELAND 



of the treatise on games has pretty certainly left its three divisions wrongly 
placed. This is shown not only by the position of the above-mentioned date, 
but also by the circumstance that the six Latin ** Civis Bononise '* verses, 
containing the enigmatical lines referring to the author's name, are on f. 
49a, the first chess page. Evidently the order should be: chess, backgammon, 
morelles. The tables or backgammon subdivision starts with '' [IJsta sunt 
partita tabularum/' and includes 44 positions. Turning over the leaves 
we observe the names of the varieties of the game with no marked diver- 
gencies from those to be found in the Florence and Roman exemplars. The 
descriptions begin as usual: ^Mste Indus est de testa'' (in one place *^de la 
texta''); ^Mstud partitum est de sbarelte"' (elsewhere written sharaUe and 
sharaUl)\ ** Istud partitum est de minoret;"' "Istud partitum est de buff'" 
(elsewhere '' de la huff" ); and thereafter occur likewise beihelas and limperial. 
On f. 31b the opening of the text is: "Istud Indus est partitum qui dicitur 
baldrac,'' and on f. 23a : '' Iste Indus est ualde deceptorius.,' The familiar 
phrases recur: '' facient albe buff," "buff das" (deas), "buffdedu," "buff 
de teme," " buff de quaterne," "buff desinne," "optativus;" "sex semper 
pro tertio;" "perdere ad fallum," and so on. But the main feature of this 
manuscript to us is that the final ten descriptive solutions (ff. 33a-35b) are 
in Italian ; thoy are most likely added to this manuscript by later hands, and 
go far to prove that it is a copy (of an early " Civis Bononise" manuscript) 
made in Italy. The first of these texts commences: "Li rossi sono octo el 
nigri sono tre aminoreto [a minorretto] curto cum [sic] tre dac[j ; " another 
one opens thua: *' Questo e un partita da tauole che se fa aminoret da tre 
dadj ;" and we likewise have: "Questo fe giocho de sbaraino," The expression 
minoreto curto has, very likely, the signification of the German " das kurze 
puff," of which we shall read hereafter. Among the technical terms are "buff 
d'assi," "ambassi," duino,'* etc.^ The last two Italian descriptions are in a 
hand differing from any found elsewhere in the manuscript. Von der Lasa 
merely alludes to this paper codex (p. 152), and Van der Linde (" Quellenstu- 
dien," pp. 180-181) has a somewhat longer report of it, reproducing (pp. 181- 
182) seven of its chess positions. 

Just as the writing of this portion of the present work is in progress, 
another venerable literary monument devoted to the triad of mediaeval games 
has been passing through a London auction chamber— certainly one of the most 
beautiftil of these old codices on vellum. Aside flrom the worth of its contents 
it possesses a high value as a specimen of the art of the XlVth century, a 
fact shown by the great price given for it. It was sold, concurrently with 
the rest of the library formerly belonging to Sir Andrew Fountaine of Narford 
Hall, in the English county of Norfolk, by whom it was brought together 
during the reigns of queen Anne and king George II. Even the chess portion 
of this magnificent production has never been adequately described. Van 
der Lindens description (" Quellenstudien," p. 186) hardly covers fifteen lines, 
and is accompanied by references to two of the positions included in its 
pages; Von der Lasa's account ("Zur geschichte," pp. 141-2) is no longer, 
although he cites one problem, the common possession of this and two other 
early authorities (p. 149). Von der Lasa had especial opportunity for its 
study by means of Mr. John G. White's transcript. He considers its language 
to be a dialect similar to those prevalent in Normandy and Picardy in the 
Old-French period. The palaeographers speak of it, with some vagueness, as 



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STRAY NOTES 215 



Anglo-Norman work. Von der Lasa states that it belongs to the ^* Bonus 
Socius '* group, but is in error when he says that '^ Im Fountaine MS fehlt 
der Anfang.** He derived this impression Arom the fact that the beautiful 
large illuminated initial, with which its text begins, occupies an unusual 
position above the text, the letter proper being indeed at the upper right 
hand corner; it is a C, noticeable enough when regarded with care, but con- 
cealed by its unusual position and by the fashion of the marginal arabesques 
connected with and springing out of it, similar to those which adorn very 
many of the subsequent (chess) paginal margins. Van der Linde apparently 
understood this matter rightly, for he gives the opening lines of the manu- 
script, initial and all: ^^ Chil dor traient primiers & uellent matter (mate) 
les rouges a deus traits ne plus ne moins, preng les ruges a deffendre car 11 
ne le puent fair/' The chess descriptive text begins (after the first page) on 
the right margin of the page close beside the problem, and runs down below 
it on the lower portion of the page. The backgammon position is always at 
the top of the page and the whole of the descriptive solution below it— no 
part of the text being marginal. The exterior lines ^ or frames of all the 
diagrams are in gold, the men in red and gold. Sach description commences 
with a handsome two-coloured (blue and red, or gold and pale blue or lilac) 
illuminated initials —some of them quite large — while the ground tone both 
of the backgammon and morris boards is a deep blue. The chess portion 
extends from f. la to 144b, while f. 145a has an incomplete blank diagram 
and f. 146b a complete vacant one. These leaves are followed by the 22 
folios of the backgammon division, comprising 44 positions, the volume ending 
with 14 folios devoted to the morris game, the text of this latter beginning 
on the reverse of the first morris folio, the problems filling ff. 2a-14a, the 
final page being wholly blank; Jthus the morris positions number 25 in all. 
The text of the initial backgammon position is (except where errors 
occur in the present copy) as follows: ''Cis gius est de letiest [testa or textd] 
et souhaidans en iii des [dicej et dient celles dor, [= d'or, of goldj q elles 
leueront toutes de uant che qles rouges soient hors cest en atiauent chelles 
dor pmers et les rouges seront che meisme q celles dor et se les rouges 
le perdent aucti point quelles ne puissent toudis faire tout le giu al dor le 
uollent perdre tu auoec celles dor le fai .du. et as. et leaieme de un quaerne 
il fera un quaerne deus et as et tu deus et ambes .as. enferant les sienes 
atout le trait et il cecemeisme. hoste lune en fierant lune des sienes et fai 
deus et ambes . as . et il ce meisme tu feras le siene par deus et laut e fcras 
en fasant ambes as et en desleueras une et en uiant ensl tu Iporas ueoir 
coument tu les elleueras toutes deuant que nulles des rouges pinstissir et 
leuenteras.'* As the reader will see, the copy of the text here made is more 
or less defective; nor have we attempted to supply punctuation. ** Celles 
d'or*' and *'ies rouges" indicate the men of the two different colours— 
"gold" and *'red" being equivalent to the. "black" and "white" of our 
less resplendent days. The text of the second position commences: "Ciste 
[elsewhere written ceste] parti ure est de la tieste asouha idler et celles dor 
et les rouges sunt e leur masons cest leur sunt esleuees et ont primiers 
celles dor .ii. trais en souhaidans;" this same paragraph of the text con- 
cludes : " fera buffe de as ensi quil viut et tu enco buffe de as et il ausi . . . et 
elleueras buffe de sinnes et le uenkeras." The description of the course 
of play in the fourth position opens with; "Cis gius est sanlaules" [this 



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216 CHR88 IN ICELAND 



word occurs elsewhere, is it the name of a variety 1J, that of the flflh prob- 
lem thus: ^'Celles dor sunt en leur maison et traient primiers et ne feront 
onkes fors buffe de as en .iii. dee et 11 ronge ne fera onXes fors baffe de 
quaernes;" of the eleventh: "Ciste partiure est de bariil en ii des et vi pour 
le tieir;'* of the twelfth: ^^Cis gius est de minoret en ij des soahaidaiu,'' 
and later on i% found the translation of the Latin perdere ad falsum^ ''et li 
taule dor ne le piert une ale faUe tii prenderas ies rouges/" and still further 
in the same description we read: '^tu endescouueras .iij. per ambes as et 
le tierc et feras...;'* of the thirty- fourth: ''Chi commencent Ies partures 
agieter Ies des et gieton trois des en ceste parture et uollent celles dor pas- 
ser et alle toutentour le taulier et reuenir en .a.;" of the forty-third: '*Ce- 
ste parture est sanlaule (?) a deus deuant le dairaine et est dele tiest." As 
to the signification of the verb souJiaider (or souTieidier) occurring here, 
Littr^ hardly defines it very clearly in its backgammon sense. He cites the 
following early illustration: "On en puet juer [du Jeu des tables] en deax 
mani^res, c'est a savoir por souhaidier de la langue, et par gieter Ies des." 
It is to be noted that the Fountaino Manuscript gives us few names of back- 
gammon varieties, the principal, if not only ones being bariU (that is ^'sba- 
raill, *' "baraiie'* or " sbaraglio *'), and menoret. Among the technical terms 
are the usual buffe des as, buffe de deus^ buffe de Hemes, buffe de qtuUemes' 
buffe de sines {sinnes); mosons {maisons); ambes as; taule; taulier; pei'due 
afalle; cine; quines; elleuer; buffer (verb) and others. 

Here we finish our lamentably insufiicient notes on the backgammon 
portions of some of these remarkable manuscripts, which, with the other 
analogous ones, not noticed in these pages, form the most splendid literary 
productions having to do with the history and practice of social games. It 
is to be hoped that they may all speedily pass through the hands of some 
investigator having the intelligence and the leisure to thoroughly examine 
what we have treated so hastily, so scantily and so superficially, and who 
wiU be in a position to compare with care each one with every other. Vt'e 
have glanced merely at a few of them, not even including all which are 
preserved in the libraries of Italy and England, and leaving those contained in 
the book-collections of Franco, Spain and Germany virtually unnoticed. It 
must likewise be remembered that we have given little attention to the parts 
of these codices devoted to the morris game; that wide field is still unexplored. 
Even the philological results of systematic researches among these singular 
memorials of an earlier age would amply repay the student for his labor; 
and a not unimportant chapter might thereby be added also to the story of 
mediesval art. 

Between the latest of these vellum codices, preserved in the great central 
libraries of the peninsula, and the earliest printed Italian work relating 
exclusively or principally to backgammon, we have a period of at least three 
centuries. The early issue of the peninsular press referred to is a little 
book, which, although it went through four editions— perhaps more ^ has 
now become so rare, in the country which produced it, that scarcely one 
of the book-collections of Italy possesses a copy. The little work comes 
from the land's northern provinces, and was written, if we are to judge 
by the date attached to its preface, in or before the year 1604. It is en- 
titled : " 11 nobile et dilettevol givoco del sbaraglino. Date in luce da M. 
Mauritio Bartinelli Cittadino da Nouarra, Con alcune nuove regole. Q In 



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STRA Y NOTES 217 



Venetia/M. DC. LXIX. Presso Gio. Pietro Bigonci. — Con licenza de' Su- 
periori, e Priuilegio. Si vende k San Lio." Because of the oxcessive rarity 
of the volume, and because there is no adequate description of it in any of 
the bibliographies, we have transcribed its title-page in full. The edition 
before us is perhaps the latest one. The vignette after the line Can alcvne 
nvove regole, which is all in capitals, is one of those hard, conventionalized 
vases of flowers, containing an equally conventionalized rose-bush bearing 
five blossoms of varying sizes, such as are common enough in Venetian XVIIth 
century typography. The signatures of tho duodecimo volume are two com- 
plete ones (A, B), and the numbered pages 41, followed by six unnumbered 
ones. The reverse of the title-folio is blank, and on the next (third) page 
begins the '* proemio,** which is a preliminary and somewhat ornate bit of 
philosophization on games in general and backgammon in particular, in the 
course of which, in accordance with the habit of the age, several of the Latin 
poets are cited, one of them being the " poeta Veronese ** (Catullus), to 
say nothing of Galen and Aristotle. The author* s comparison between the 
game he is writing about and other social sports is diverting : we reproduce 
it in full, forming, as it does, the larger part of the ** proemio " (pp. 4-6) : 
'' Uk si come ^ differenza irk huomini nobili, e ignobili, cosl anco deue 
esscr distintione de' giuochi k loro quasi appropriati, e piu a quelli, che k 
questi congruenti, & anco vn giuoco per sua natura deue maggiore, e minor 
lode meritare. Qaleno prencipe dc* Medici lod6 assai il giuoco della palla, 
riguardando al beneficio corporale, che da esse ne segue, A veramente il 
giuoco di palla ^ da csser lodato, bench^ adesso per la gran poltroneria 
nata per V otlo ne gli huomini sij questo giuoco non molto in vso, perch^ ^ 
laborioso, ma perch^ non conuiene in ogni tempo, come subito dopo il 
cibo, n^ k donne, n^ k vecchi, che pur lor anco hanno bisogno di trastullo 
honorato, e perch^ 6 commune k ftinciulli, e serui, bisogna vedere, se vi 6 
altro giuoco piu lodeuole. Place k molti il giuoco de gli Scacchi, ma contro 
ogni ragione, essendo qnello troppo occupatiuo della mente, e ricercando 
grandissimo studio, & attentione, talche non merita dl essere annouerato 
tr^ giuochi, ma piu presto frk V alte occnpationi <& imbrogli di ceruello. II 
giuoco delle carte b strapacciato insino da famigli di stalle, e da ciabatini. 
Quello de* dadi similmente ; ed* ^ di sola fortuna, n^ ha virtu seco mista, 
laonde non conuiene, n6 k nobili, nc k Religiosi, i quali in ogni loro attione 
deuono hauere la virtu compagna. Gli altri giuochi sono piu presto 6 pue- 
rili, 6 donneschi, che altramente ; siche vengo a concludere, che solo il 
giuoco detto Sbaraglino sij perfetto giuoco, e conueniente ad ogni nobile 
intelletto, primieramente perch^ non b giuoco troppo occupatiuo, ma allegro, 
vario, e pieno di trastullo ; dipoi perchd non fe di mera fortuna, mk misto 
d' ingegno, e d'arte, e la fortuna v'fe solamente come materia del giuoco, 
r arte, & il discorso come forma, e perchfe ben disse Aristotile Filosofo, che, 
d forma demoniari vnnniquodqne iustwtn est ; perci6 non si deue questo 
giuoco dimandar di fortuna, ma d' ingegno, e quindi si pu6 permettere anco 
a* Religiosi, perche i dadi, che in esRO si trouano, e che sono prohibiti 
da' Sacri Canoni non sono puri dadi, ma solamente come dicono i Logici, 
materialiter^ e perch^ dalla materia non si giudica assolutamente tale, ma 
dalla forma piu presto come per auttoritA d* Aristotile, pur hora abbiamo 
di sopra accennato, percid non si deue dire, che quel giuoco sij giuoco de' dadi 
mk d' arte di condurre in campo aperto vna quantitit di tauole, e flnalmente 

28 



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218 CHESS IN ICELAND 



di cauarle innanzi, che V auuersario caui le sue. Non ^ anco questo giaoco 
punto laborioso, perch^ s' esercita sedendo, e non ^ giuoco, con che si possi 
facilmente ingannare il compagno, perch^ e apertissimo, b sbarrato, e perci6 
81 chiama Sbaraglino da quattro campi sbarrati, ch' in esse sono. Si che 
da tutti questi capi da noi commemorati si pu6 raccorre la dignity, T hone- 
st^, e nobilU di questo giuoco, dalla quale io sono state sospinto k fare gli 
seguenti trattati, e dalla beneuolenza de galanV huomini sarii cortesemente 
riceuuto il tutto/' It will be seen that the condemned games are ball, chess, 
cards and dice — by the last being meant the casting of dice (" mains "), 
an affair of pure chance, unmixed with any element of skill. Notable is 
the statement that *'*• chess pleases many, but without any reason; since it 
keeps the mind too much occupied, and demands the greatest study and 
attention, so that it is really not to be reckoned among games but among 
elevated exercises and bewilderments of the brain/* 

It is worth while, here, to observe in what ways the writer's favorite 
game excels all others. After telling us that cards are played by only the 
lower conditions of men (''by households inhabiting stables and by cob- 
blers'"), while the game of dice is not fitting either for the noble or the 
clerical classes, the author asserts that "Other games" than those he has 
mentioned ''are mostly either puerile or effeminate; therefore I conclude 
that only the game called Sbaraglino is a perfect diversion, adapted to every 
lofty intellect, firstly because it is not a sport which strains the mental 
powers, but is cheerful, varied, diverting; nor is it a mere game of chance, 
but is blended with ingenuity and skill, its turns of fortune to be regarded 
solely as incentives to play.'' Then he introduces a bit of ratiocination 
from Aristotle, aided by which he endeavors to ai;gue that as *'this game 
does not depend so much on chance as cleverness, it may, therefore, be per- 
mitted to clerics, because the dice, which are a part of it, are not purely 
and really dice, such as are prohibited by the sacred canons, but only dice, 
as the logicians say, materialiter, and one does not judge, as Aristotle 
authoritatively declares, by the mere material form, but by the actual na- 
ture. Thus we ought not to say that this is a dice game, but a diversion 
consisting in the art of conducting into an open field a quantity of men 
{tauole)^ and finally of pushing them forward {cauarle innatiJti) as the advers- 
ary pushes his. Nor is this game at all laborious, since it is played sitting; 
and it is not one at which a player easily deceives his opponent, since every- 
thing is open and above board {apertissimo) and in no wise barred, sealed 
or concealed {sbarrato); hence it is styled sbaraglino from the four unbarred 
or tree fields, into which the board is divided. From the arguments which 
we have thus put forward may be deduced the dignity, nobility and honesty 
of this diversion, by which qualities I have been impelled to compose these 
essays, and on account of which this book will be kindly and courteously 
received by all worthy and gentle men." Then follows the date of compo- 
sition, as we have said, namely, "L'anno 1604, il dl ultimo d'ottobre." 
. The recorded editions— there may have been more— have the dates of Ber- 
gamo 1607, Milano 1619, Venetia 1631, all preceding the one lying before us. 
The public library of Novara possesses that of 1619, but we know not where 
copies of those of 1607 and 1631 are to be found. Bartinelli was a surgeon 
of repute, and left behind him a manuscript work containing acute obser- 
vations on matters connected with his profession, and on certain natural 



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STRAY NOTES m 



curiosities. A very brief notice of him is inserted in Lazzaro Agostino 
Cotta*8 ''Museo novarese'' (Milano 1701, p. 232, no. 462). 

After the "proemio" succeeds the "trattato primo," commencing with 
"regola prima*' and concluding with regola IX (pp. 7-12). This division 
embraces little relating to actual play, but much good advice, in a general 
way, set off by many references to old and modern writers such as 
Probus, the "poeta Ferrarese," the *• poeta Venusino " and others. The 
player is counselled, first of all, to see that the instruments with which he 
plays are solid and proper. In *'regola Iir' the writer shows us that he is 
not altogether in favor of the modern custom of using diceboxes, for which 
there would seem, as yet, to have been no very distinctive technical term, 
but inclines to the old method of casting the dice iVom the hand as morei 
fair^a point to which we have already briefly alluded elsewhere. He treats 
the subject thus: '^E opinione de* modern! giuocatori, che sij cosa sicura 
in questo ^iuoco lo adoprare non le semplici mani, ma certi vasetti di legno 
che chiamano canelli. Questa opinione h& bisogno di correttione, dico adun- 
que, che i canelli hanno da essere larghi nel fondo, accioche i dadi si pos- 
sino iui bene riuolgersi, altramente con quelle aspetto, cho vi si metteranno 
dentro in quelle usciranno, e scoprirassi il punto, e cosl V astuto, e seal- 
trito auuersario si seruir& della sua malitia contro di te; Bisogna anco fare, 
che r auuersario scuota, e dimeni i detti canelli, perche alcuni no hd visti 
de* giuocatori con destrezza metter i dadi ne* i canelli con ftirgli pianamente 
scorrere, 6 sdrucciolare giu per il legno, e mostrando di scuotergli non gli 
scuotere, e cosl tirare il punto disegnato con riuersare i canelli destra- 
mente. '* In subsequent ^* rules** we learn that no one should engage in the 
game ** except with a mind calm, serene and cheerAil;** that he should never 
move hastily; that he must have abundance of patience; that he should 
practice a moderate boldness ; and that a roan of melancholic or mercurial 
temperament should never play in the presence of many spectators. He 
ends with the malicious advice that players giving odds should endeavour 
to complicate the game, so that they may win of their inexpert opponents 
(^^Chi giuocasse con vno inesperto, dandogli auantaggio, se vorrk plu si- 
euro, che sia possibile, vincer, cerchi di intorbidare, intricare, A imbrogliare 
il giuoco, perch^ k ridurre in termini il giuoco trauagliato si ricerca gran 
maestria, e methodo, che non ha T inesperto**). 

The "trattato secondo** (pp. 13-28) offers us 26 "regole.** These are 
intended to be practical counsels, but are often somewhat vague, since they 
are not illustrated by diagrams. In the first rule, which we translate en- 
tire, we have a description of the board, some elementary instruction, and 
a few lines bearing upon the history of the game: "It being our task to 
lay down the necessary rules of this game, called Sbaraglino, we will first 
explain its nature. It is practiced, then, usually, upon two attached squares 
of wood, which may be opened and closed, and these are subdivided into 
four fields {campi), each field having six white points (segni) drawn in the 
shape of half rapiers. There are employed in the game thirty men, fifteen 
black and fifteen white, placed on the two penultimate points of the second 
field towards (verso) the third, and he who has the move, or as the Bre- 
scians say *'the hand** {la mono), that is, he who is to play first, has his 
men on the anterior point; he will also keep one of them on his fourth, 
with which he can afterwards cover one of the others, jplaced singly, and 



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220 CJTESS IN ICKLAND 



establish a point (fa cfisa) in the third field; casa means nothing else than 
two men, at least, covered or doubled or united on one of the points (segni) 
described. When the men are exposed, that is, when they stand alone — not 
doubled {copinati) and united— they can be hit by the adversary (possono toe- 
care delle picchiate dalV auuersario) ; then, by the laws of the game, the 
pieces which have been hit are replaced in the first field, and must thus 
return afterwards towards the fourth. The game which the Spanish play 
on the same board {in questo tauogliero) is, in form, distinct from this, 
although the same pieces are used and the same dice; it is called toccadi- 
glio. Difl'erent also is that in use in the Romagna, which is there styled 
minoreito. But that which is known as sbaraglio [sic] is in no other 
wise different from sbaraglino except that in the latter two dice are cast, 
and a supposed third die is always added to the throw, counting six; but 
in the former three dice are employed, and no six is computed unless it 
is included in the throw. The victory in this game consists in having first 
thrown off (leuato) the men from the fourth field after all shall have been 
brought therein in accordance with the points shown in throwing the dice. 
To introduce them into the fourth field, passing them through the third, the 
first rule demanded by the game, and which is always to be observed, even 
until the game has progressed to its end, is (unless it be contravened by 
some of the rules hereinafter noted down) that everything shall be covered 
as far as possible, and that the men shall be guarded from ''hits,'* because, 
when hit, they are obliged to go back and undertake again a long journey, 
thus retarding their entrance into the fourth field, and therefore their 
throwing off— whence may proceed the loss of the game. It is seen from 
experience that a player with two protected points— not liable to be hit— 
but hitting the blots of his adversary, having men on four points, will 
enter first into the fourth field and win the game; therefore everjrthing de- 
pends on keeping the points protected. ** It is from this paragraph that the 
older Italian lexicographers have drawn their statement that toccadigUo is 
Spanish, when it pretty surely is not, and their explanations of the words 
minaretto, sbaraglio and sbaraglino. The distinction in the meaning of the 
two last vocables appears to go back to the XlVth century manuscripts. 
We have not been able to find that the word mano is used at the present 
time in the district of Brescia in the sense of ''move.** But there is no 
doubt that many a ray of light could be thrown on the history of table- 
games by a careful study of tie Italian dialects. It would be interesting 
for instance, to be able to confirm the Romagna origin of minoretto, so 
often used by the "Civis Bononise,** himself a citizen of that province. 

We will also render literally a portion of " regola II,'* to give a further 
idea of the style; " At the beginning of the game one ought to seek to 
establish some points {far delle case)^ and there should be at least three such 
protected points, so that then the wider extension of your men may be con- 
veniently carried out. lU therefore, you have the move and throw at the 
first cast {di prima lancio) a three and an ace, you will advance into the 
third field two men— one to the sixth point, the other to be placed on the 
corresponding three point. This the ignorant do not do, but hasten to push 
a single man into the fourth field; this rule is to be observed when you 
cannot, by your throw, double any of your men. And if, by so extending 
your men no further than to the third field, you are hit by your adversary, 



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STRAY NOTES 221 



this matters little at the outset of the game, because the men hit, as they 
come back, will serve you in doubling or establishing points, and enable 
you, in return, to hit the blots of your opponent, or to make the top-point 
{testa)^ called by the Tuscans capocchia (the " head" or "top"), being the 
sixth of the first field, which is a position of much importance in the game, 
as we state below." We discover another Tuscan term in " regola VII," 
which says: "If you have the move, and throw, at the first cast, three and 
two, you should establish the first point in the third field, which is your 
second, having then the advantage of a man in the rear, rather than seek 
to establish a point on your fifth, for you would in that case send forward 
one man less; this first point, as established, is entitled by the Tuscans 
procaccina ( " courier," ** runner," ** carrier"), because it serves as a precursor 
or aid, to the introduction of men into the fourth field, and lifcewise helps 
in the establishment (doubling-up) of points." Again we are told in ** re- 
gola XX" that <'Two men doubled up on the sixth point of the first field 
are called by some testa, by others capocchia, as we have remarked above, 
and form a useful position in the beginning of the game." In the applica- 
tion of these " rules " it must be remembered that, at each throw of the two 
dice in sbaraglmo, you are to suppose a third die which always turns up a 
six; this imagined third die is referred to more than once, as stando che il 
set si computa in ogni tiro (" seeing that six is to be added to every cast "). 
We encounter, here and there, various striking words and phrases, technical 
and otherwise: pariglia ("doublet"); di posta; dibellaposta;farun balestro 
("cio6 metterne un*altra scoperta su '1 sei tuo del terzo campo, e Taltra 
dentro contigua, quasi nel quarto campo, e primo segno. Questo si chiama 
far balestro, perch^ si mette dirimpeto vna tauola k Taltra"); far montedi 
tauole (placing several men on one point); cost anco guardati iion meitere 
moltitudine di tauole in falso "perche cosi potrai vincer ii giuoco marcio, per 
la difficolt^ ch* hauerib Tauuersario nel scaricare quel monte"); giocare per 
Vadietro, giuoco marcio; vincere marcio (the latter perhaps something like 
the English " to backgammon "); non solo e necessario il saper entrare, ma 
il saper leuar; tauola scoperta; and many others of frequent occurrence. 
After these twenty six rules for the advance (p^r Vinnansi), as the author 
styles them, meaning the style of play when the person addressed is in 
advance, pushing his men on towards the final " field " or table, we have 
" regola IX " per Vadieiro (pp. 29-33), that is, adapted to the player whose 
men aro mostly behind or in the rear, and who must watch very closely 
the movement of his adversary in the hope of snatching victory from the 
Jaws of defeat. The second of these rules opens thus: "Chi giuoca per 
Tadietro questo giuoco, e non serra il terzo campo compitamente, perderli il 
giuoco marcio, per ci6 bisogna tener cura d*hauer in modo collocate le tauole, 
che si possi serrare il detto campo, e fr^tanto trattenere tauole deirauuer- 
sario che sono fuori. Sar& anco bene far prima (se sar& possibile) la serrata 
nel secondo campo, perchc, 6 ritardandosi il giuoco, ouero non hauendo 
tanto campo da mouersi con le tauole fuori, Tauuersario sar^ maggiormente 
constretto & rompere le case dentro nel quarto campo." To these rules 
succeed eight others being the " trattato quarto," comprising "regole otto 
del leuare," thatlis to say for throwing off one's men (pp. 36-39). Interesting 
is the second of these rules because it alludes to a Latin saying customary 
among players: "Nel progresso del leuare k molto necessario, che le tauole 



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222 CHESS IN ICELAND 



non sijno inquartate nolle tre vltime case del quarto campo, che manco h ne- 
cessario nelle tre superior!, e massime nella prima, perch^ tu pel far tauola 
scoperta, se non tirando doi sei [*^ two sixes '*], ouero hauendo da mandar 
giu di U vna tauola, e tirando un solo sei, anzi si suol dire da* giuocatorl, 
Quarta super quartam^ e tan to piu super quintam, <& super sextam. Ma 
questa regola della quarta, fallisce spesso su la quarta, meno su la quinta, 
e rarissime volte su la sesta.** The end proper of this backgammon treatise 
is formed by a *' complimento deiravttore '* (pp. 40-41), in which we are told 
that he who wishes to win and not lose his adversary's friendship must not 
play with friends; and that he who wishes to play without using profane 
language, or showing brutal behaviour, should be free from avarice and from 
a too eager desire to conquer, which excellent sentiments are enforced by 
passages from the Latin poets. The writer concludes by saying: " E queste 
poche regole habbiamo poste insicme, e distinte con quella breuit&, e facility, 
che ogn' vno pu6 vedere, perch6 il fine nostro 6 stato di giuocare, e non d'ac- 
quistarsi nome di dotto, che se questo fine fusse stato in noi, haueressimo 
affettata la oscurit^ del dire, secondo la sentenza diLucretio, 

Omnia enim Btolidi magis adniiraitar, amantqae, 
Innneris, qnsD sab rerbis latlnantla oornnnt." 

Below comes 'Ml fine,*' showing that the work, in earlier editions, ended 
here. But now we have an additional section : ** Avisi per diffendersi da 
gV inganni, che vsano gli cattiui giocatori,'' filling the last six unnumbered 
pages. These counsels relate first to methods of deception employed in games 
of cards; then to modes of cheating in casting dice O'divcrsi inganni, che 
fanno con li dadi ''), and finally to tricks at the game of mora, so common 
in Italy ('*gr inganni de'giocatori da mora'*). The second section of this 
supplementary chapter— relating to dice — is the only one that can be con- 
sidered as having any relation to backgammon, and that hardly a direct one. 

The sketch given of this almost forgotten tractate is necessarily very 
imperfect. If the game it treats of ever find a proper historian it will become 
a source of much information, although it is a matter of some disappointment 
not to observe more traces of a connection between it and the early Italian 
manuscripts. Of the names mentioned in those, as applied to various forms 
of the game, we find only sbaraglio (the old sbarail)^ sbaraglino {sbarailin) 
and minareito. Some technical terms have apparently been lost, but Barti- 
nelli makes no reference to any preceding treatises. Perhaps the descriptions 
of positions which he gives in his ** regole '' may, in some Instances, cor- 
respond to. the partita of the manuscripts, but' to ascertain this would require 
much careful comparison. The quaint orthography, the simple, honest 
manner, the carefully classified matter, the general good sense, set off by 
some fanciAilness, give that charm to the work which so much of the 
Italian writing of the author's age possesses. 

Before coming to the present standing and character of this game in 
Italy we will take note of some of its appearances in the literature of the 
peninsula during the last two or three centuries. In the course of the XVIth 
century we find the word sbaraglio (describing the three-dice form) in leas 
common use by general writers than its derivative sbaraglino (the title of the 
variety in which only two dice are employed), showing that a decline of the 
former method of play had set in, and that the imagined third die, so familiar 



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STHA Y NOTES 223 



in the period covered by the manuscripts, was rapidly going out of Aushion. 
Alessandro Citolini, called '*di Seravalle/' in bis little known work, **Lati- 
pocosmia'' (Venetia 1561, p. 484), towards the end of the fifth of his seven 
days (sette giomi del rnondo)^ after enumerating various sports, has a follow- 
ing paragraph on dice games. The reader must bear in mind that the author 
endeavours to cite in his volume the titles of ail trades, professions, arts, 
sciences, philosophies, with the terms appertaining to each of them. He 
says : ** Segvono poi i Qivochi di dadi : doue saranno le pise, i dadi, da fa- 
rina, da tauolc, e in essi il 6, il 5, il 4, ii 3, il 2, V asso [the dice numbers], 
e poi il tauoliere, e i segni svoi, e le tauole ; e cosl givcar a tauole, tirar 1 
dadi, far ambassi, dvini, terni, qvadcrni, qvini, dodici [the dice doublets], 
menar le tauole, far case, lasciar tauole scoperte, dar a le tauole, tornar in- 
dietro, givcar di dietro, uincere, dar il givoco marzo [marcioj, perdere, git- 
tar uia le tauole, romper il tauoliere; e se uolete le maniere de givochl, 
uedrete scarcaV asino^ toccadilo, e corto, e Ivngo, sbaraglio, sbaraglino^ ca- 
marzo, minorettOy a tre dadi, a sanzo.** In the list here given we have both 
sharaglio and sharaglino. As most of the other games mentioned in the 
sentence are forms of backgammon it would be interesting to know what 
the writer means by camarzo; scarcaV asino^ as we have already noted, is 
an appellation applied to one of the simpler forms of merelles ; and as for 
sanzo^ it may or may not be an older form of senza^ referring to varieties 
played "without'' the three dice. Sharaglino we find both in theXVthand 
XVIth centuries. One of the earliest citations is in a poem by Bronzino 
(probably identical with the painter, Angelo Allori, called Bronzino, born at 
Florence 1501). It is in the thirteenth chapter of his "Capitoli faceti "' (Ve- 
nezia 1822) : 

Come aare' far rassi e aohioppetini 

O giaoar da so steaao a ttburagHno 

Per nou aTor a dar DOja a vloinl. 

A more famous comic lyrist, Francesco Berni (b. 1536)— who gave his name 
to a sort of playful, ludicrous, satirical, flexible, but somewhat licentious 
verse at one time much read — alludes to the game in the first book ("In 
lode della primiora"' — the last word being apparently the same as "primero,'' 
the name of an old English card game), of his "Opcre burlesche (Florence 
1552-55) : 

8' io perdeaal a primiera il langDe e gU occhi 

Non me no oaro, done a tbaraglmo 

Riniego'l del, s' io pcnio tro baiocchi. 

The word is also used by the Catholic historian of the council of Trent, 
Cardinal Pietro Sforza Pallavioino (b. Rome 1607), in his treatise "Del Bene'' 
(Rome 1644, p. 261) ; " Non prouiamo noi, che chi giuoca a sharaglino^ quando 
il giuoco h a segno, che non possa egli perdere, se non iscoprendosi due 
assi ne' dadi, ci6 k vna, non d' innumcrabili ; ma di trentasei congiunzioni 
possibili, canta gi& nel cuor suo il trionfo del giuoco T' It is employed, too, 
by another native of the Italian capital, the litterateur Lorenzo Magalotti 
(b. 1637), in his "Lettere familiari" (Vonezia 1719, I., p. 598)— compared by 
Hallam to those of Redi — wliere he gives us a technical term in use at his 
time: "0 non or' egli meglio tirar a vincer il giuoco per 1' innanzi (per ser- 
virmi d' un termine dello sharaglino) che rimanere apposta in dietro per vin- 
cerlo per la cavata, e star a tocca, e non tocca di perderlo marciol" The 



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224 CHESS IN ICELAND 



word sbaraglino lasted until the end of the XVIIIth century ; the poet Bar- 
tolommeoCorsini, writing ahout 1790, gives this counsel in his heroic-comic 
poem, **I1 Torrachione desolato" (Leida= Firenze 1822, 1., p. 104, canto IV., 64): 

Qaaoil' eoco il Cootfe (ch'a temprar V amare 

Paaiiooi d* amore a on tarolino 

So no 0tava io paJagio aUor ool fare 

CoU'ajo Betto CioUi a AarmgUno) 

Foori ae n'eaoe.... 

Another poet, once eminent but now hardly read, of a somewhat earlier 
date, either the father, ^acopo Cicognini, or the son, Andrea Giacinto Cico- 
gnini— our authority leaves us in doubt which, but both were writers of 
verse— wrote : 

Lo' mpersdor co 1' ha pogpate socio 
£ uou a fatto o dama o ibartujlino. 

We have commented elsewhere (sec p. 187) on the Italian employment of 
trictrac^ which, compared with other appellations of the game, may be 
considered rare. As to the many and variously different significations of 
the word triclrac, we are here not concerned; the poets continued to be 
familiar with many of them and to use them, as, for instance, Giovanni Ba- 
tista Fagiuoli (b. 1(>30), in his "Rime piacevoli '' (Florence and Lucca 1729-45, 
7 vols): 

II trieehe traeche allora si sentiva; 
Ma non h pia qaol tempo. 

No less a personage than Niccol6 Machiavelli, the famous secretary of the 
Florentine commonwealth, confessed to his overweening fondness for back- 
gammon in one of his "Letterefamiliari" ("Opere complete," Florence 1833, 
p. 827, col. 2), addressed to the ambassador, Francesco Vettori, dated 1513; 
he says: **Con questi io m' ingaglioffo per tutto dl glocando a cricca, a trtc- 
irac^"" the former word, which we have seen before (p. 187), being the title 
of a game at cards. We have already mentioned an Italian instance of the 
use of trictrac to indicate a variety of backgammon, as early as 1526 (see 
the phrase Just alluded to on p. 187). Toccadiglio, as a backgammon ap- 
pellation, is a word, both as to its origin and exact signification, of the most 
evasive character. It is said by the German lexicographers to be Italian, 
and by the Italian to be Spanish. In Italy it is very seldom found in literature, 
and not very often in the dictionaries. It is, however, at least as old as the 
early years of the XVIth century. Giovanni Mauro, whose few poetical 
"Capitoli" are usually published with those of Berni, and who died in 1536, 
a few days after his friend and compatriot (for both were Tuscans), in his 
"Capitolo a Ottaviano Solis" (see Berni, edition of Florence, 1552, f. 154 b), 
inquires of the acquaintance whom he addresses '^hat common friends arc 
doing: 

Clie A meiwer Glooau, che A 1' abate, 

Che A YergUio caoalier adoroof 

Bagi^ier oomo disponsa le giomate ? 

Come fk il maggiordoino a toeeadiglio / 

II oonte legao aochor le traooie nsate i 

while in the same century Francesco Bracciolini (b. 1566), in his "Scherno 
degll Dei,'* styled by the author in its first issue, 1618, a **poema eroico- 



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STRAY NOTES 225 



giocoso, " has both toccadiglio and sbaraglino in his lines (edition of Milan, 
1804, p. 76, cant. 5., xxviii): 

.... Teugono e vauDo 
lovisibUl tatti, e qai Tioino 
Giooano a toeeadiglio o ilmragUno, 

Baretti, the Anglo-Italian lexicographer of the XVlIIth century, renders 
both sbaraglio and sbaraglino by calling each " a kind of play at backgam- 
mon,'* explaining the former. as a game '' che si fa con tre dadi,** and the 
latter as one *^ che si fa con due dadi. '' In the various editions of his dic- 
tionary neither toccadiglio nor trictrac is treated as an Italian word. The 
former we have not seen in any Italian lexicological work except Giovanni 
Gherardini's *^ Si\pplemento a* vocabularj italiani,'' which was not issaed 
until the middle of the century just closed (Milan 1852-57, 6 vols) ; it explains 
toccadiglio as a ^^giuoco spagnuolesco da tavoliere; forse lo stesso che sbar- 
raglino [sicj,*' and goes on to remark that it is the French ^*' toute-taJble o 
toutes-tables ; *' but this same dictionary nowhere cites either sbaraglio or 
sbaraglino^ and the Spanish dictionaries do not give us toccadiglio in any 
orthography. The term toccadiglio (or toccadeglio) is not at present, we be- 
lieve, infuse anywhere on Italian ground. One verbal definition given by 
Tommaseo and Bellini may be noted. The French probably acquired from 
the Italian casa their technical word case, the former being yet in use in 
the more Southern land, both for a " point '* on the board and for a '* point" 
having on it *^ doubled '' men ; as may be seen in the dictionary of the wri- 
ters just cited, casa is said to signify ''ciascuno scompartimento del giuoco 
chiamato sbaraglino o trictrac ^^^ while ^^ fare una casa''' is given as mean- 
ing to *^ raddoppiare le girelle o tavole, ** the compilers adding that **adesso 
il giuoco dello sbaraglio si chiama tavola reale^ Many derivations of sba- 
raglino, all equally improbable, are to be found in the older dictionaries; 
Gherardini, by his orthography of the word {sbarraglino), apparently wishes 
to imply that it comes ft-om sbarrare (itself from barrare, to '* bar), " mean- 
ing to *' disbar, " " surmount barriers, " to ** pass bars, " referring possibly 
to the movements of the pieces from one '* bar " or point to another, by 
which we shall be reminded of the English technical term, *^ bar-point. '' 
Even more completely out of use than any of the names of varieties of back- 
gammon we have mentioned is minoretto; so common in the period of the 
early manuscripts, and even at a much later time so well known to Bar- 
tinelli. 

But backgammon was, at a subsequent day, to find its way to a much 
more important place in Italian letters. It was to be the subject of a pro- 
minent episode in the best known work of the greatest Italian poet of the 
eighteenth century, for his only possible rival to such a claim, Metastasio, 
is to be considered rather a dramatist than a lyrist. Giuseppe Parini died 
almost with the century (1799). He was the first Italian poetical writer who 
came under that English inlluence which had so eflectivcly reached Germany 
through Lessing. In 1763 Italy, then lying in a drowsy slumber, was startled 
from its languor by the appearance of the first part of Giuseppe Parini's poem 
**ll giorno, " the scheme of which, we are told by an English critic, was 
drawn from Thomson, while its spirit was the spirit of Pope, the result be- 
ing a production such as Cowper might have composed had he been born 
an Italian. It is a masterpiece of delicate and pointed irony. It describes 

29 



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226 CHESS IN ICELA ND 



the dawdling, dilettante lire of higher Italian society in that dull age, when 
there was neither political, commercial, military nor literary activity, when 
no national feeling existed and when even the church slept. It portrays the 
events of a day in the fruitless life of a young man of the gentry, and is 
divided into four parts: 'Ml mattino'* (morning), ''II moriggio'' (noon), 
" U vespro " (evening), and *' La notte " (night). The second part (" II me- 
riggio " or " II mezzogiorno ") was published in^ 1765. At its end was a de- 
scription of a contest at backgammon, which at once became the classical 
utterance concerning the game. The guests at a country-house, the noon- 
meal finished, retired to the drawing-room for coffee, after which some of 
the party went out driving, and, as Carducci in his summary of the poem 
expresses it: "Oli altri giuocano a diversi giuochi, essi a sbaraglino, "^ 
Then follows a detailed description of the sbaraglino game, the original of 
which we quote in full. The reader will notice the introduction, still com- 
mon in Parini's day, of the old mythological machinery, and will see from 
the last lines that the author shared the belief in the derivation of the word 
trictrac from the noise made by the shaken dice. The text given is the care- 
fully revised one of the historian and critic Cesare Cantu, in his admirable 
work, "L' abate Parini o la Lombardia nel secolo passato (Milan 1854, 
pp. 405-408). The passage embraces lines 1103-1190 of the poem: 

Cotk a qaeate, o SIgiiore Ulustre, loxanno 
Ore lento 8i taccia. £ a* altri aocora 
Yaole Amor che 8' ingaoui, altrovc pagni 
La turba oonTicata : e tu da tin lato 
Sol oon la Dama tua quel gioco eleggi 
Che doe soltauto a an taToliere auimctte. 

Gij^ per ninfa geotll tacito ardea 
D' inaoffribile ardor niisero amaDte, 
Col nair altra eloqaonza usar con lei, 
Faor die qnella degli occhi/ era ooncosso; 
Poichd il rozso marito, ad Argo egaalo, 
Yigilava mai sempre ; e qaasi biacia 
Ora piegando, or allangando il oollo, 
Ad ogni verbo con gli orocchi acuti 
Bra preaento. Oioio! come con coiini, 
O oon notato t'lTole glammai, 
O con servi aedottt a la ana bella 
Chiedor pace ed aita ? Ogni d* amoro 
Stratogemma finiaaimo vincea 
La goloaia del rnstico marito. 
Che pib lice aperare f Al tompio oi viouo 
Del nume accorto clio le aorpi lutiTccia 
All'aurea Tcrga, e il enpo e la calnt^na 
D' all forni8c<>. A lui «i proatra nniilo 
£ in qneati dottl, la^rimando, il prcga : 
" O piopizio a gli Hmanii, o bnon figliuolo 
*' De la Candida Afa.ja, o tii cbo d'Argu 
'* Dplndeati i ceut' ooclii, o :i lui lapisti 
" La gnardata Kioveiicn, I picgbl accogli 
" D' an ainante iofttlice, e ii lui conccdi, 
" Se non gli occbi, iugaunar ^M orecohi alnicuo 
'* D' importnno maiito. " Eoto. ai aooto 
II divin aimnlacro, a lui ai cliiim, 
Con la vcr^a paoiflca la fronto 
Gli percote tro volte; e il lieto amanto 
Sonte d«ttarai ue la nicnte nii gioco 



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STRAY NOTES 227 



Cho i mariti asuordisoe. A lai diresti 
Che Tall dol nun pi^ coneesse anoora 
II sappllcato Dio; ootanto ei vola 
VelociMlnuiineiite a la sua donna. 
La bipartita tavola prepara, 
Ov' obaiio od avorio intarsiati 
liognan buI piano ; e partono altornando 
In dne volto sei caae ambe le sponde. 
Qnindicl uero d' ebauo rotolle, 
E d' aTorlo bianchissimo altrottante 
Stan diviso in dne pnrti, e rooto e norma 
Da duo dadi gettati attcndon, pronte 
Qli spazj ad ocotipar, e qninci • qniiidt 
lognar oontraric. Oh cara a la Fortana 
Qnella ohe corre innanzl air altre, e seco 
Trae la oorapajpia, onde il nemico aaaalto 
Forte aostenga ! Oh giocator felice 
Chi pria l* eatrema oaaa oooapa ; o I' altro 
I)e gli apaaj a sd dati ordin rlcmpie 
Cull doppio segno ! £i trionfiuite allora 
Da la falange 11 aao rival combatte ; 
E in proprio ben rivolge i colpi ostill. 

Al tavolior s* aasidono arabidne, 
L' ainante onpidiasimo e la ninfa : 
Quella nna apondu ingoinbra e qneati V alti-a. 
II raarito col goinito a' appoggiir 
All' un de' latL : ambo gU oreochl tende ; 
S aotto al tavoliec di quando in qnando 
Gaata oon gli oocbi. Or 1' agitar de i dadi 
Rntro a aonanti boaaoli coininoia ; 
Ora il piccfaiar de' boaaoli anl piano; 
Ora il Tibrar, lo aparpagliar, 1' artaro, 
n cozcar de 1 dno dadi • or de le moaae 
Pcdine il inartellar. Torceai e fronie 
Sbalortlito il geloao : a fngglr ponaa, 
Ma r.ittionlo il eo8])etto. II frajjor creeco, 
II roDibasso, il fraatono, il rovinio. 
Si pih regger non puotc; in piedi balxa, 
E con anibe le man inra gli oricchi. 
Tn vinceati, o Merenrio : il canto aniante 
Foco diaae, e la bella inteae aaaai. 

Tal no la ferrea et4, qnando gU apoai 
Folle anperatizion ohiaroara all' arme, 
Giocato fa. >Ia poi ohe I'anreo anrae 
Secol di novo, o che del prisco errore 
Si apogliaro i mariti, al aol dilotto 
La dama o 11 cavalier Tolaero il gioco, 
Clio la neoeaaitA trovato avoa. 
Fn Bnp<^rllao il ronior : di moUo panno 
La tavola veatiaai, e do' patenti 
Boaaoli *l aen : lo achiamazaio nioloato 
Tal rintosxoaai ; e dnra al gioco il nomo 
Cho anoor 1' antioo atropito dinota. 

Cantu*8 principal note (pp. 106-107) is of interest, because it is the 
earliest and fullest attempt at a historical sketch of backgammon, written 
in Italian, down to the middle of the XlXth century — and it has not been 
greatly improved on since —although it naturally leaves much to be desired. 
The chess anecdote of Saccheri at its end is, of course, out of place, but in 
Parini's time people still fancied that all table games must be more or less 
related to each other: "E lo sparaglino [sic], uno dei diversi giuochi delle 



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228 CffESS IN ICELAND 



tavole. II tavoliere b doppio, compartito in piramidi bianche e nere, e vi si 
ginoca con quindici pedino nere, e quindici bianche, due dadi, due bossoli. 
Ciascun giocatore impila le sue pedine al vertice della prima piramidc : in 
uno dei bossoli scuote i due dadi, e li lancia contro la sponda deiravversa- 
rio: secondo che i dadi fanno pariglio o no, si regola la mossa della pedina. 

I numeri eguali fanno andare da freccia bianca in bianca; o da nera in 
nera: i caQi da freccia nera in bianca o viceversa. LMntento ^ di occupar 
Testremit^, ove si fa damare [!] la propria pedina, per poter poi assalire 
ravversario nelle sue case. Dal fracasso che doveano fare pedine, bossoli, 
dadi fu questo giuoco chiamato il Trictrac; da.1 quale poco differisce il Tac. 
N^ voglio n^ devo insegnarvi a giocare; e molti ponno- aver veduto a gio- 
carlo ; giacch^, sebben raro, non ^ disusato, singolarmente in Francia, ove 
un proverbio dice che il trictrac non imparano le donne che dai loro ^manti, 
n6 gli uomini che dalle amiche. Chi ne volesse conoscere le teoriche, guardi 
V Encyclopidie methodique^ jeucr^ trictrac. Prosper© Merimee, uno dei roman- 
zieri piu rinomati di Francia, pubblic6 un racconto La partita di trictrac, 
Delille, neW Homme des cfiamps, ha una lunga dcscrizione d'una partita a 
trictrac, Platone diceva che il mondo e simile alio sbaraglino: si comincia 
dal gettar casuale del dado; poi il giudizio dispone le mossc. Tutto questo 
brano sembra al De Coureil una puerility, una pcdanteria, un'affettata eru- 
dizione di scolastiche cognizioni, e trova singolarmente ridicolo che un mo- 
derno Zerbino ricorra a Mercurio per ajoto. Ma chi gli ha detto che questo 
trovato fosse moderno? Platone attribuisce 1' invenzione de'giuochi di zara 
appunto a Mercurio Trismegisto. I Greci avevano il diagrammismo o i Ro- 
mani le duodena scripta^ che somigliava ben bene al nostro trictrac. Gli An- 
nali persiani lo fanno antico quanto gli scacchi. Perocchd raccontano che, 
'durata lunga guerra fra Belagi, re d* India, e Nuscirvan re di Persia, quegli 
per flnirla alia quieta mand6 al Persiano un giuoco di scacchi, promettendo 
pagar un tributo se i Persiani, nessuno insegnandolo, scoprissero Parte di 
questo giuoco. Raccolgonsi i sapient! del regno: Bonzurgemhir [Burzurgmihr] 
arriva a discoprire i misteri degli scacchi ; e per mostrar che i Persiani non 
solo ne sapevano del pari ma piu che glllndiani, invent6 il trictrac: inviato 
dal suo re, porta air Indiano si la spiegazione degli scacchi, si la sflda a 
conoscere il nuovo giuoco. La sapienza di tutti i dotti deir India riuBcl vana, 
e Belagi pag6 il tributo {Annates de la literature et des arts, torn. IX, pag. 84). 

II padre Girolamo Saccheri, gesuita, professore di matematica a Pavia, fra 
altri ammirati esercizj di memoria, faceva questo di giocare a tre scacchieri 
contemporaneamente e senza vederli; e il piu delle volte vinceva: poi, se 
piacesse, ritesseva a memoria tutte le mosse. " What Cantu calls " il Tac" 
is, doubtless, toccadiglio ; tac, however, is not discoverable, so far as we 
know« in any Italian dictionary, at any rate not as a name of a game. In 
more than one place, in his note, Cantu makes evident his ignorance of 
table-games ; the word damare (to '' queen ''), for instance, is not appro- 
priate in connection with backgammon, but is used only in relation to chess 
and draughts. 

There is a more recent edition of "II giorno e le odi" of Parini (Tu- 
rin, 1899) by Luigi Valmaggi, a Turinese university professor. We copy his 
longer note (pp. 136-139) on the same passage of Parini's poem, in spite of 
the fact that its matter is largely drawn partly from Cantu and partly from 
the cyclopedias. Some portions of it, nevertheless, will be new to many 



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STRAY NOTES 229 



readers; this is especially true of the concluding linos, It is a pity that the 
compiler of the note could not have given us a trustworthy account of the 
present state of backgammon and its varieties in the different provinces of 
Italy, together with some notices of the terminology of the game now or 
lately in vogue in the extensive field which stretches between Southwestern 
Sicily and Friuli : **Descriziono del tric-trac; e il nome, che 'ancor I'antico 
strepito dinota,* a punto venne dal rumore che facevano, nel giuoco, bossoli, 
dadi e pedine. Ma, buon documento della ciarlataneria etimologica d* una 
erudizione che oramai dovrebb' essere vecchia, non manc6 chi s" avvisasse 
di nobilitarne Torigino rccapitando la derivaziono del nome al greco Tpt<; 
Tpaxo?, che vorrebbe dire *'trois fois diflQcile k joucr et k comprendre'* (I), 
com* 6 riferito da Giovanni Quinola nella sua Nouvelle Acad^mie dcs jeux 
(Parigi, 1883, p. 284). II tric-trac si giuoca (in Francia 6 in uso anche oggi) 
sopra un tavoliere, diviso longitudinalmente in due campi, o compartito da 
ventiquattro frecco a duo colori, dodici per parte, parallelo alia divisione 
longitudinale dello scacchiere (partono altemando in dodici magioni amhe le 
spo7ide, V. 1149 sg.). De* due giuocatori ciascuno dispone di quindici girelle^ 
pedine, o rotelle^ com'^ corrctto nolle varianti di mano del P., rispettiva- 
mente bianche o nere, ammassate da principio in tre pile su la prima freccia 
di destra.. Dal getto dei dadi, che devono essere lanciati contro la sponda 
{bande nella nomenclatura franceso tuttavia in corso) avversaria, dipendono 
tanto la quality della mossa, di una o due pedine o su Tuna o Taltra frec- 
cia, secondo la combinazione dei punti format! dai dadi, quanto la diresione 
di essa, secondo il numero totale h pari {simpLes\ di freccia bianca in bianca, 
o dispari {doublets)^ di bianca in nera e viceversa. Ordine e fondamento al 
giuoco i *piani* U<^n$) otto in tutto, conformo al diverse modo come le 
pedine si movono e sono abbattues; e segnano i punti vinti, che si notano 
sino a dodici, con due gettoni variamente disposti intorno alio frecce (due 
punti avanti la prima freccia di destra; quattro tra la terza e la quarta, ecc). 
Dodici punti d&nno un trou^ che si rappresenta infilando progressivamente 
una stecca nei buchi onde son fornite le sponde del tavoliere; dodici traus' 
dlinno la partita. -^ II giuoco 6 antichissimo, e lo troviamo gik in Persia 
descritto nel IXbro dei re di Firdusi (vol. VII, pp. 228-237 della traduz. ita- 
liana di I. Pizzi, Torino, 1888), il quale ne attribuisce V invenzione al savio 
Buzurcmlhr. Lo vediam poi diffusissimo neir antichitd. classica : probabil- 
mente 6 la icsirtia dei Qreci (cfr. Esichio, II, p. 945), sonza dubbio il Indus 
duodecim scriptorum dei Romani, che si giocava sopra un tavoliere {alveus 
tabula) sul quale erano tracciate dodici linee {scripta, di qui il nome) ta- 
gliate da una perpendicolare in modo di formare 24 compartimenti. Su queste 
linee si movevano lo pedine {calculi) a due colori, secondo il punto formate 
dai dadi, lanciati sul tavoliere mediante un bossolo {pyrgus o fritiUus)^ con 
tutte le regole del tric-trac. • Oltre due epigram me deWAntologia laiina 
(192-193, Riese) e qualche altro cenno di scrittori latini (v. Ter. Adelph^ 739 sg. ; 
Cic. in Non. s. v. scriptat, p. 170, 28; Ov. TrisU^ II., 476; Ars. am,, II., 204, 
Quint., XL, 2,28; Plin., N, fT., XXXVIL, 6, 2), h importantissimo documento 
del giuoco il celebre epigramma di Agathias (AnL Or., III., 62, Jacobs), dove 
si descrive una partita deir imperatore Zenone (Marquardt, PrivaU, d, Rom,, 
2^ ed., 834 sgg.) ; i material! per6 son poco su poco giu quell i stessi raccolti, 
e discassi giji dal Salmasio (in Script, hist. Atig., e dal De Paw, De alea ' 
veter. ad epigr, Agath,, Traj, ad Rhen., 1726). Dal Salmasio (p. 467), dal 



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230 CHESS IN ICELAND 



Jacobs (p. 101) e ancora dal Becq de Fouquiferes {Les J etuc des anciens^ 2^ od. 
(Parigi, 1873), p. 372) fu riprodotta di su la silloge di Grutero {Liscript anU^ 
II., 1049) una tavola rappresentante il giuoco ; ma h apocrifa, come provd 
chiaramente gii il Ficoroni (J tali ed altri strumenii lusori degli antichi ro- 
mani descriti (Roma, 1734) p. 102 sg.). Ancora ritroviamo il tric-trac nel 
medio evo, ov' era designato col nome di alea^ divenuto sinonimo di ialmla^ 
la qual parola non 8igniflc6 piii lo scacchiere, bensi la pedina, e lo scacchiere 
si chiam6 invece tabolerium (L. Zdekauer, H giuoco in Italia nei secoli XIII 
e XIV, in Arch, stor. itaL, s. 4% XVIII. (1886), p. 20 segg.). Non e rara ncgli 
statuti la disposizione che si debba giuocare con trenta tavole, e ci6 affine 
d' impcdire * che le pedine si mettessero in apparenza air orlo del tavoliere, 
per gettare i dadi, in mezzo di loro a zara' (Zdekauer, 1. cit., p. 27, n. 1.). 
Quanto alia confusione de* termini, essa perdurd sino alia fine del medio evo 
(ancora 6 nel Petrarca: v. il XXVI ragionamento De ludo aleae et calculorum 
del De remediis utriusque fortunae), e piu in qua, sino al Rinascimento ; il 
merito d^averla tolta di mezzo spetta per prime a Celio Calcagnini, nella dis- 
sertazione De talorum, tesserarum et calculorum ludis (in 0pp. (Basilca, 1544), 
pp. 286-301). Ma non mai forse il giuoco ebbe cosl grande diffusione e voga 
come nella seconda meti del socolo scorso. Nella Nouvelle Acad^tnie desjeux, 
ristarapata ad Amsterdam nel 1773, fe detto in proposito che ' rexcollence, la 
beauts et la sincerity qui se rencontrent dans ce jeu, font que le beau monde 
qui a de la politesse s'y applique avocbeaucoup de soin, en fait son jeu favori, 
et le prdfere aux autres jeux. En effet, ce beau jeu a tant de noblesse et de ' 
distinction, que nous voyons quMl est plus k la mode que jamais; les dames 
principalement y pnt une trds grande attache* (IL, 31 sg). Non 6 a meravigliare 
perci6 se nella teoria del giuoco troviamo che hanno luogo Joile regole galanti 
di .questa fatta: *L'on pratique... k present que celui qui joue centre les 
dames, leur donnc les tables ou dames noires, parce que le noir de Tebeno 
releve et fait paroUre davantage la blancheur de Icurs mains, ce que leur fait 
plaisir (ib. p. 33).* Dairanonimo autore della stessa opera e anche referita 
•certa Chanson du trictrac, nella quale la scurrility. 6 si grande e il doppio 
sense si grossolano, che non si potr& riprodurne altro che i primi vers! : 

Galans, Je Teas vons appreodns 
Sana Livro et aana Alroanach, 
Uii jea facile a ooraprendre, 
Un noarean Jen de Trictrac : 
II faat, en sniyaut la ohanoe, 
Mettre les Dames .... 

II Cfantii] ricorda un prove rbio francese, secondo il quale il tric-trac non 
inipararono le donne se non dagli amanti, nb gli uomini se non dalle amiche. 
Neir//omm^ de Ville [Champs] del Delille (1738-1813) 6 una lunga descrizione 
d*una partita a tric-trac; '^^ e un romanzo sullo stesso argomento scrisse 

** This mstrieal description of a partU of backgammon Is like that of Parinl, and pos- 
sibly suggested by It, and Is the moat notable which occurs In French literature. It Is to 
be found lu *^ L*Horaiue des champs ** by the abbi Jaequea Delille (see hfs works, Parlfi 18S4, 
VIT.f pp. S80-S2I) and is very brief. Valmaggi, as ibe reader will notice, makes the singular 
blandur of stylUi;; this once widely-read poem ** L*Homme de vlUe " — an inexplicable lapse 
of the pen. We cite the passage in its completeness: 



Le del devlent-11 sombre? Bb bieni dans ce salon, 
Pr&s d*un obfine brulant JMnsulte k raqutiou; 
Dans oette ohaude euoelute, avee gout eclalrie, 



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STRAY NOTES 231 



Prosper Mcrim^e (1803-1870); entrambi anche citato dal C[antu]." Much of 
this will be found, in a somewhat fuller shape, in other pages of the present 
work. The citations in regard to the line-games of the ancients show that the 
commentator did not know the little publication of Professor Comparetti, of 

Alille heureuz pane-temps abrcgont la lolrde. 

J^entcDclfl e« Jeu bruyaut ou, lu cornet eu main, 

L*adroit Jouour ealcule uu hasard Inccrtain, 

Chaccu iiur le damicr flxo il'un osil avido 

Les casus, let couieurs, el le pluin ct le Wde: 

Les disquL's Doini et blauei voleat du blano au noir; * 

Lear pile croft, decroit. \Ur la cralnie «t I'vHpolr 

Battu, chanai, reprU do «a prison sonore 

Le dd, uon sans fracas, part, rentre, part encore ; 

11 court, roule, s*abat; le uumbre a prououc6. 

Ill tbo poem frum which we are quoting, th««c lines aro iiumediately succeeded by a duscrip- 
tlou, of equal leii;rth, of a game ofobess. The abbe Dulllle published " L* Huinme d«s champs" 
in 1800. He, like Pariui, was greatly luflucucod by his fanilllarily with Koglish letters. 
Kusiding for the better part of two years In Kugland, ho translated into Freuefa Mlltou*i 
**I>aradise LoKt," I*op«*s ** Rssay on Man*' and soveral shorter pleeos. He somewhat re- 
suiubled the Italian lyrist in eapril, and in the ca<>e and harmony of his verse, bu( ho has 
lung ceased (o enjoy the popularity and vogue which were once his. It is proper to mention 
that Parinl's poem has bee i^ rendered in Its cumpleto form Into French undur the titlo of 
*' Le jour, poCuic eii (|uatru parties, tradult en vers francals iiar 1. L. A. IU*yinond '* (Pa- 
ris 1826). — The scurriluuB piece of verse, of which the firnt lines are reproduced by Valmaggi, 
has boon set to music, and is inserted in many collections of French songs.— The other French 
production which has to do with our game, Hktwiito mentioned hy the Italian comnienlatofs, 
is the story by Prosper Merlmde, ^* Le partie dc trictrac*' (1830), contained In bis often re* 
printed and widely translated coUectiou of tales eutitled '*Colomba.'* The edition we have 
used is that of Paris 1889, in which the narrative flUs pp. 31S-SS0. It Is the tale of a young 
French lieutenant of the navy, who, after losing a good deal of money in gaming, yields, 
in his despair, to the temptation of cheating, at trlotrao, his opponent, a lieutenant in the 
Dutch service. Of the two it is said: " Bref, pendant pluaieurs Jours ils so donnftrent ron- 
desvons, soit au cafd, soit a bord, essayanl toutes sortes do Jeuz, surtout le irlctrao, et aug- 
mentant toujours leurs parin, si blen qu*lls en viurent a Jouor vtngt-cinq napoleons la par* 
tie." The Frenchman is finally reduced to his last twenty-five napol6ons. The eoneiso 
description of the eulminating point of the oonlest i« as follows: — *' Bient6t Roger fut rednii 
k Jouer les dernlers vingt-oinq napolions. II s'appliquait horriblement ; aussi la partie fnt- 
elle league et disputSc. 11 vint uu moment ou Roger, tenant lo comet, u*avait plus qu'une 
ehance pour gagner: Je erols quMl Ini fallait six-quatre. La nuit etait avancde. Un oflleler 
qui les avait longtcmps regardSs Jouer avail fini par s'codormlr sur an fauteuil. Le Hel- 
landals 4tait fatigu6 et assonpl ; en outre, 11 avait bu bcauooop de punch. Roger eeul 
6tait Men £veiI16, et en prole au plus violent desespoir. Ce fut en fremissant qu'il jeta 
les din. II les Jeta si rudement sur le damier, que dc la cecousse uno bougie tomba sur le 
pianchcr. Le Hollandais tourna la tete d'abord vers la bougie, qui vwnalt de eouvrir de 
oire sou pantalon neuf, puis il regarda les d6s. — lis marqualent six et quatre. Roger, p&le 
eommo la mort, re^ut les vlngt-clnq napol6ouo. lis coutlnuerent a jouer. La ehance devlnt 
favorable a mon malheureox ami, qui pour taut faisalt dcoles sur 6eoles, el qui casait comme 
sMl avait veulot perdre. Le lieutenant hollandais s*ent«ta, doubla, decoapla les enjeux: il 
perdik toojours. Je crois le voir encore, c*6tait un grand blond, flegmatiquei dont la figure 
semblait fitre de cire. II se leva enfiu, ayant perdu quaraute mille fraucs, qu'll paya sans 
que sa physiononiio dteelat la moiudre Amotion. Roger lui dit: " Ce que nous avons fait co 
soir no signifle rien, vous dormioz 4 inoiti^; Je ne veux pas do votre argent."— '* Voas plai* 
sanlez," repondit le flegmatique Hollandais; ** J'ai tres-bion jou^ mais les d6s out 6t6 centre 
moi. Je suls sur de pouvoir toujours vous gagner en vous rcndaut quatre trous. Bonsoir!" 
et il le qnitta. Le leudemain nous spprimes que, d£sesp6i6 de sa porte, il s*4tait br&l6 la 
eervellc dans sa chambre aprds avoir bu uu bol de punch." Siruok with horror at the sui- 
olde of his opponent, Roger is maddened by remorse, tells his two most intimate friends that 
bo had won by cheating, and prepares to pot an end to his owu life likewise. They per. 
suade him to live, but soon afterwards, in a naval combat, his purposed foolhardiness results 
in bis death. 



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232 CHESS IN ICELAND 



which we have given an account (sec pp. 122 and 174-5). Unsatisfactory as it 
is, Professor Valmaggi's note is still useful for its references to authorities, 
and makes an addition or two to our bibliographical note on Greek and 
Latin games (pp. 121<2). 

There is an English prose rendering, or rather paraphrase of "Ilgiorno,*' 
published anonymously, but really the work of Lady Elisabeth Berkeley, 
who became by her first marriage Lady Craven, and by her second Margra- 
vine of Anspach (1750-1828), a figure of European note in her day. She was 
a woman of considerable learning, and printed privately some poems of 
Petrarch besides other compositions of her own, and was the patron and 
fViend of Ugo Foscolo, whose English " Essays on Petrarch " she issued in 
a handsome but very limited edition (sixteen copies) before it was given to 
the general public. Her version of Parini's poem is entitled "A fashionable 
day" (London 1780), and was dedicated to the translator's brother. It gives 
but a faint idea of the beauty of its original. We cite the portion describing 
the game (pp. 105-113) :** It only now remains to perform the sacred rites 
of the god of gaming, who is always ready to cheat his votaries of their 
money and their time. The god himself provides the combatants with arms, 
and arranges them in different parties of foot and of horse. Propitious ever 
to thy prayers, for thee he orders to be set apart a table, whose narrow 
lists will admit but two warriors. Love smiles with triumph as he explains 
to thee the most ingenious stratagem which was ever practised by any of 
his subjects in all his wars with Hymen. Long had an unsuccessful soldier 
of Love been the prey of a consuming fire lighted in his bosom by the hand 
of a child of Beauty and of Hymen. The languishing looks of Tenderness 
were the sole interpreters of his passion. With difficulty could they deceive 
the vigilance of a husband, who never closed his eyes, and who, at the 
smallest noise, erected the long cars of attention. Alas! not a slave could 
the unhappy lover gain over to his interest, not the smallest billet could 
his despair convey to her. Wherever he goes, this monster blasts his sight. 
At last he files to the altar of that benevolent god, whose hand is armed 
with a caduceus, whose head and feet are ornamented with wings. To his 
holy statue he does the lowest homage. With streaming eyes and upheld 
hands, *0h thou son of Maia,' he exclaims, 'thou deignest to listen to the 
prayers of Love— thou who deceivedst Argus with his hundred eyes— teach 
me to deceive, if not the eyes of this too watchful husband, at least his 
ears!* The statue smiles on his request. He perceives the magic caduceus 
three times touch his forehead. In an instant his inspired Fancy distinctly 
represents to him the mystery of this new game so calculated to stun and 
weary out the most attentive husbands. The happy lover darts away, as 
if Mercury had lent him his wings. Already he is at the side of his 
mistress. —Mindful of the oornmands of the Deity, he procures a board of 
scented wood, whereof he raises the sides, and which he divides by a wall 
into two equal plains. The colour of these plains is black. Like the bat- 
talions of the red rose and the white rose, fifteen dames assembled on either 
side, these of a splendid whiteness, those black as ebony, wait, in order to 
begin their march, until two dice shall issue from a box of thunder. Happy 
she, who has not, by advancing alone, exposed herself to the danger of 
being cut off and taken prisoner! A companion is hero of service, in order 
to assist in supporting the enemy's shock. The busy dice soon increase the 



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STRA Y NOTES 233 



number of the combatants. Already I behold the milk-white amazons form- 
ing, two by two, the close-wedged phalanx, and boldly charging the adverse 
army. The adverse army advances with a more confused march; while they 
who expose themselves to imprudent dangers, experience ditferent checks 
which Victory is careful to record. Sometimes an ill-aimed stroke recoils upon 
her who too inconsiderately pursued her adversary.— Fortune favours the white 
warriors, of whom the enemy of Hymen is generalissimo. It should seem that 
their adversaries, commanded by the queen of Hymen, desired to be defeated. 
The astonished husband attentively observes this new-invented just [joust]. 
It strikes him that it is not without its danger, between two warriors who 
approach to too close quarters. Sometimes, his elbow rested on the field of 
battle, he listens with the ear of attention — sometimes, he rolls the eyes of 
jealousy over the plains of combat— each time the martial throats pf the 
tubes thunder with double fury. Fear obliges him to retreat, Huspicion 
again brings him back to his stand of observation. The combat rages, the 
din of the battle brays. Victory hangs upon the next stroke. The conquer- 
ing tube redoubles its thunder and thinks it can never make sufficient noise. 
Its adversary, mad at the scorns of fortune, vomits out the dice with a 
noise which disturbs the pleasures of Jupiter, and makes old Pluto tremble. 
The jealous husband, at length subdued, is driven from the plain, stopping 
his ears, and cursing such a noisy game.— Mercury, the day is thine. The 
disciple whispers half a word to his mistress, who comprehends his mean- 
ing. Such was this game in the days of barbarity, when false ideas of 
honour continually disturbed suspicious husbands. But, since the Golden 
Age is again returned upon earth, since husbands are become officious and 
convenient friends, the lover and his mistress have only applied to this game 
for an agreeable amusement. In order to prevent that noise, which is now 
no longer useful, the peaceable tubes are form'd of silent leather, and the 
dice dispose themselves without tumult upon the down-soft green. The 
game has preserved nothing noisy but its name, which still continues 
TriC'trac.'' 



Of the printed works which have succeeded to that of Bartinelli, the 
first one foimiiiar to us— though there are doubtless some intervening ones— 
is the anonymous: ^^Trattato teorico-pratico dei giuochi'' (Macerata 1832), a 
small volume of 164 pages, with a single copperplate, representing the 
backgammon-board and men. The game is here called giacchetto^ which is 
doubtless the French jacquet Italianized. But the method of play, as 
described, corresponds to the French revertier rather than to jacquet. The 
section devoted to this form of trictrac occupies pp. 139-164, closing the 
work. It opens with a brief introduction (pp. 139-143) giving the compiler's 
summary of the game's history, which, despite the repetitions involved, we 
liere transcribe, inserting the few foot-notes in the text in their proper 
places: ''II giachetto k una sorta di giuoco di commercio piu prossima a 
quelli di azzardo, che si effettua sopra un tavoliere, per cui ^ della specie 
dei giuochi di tavola, e ha luogo fra due persone le quali si situano rap- 
porto al detto tavoliere Tuna incontro airaltra in A ed in B [referring to 
the copperplate at the end of the book]. Questo giuoco considerate come 
trictrac {sbaragUno^ col qual nome si esprime il sue antico e piu bel mode 

80 



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234 CffESS IN ICELAND 



di giuocarlo) ha secondo alcuni la sua etimologia nelle parole greche xplq 
xpaxo^) tre volte difficile^ e secondo altri per onomatopea nella imitazione 
dello strepito che produce quando si giuoca, e di questa opinione furono 
Egidio Menagio (* Dictionnaire etymologique de la langue fran^aise/ art. 
trictrac), de Faretiere ('Dictionnaire fran^ois*), de Pasquier, Parini (*I1 
giorno '), Antonini (' Dictionnaire fran^ois, latin et italien/ art. onoma- 
top^)y ed altri. Le ricerche che si sono fatte intorno airantichit^ di questo 
giuoco non sono molto precise; ma almeno se ne pu6 concludere che la data 
della sua origine si perde nel buio de' tempi. Ci6 viene anche confermato 
dalla cbnsiderazione che i giuochi di azzardo in genere sono antichissimi, 
mentre la loro invenzione b da Platone attribuita ad una divinitii egizia per 
nome Theuth (Platone nel 'Fedro' torn. III., p. 274). [Alcuni suir autoritii di 
lui r attribuiscono al famoso Ermete ossia Mercurio Trismegisto, filosofo 
egizio, il quale floriva verso Tanno 1900 avanti Tera cristiana; noi peraltro 
non abbiamo potuto veriflcare un tal passo, il quale sarebbe in contradizione 
con quello da noi riportato (' Encyclopedic/ p, 102)], e dairaltra considera- 
ziono che la maggior parte di tali giuochi si effettuava con i dadi, [L' origine 
de*dadi k antichissima, ma essi da principio erano segnati in quattro superfi- 
cie soltanto, essendo le altre due ritondate in cono, ^Dizionario de'costumi/ 
art. dadOy e Facciolati, * Calepinus/ art. tessera. Omero medesimo, *• Odis- 
sea' lib. I., ne famenzione; e Sofocle nel ^Palamede;' Pausania, 'Descriptio 
Qraeciae, ' lib. II., cap. XX., e lib. X., cap. XXXI.; Suida, 'Lexicon Graecum,' 
art. naXaiirfifi^, e Isacio Porflrogeneta, richiamo le sue stesse parole: o Ila- 
Xa(jLY]SY)g (ppovifJLo^, svKOLi^toxo^j TcoXo^ooXo^i {isYaXotJ/oxo^, (ott iipwxov TO xaoXt* 
Cetv Tjtot xoP«v8tv eSeopfjtat {dob Palaniede provvido, hen erudito, di grati con- 
siglio, magnanimo, cost per il primo trovo il tavoliere o sia il giuocare a dadi) 
ne attribuiscono T invenzione a Palamede. Erodoto, 'Historiarum,' lib. I., 
cap. 94, la riferisce ai Lidii che egli fa autori di tutti 1 giuochi di azzardo; 
e con esso concordano Virgilio Polidoro, *Derer. invent.,' lib. II., cap. XIII.; 
il 'Breviario storico," pag. 34; ed Alessandro Sardo, 'De rer. invent/ lib. II., 
p. 734, ma quest' ultimo altrove, lib. I., p. 714, Tattribuisce a Palamede, se- 
condo r opinione del primi che abbiamo nominate. Final mente Platone ne 
fa inventore il sopradetto Theuth (loc. cit.)], dei quali si servono i Oreci e 
1 Romani per indovinare, ovvero per Bemplice divertimento. [Gli uomini 
stessi giuocavano qualche volta perflno cogli Dei : ed b curioso ci6 che Plu- 
tarco riferisce nella vita di Romolo, che il custode del tempio di Ercole prese 
i dadi e giuoc6 con lo Dio, a condizione^che se egli vinceva ne avrebbe otte- 
nuto qualche segnalato favore, e se egli perdeva avrebbe donate al flglio 
d'Alcmena una bella ragazza]. Ora il trictrac nella sua prima maniera di 
giuocarsi apparteneva ai giuochi di azzardo, e siccome di quelli effettuati 
CO' dadi b quasi 1' unlco che noi conosciamo, pu6 congetturarsi che esso 
abbia avuto origine in quel remotissimi tempi. Anzi secondo il Barbeyirac 
('Traits du jeu,' lib. III., chap. VIII. & VI.). Platone stesso sembra che parli 
di esso quando ci dh, la descrizione di un giuoco degli antichi che ne ha tutte 
le apparenze (*De Repub.,' lib. II., pag. 374, c, tom. II., ed. Steph.). Per 
altro questo giuoco apparir^ sempre molto antico quando anche si vogliano 
soltanto considerare le conoscenze piu sicjure che si abbiano intorno ad esso. 
L'ab. Barthelemy, nel suo viaggio di Anacarsi, dice che era noto in Atene; ed 
Agathia lo descrive nel suo epigramma sopra il re Zenone che trovasi nell'An- 
tologia. Yi hanno tuttavia di colore che dubitano se Agathia abbia voluto 



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STRAY NOTES 236 



parlare del trictrac c credono che gli antichi lo abbi^no ignorato: ma qaesta 
opinione viene contradetta dal testimonio dei romani i quali certamente lo 
conoBcevano; e sapendosi che essi tenevkno quasi tutti i loro usi dai greci, b 
pressoch^ indubitato che questo giuoco era cognitissimo id Orecia, dove fa 
recato probabilmente dai Fenicii. Questi ultimi pcrtanto, come pensa Tau- 
tore del 'Dictionnaire des jeux,' art. trictrac^ ne furono forse grinventori, 
a meno che lo avcssero ricevato ancora da piu lungi, sia dair Egltto o dal- 
rindia. Non dobbiamo peraltro omettere T opinione deH'Arabo, al-Safadi, 
il quale ne fa inventore un re di Persia ('Encyclopedic amusem/ art. aritme- 
tique e 'Dizionario della ricreazione,' torn. II., p. 94), e noteremo ancora in 
conferma di questa opinione che i Persi mandarono il giuoco del trictrac 
agli Indian! avendone ricevuto in contracambio quelle degli soacchi: il che 
pu6 vedersi in Hyde (^ Mandragoras/ p. 42), in Menocchio ('Le stuore,' 
torn. III., cap. 84), ed in Verci, 'Lettere sui scacchi,* p. 26. [I Prancesi e gli 
Aiemanni si disputarono un tempo la gloria deir invenzione di questo giuoco, 
'Academic des jeuz,' ediz. II., art. trictrac, ma ci6 al piu si pu6 intendere di 
qualche sua ultima modiflcazione fra le tante che ha sublto. Infatti i Fran- 
cesi hanno il trictrac^ revertier, toutes-tables, toumecase, dames rabattues, 
ptein^ toe, gammon^ Jacquet^ garanguet ('Dictionnaire des Jeux*), gritaliani 
lo sbaraglino^ il giacchetto a due ed a ire dadi^ ed in partioolare i Roma- 
gnoli il minoretto; gli Spagnuoli il toccadigliOy ecc. ecc., Bartinelli nel suo 
Sbaraglino], Ma Tantico giuoco del trictrac venne in seguito variato in piu 
maniere, e quella sua modiflcazione che oggi ^ piu in uso ed ha preso il 
nome di giacchetto^ deve annoverarsi fra i giuochi di commercio, come di 
gi& abbiamo awertito. [II sig. Barbeyrac, loc. cit., pag. 121, dice che il 
trictrac & giuoco di comraercio; sebbene noi lo vediamo sempre espressa- 
mente proibito fra i giuochi di azzardo, come pu6 vedersi neirordinanza 
del 1319 di Carlo IV., detto it Bello, ed in altre successive]. Non tralasceremo 
qui di ricordarne la poetica origine descritta con molta eleganza dal Parini 
(loc. cit.), il quale attribuisce la sua invenzione ad un accorto amaate, che 
cerc6 con lo strepito di questo giuoco di deludere la gelosia di un marito.*^ 
The subsequent text of the section on giacchetto is in three chapters 
(pp. 144<161) ending with a very short glossary or '' Dizionario che spiega i 
termini usati nel giacchetto,'' (pp. 162-164). The table, we are told, is 
divided into four parts, "che diremo tavole contenenti ciascuna sei case o 
frezze/' The sixth paragraph informs us that ''I numeri dissimili^ come due 
e assoy quattro e tre^ ecc, sono chiamati seynplici, Quelli che sono eguali 
come due 3, due 4, ecc, sono chiamati doppietti. Nel leggere i numeri sem- 
plici bisogna sempre nominare il piu gran numero per il prime; cosi sei e 
quattro^ e non quattro e sei, dovrd, pubblicarsi il tiro nel quale un dado pre- 
senta 4, e V altro 6.'' The list of terms given to the doublets differs slightly 
from that we have already presented to the reader: *'Ogni doppietto ha la 
sua denominazione particolare: i due assi si chiamano ambi gli assi o as- 
sissimi; i due 2 duetta; i due 3 terni; i due 4 quatema; i due 5 cinquina; 
e i due 6 seoni o sei ttuti."' The writer cites from Bartinelli the Brescian 
phrase, aver la ?>iano, ''che signiflca essere il prime a giuocare.'* Restates 
that double five is the best cast for the first one; ''ed il peggiore, esduso 
due e asso, h quelle degli assissimi [double aces] per cui si dice : assissimi 
in primis sunt signum perditionis,'* an adage which we have not found 
elsewhere. Two others are given afterwards: "pedtna toccata deve esser 



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236 . CHESS IN ICELAND 

giiwcata"' and ^^pedina lasciata e pedina giuocata."" A series of doubled 
points and therefore impassible is called legatura^ the verb legare being 
used in the same sense. As to the rules, we glean the following principal 
points. Your adversary's men are placed at the beginning of the game on 
the first point at your left, that is to say, on the first point of the first 
table, while your own are placed on the first point at your adversary's left. 
In moving the men, the starting point is not counted, but the finishing 
point is. In playing, the points or pips of the two dice are to be considered 
separately, never unitedly. Men can only be placed on points wholly un- 
occupied by adverse men. No men can be moved from the point on which 
all {monte) are placed at the beginning until the first man moved has reached 
the fourth table. No more than two points can be occupied in that table 
in which one's monte stands; this, however, may be any two, or may be 
varied from time to time. Doublets are played doubly, that is four times 
the number represented by each die. When the men have all arrived at 
the fourth table they may be either moved or thrown off indifferently. The 
second chapter is devoted to explanations of the method of play under va- 
rious circumstances, a note at the end expounding the doctrine of proba- 
bility as applied to casts of the dice. The laws of the game, 28 in number, 
are the subject of the third chapter, in the course of which we find that a 
die is not counted when it leans against the side of the table or against a 
man, in which case it is said to be in aria; and that the player uses for the 
French "^'odowfte" either the word accancio or accommodo* Finally, from 
the glossary wo learn that bossolo (** dice-box'") was formerly called, as the 
compiler thinks with greater precision, cannello; that a marcia is a game 
like a <' gammon" in English, in which a player throws off all his men 
before his opponent has thrown off a single one, and that it counts as two 
games; that marcia is styled a marcia per puntU when it is not gained by 
means of a legatura (that is by barring the path of the adversary through 
a series of impassable points); that the mucchio is the point occupied at the 
outset by the men of either player (or perhaps the French point de repose) ; 
and that each of the four parts, into which the board is divided, now called 
a tavola^ was in remote times known as a campo^ while the word tavole 
was applied to the men, now known as pedine (*' pawns''). 

The game of backgammon, now most commonly known as tavola reale^ 
is still greatly played in Italy, as is shown by the fact that the folding board, 
usually of wood, inlaid, rather than of leather, is to be procured even in the 
smaller towns. They are generally not oblong as in England and America, 
but nearly always square when folded, having on the outside a smaller 
chess-board and merelles board. To give a fair idea of the usual method 
of play wo copy the section devoted to the diversion in a recent anonymous 
handbook of games, which shows comparatively few signs of having been 
compiled under foreign influence. It is styled 'Ml libro dei giuochi*' (Flo- 
rence 1894), and the description of tavola reals is to be found on pp. 360-363 ; 
*'Ecco un altro Ara i giuochi nobili adottatissimo in quasi tutte le famiglie 
di una certa condizione, e per il quale molti signori spingono il gusto fino 
alia passione. II suo materiale consiste in quella cassetta quadra sul piano 
esterno della quale si vede quasi sempre la scacchiera per gli scacchi o la 
dama. Si coUoca aperta flra i due ginocatori, i quali avranno cosl due scatole 
unite, segnate in ciascun fondo di sei Areccie da un lato e sei dair altro, per 



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237 



lo piu alternate, una bianca e una nera. Vi sono inoltre quindici pedine 
bianche e quindici nere, un paio di dadi, e un bussolo per ciascun giuoca- 
tore, con che agitarli e gettarli. Prima di cominciare il giuoco si dispongano 
le pedine pKcisamente secondo la flgura 19. U giuocatore delle bianche mo- 

Oiuooatore delle p«cU&« a«re. 





Oiadc»tor» d«ll« pedine biaaohe. 

Fig. 19. 

verji le sue pedine da destra a sinistra nel lato opposto, da sinistra a destra 
nel lato proprio, cio6 percorrer^ in giro dalle sue due pedine bianche op- 
poete yerso le due nere che ha suUa sua destra nella propria parte. II giuo- 
catore delle (nere, al contrario, percorrer& il giro dallo due nere che ha in 
faccia a sinistra verso le due bianche che ha nella propria parte a sinistra. 
La parte A verso cui concorrono tutte le pedine, tanto bianche che nere, 
dicesi cMa. Scopo del giuocatore 6 di ridurre in essa tutte le proprie pedine, 
e quindi di toglierle, come vedremo. Chi primo le toglie vinco la partita. Si 
decide con i dadi ohi deve giuocare per il primo, avendo questi un piccolo 
vantaggio suir altro. I dadi devono esser gettati o neir una o neiraltra parte 
della scatola. Balzando fuori uno di essi, si dovr& gettarli di nuovo. II primo 
dunque getta i suoi dadi, e fk avanzare verso la direzione gift indicata due 
delle sue pedine, oiascuna per tante Areccie qnante ne indica eiascun dado ; 
ovvero Ai avanzare una sola pedina per tanti punti quanta 6 la somma del 
punti fatti dai due dadi. Indi V altro giuocatore prende i dadi e giuoca alia 
sua volta : cosl tiro per tiro le pedine di oiascuno avanzano verso la casa. 
Quando vi sieno tutte raccolte, non prima, allora si cominciano a togliere 
di tavola corrispondentemente ai punti che si fitranno. La pedina che nel suo 
corso va a posarsl dove ne 6 una sola deir avversario, la toglie di giuoco 
prendendo 11 suo posto. Gi6 si chiama dare air altro. Ma non sempre con- 
viene di dare, ed b anzl talora buon giuoco di astenersene. L' altra dovr&, 
tirando i dadi, rientrare in giuoco, cio& ricominciare il giro dalla casa. B se 
i punti tratti corrispondessero a freccie occupate da pii^ di una pedina av- 
versaria, non pu6 rientrare, e ritenter^ nuovamente air altro suo tumo, senza 
poter movere le altre sue pedine flnch^ ue abbia Aiori df giuoco. Oettati i 
dadi e toccata una pedina la si dovr& movere se ^ possibile. Per6, altoreh^ 
gettando i dadi sortono ciascuno di essi con punti eguali, ci6 si ^ un dep- 



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pietto, si considera il tiro come doppio, e allora si muovono quatti;o pedine, 
due per il doppio dei punti fatti, o una per il quadruple. I doppietti hanno 
nomi special i, cio^ : bambini, duetti^ temi, qwxdreUi, china^ sena. Dopo il fin 
qui detto, si capisce bene che non b unico scopo del giuocatore di correre 
impazzatamente alia meta, ma vi saranno molti calcoli da fare, e molta cau- 
tela da adoperare. Cosi, ognnno cercher^ di restore il meno possibile con 
una pedina sola sul corso deir avversario {restare a tavola) e procurer^ di 
accomodare la mossa dei due pezzi in modo che vadano a riunirsi o addos- 
sarsi ad altri. Procurer^ altresl di ooprire piu che possa, sempre con piu di 
un pezzo s* intende, quante piu pud freccie della casa dalla propria parte, 
p per trovarsi pronto e bene sterzato coUe pedine per 11 memento in cui co- 
mincier^ a levarle : 2^ perch^, dandosi il caso che all* avversario si avesse 
tolta una pedina, gli 8ar& tanto piu difficile di rientrare nella casa nostra 
quante piu frecce vi trover^ impedite, fino da non tirare affatto quando lo 
sieno tutte. In questo caso chi ha i dadi tira di seguito e muove flno a che 
non rcsti libera una freccia nella sua casa. Cosl, per eserapio, supponiamo 
che il giuocatore delle bianche tiri per il prime sei, asso. Egli con una pe- 
dina (iella froocia M [fig. 20] far& il sei, con quella della fVeccia R f^r& 



CHaocatore d«ll6 pedin« nere. 
I H 8 FED 




N P0R8TUVXYZ 

Oiuooatore delle pedine biancbe. 

Fig. 30, 

r asso ; e metter^ cosl due pedine suUa freccia S. Supponiamo che il giuo- 
catore dei neri tiri quattro, due. Egli fardi ii quattro con una pedina della 
freccia H, e il due con una della freccia F, ponendole entrambe suUa frec- 
cia D, e cosl, come taluni dicono, avr& fatto una casa. Facendo il giuoca- 
tore dei biancbi, per esempio sena egli pud muovere il grnppo della freccia A, 
e portarlo snlla freccia O., e poi, perchd con cotesto gruppo non potrebbe 
fare un altro sei, essendo la freccia N occupata dai neri, ei pad staccare 
un* altro gruppo d^ due della freccia M alia S. Ecco chiaro il vantaggio dei 
doppietti : muoverne, due per volta. Ridotte tutte le pedine in casa, le si tol- 
goDo a seconda dei punti. Cosl relativamente al bianco, facendo china, ed 



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STRAY NOTBS «39 



avendo iutte le pedine in casa, ei ne potrebbe togliere quattro dalla freccia U. 
Facendo quattro e due, ne toglie una dalla V e una dalla Y. Se la Y fosse 
vuota, avanza di due punti una pedina del T, o del U. Se non vi sono pe- 
dine suUe frecde superior!, cio^ punti da fttre, si tolgono addirittura di 
giuoco le pedine dalle freccie inferiori al punto fatto. Alcuni muovono piii 
tardi che sia possibile le prime due pedine della parte opposta della casa, 
per aver con esse la probability d' incontrare qualche pedina a tavola e to- 
glierla di giuooo. Talora si h veduto V uno dei giuocatori aver la pedina 
fuori e V altro mezze le pedine tolte, gi& presso a vincere ; ma costretto que- 
st! a restare, nel togliere le sue pedine, a tavola, e V altro fatto il punto di 
quella freccia, levargli alia sua volta quella pedina, e vincer la partita per 
aver la sua casa ben barricata.'* The variety here described is the ordinary 
English backgammon (the French '^toutes- tables''). We must always re- 
member that it may be a modern importation into Italy. 

A still later compilation by J. Gelli, **Come posso divertirmi'' (Milan 1901), 
before cited (p. 102), devotes a few pages (207-17) to the game, which it calls 
sometimes tavola reale and sometimes tric-trac. These pages are evidently 
a compilation from the French. Two variations are described — fricrroo and 
the giuoco del giacchetlo. Three or four others are simply mentioned— al- 
ways by their French names {garanguei, dames rahattues^ toute'table or 
gammon). The technical terms are sometimes Italian and sometimes more 
or less distorted French forms. The Italian designations of the doublets arc 
stated to be : aces, ambassi, ambo gli assi, asso doppio : deuces, ambo ; treyR, 
tema; fours, quaiema; fives, china; sixes, 5Ctw— showing some slight 
differences when compared with the list previously cited. TrictraciB spoken 
of in one place as tavola reale alia francese. The terms Jan, contro-Jan^ and 
angolo di quiete o di riposo are employed; a **blot'' is a pedina scoperta; 
a point, that is one of the twelve on each side of the table, is a freccia. Tlie 
French ** abattre de bois '' is rendered as far legna^ and is eiplained as *'a 
cast of the die which enables the player to advance two men instead of one." 
When the player is not able to play the points displayed by the dice the 
position is said to be chiuso. In giacchetlo the man thrown forward at the 
commencement of the game to the fourth table is styled corriere. The 
compiler states that the number of men in trictrac is thirty, rarely thirty- 
two, while in giacchetlo^ it is always thirty. How much the two French 
varieties which are here treated are actually played in Italy it is not easy 
to say. 

As to Germany, we have already learned (pp. 90-91) that the nard game, 
in the stage when it was known as vmrfzabel, was established in tiiat 
country as early as the Xlllth century. It would not be easy to demonstrate 
absolutely, by documentary or linguistic evidence, that any vernacular terms 
relating to dice, or simple dice-play, were in use before the table-game 
proper could have became known north of the Alps. In fact, so far as any 
extant German literary records go, we might surmise that dice and tables, 
that is some form of backgammon (Roman or other) must have crossed tlic 
mountains at about the same time. But, on the other hand, it would, 
nevertheless, be too much to infer that the German people first knew the 
die only as an implement appertaining to the table-game, considering that 
dice, as a means of diversion, must have been known as (At back as the 
days when soldiers of Rome garrisoned so many portions of Germany— long 



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240 CHBSS IN lOBLAND 



before the downfall of their great empire. It is most probable, indeed, that 
tlie Qermanic peoples learned the use of dice from the Roman soldiery, in 
spite of the fact that Taoitus conveys the idea that the habit of dice-play 
was a peculiarly German evil. Nevertheless (we are always in a period of 
doubt), it is not impossible that dice may have reached the more or less 
nomadic tribes of northern and eastern Europe from Asia— to which quarter 
of the world a cloudy legend assigns their origin. The so-called ^^ Qrando 
encyclopedic *' of France has thus summed up the commonly conceived no- 
tion of the ancient Oerman and general mediaeval devotion to games at dice: 
'* Lc jeu de d^s, selon Tacite, etait une veritable passion chez les Germatns: 
lorsquMls avaient tout perdu ils jouaient sur un dernier coup leur liberte. 
Plus tard au moyen Age, ce fut un des jeux favoris des chevaliers. On troo- 
vait des academies de jeu de dds (schol<ie deciorum). II y avait memo une 
corporation sp^iale d'industriels qui ftibriquaient les des & jouer, les deciers. 
Malgr^ les interdictions et les ordonnances (en particulier, celles de 1254 et 
de 1256 par lesquelles saint Louis ddfendait le Jeu et la fabrication des dds) 
le jeu resta chcr pendant tout le moyen slge aux hommes et aux femmes; 
plus tard les lansquenets se signalerent sp^ialement par leur passion pour 
les des.'' As to the testimony of Roman writers in regard to the prevalence 
of dice-play among the German tribes wo shall come to that farther on. 

We shall now first endeavour to learn what we can about the appella- 
tions connected with dice, in the early centuries of the modern period, since 
most of those appellations may be considered as a part of the terminology 
of backgammon. The generic German word for " die," is wurfa (plural 
as singular); according to the lexicographers it is a derivative of wurf, a 
noun signifying a ** throw" or '*cast." This latter is formed from the 
plural preterite stem of the verb werfen (singular, ich warf, plural, wir 
lowYen), and is really genuine old High German (influenced, as stated below, 
by the Low German form). Unlike the languages we have been treating so 
far, and unlike the English, the German, therefore, possesses an indigenous 
term for this important implement of the backgammon game. The congener 
of werfen in English is the verb '* loarp," which had the same signification 
(to ''throw" or ''cast") in its Anglo-Saxon and Middle English forms, a 
meaning now lost. The second or terminal element of vourfel is the derivative 
syllable -el (-0, which, even in very old times, served two purposes, first and 
foremost to form substantives and ad^jectives from verbal and other stems; 
secondly and subsidiarily to form diminutives. In this way wUrfel would 
literally moan a " throwing," *' throw," '* little throw," or " little thing 
thrown." In old High German — during the Xlth and Xllth centuries— it took 
the sliape, under Low German influence, of wor/U, worfel. From wUrfel 
comes, by means of the verbal suffix -en (-n), the verb vyUrfein^ to " cast" or 
" throw dice," to " play dice," to " dice." A dice-player is styled a wdrfier, 
and dice-playing ("gambling"), or the "game of dice," is known as icAr- 
felspiel—^ minstrel of the Xlllth century, as we shall see hereafter, exclaim- 
ing: der iiiuvel schuof das wUrfel spil^ " the devil created the game of dice." 
Remembering all this, we shall understand the old German name given to 
nard-backgammon, wurfiabel (that is ** throw-tables "), to which we may 
have occasion to refer again. We dwell somewhat fully on these etymolo- 
gies, because it is by means of these philological evidences that we may be 
able, if at all, to decide on the simultaneous or non-simultaneous introduc- 



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S7RAYN01ES 241 



)D into Iceland of pQre games of dice, and of table-games, in which dice 
9 sabordinately employed. As to dice-play, there is a singular bit of 
/ere prose comment on the subject in Haus8d()rffer's ^^ Compendittses 
xikon Apophtegmaticum '* (Niirnberg 1718): "Der die wiirfol erftindon, 
t sechs galgen verdient: den ersten fur sich, den andern fiir seine spiel- 
sellen, den dritten fur den zuseher, den vierten fiir den, so den spielf^latz 
It, den fanften fur den, so das spiclen erstlich lehret, und den sechston fiir 

hcrrsehaft, welche das spielen nicht verbietet.'* 

The numbers given to the dice-pips play a noticeable part in later 
tin mathematical history. As we are taught by the most famous of the 
ssical architectural writers, Vitruvius, the mathematicians of Rome 
led 6 the "perfect" number (because of 1 -i- 2 -♦- 3 = 6), and accordingly 
noed a peculiar terminology applicable to the elements contained in it. 
} six lowest members of the numeral series were given these names: unto, 
':o, tet'nio, quatemio, gmnio, senio (all feminine substantives, forming the 
itive in -onw). However these forms may have originated, they seem 
>nce, or within a short period, to have been applied to the dice-pips, the 
ly-sided Isidore of Seville (who, born about 570, died in 636), apparently 
wing them only in that connection; for he says, in his chief work 
rigines,'* 12,65): " Jactus, quisque apud lusores veteres a numero voca- 
ir ut wnio, binio, ternio^ quatemio, quinio, senio/* Notice his expression, 
res veieres ("ancient players ''), as if he believed the terms to be classic, 
reas they are really post-classic. These numbers, or many of them, 
ied over into modem forms, and were, in their new shapes, or in the 
inal Latin, of frequei\t use, as the reader will have, perhaps, already 
irved, in the mediaeval " tables " manuscripts. 

The numbered pips, or dice-spots, known by names derived from the 
ince tongues are, in the older German, as, daus {tus, dausz^ iaus, tausz), 
jce;'' quater {quatter, hatter), "quatre," "cater;*' zink {zingg), '>ci»7;" 
(a middle High Oerman form), " sice.** One of the newest German pub- 
ions on games (A. von Hahn*s " Buch des Spiele,** Leipzig 1900, 
edition, p. 262), in describing the backgammon variety toccategli, says 
e names of the dice: " Die eins heisst, as oder ^.v; die zwei, dons ; die 
zuweilen dres; die vier quatuor oder quater; die fiinf cinque oder sink; 
ochs sis Oder sess**— hut dous is not often so written, and dres is 
own to most lexicologists. Older works on the same table-game (as, 
istance, the anonymous " Neueste Anleitung wie die trictrac- und toc- 
lie-spiel recht und wohl zu spielen,** Niirnberg 1773, (p. 5), and various 
►ns in the same century of the Oerman Hoyle, (" Das neue konigliche 
ibre,*') vary in their orthography, writing ass oder ess, ires, sis, while 
add the technical titles of the d6ublets: aces, ambesas or beset; deuces, 
? deux ; threes, femes or iournes; fours, carnes, carmes; fives, qui7ies; 

sonnes, sanne or san7iez—8A\ of Romance prev&nance. Ass is, of course, 

same origin as the French "as" and our "ace;" an earlier orthography 
le High German and late old High German) was esse. The newer form . 
btless influenced by, if not directly derived from the French. There 
absolutely certainty as to the remote origin of this term, common to 
ny languages and used in all of them in so many popular sayings. 
it makes the French as to come from the Latin as, which came to 
r the unit of measure, and was thence applied to the playing card, or 

31 



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242 CHESS IN ICELAND 



to that Bide of & dice-cnbe inrhich is marked with a single point. The Latin 
dictionaries nsually suggest, as the source of the Latin as^ a Tarentian dialect 
form, i^f of the Greek el^ ('*one''), but doubt is thrown on this by the 
"Century Dictionary" {sub "ace"). Daus follows our "deuce" in having 
a double etymology. As a dice term it is to be referred to duos (accusative 
of the Latin duo); when it is an adjuration (as in the English "Deuce take 
you!" or the German Was der daus/) it is doubtless, a corruption of the 
Latin deus ("deity"). This debased signification (=" devil") belongs to a 
common class of phenomena occurring in the process of etymological de- 
velopment. The vernacular drei is, in modern usage, much more usual 
than ires or dres. The varying forms of quater come, of course, through 
the French numeral form, ft'om the Latin quadrio or quatuor. Cinque and 
jing' represent the French "cinq." Whether sis or sess is of direct modern 
Romance derivation (like our " sice ") is not yet, we believe, fully decided. 
Of the doublet names carries (contracted f^om quatemo), quines and sonnes 
are from the series enumerated by Isidor, very likely through the French. 

These appellations of the dice-points— au^en = " eyes" as they are styled 
in the vernacular— were used figuratively very early in German literature, 
both by the poets and in proverbs. Instances of the latter are very nume- 
rous, but are generally, if not always, suggested by the dice, or drawn from 
pure dice playing, having no apparent reference to any table-game. One of 
the most wide-spread is the rhyming adage which has been popularly ascribed 
to Luther (and which is said to be really found in a still existing MS auto- 
graphic collection of proverbial sayings compiled by the noted reformer): 

Dans ea niehts hat ; 

Sm sink niehts dat [" girea "] , 

Aber qnater drey 

Dia aind ateta dabey [" alwaya on hand] , 

or as Luther makes' the final lines: quater dreyhalten was {uns) frey, other 
versions having as the closing words, hilfen fret. It is sometimes found in 
a slightly varied form : Daus es hat nichts^ | sess zink gibt nichts, \ quater 
drei muss herhaUen, Here, of course, the smallest numbers are employed to 
represent the lowest and poorest classes, the intermediate numbers indicate 
the sober, more trustworthy, commercial middle ranks, and the two highest 
stand for the nobility and less energetic wealthy orders. The theme is fre- 
quently varied and has gone into many languages, whether from the German 
or Latin we hesitate to say, the oldest Latin form being: ZMio pauperior 
Codro est^ ut binas egenus : senio nil conferi : quinio nil tribuit. As is seen, 
temio and quatemio are omitted, so that the point of the saying is missed. * 
Codrus was the name of two insignificant Latin poetasters, one of whom 
was made fi&mous by the accounts of his extreme poverty. In an old volume, 
which contains some translations from Ovid, there is an English metrical 
rendering of the proverb Just cited: 

Deaoe ace eannot 
Pay soot and lot; 

Sioe aink will not pay ; 
Be it known to all — 
What paymenU fall 

Moat light on ooter tray, 



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STRAY NOTES 243 



— " coter " being quater. Similar is the couplet from the story of '* Reynard 
the Fox " as given to ns by P. S. Ellis and T. F. Crane (London 1897)— 

That which it likened to deaoe aoe 
Hath in esteem the lowest place. 

An old popular German bard, yclept Rosenplut (Rosenblut), who made the 
llowers of poesy bloom at Nuremberg between 1431 and 1460, says in IiIh 
" Nil ruber ger rais:" 

Taos es wart das ir nioht Terlast 
TJnd weichet nieht von kotter drei ; 
Die werden enoh das spiel gewinnen. 
Ses sink die wonen each nioht pei. 

Here tatis es refers to the common people, kotter drei to the middle classes, 
and ses sink to the nobility. But the boldest allegory based upon the dice- 
points is one cited from a middle High Gorman piece by the Rhenish poet 
Reimar von Zweter (died after 1252), which ascribes the origin of their num- 
bers to his Satanic majesty: 

Der tiorel sohoof das wfirfelspiel 

Dar ambe das er sfilen ril dA mite gewinnen will. 

Das esse er hAt gemaht dar tt dos 6in got gewaltlo iat. 

Der himel in slnen handen stAt 

Und dio erde, dar ftf er das ttis gemaohet hat : 

Die drlen M die drle namen die er hAt, der sfiese yoare Krist : 

Das qnAter wohrte er mlt groaen listen 

TJf die namen der Tier drangelisten : 

Den sinken id des mensohen sinne 

Wie er die fttnfte maohe krano : 

Das ses. wie er seefas woohen lano 

Die wasten nns mit toppel ane gewinne. *^ 

Sometimes the allegorical meaning attached to the points takes another 
shape, as in the lines from '^Eraklius,*' also a poem of the Xlllth century, 
ascribed to one Meister Otto, whose birthplace, residence and family name 
are all unknown, and who, as it seems, elaborated it from an early French 
poetical piece, called "L'empereur Eracles" by Gautier d'Arras, a writer 
who lived and wrote nearly a hundred years before Meister Otto. This is 
his allusion to some of the dice-numbers: 

Umbe die frowen stAt es sA 

Sehte als nmbe ein toppelspil, 

Ob' mans se rechte merken wil, 

Br ist wAr and niht gelogen. 

Es yelt eim rlohen hersogen 

Als lihte ein esse oder ein tfts 

Ala dem boBsten [meanest] yon dem hfts, 

which seems intended to indicate that the same destiny awaits both high 
and low. 

Still earlier in the same century lived the rhymer known only as the 
^'Strieker*'— by profession as has hence been supposed, a rope-maker — 
whose home seems to have been in South-eastern Germany and in Austria. 
He died about the year 1250. After having produced an epic on Charlemagne, 

*"* A modem German rertlon of thig pieee is given on a rabseqaent page. 



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244 CHESS IN ICELAND 



he composed a variety of poetical works. Id one of the beat known of which, 
the "Pfaffe Amis/' ho cites proverbially the two lowest dice-points: 

Dar ambe tiil wlr prison 
Den pfkffen Amiaen, 
Twle verre er foor in das lant 
Das man dooh sallen slten Tant 
Yll gWte«n rAt in sine htm 
DA yiel das eaae nooh daa tfta 
Nioht an der handelonge. 

A yet more renowned rhymer of the same period, meister Freidank, whose 
individuality, after long research, is still a subject of debate, classes together, 
as alike treacherous sports, dice, racing and falconry {federspiel) : 

DeM pfand gar oft Im spiel rerfilllt, 
Der seine ehr' aof wnrfel stellt. 
WnrfiBl, roes and federspiel 
Haben tron die tangt nicbt viel. 

Among others of a later date, Hans Sachs introduces the terminology of the 
game into one of his quasi-religious dramatic pieces, when he makes the 
soldiers of Pontius Pilate cast dice for the garment of Christ: 

RomanuM, — Das loss werfen wlr nber dem 

Gestriokten rook, weloher in nehm. 

Er wUrft mit zehn icHrfeln ein tourf und spricht : 

loh hab drei ess, ich bin darvon, 

Br wird an mioh mit langen tog. 
Ver and&r KneehL — Ich hab drei daoss, gwin anch nit viel 

Mit dir ich darnaoh gleiohen wU. 
J}tr driU Knecht. — Nn seoht an, ich hab qaater drei : 

Ich hoff iob sei anch nooh darbei. 
n^r vUrt Knscht. — Gliiok waits, der wnrfel trfigt sees dans : 

Der rook let mein, das spiel ist anas. 

Another writer of theatrical pieces, cited by Vigil Raber in one of his 
collection of twenty-six "Sterzinger Spiele" (1510-1535)— the twenty-fifth 
play— makes one of his characters say to another: Du richtst dein sach nur 
nach ses2, singg, qtwtter ; while in an old ballad to bo found in Uhland's 
" Volkslieder" there is a similar passage: 

Drei wiirfel sncket ioh herfilr 
Und warf sink, qaater, drei. 

0. Schade, in his "Satiren und pasquille aus der reformationszeit'* (Han- 
nover, 1853-8), cites various old poetical allusions to dice, as Derpaur sprach 
'quater, sinke\ (20-17); and in the well known **tragedia, der irdisch Pilger 
genandt" (Niirnberg 1562) of Johann Heros, one of the persons says: 

Gefiaien 1st mir qaattor ses, 
Daraaf mir qnatter daas aaoh fellt. 

Much earlier is the "Renner," a didactic poem by Hugo von Trimberg, who 
lived at Bamberg through the first decade of the XlVth century, in which 
we find what seems to be a rhymed proverb, 

Yon sinken qaAter onde tfts 
HAt manger eIn onberAtea hfts. 



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Many more such verselets and quaint sayings might be quoted. Thus there 
is an exclamation made by a player who has been losing, on throwing a 
small and useless combination of the dice: Dauszes, hastu mein pferd nicht 
ffeseTienf^reteTTing to the wagered and lost horse. A somewhat quaint defi- 
nition of this rather obscure phrase is given by a Qerman writer. He informs 
us that it is vom spiel entlehnt und ausruf de^'enigen, der einen scIUechteti 
wurf thutj der^ toenn ein pferd auf dern spiel steht^ sagen voill^ ** daynit voerde 
ich mein pferd nicht getoinnen."* Der spieler redet gteicftsatn das daus-ess 
an^ indetn er sagt: *^ H/ittest du mein pferd gesehen^ voUsstest du, loie gut es 
i.?(, du worst nicht gekommen, denn du bist schuld, doss ich*s verliere.'' 
Quater auff einem wUrfel is a definition citod from a glossary of 1482. In a 
collection of songs (1582) we have: Sie warf ein sinken unde ein ius (i. e., 
in all sidben), A thing is said to be so ungewis als wann einer mit dausz 
ess ein spil gewinnen will. In an old piece, entitled '^Bruder Rausch/' the 
following couplet occurs: 

Er syraeh *'ioh [der tenfel] fkr in den wiirfel, 
Yon dem quater mnoh ioh ein taaes." 

An early Qerman adage is ses oder es^ equivalent to **aut Caesar aut nihil.** 
All these shreds of literature apply more especially to dice-play, but wo 
have reproduced them, as we have hinted, because the names of the dice- 
points form liliewise an essential part of the vocabulary of nard-backgam- 
mon. An interesting technical term used wherever dice are employed, and of 
a peculiar importance in German backgammon, is pasch, which, though 
singular, is really equivalent to the English "doublets** {pasch toerfen = io 
"throw doublets"). More than one explanation of the word's origin has 
been attempted, but the etymology of Orimm is . probably accurate, or, at 
least, is the generally accepted one. He makes it signify both* "doublets** 
and "triplets,** and derives it from the French pa^5&-dur (signifying: "goes 
over ten,** " passes ten," "exceeds ten**), and seems strictly to have the 
meaning of " at least eleven,** the definition in Grimm being ein spiel mit 
drei idtrfeln loobei der wurf von mehr als iO {also mindestens ii) augen bei 
gleicher augenzahl auf zwei wUrfeln gey^innt, woher ouch der mere Aachener 
mundart das verhum ^' paschendise *" (loilrfeln, paschen) entnahm. Another 
lexicographer, Daniel Sanders (1863), asserts that the word pasch is a name 
sometimes given to mUhlspiel (merelles), which is, of course, one of the 
customary lexicographical blunders, and then he goes on to give a secondary 
(dice) signification thus : Beim spiel mit drei wUrfeln ein wurf^ bei dem zwei 
wUrfeln gleich viel augen xeigen {doppelwurf) — making, if strictly interpreted, 
thre^ dice essential, but he goes on to say that jungfem-pasch is a term 
applied, wenn auch der dritte [wUrfel] dieselbe zahl augen hat^ but (sub voco 
alle)^ he describes aUe pasch as ein wurf^ im brettspiel^ vaobei auf alien 
wUrfeln dieselbe zahl dben Uegt, A minor lexicologist, deluded perhaps by 
the phrase "numeri pares,** as applied to the upturned points of two dice, 
suggests the word par as the origin of pasch. In connection with pasch a 
word elfem is alluded to in some of the lexicons, but is sought in vain in 
most of their vocabularies. Pasch is still used, in the various backgammon 
games practised in Germany, in the sense of "doublets;** while, in the 
variety known as der lange puff^ the higher first throw, to decide the begin- 
ning player, i^ l^npwn, as general-pasch. The term is likewise employed in 



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246 CITESS IN ICELAND 



pure dice-games, yrhen on two dice the number of the pips is the same, 
which are then counted together ; if the pips on three dice, thrown together, 
are alike, they are counted four fold. Only occasionally does the word make 
its appearance in general German literature. Hofltnanswaldau, a poet of 
the XVIth century, exclaims somewhere in one of his -pieces: Hier ist der 
wUrfelpasch ! ('*Gedichte,*' Leipzig 1645, 4. 5). Pasch seems to be used some- 
times in the sense of to " throw dice," or "playing dice." Thus the learned 
and ingenious essayist, Heinrich Friedrich Sturz (1737-79), says: Manhatte 
mir vor karten gewamt und so wandte ich ein dasz ich kein spiel cUs hochst- 
ens pasch verstUnde. Often, by general writers, the word is employed in a 
mistaken sense, as when a seventeenth century writer declares of one of 
his characters: er auch sogleich einen paschwUrfel nehst einer spielharte 
hrachte, as if the signification were "a die,'* or a "set of dice." Abele von 
Liljenberg (about 1760), one of the famous " Pruchtbringende Oesellschaft," 
appears to propose, satirically doubtless, to decide lawsuits by throws of 
the dice, Alle rechts- Oder gerichts-verfahrungen mii drei paschfJoUrfel endigen 
Oder erortem. As is so often the case with technical terms, the word got 
to be applied to other objects than those which it originally characterised, 
so that in the Bavarian dialect the children's game klicker (or schusserspiet) 
was also named po^cTien — perhaps from the close or doubled positions of the 
marbles. Sometimes the form basch — perhaps older — was used. Thus the 
Gotha poet, Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter (1746-97), writes in a poem called 
" Herr von Malaga und der tod " (1787) : 

Mein held, ob ihm ror angst gleich jede nerve bebte, 
Die sllhne klappten und die rang* an gaomen klebte, 
Zwang (wie beym boaohe Mnst, wann ehr* and aeligkeit 
Anf eines wiirfels fliohe sohwebte), 
Sein mnakelapiel an falsoher heiterkeit, 
Indeea er Spaniel in laDgen sngen schliirfto. 

From the noun a verb paschen was formed, meaning originally to " throw 
doublets," but afterwards to "cast dice," "play at dice" as well. The author 
of the popular "Simplicimus" (Hans von Grimmelshausen) cries, Wollen 
wir JeUunder paschen {1669), and a somewhat later writer says: toenn der 
alter herr lust hat zu paschen oder.,., pihet »u spielen."" From pascTien, again, 
comes the compound auspaschen, cited by Sanders (1871) with this illustra- 
tion : zur vergUtufig seiner auslagen durfte er eine ente herauspaschen [that is 
auswHrfeUiy u>Urflend ausspielen] lassen,'' thus meaning to "stake at dice, " 
"raffle away." Another such verb, abpaschen^ defined as to ** throw away at 
dice," is also found, with a citation from a minor writer: euch abzupasc?ien, 
armer schficher, ist mir nur spass. Among other instances of greater or less 
ignorance among lexicographers may be mentioned a definition by Radlein 
(1711): ein pasch toflr/'e?="un jeu de dez; " one by Schmid (1831): basch=: 
"jactus decretorius" (entscheidender wurf); one by another less known 
compiler is less erroneous, paschwUrfel^toUrfel zum paschen. 

That the German should have, and should have introduced into otjier 
languages spoken in the region round about his fatherland, such a peculiar 
word as pasch to express doublets at dice, may strike the reader as strange. 
It may be partly owing to the fact that the counterpart of our word "double " 
(or "doublet"), coming to us from the Latin through the French, got another 
and established meaning in connection with dice at an early day. Doppeln 



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STRAY NOTES 247 



litarally to "double/' signified to *'plAy at dice," to "dice." Grimm has 
some interesting remarks on the word. He says that the meaning to " play 
at dice," which was its earliest signification, became especially common in 
North Germany. Later it was applied to other dangerous or injurious games 
of chance, to which were attached the reputation of treacherous, swindling or 
contemptible methods of play, which bad signification was also applied to 
the noun doppeler (gambler). In the Holstein dialect, diMlen even tneans, in 
general, to " play at cards." The word is a derivative from the Latin duplus, 
and implies the doubling of the stake at game«. Some other lexicographers 
cited by Grimm agree with him in this explication, regarding it as "a staking 
double," an increasing or outbidding the stake of the adversary at dice or 
cards, either by agreeing to pay double, if a loser, or by adding an additional 
sum to that already at stake. Other writers refer its origin to that which is 
now called pasch, the cast of equal dice-points (that is, double point8),-the 
French and English " doublet," In old High German the term is not found, 
but it existed already in old Frisian {dobbela, doblia). In middle High German 
it was toppeln; in Low German (niederdeutsch), dobbeln, dobeln: in Dutch 
dobbden ; in early Icelandic it was du6to, dtt/fa, to gamble (in the Norwegian 
code known as the "Gulapingslaug" of the Xllth century), and the noun dufl 
(gambling) occurs in the same code, while in a mathematical essay of the 
XlVth century, "Algorismus," it is used in the sense of" double;" the Swedish 
has dubbla or dolbla, and the Danish doble. In the earliest citations of Grimm 
something of the sense of duplicare, is still retained. The earliest is from 
Wolfram von Eschenbach's " Parzival " of the Xlllth century: 

Umbe den warf der aorgen 
Wart getoppelt. 

A similar sentiment is from the same period: 

Maneo nnaiieie schande 

Wart getoppelt dA der beidenaohaft. 

The following, too, is nearly of the same date: 

Wir hAu teste nmbe den wurf 
Getopelt der grteen aorgen. 

A preacher, a century later, says : ir suit ouch dar umbe mit tamen an dem 
nwtceiage Oder spiln oder toppeln. In a glossary of 1482 toppeln is explained 
as " ludere cum taxillis," by which it will be seen that it then had only its 
technical signification, to " play dice." Another preacher exclaims : spilest 
und doppelst mit ihnen wie ein erzlqtterbube ! In the XVIth century the pro- 
lific Johannes Fischart, who, among his other labours, produced a free render- 
ing of the "Gargantua" of Rabelais, uses the word in his version: Lasz 
uns eins toppeln, der minst ist knecht ; and again Jst niemands hie der dop- 
peln willf A later and less famous moralist, Henneberger, dwells on the 
evil of dicing : Den^i es von cUlerlei losem gesinde ein zu hauf gesammeltes 
volk war, welcTie nichls anders thaten denn in den tabemen doppelten, spieUen 
und soffeti—spielen and doppelen being here, as often, joined in the same 
phrase, and must perhaps, sometimes be translated " playing and gambling." 
A glossary, much more recent than the one we have cited, that of Henisch, 



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248 CffESS IN ICELAND 



''Teutsche Sprach und Weisheit, A-G (1616), renders doppeln by *Uudere 
aleis, jacere tales, aleas, tesseras, duple ludere/' all but the last definition 
referring literally to dice-play. Lessing makes one of his characters a de- 
termined doppeler: Dieser mensch hat ganx und gar keinen geschmaek am 
tanzetiy und bet^eitet den spieler unvermerkt in ein seitenzimmer mit ihm zu 
gehen^ um eine viertelstunde mit einander da zu doppeln. The 1863 edition 
of Sanders cites a passage in which a good dean is seen to have such bound- 
less faith in providence that it even embraces the dice-box: Der dechant 
i/pricht..,, seine segen itber die wUrfely wenn er doppelu Sanders here expresses 
a doubt as to the origin of the play-term doppeln^ whether it come from dice- 
play or from the table-game; he even suggests that it may be connected 
with the English word ** dub." In his *' Fremdw5rterbuch " (1871) Sanders 
gives the word doublet, explaining it as ^^pasch im wUrfelspiel."* A Swiss lin- 
{ijuistic student, Stalder (1757-1833), asserts that the word, in a central Swiss 
dialect, is employed in target-shooting: doppeln Jieisjzt auch deti doppel 
erlegen hei sckiessen. The term occurs in proverbs, as in one quoted by 
Simrock : Wer im finstem doppelty ve^'liert die wUrfel ; and others are to be 
found in Wander's great '* Sp rich wdrterlex icon " (1867-80), as Auff doppel 
spiel muss main leib, gut und cUles loagen; and toer gem doppelt^ kommt 
leicht zu nichis. TO the former of these two is appended the following 
historical note: Dies sprichwort hatte man im 17 Jahrhundert trotz der 
gesetzlichen bestimmungen der spieler solle nur das verlieren, was er zum 
spiels bringe, und selbst dies nicht vollstdndig, weil man toegen spielschulden 
niemand weiter als bis aiifs hemd pfdnden solle, und namentlich nicht vervoet- 
ten solle, was ihm Gott anerscha/fen hat. An old dictionary-maker, Caspar 
von Stieler, has, in his *» Teutscher Sprachschatz *' (1691), not a few quoU- 
tions relating to doppelspiel : Er doppelt Uber die maszeti gem ; das dop^teln 
(the verbal noun) hat ihn zum armen inann gemacht; heim doppeln musz 
mann aufsetzen, a sort of proverb which he. renders into Latin: ^*exercens 
aleam pecuniam in ludum deponat;*' Stieler also uses the verb, ausdoppeln, 
to ** cease to play dice.'* 

We have thus expressed what, so far as our researches have gone (and 
they have by no means been exhaustive), we are enabled to say in regard 
to the introduction into Germany of dice, and of their use as a means of 
gambling; we have also treated the subject of the names given in German 
to the dice-pips, a matter which concerns not only the pure dice-play, but 
also the game of nard-backgammon in perhaps a still higher degree. Pre- 
vious to any account of the varieties of back-gammon, and the German 
methods of play, we shall give a hasty version of a recent essay on dice- 
play in Germany by the orientalist, August Wiinsche, published in the 
widely-known review, " Nord und Slid " (Breslau vol. 80, Marz 1897). The 
article bears the title: "Deutsche manner und frauenspiele w&hrend des 
mittelalters," but we are only concerned with the portion^ (pp. 329-334), 
which relate to dice and the nard-game. " The dice-game," he says, allud- 
ing to wtirfelspiel, "which is probably identical with bickelspiel, originated 
in the east. According to tradition it was invented in the city of Hazarth 
(Hezar) in Palestine, wherefore it is often called a game of hazard. Among 
the adherents to old Germanic mythology Wotan (Odin) was regarded as the 
inventor of dice. But on the introduction of Christianity several old attri- 
butes and spheres of activity were transferred to the spirits of evil, and 



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STRAY NOTES 249 



thus the devil, at a later day, came to be regarded as the originator of dice. 
He was supposed to have created them for the purpose of gaining souls for his 
infernal kingdom. Yet against his will the product of his ingenuity was 
made to serve Christianity, as is shown by a short poem of Reinmar von 
Zweter, in which the six dice-numbers were symbolically applied to the 
Christian faith: 

Der teafel schaf das wnrfelspiel, 

Weil er damit wiel teeien lioh gewinnon will, 

Dm MS hat er deehalb gemacht, well eiu gewalt'ger Gott da itt. 

Der himmel sammt der erde eteht 

In seiner hand, anf welche swei daa daos wohl geht, 

Die drei anf seinen namen, die da hat der tvuM wahre Cbriai. 

Dae qnatre, das sohoT er mit grouen listen 

Auf die vier evangelisten, 

Die flinfe aof des mensohen stnne, 

DasB er die flinf ihm maohe krank, 

Die seohs, dasa er sechs wochen bug 

Die fiMten una dnrch wiirfeln abgewlone. '" 

Dice-playing was known as toppeln [topeln) and the dice- player as topeler. 
The dice-board, also the backgammon-board iwurfzabel), in old French styled 
'^berleno,'" was generally of marble, the dice themselves, on the other hand, 
of bones of the ox, and bore, as they still bear, the numbers esse, (uo% (tatos), 
drie, kwater, zinke and ses. Even the ancient Germans, as the Roman histo- 
rian Tacitus ('Germania,' cap. XXIV) informs us, were passionately devoted to 
dice-play. He writes: *They practise dice-play— at which one will naturally 
wonder— soberly, and quite as if it were a serious business, with such hard- 
ihood in winning and losing, that, when they have nothing more left, they 
stake their freedom and their person on a last cast of the die. The loser 
resigns himself voluntarily ^o servitude ; even if he be younger and stronger 
than his adversary, he allows himself to be bound and sold. Thus great is 
their stanchness in an affair so bad; they themselves call it keeping their 
word.* «* The Roman, coldly calculating, and acting always with medita- 
tion, could not comprehend how the German, with his serious earnestness 
could give himself up to dice-playing, and could even make it accord with his 
sense of morality. This same popularity was enjoyed by games at dice dur- 
ing the Middle Ages, among men and women, monks and nuns, and fre- 
quently high sums were staked. It even happened, and not so rarely, that 
a player lost all his possessions in the space of a few hours. Often dice- 
play led to brawling and strife, but in spite of that it was eagerly carried 
on. Knights devoted themselves to it, especially in their after-dinner repose. 
Thus it occurred, according to the rhymed Holstein Chronicle, that the 
Danish King Eric III, ^Plogpenning,' as he was styled, engaged in an after- 
noon game at worptafelspel (backgammon), was surprised by his foes and 
murdered. On festival occasions, such as coronations, espousals and drink- 

^ For the original middle High German text of these lines see p. 843. 

1*4 The words of Taoltos, In the place oited| are: " Aleam, qaod misers, sobrll inter ssrfa 
exsrosnt, taata Incrandl perdendive temerltate, ut, earn omnia defeoerant, extreme ao noyis* 
simo jaeta ds llbsrtate ae de eorpore contendant. Vietus Tolantsrlam servltutem adlt; quamTis 
JuTsnlor, qaamvls robastlor adligare se ao venire patitur. Ea est in re prava perTieaola; ipsl 
fldem Toeant." 

82 



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250 CHESS INJCELAND 



ing-bouts, games at dice were particularly common. At the coronation of 
King Arthur, as the poet of the ' Roman de Brut * tells us, his knights called 
for dice, tables and chess; one won and another lost; they pawned their 
effects for money, until at last they began to cheat each other, and finally 
separated foaming with rage. The passion for dice-play penetrated even 
into the convents, and the monks, in their absorption, not only forgot the 
prescribed prayers and other acts of devotion, but also neglected their stud- 
ies. On the Lauterberg (now Petersberg) near Halle, in the year 1223, there 
existed in a convent such a rage for play, and such a corruption of man- 
ners and morals ensued, that dice-play went on furiously even in the apart- 
ments of the superior (propst), and chess and draughts [this latter could hardly 
have been known in Germany at that date] were played, while mead and 
wine were sold at the same time. Playing at dice was even carried into 
the next world. In the well-known tale (fableau) of ' St. Peter and the 
player' (*St. Pierre et le Jongleur*) St. Peter one day, during the absence 
of Satan, appears in the lower regions with dice and a dice-board, and begins 
to play with the temporary guardian -> a demon devoted to dice— for lost 
souls. At first they played for only a single condemned soul, but the game 
^ew constantly hotter and the stakes larger, and before long the saint had 
won all the souls to be found in hell, and carried them off in triumph to 
heaven. When the devil at last returned and found the luckless player alone 
in his uncomfortable region, he fell into a great fury, but he couldn't change 
what had happened, and nothing was left for him to do except to ponder 
how he could repeople his infernal world with new souls. It is not wonderful 
that princes and magistrates, in order to bridle this madness for the dice- 
table, issued sharp ordinances and other legal regulations. As early as 
952, the emperor Otho the Great, at the diet of Augsburg, notified the 
bishops, priests and deacons that they would be obliged to give up their 
ofiices unless they restrained their fondness for gaming. Later, in 1232, 
Frederick II published a severe statute against dice-players {de aleatoribus), 
and the pious St. Louis of France, who had many German subjects, forbade 
dice-play under heavy penalties to all the officials of his kingdom, and also 
prohibited the fabrication of dice. According to an ordinance of the muni- 
cipal council of Strasburg, dated 1241, every one who was found, after the 
third stroke of the wahteglocke, or night-guard's bell {post sonitum tertium 
campanae)^ at play in a house or tavern, was to be arrested and punished. 
To these inhibitions and punishments, designed to cure the mania for play, 
were joined the anathemas of many of the mediaeval lyrists and moralists. 
They regarded gaming, in its uncontrolled excesses, as an evil ruinous to 
both body and soul, and uttered many expressive words of warning against 
it. The same minnesinger, Reinmar von Zweter, whom we have already 
cited, calls the pleasure taken by his count^ymen in playing dice a greed 
much stronger than the passions of love, of acquisition of property, or of 
dfink: 

Bin schdnes weib bexwiiigt den mann, 

TTnd iBt dabel aaoh Bilnde, to iftt dooh kein wander d*ran. 

Es Ewingt eln ■ohatc anoh geioen knecht, duz er in selnem Dienst mass Bteh'u. 

So zwingt eln hen aach wohl aeln gat, 

Dmz m thm dienen mass and leiden, was er mit ilun that, 

Ee Ewlngt dea weinea kiaft den nsann aaoh, daas die ainne Ihm rergehn, 

Dooh weias ioh nooh ein wandeirbarea zwbigen. 



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STRA Y NOTES 251 



Das wnnderbar ror alien andem dijigen : 

DasE elnem todten wiirfel-knodhen 

Bin mann, der lebt, mlt here and ainn 

In Boloher gier aioh giebt dahln, 

Dasi ihm reratand mass werden abgesproofaen. '" 

Wherever the word spiel is used by the medi?eval and some of the later 
poets the reference is generally to dice-playing, as in that great codex of 
verse at Paris, known, trom its supposed compiler, as the Mannes MS, in 
which an anonymous versifier says: 

Beide, lotterie and spiel, 

Bringen leib and seel' in fall; 
Wer massloB ihnen folgen will, 

Dem maefaen ale die hnfen sclunal. 

And that didactic poet, Thomasin von Zircl&re (about 1216), says almost the 
same thing in his distich: 

Das spiel giebt hasa nnd corn gar vlel ; 
Gier nnd boahelt is^ belm spiel. 

We have already read Freidank's utterances on the game (p. 244) ; an even 
more fiimous rhymster, Sebastian Brant, who was in many respects a fol- 
lower of Freidank, but who lived more than two centuries after him, employs 
this severe expression about gaming: 

Spiel mag selten sein ohn'sind'. 
Bin spieler ist nioht Gotles kind ; 
Die spieler alle teofels sind. 

But neither the decrees nor menaces of punishment issued by princes, nor 
the condemnations uttered by poets, could check the popular rage for dice- 
play, but both tavemers and players submitted to heavy penalties rathSr 
than abandon their fi&vorite vice. It is deserving of notice that in order to 
lesson the evil of the ordinary dice-game, Wibold, bishop of Cambray, then 
a city of the empire, invented as far back as 982, a dice-game, which, in an 
ingenious way, made the method of play indicate various ecclesiastical re- 
lations and institutions.'* 

The author of this essay has comparatively little to say about back- 
gammon, in which the employment of dice is a much more innocent affair. 
He goes on, however, to tell us that "By the side of the pure dice-game 
existed other and different sorts of table-games (*Jeux de table,* callad, in 
middle High German, Jidbelspile). Amongst these was the ' wur&abelspier 

*"* Tbe following is the old form of this modornised version of an interesting pleee: 

Daa sebonia wtp betwlngent man, 

Und iat da sflnde bf, son Ist di docb nlbt wonders an ; 

86 twingel sebats oaeb stnen kaebt, als6 daa er Im dieaen mnoa; 

So twiagei gnotes berre oob gnot, 

Daa er im dionen maos nnt Itden, swas er mit in toot; 

86 twinget wines kraft ooob stnen man, daa im wirt sinne bnoa. 

Dannoeb weia ieb ein wunderltobea twingen, 

Das wanderltcher ist ob alien dingen: 

Daa elaem tdten wflrfelbeine 

Bin lebende man ben oade moot 

86 gerlieb nodertnaie toot| 
Daa ex im nimt slane ande witie aleine. 



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252 CHESS IN ICELAND 



tric-trac, our present puff. According to tradition the discovery of this was 
due to the knight Alco at the siege of Troy, which is indicated by the lines 
from *Der Renner' (verse 11401): 

Warfcabel ich das spil aoch nenne, 

Das TUt ein rittor hies Aloo, 

Vor Troye, des iit ril manger onfyro 

Worden and wirt leider noch, 

Dem spil aafblndet des kamers noch. '*" 

The fourfzabel (or backgammon) boards were, in general, very costly, espe- 
cially when the various fields (or compartments and points) were filled with 
artistic inlaid work. The catalogue of the Munich art-exposition of 1876 
describes (no. 2453) such a one discovered in the mensa of the altar of 
St. Valentine at the diocesan church of Aschaffenburg in 1852, in which it 
served [on account of its beauty, doubtless] the purpose of a reliquary. The 
unadorned points consist of pieces of veined red, oriental jasper, which is 
only polished on the upper surfaces, but on the sides, and below, is inlaid; 
the other points are overlaid with thick pieces of split or cloven and 
also inlaid rock-crystal, below which are small terra-cotta figures, variously 
painted with green, red, yellow, blue and white tints, lying on a gold ground. 
These represent partly twin-tailed sirens, partly dragun-like monsters, cen- 
taurs, and contests of beasts with men. The spaces between the points, as 
well as the borders and edges of the sides, are covered with very thin silver 
leaf laid on hard cement, in which foliage and other ornamental designs are 
impressed by means of metal stamps, which appear, looked at fVom the Aront, 
as if in high relief. The flowers and leaves on the two sides are enamelled 
in red, green and blue. At each side of the board is found a small division 
for holding the men now lacking, which were probably of chalcedony. The 
covers of these recipients are of rock-crystal adorned with silver. ^ The 
backgammon game was played [by no means always] with three dice, and 
the prizes of victory consisted mostly [hardlyj in rings {vingerlin); only when 
ladies participated, did the loser have to submit to any penalty [f]. In rela- 
tion to this it is said, in that bulky work, the * Trojan war* of Konrad von 
Wiirzburg, which dates from the second half of the Xlllth century: 

DA spilte mit der kflnlglii 
Eintweder umber vini^erlln 
Oder nm senfte biuie [blows]. 

*** The writer of the ** Nord and Sfld *' paper didn't path his researebes far enoagh to 
dlieoTer the blander In this passage. The name of tho Inventor of the game rests In lai^e 
part on a misprint, and possibly partly on the resemblanee of the name to Attains, one of 
the nomerons mythloal inventors of ohess. The Important lines of " Der Renner " ran thas: 
Noch i»t oin^ Uic tpUl, dn hMrrmt tpulgmt von dan doeh vil sUndan und vil tchamd&» Inmi 
«toi0siwM: wur/Mahel ich daa cpU in name; dot vmni Hn ritUrf hica Alco vor J¥oic," The 
name of the knight Is in the MSB alee, a Latin appellative equivalent to alealor, meaning a 
diee-player. The original moaning therefore may have been that a diee-playlag knight at the 
siege of Troy invented baokgamraon. Bot also Is misprinted in both the edittons of ** Der 
Benner *' (Frankfort 1549 and Bamberg 18S8). In the former it was printed Albo and la the 
latter iilco. The latter espeelally has henee beeome a ** ghost-word ** ~ the name of a 
sappoeed Inventor of backgammon — who never existed. 

^ We have already oalled attention (p. 167) to riehly-woaght table-boards or baekgam- 
men boards In the mosenms of Maremberg and other eitles. To these may be added the 
many fine and eostly speotanens in the HIstorleal Maseam of Moniek, and In the Moseom of 
the Kings, honsed In the Ilosenborg palaee at Copenhagen. Bnt many other pablle and private 
oollaetions oontain them; they were a favorite objeetlbr the exercise of the erafbnaaa's art. 



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STRAY NOTES 253 



Sometimes the stake was money, and in that case it was easy to lose con- 
siderable sums, whence the warnings against backgammon/' 

We now come to backgammon, its story in Germany, so fkr as we can 
make it out, and the methods of playing it in later and modern times. It 
lias several names and not a few varieties. It will be remembered that the 
word wOrfa ('' die *') is old High German, and is first heard of in the Xlth 
century. The oldest name for backgammon is buf— in its present form der 
(or das) puff or daspuffspiel, which appears, for the first time, between 1272 
and 1285, a century and a half or more after toUrfel—thhi is to say, just 
about the date at which king Alfonso in Spain was letting us know that 
two varieties of the game of tables were called la bufa cortesia and la bufa 
de baldrac.^ In the course of -time we read of many other appellations 

'"* Blue* tb« aUailoiu made In preTioiu pafsi to the AlfoDtioe MS, through th« great 
klndnoM of ita owner, Mr. J. O. Whfte, of CleTeUnd, Ohio, United Sutei, a copy of that 
inralaable work has been earefally examined. Thla eopy, as is suted, Is not made direetly 
from the original In the Hbrary of the Bsaarlal (dated 1988), but from a not qnlte eomplete 
transeript of the year iaS4, preserTed In the library of the Madrid Hlstorleal eoelety (Real 
Aeademla de la Historla). The White MS was transeribed in 1857 by that noted seholar, so 
well known to foreign students of Spanish llteratnre, Don Paseal de Gayangos. In It, elosely 
following the ehess section, eomes that entitled the " Libre de loe Dados, " In which are 
described Tarions pare dice games nnder the titles of «I iua^ ds moyorss, el iuego ds la /Hga 
(with three methods of play), «l ittego que Uaman asar [haeard], «I iutgo de mariotaf si iuego 
de I« Hf/a, P^*" con as, panquUt, wtedio-uMart aeav'pujado, gui^rguieeca — the whole spoken of 
at the end as the " XII ioegos de loe dados ; ** of these names it Is perhaps proper to say 
that the Arabic word <*asar** is the original of ear English <* haiard." 

Thereupon eomes the next book, under the title of the <' Libre de las Tablas. ** {^gui 
eomicfifa el libro de Ics iuegee de Uu tahlas). Afterwards follow diagrams of the different 
Tarietles of tables (or backgammon), with some short descriptions and the name of the par- 
ticular game attached to each diagram. It is with these names that we shall particularly 
concern ourselves. After an Introduction, we have a diagram, preceded by the words: "Rste 
es el primer luego que Uaman loe quiiue Tahlee, *' followed by the diagram, nnder which we 
are told of this, or the next Tarlety : '* Bste inego Uaman lot doee sanss, o doee k^rmanoe. " 
Thereafter we have other titles of games accompanied by diagrams: " Questo luego Uaman 
dohlet]*^ "este es el inego que Uaman /alias;*' *' este es el iaego que Uaman eeis dos i a«" ; 
'* este Inego Uaman en Hspanna emperador, ** Then oeenrs a head-line, "Qual es la barata 
deste Inego,** describing a teohnieal term found In later MSB: *'La barata ee quando el nn 
iogador tiene meioria del otro, e tlene doee tablas entabladas, per que ell [slo] otro magner entre 
non pueda sallr, e de las otras tables, que tiene a se de baxar, o fliQer y alguna a que d4. B 
quandol d& quatro tablas, o mas, el luego baratado, per que puede levar sns tablas en ealTo, 
darle mas, se qnislere, e gana el luego por este logar.** The Inecriptioas under the sub- 
sequent diagrams are : ** Bste inego Uaman cl wtedio emperadikr ; *' " este luego Uaman la pa- 
reja de entrada; " " otro Inego hay de tablas, q* llaman ca6, eguinal ; ** '* este luego Uaman todaa 
to&tes, ** " este ioego llaman lo^fuef '* (described, *' laquet e slnegase eon dos dados, e eata- 
blasee desU gnlsa *') ; '* esto luego llaman, en las 'otras tierras, la hu/a eorteeiai" ** este inego 
llaman la h^fa de batdrae;** " eatm inego llaman lot Bwmanoe resneon^ral. ** The section 
doses with a Taeaat diagram, with one of the usual headlines abore it : " B este es el de- 
partemento deste iaego — B esta es la flgura del eatabllmlento,*' but nothing under it, show- 
ing an CTldcnt intention of continuing the treatise on tables, a feature of incompleteness 
common to Italian and other medieval M88 on table-games ; after the close of the section on 
tables we baTc other kinds of gamee. The first one is eaUed ** grande aeedrea,** on a ISXIS 
board, apparently played with the aid of triangular-faced dice (one side of one showing seven 
pipe), In eeanection with which we are told that ** Hoc. rey Don Alfonso mandamus facer 
dados ** of many forms, of which specimens are given. One of the diagrams of this section 
represents a backgammon board, with seventeen mea used by each player and eontoinlng seme 
of theee multiform dice ; another portrays a circular backgammon board with six points (or 
hoaees) in each quadrant. 

The next foUowing section relates to the merellee varieties (algaer^iM), opening: **E 
comon^remoe prlmerasniente en eU Alquerque.** In this paragraph Is Inserted the figure of a 
round backgammon, mentioned above, bat it seems doubtAil whether It belongs Just here, but 



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2&4 CHB88 IN JCBLA ND 



applied to this table-game, or to its varying methods of play, some of them 
being, without doubt, nearly identical in their features. We have, for in- 
stanoe, lurtsch or das lurtschspiel (occurring in English, as we shall see, as 
" lurch *'), contrabuff, regalbuff {bauf royal)^ der lange pufft der hontrdre puff, 
toccadille or toccadiglio (which we have heard of in Italian as ^^ toccategli *'), 
trick'trackj or dick-dach or tie^tac (probably reaching Germany from France), 

nnder it foUowa this : " Bfte es al alqaerqne de dose qae iaega oon todos iob trebeloi/* ... " ••- 
gnnd aqaelloa tret sabiof dleren U macatra el Rey e depuea loa departleren loa omnee aabldoree 
d« iogar... qoeremoe agora aqoe desir de otroa iuegoa... Aaal etmo loa alquerqaee, qne tanaea 
al aeadrea, « 4 laa taUaa, e & loa dadoa. B talea y a que tanneu al aoedrea e 4 laa UUaa, 
« no a loa dadoa. " Tbe flrat diagram la that of tbe *' alqaerque de doie " (apparently, aa 
Ita name aignlilea, merellea played with twelve men). The board ia that giTen by Brunet y 
Bellet, being oompoaed of four aimple morria boarda united (aee ilg. S, page 100), and, in the 
MS| la preceded by a longlah deaaription. Then we haTe, played on the aame board, the 
title of a variety " Bl iuego qae llamaa de eerear la It'<5re ; " and thereupon a aeeond Tariety, 
into which dice are Introduced "Rate ea el alq%urqu9 d* ntuva que ae inega con dadoa." It 
muat be remembered that the arrangement of tbe matter in the MS la aneh that It ia very 
diiBonlt to decide, in many caaea, whether the Inaeriptiona refer to the preceding or the following 
diagram though iu general the latter aeema to be the rule. At any rate tbe diagram follow- 
ing thia laat Inacrlption, referring to the ''alquerqoe de aneTC*' (that la, << morria of nine,'* 
being oar **niBe men morria,*' moat likely) la that of the moat common — perbapa older — 
morria board (aee iu thia Tolume ftg. 6, page 109), on which are portrayed nine upright (white?) 
pawna, and eight reveraed (black) pawna^that ia men reaembllng eheaa pawna in ahape, 
partly " heada up," partly ** heada down, " all the anglea, except aeven, having men oa 
them. After thia eomea the laacription, " De come ae iuega ell alguwqwtdenune sin clo^loa,*' 
followed by the aame diagram, with eight upright and eight rcTeraed men. Tbe morria- 
board, which we have apoken of aa the ordinary oae ia America, haviag additioaal diageaal 
linea, atar^g from each comer (aee flg. 4, page 106), waa apparently not known to Alftuuo, 
which conflrma our belief that it la the younger of the two forma. The oigaarfiM aaetion 
oloaea with the aimpleat of the varletlea, the *' three men morria: *' " Rate ea otro alqnerqae 
de trea " (that ia " of three "), with a repreaentation of the board (aee flg. I, page 97), on 
which ataad two reveraed and three upright men. Finally follow variooa gamea, all haviag 
an aatronomioal look, in which the lodiacal aii^na and the planeta are much to the fore, the 
flrat headline of the aection being; " Bate ea tablero de loa eacaqnea, e de laa taUaa, quaae 
iuga por aatronomia " (It muat be remembered that King Alfonao waa a great aatroaomar) ; 
tbe volume enda with a aeven-aided (or aeven-parted, almoat round-like) board, oa whieh 
there are wtjfin m^a -atanding on pointa along the tranaverae liaea la each of the aevaa 
eompartimaata — that Ja forty aiae pleoea in all, of aeven difttreat oolora. Later oa thaae 
colora are ezplalaed aa referriag to the heavealy bodiea, thua: "Satnrao de negro. Jupiter 
de verde. Mara de vermeie. Bl Sol de amarleUo. Yenua de violet. Mercuric ^e moehoa 
colorea diveraaa; la Luna bianea." Here may poaalbly be the origin of tbe terma ero«a, sUUa, 
{two, etc (aee page 106) applied in the roedlaval manoacripta to the morria men. 

Lack ef apace forbids the incertion here of much more than the above crude and an< 
aatlafactory abatract ef thoae portiona of the Alfonalne codex In which we are Jnat now 
interealed. The *< Ubro de loa toblaa " begina with an extended deaeriptioB of the dice, 
tbe board, the men and their poaitioua. We learn " que el tablaro en que ae an do logar a 
de aeer quadrado, e en medio a de avor aeanal ea gulaa que ae faaan quatro qnadraa, e ea 
oada quadra ha de aver aeya eaaaa, qo ae fasaa per todaa veynt e quatro. " Of the man 
we are told : ** B otroaai a meater que la meeUd [alo] de laa tablaa aeaa duaa color, e la 
otra meetad, dotra, por que aean coaoacidaa, uaaa dotraa. B aa a aeer quiaae de eada color 
por que ea la uaa qaadra de la meetad del tablero, pueda poaer en eada ana eaaa doa doe^ 
e Hear tMa pora de foera por baratar del iaego, e pora maaaar, quaado meater ftaera. Ca 
aia eaUa ao ae podir faaer." The deaerlption of the variety called dohUt la aa foUowa : 
" Cada uao de loa iogadorea deve teaer laa doie tablaa, e peaerlaa dobladaa, una aobre otra 
eada uao ea an quadrit del tablero, que aea la una en dereoho de la otra; B el que veaelere 
la datalla(?) lanfara primlero. B devenae bazar aquellaa doae tablaa, qae eatan aobre laa otraa, 
por laa auertea de loa puntoa de loa dadoa. B otroaai ae devan levar ; e el que laa ante levar, 
puiarA el Iuego. Bat al por aventura qualqulere de loa iogadorea laafare aaerte, que noa teaga 
Mkblaa de que la faaar taa bien de ba»arlaa oomo de levarlaa, davelo faaer el olro.iegador. 
B deeta cniaa (qniaa?) avleue mnehaa veaea, que gaaari ell aa togador por iaa Martea que 



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STRAY NOTES 255 



verkehren or verkehrt, garanguet (French), gammon (an English word), 
revertier (a French equivalent in meaning to verkehr&n)^ and so on. In 
several early writers are to be found longer or shorter lists of those back- 
gammon varieties (see that cited from Hans Sachs, p. 158, note), such as that 
in the statement of Johann Agricola, the compiler of the noted work on 
proverbs, the earliest edition of which appeared in 1529: '^Wir DeuUchen 

IftBfATft ell otro." It it plAlB from all thla tbat this it tb« gMD« •allwl *' donbloti " lo 
England In tlie elght««nth oentory, and in France *< damM rabattuM." In tba nidat of the 
daseriptlon of the game called faUoM {/ayU», fail—,'* tee pagei 87, 88) we are told the origin 
of the name: **a si fallaese que alll o el derie entrar, el otro avie entaUedo wo% tablae, 
fellearie que non podrle entrar, e perdlere el iuego por ello. Otroeci el que lan^aee en ma- 
nera qae no ovlesee do Ir eino en la eaea qae ell otro ovfetM pohlada perdlere el iuego per 
que falle^rie. Oade por esU raien Uaman /oUm k este inego. " Other words and phraeec 
oecnrrlng in the decorf ptione of the gamei are : ** e el que reaee la batalla a la mano " 
[=flnt moTo?]; «* en la eaea del aeyi," ** del doe" [on the fix point, two point]; " en la 
del at " [on that of the ace, aee-polnt); " eaca del dnco " "del qnatro,'* " del tria." In the 
game known as 9l tMdio •mpn-admr we find that, as in the following Italian period, somettBes 
two, sometimes three dice were osed : *' B este se loga en las doe qaadrns, e Ingasee eon dos 
dados, o eon tres, mas non se barata eomo ell otro " [1. e. in the preeedlag game]. The 
game styled iodas to6Ias is, as the description of the manner of pladng the men at the 
beginning of the game shows, the French ** toutes tables '* and onr ordinary English back- 
gammon; the diagram, too, agrees with the description. It is played with two dice. In the 
games called la ^ufa cortstia and ta hu/a ds baldrat the deseripttons throw no light on the 
exact eignifleaUon, or genesto of the term bu/a. 

As to the origins of the three principal games treated by King Alfonso, the situation, 
so far as he is concerned, may be easily sUted. In ehees, the name of tho game itself and 
not a few of lu other technical words come immediately from tho Arable, and abundantly 
proTc that the Iberian peninsula was indebted to its Moorish conquerors for the introduction 
of the Indian game. In the morris-game, its Spanish title, alquerqne (owing espeeially to 
the al') has an Arable look, althoufh no one has yet attempted to aseertalB its precise 
Arabic source; the only other alternative is that the al- may poaslbly rcpreeent the Italian 
dedolte article, but It would be difficult to find any ether instance of lU use in Spanish as 
a prefix ; tho remaining element of the word, -qturque, certainly strikes the eye and ear 
as rather Moorish than Latin, although this statement is, of eoune, of little philological 
weight. In tho final group of games, those embraced under the name otiabtM or ** tables " 
there Is absolutaly nothing In the tarminology to Indleata the descent of ** tables '* from the 
Perso-Arabic ** nard. " There may, perhaps, be some slight doubt as to the word ** bufa«'* 
but, if that be of Eastern orlgiu, Its parentage cannot be found in any description which we 
haTC of •* nard." It may not therefore be a legltlmale conclusion, but It h, perhaps, a nat- 
ural one, that while chess certainly came to Spain from Arabia, and while merelles may 
have been known to its old Arable population, the game of tables, If originally the AsiaUo 
** nard," may well have reached the peninsula by the way of Italy or through some other 
romance natioaality. In this connection It Is to be noted that we have the expression. In 
describing the "bofa" variety; ssls itugo Uaman sn la$ otraa tierrat [In other oonntriei] la 
bu/a oortetia ; considering the word <^eortosia, '* this can only refer to one of the romance 
lands. — Since the preceding was written, a note from Mr. Guy Le Strange, the distinguished 
Arabic srholar, mentions the fact that in the Arable dictionary of Kasirmirski al qwrqw (or 
al kirk) Is defined as an '* esp^oc de Jeu d*enfant, qui consbte k placer do petlU eallloux 
dans chacune des cases d'une figure formic par le trace de trols carr6t coneentrlques dlvls^ 
par deux llgnes diagonales et deux rectsngulalres. " This deeeribes exactly oar figure 4 
(p. 108), the morris-board still used at leatt In America (but which, as stated above, Is not 
Indicated in the Alfonsine MS). Mr.. Le Strange adds that the lexicographer Deiy states that 
the modern Arable name is daryt, A still more important point Is that al ^ttsr^usls mentioned 
in the "Kltab al Aghanl/* the author of which died in 967, more than three centarles before 
the date of King Alfonso^s trentlse ; this ancient Arabic work describes a certain person as 
furnishing a room with shatranjit, nardftt and qirkat, that is, with boards for ehess, back- 
gammon (nard) and merelles (morris). This Is the more Interesting because the writer thus 
early groups together the *Uriad of games,** which make up the contente of so many medieval 
M8S — at a far later period. This must be regarded as decisive of the fact that the morris 
game, like chess, reached Europe from the Arabs through Spain. 



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256 CHESS IN ICELAND 



haJben mancherlei spiel mil kurten und mit wUrfeln, im hret, das grost var, 
dreierlei hUf, bUf regale da man gibt den ganzen ufUrfel^ aJUe ses^ alle zinken, 
alle qualiMT, alle drei, alle taus, aUe es^ bUf unden uncC oben, bUf und siben 
su rticke, das frawenspiel^ das lang verkerety das kurz und das lorzen, auch 
der dickedack,^' Some of these, which are evidently all backgammon games, 
it would be difficult, until after much investigation, to explain. Hans Sachs 
mentions only a portion of them : das kurz, das lang^ puf, gegenpuf, puf regal, 
dickedack and lurtsch. The Swabian lexicographer, Schmid, quotes the 
passage, with an attempted etymology of buf: Hier mahnt allerhand an 
framosischen ursprung (buf Oder bouf royal, tictac^ trie trac) doch die be- 
nennung buf scheinl daher :u riihren, dasz die faUenden wUrfel das bret stoszen^ 
schlagen, einen bufgeben, Brachet, the French etymologist, claims that tho 
French "bouf,*' meaning a "blow,'' "stroke," is onomatopoetic. Schmid 
ends by citing the Swabian conversational expression alle buf, meaning 
♦•every time." The lines from the anonymous writer known only as "The 
Schoolmaster of Eszlingen " (p. 158 note) are in full: 

Der soharle bAt dria Bpil verplicbt 

Du 6rste spil ist buf genant, 

Daz verlde der prins, er braoh die bondo 8& w liant. 

Christian Hoffmannswaldau (1618-79), who opened a new period in German 
poetry, cites some of the backgammon games: 

Dick dack and contra puff.... 

Dial aolten nnare kartc- iind Unge weile seiu, 

the last line containing an evident allusion to what Hans Sachs calls das 
kurz, das lang. The satirist Moscherosch (1601-69) edited Georg Gumpelz- 
haimer's " Gymnasma de exercitiis academicorum " (1652), in which the 
author says: lurtsch spielen in alea primus modus est^ das lurtscheny buff^ 
contrabuffy regalbuff^ dickeddcket. A little known author, Wesenigk, who 
wrote a book entitled " B3se spielsieben " (1702), also enumerates some of 
these games: Da ist im bretspiel das spiel aus und ein, das puffen^ ticktack, 
lurtschspiel, verkehrtes, das interim, u. s. w., in which wo have the new title 
das interim, of which no German lexicographer attempts a definition. The 
same writer alludes again to lurtschspiel : " Jener vater ftatte seinen sohneti 
von dem lurtschspiel befohlen : ihr sohnigen, sohnigen, was ihr thut, behdhlt 
die 4. und 6, gut ; welcher aber unter den spielem dieses nicht beobachtet, die 
haben sich arm gespielet, Hans Sachs also mentions somewhere the German 
lurtsch : 

Yorerat faoh mir an daa lurztpisl! 

In Meyer's " Konversationslexikon " (1896), the writer on pw/f passes by all 
other kinds and notices only two: Von verschiedenen durch besondere regeln 
bedingten variationen abgesehen, fiat man zwei hauptarten des puffs zu un- 
terscheiden: den langenpuff, bei welchem beide spieler in demselben feld, im 
das zweite brett iibergehen und schliesslich aus den andem felde des ersten 
brettes ihren auszug nehmen ; und den kontrdren puff, bei welchem dis spieler 
in den beiden gegenUberliegenden feldem desselben brettes einsetzen, sich im 
andem brett begegtien ufid ihre steithe atis den entgegengesetnen feldem des 
ersten brettes herausnehmen. The Brockhaus ** Konversationslexikon " (1886) 
mentions only one kind of puff, and gives only a most general description of 



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STRAY' NOTES 257 



that, more lucid, perhaps, than that of the previously cited cyclopaedia, be- 
cause its substance is little more than that the game is played between two 
persons on a board and by the aid of dice. Meyer (1889) describes trick- 
track as a game played on the puffbret and virtually the same as puff. In 
the same edition his description of tokadille [sic] is even more vague: Bin 
aus Italieti stammendes den puff venoandtes spiels toird von swei personen 
mil je IS {auch 16) sleinen gespielt, nac?i regeln, die auf denen des puffs 
berufien, aber vertoickelte)' sind U7id mehr abwechslung bieten als dieser. 
We cite these passages merely to show that several of the old names of the 
various games still exist. The Meyer of 1897 has the word toccategli but 
refers to tokadille. Another game appellation, verkehren {verkehrt, the 
participial noun, is used less frequently), occurs among the poets, though 
perhaps at a less early date. Paul Fleming (1609-40), whose name at least 
is known to all American readers, and who lived not much longer than Keats, 
alludes to it: 

Ich bin sa MitUch hi«r 
Doch gieb das bretsplel hier, and nim m an mlt mir, 
£8 gilt mir beydes gleich, verkdhren oder dunmen, 

dammen being, of course, draughts. A later poet, but one, who during a long 
life enjoyed great popularity, is Christian Wernicke, who died about 1720. 
In one of his pieces of verse he says of one of his heroes: 

Thrax pflegt sich Sbor viel ge«cliaffer zn beachweren 
Und spialt docli inancheu tag bia abend im rerkehran. 

We will now examine the names of the varieties of the modern games 
of tables in German, repeating as little as possible what has been said of 
these names elsewhere, that is, in treating of the French and Italian games. 
Of course the most notable of the names is puff (anciently buf) because of 
its possible relation to the historical development of the game. When we 
recall the fact that bufa is of frequent occurrence both in the Alphonsine 
Codex and in the very oldest Italian MSS, it is impossible not to doubt all the 
suggested derivations of the word, when applied to its relation to the back- 
gammon board. Most lexicographers make it identical with the modern puff 
(the verb puffen, English " puff ''), having the sense of " blow," ** stroke/' a 
"gentle blowing of wind," then a '* blowing up," "puffing up by wind " 
and so on. The latest etymological authority, Kluge (6th ed. 1899), says that 
it is first used in modern High German, being properly, however, a low 
German word. Now either of these statements would preclude its connection 
with the Alphonsine and Italian bi4fa. For, first, it is hardly conceivable 
that bu/a could have made its way from the Low German into the southern 
romance tongues, and, secondly, buf, as a nard-backgammon term, is older 
than the middle High German period. It is likewise notable that the Italian 
buffo, which has something like the signification of the German puff, a 
" windblowing," something "puffed up," is not only masculine in gender, 
but doubles its f, in both of which characteristics it differs from bufa. 
Again, it is difiicult to believe that buf\ as a backgammon word, does not 
come from south of the Alps, when we bear in mind the very frequent use 
of it by the old Italian writers on tables {bufde as, buf de du, buf de temi, 
la buf in duobis (a,riifis, and many others in the MSS of Rome and Flor- 
as 



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258 CHESS IN ICELAyD 



ence). Now all this looks as if ftw/a, or bufj in Spanish and Italian, and 
pufr,.9is the name given to German backgammon, may be another instance 
of the confusion of two words quite different In their origin, like the Ice- 
landic hnefl (="fist," the Scotch " nief "), and ?me/i in hnefaiafl, the name 
of a game— which we have already discussed (p. 58). But we will quote the 
remarks of Kluge, promising that he omits the backgammon signification 
of the modern German pw/f— being possessed of the lexicographer's usual 
lack of knowledge of technical terms. His first sentence is a quotation 
from a previous authority: "2)ic berUhrung der bedeutungen ^blasen* und 
^schlagen* ist tiicht ungewohnlich y fvz, ''souffler* und ''souffieV liefen ein naJie- 
liegendes beispiel; die ronianischen sprachen besitsen denselben toortstamm* and 
he adds: ^'•ohne dasz entlehnung aufeiner seite ansunehmen toare: der stamm 
*buf* kann als onomatopoietische schopfung auf beiden gebieten unabhdngig 
entstanden sein, Vgl. itaL * buffo* (windstoss)— ' bu/fetare* (schnauben), span, 
'bofeiada* {bachensireich):' Wo have mentioned Brachet's opinion that the 
stem is of onomatopoetic origin. But the whole question is etymologically 
difficult, and cannot well be resolved until we have Italian and Spanish etymo- 
logical dictionaries of a high character. As we have hinted, the history of 
bufa and buf has much to do with the story of the origin and development 
of the European " nard.'' 

Of the other names, we have dwelt perhaps at sufficient length on 
"trictrac" (pp. 185-8) of which "triktrak" and '* trique-traque " are only 
variations of orthography, and " tick-tack," " tiquetaque " possibly only 
variations of form. Gammon can only come from the English. Verkehren 
and verhehrt are presumably translations of the French ret?errt'er— which has 
been used, however, in German, in its French shape— although the word re- 
verquier, occasionally found in French tor r ever tier looks as if the borrow- 
ing might have been done by the French. Lurtsch is, again, most likely a 
loan-word from the English (which has it both as a noun and as a verb), 
or both the German lurtsch and the English " lurch " may be corruptions 
of some older and untraced vocable, having nothing to do with the English 
noun and verb in their usual signification. The reader will recall that 
'* lurching" is cited as an English word in the British Museum medi»val 
Latin MS on tables (see p. 163). Garanguet, or, as one writer has it, grati- 
guety we have already seen as a French term. All that can be said of tocca- 
tegli (tokkategliy tokadille) has been said in a previous place (p. 224) except 
that one eighteenth century writer on the game, after explaining the com- 
monly accepted origin of trictrac or tictac, asserts that toccategli expresses a 
similar idea, coming von demschlagen Oder treffen der steinc, adding: denn 
dieses italUinische wort will jiicJits anders sagen, als ^^berUhrel iTin," **6'cWa- 
get tAn." As to lurtsch^ we may get more light on its origin when wo come 
to treat the story of English backgammon. 

As to the other technical words we shall here pass them over hastily, 
noticing, in general, only those which are peculiarly German. Of course, in 
the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries, in games, as in many other cases, French 
terms were greatly employed; nor have they been entirely lacking in more 
recent days. We thus find Jan and its compounds, plein, bredouille^ d^bre- 
dauille)\ point, partie, doublet, not to speak of the names of the dice-pips and 
dice-doublets. As to the German terms, pasch has had a sufficient treatment. 
The ** coin de repos," or farthest point in the outer table, is called die huk 



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STRAY NOTES 250 



or die huke (modern die hucke^^' hay-stack," in its ordinary signification); 
and sometimes die ruhe-ecke (that is " le coin de repos "); stein is the custo- 
mary word foreman;" zunge is used as a general name for each of the 
twenty-four " points " of the board ; der band or der bund, applied rather to 
the men than to tho point, means a double-point, that is the two or more 
men on any one point, and a man so standing, accompanied by another, is 
known &&eingebundener stein; on the other hand an exposed man is called 
ein blosser, like the English " blot,** a term applied again to the man rather 
than to the point; die binde is sometimes the rendering of the French "jan,** 
while the "petit jan'* is translated occasionally by schuster, oder das schus- 
tern, and the "jan de retour'* is der rilcJ^an; "envoyd k Tecole** is literally 
rendered as in die schule geschickt ; becher, or wUrfelbecher, is the ordinary 
term for tho dice-box; the fifth and sixth points of the entering or home- 
board are called die bUrgerlicheti echen; the French "case du diable** is 
called, in one German treatise, der tetifelsband ; in casting the dice, if one 
fall on top of the other, or fall askew (not upright), they are said *u brennen 
("to burn**); as in French, the men are sometimes designated as hoU 
("bois'*). The absence of any descriptive treatise on backgammon before 
the XVIIth century makes this rough list of terms very unsatisfactory; such 
a treatise would doubtless give us many more indigenous technical ex- 
pressions. 

The German literature relating particularly to the method of playing 
backgammon is not very extensive, nor have we anything of a very early 
date; and this is true of the mediaeval " tables ** as well. The earliest special 
treatises on backgammop seem to be those found in the " Acad^mie des 
jeux ** class of books. It was at Paris in 1654 that the first of the " Acade- 
mies** saw the light under the title of "La maison acad^mique,** compiled 
by a Sieur D. L. M(ariniere). This was a score of years before Charles Cotton 
produced in England (London 1674) the first edition of a similar manual of 
social games, which he called " The compleat Gamester,** and nearly a cen- 
tury before Edmund Hoyle gave to the world the original issue of his 
" Games ** (London, probably in 1740), which still appears from time to time 
in England and America under the name of " Hoyle*s games,** but, of course, 
much changed in its character and contents. After several issues (the last 
at Lyons 1697), the compilation of Marinifere (or was his name La Marini^re, 
the la represented by L in his initials?) was finally superseded by the " Royal 
jeu de rhombre ** (Paris 1685), of which the editions were printed at Paris, 
the Hague, Brussels, Berlin. Amsterdam, the latest bearing the date of 1736. 
It was also issued in German, " Das neue kOniglich Tombre,** first of all at 
Hamburg in 1708, and thereafter, through the whole of that century down to 
the middle of the next, latterly at Liineburg (the very latest edition having 
the date of 1845). The earliest German issue at this moment before us is 
that of Hamburg 1770 (pp. 360), apparently, though not numbered, the tenth 
edition— still styled "Das neue kOniglich Tombre.** The games at cards, 
billiards, chess and ball (being tennis and racket) occupy by far the larger 
part of the volume, followed by two backgammon games (pp. 292-360). The 
first of these has the title: Das verkehren im brettspiel (in numbered sec- 
tions I-IX), the other being Das trictrac oder toccateglispiel (divided into 
chapters I-IX), the latter occupying the larger space. In beginning the former, 
the writer tells us that the game is named verkehren (the verb meaning to 



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260 CHESS IN ICELAND 



**turn the wrong way," "invert," "reverse") because the player, thinking 
himself to have the best of positions, by some slight act of neglect or by 
an unlucky cast of the dice, finds it turned or converted (verkehret) into 
the worst. There are two methods of playing it, and the players must decide 
at the outset which they will adopt— either to carry on the game with only 
five single men (that is, " blots ") or with only five double points. In the 
former case, each player must have played five men from the point on which 
his men are originally heaped or stacked, before being permitted to form a 
double point (band) ; in the latter, each player is allowed to make only five 
double points; but should he, by error or otherwise, make more than five 
they can be *' hit " by his opponent as if they were only single. The fifteen 
men are placed, at the beginning, on the first point at the extreme left hand 
of each player's adversary, the point being called the Jiatis or mahl (moZ). 
A player may advance two men as far as is allowed by the number of pips 
on each die, or he may add the sum of the pips and move one man as many 
points as the combined pips amount to. Doublets are counted twice (two fives 
as four fives, for instance), and from one to four men may thus be moved on 
casting them. Blots may be hit and the captured men thrown out for re- 
entrance to the board (into the board, as it would seem, in which the player's 
mal was) in accordance with the throws of the dice. It would look as if 
only one captured man could be re-entered upon the same point, for the rule 
is laid down that, when a player has more men out than there are vacant 
places on which to enter them, he is said to be made a Junker^ or, as it 
might be expressed, to be " junkered." A player cannot play so long as he 
has men unentered. A player cannot form a double point on his oppo- 
nent's side of the board, except on the hucke, which is described as the 
eleventh point from the mal. We have such irregularities in the gender 
and form of the name of this important point as are implied by the use of 
diese hucke in one paragraph and in dem huch in the next. In a player's 
own side, in both halves of the board, he makes his double points, moving 
them as far as possible unbroken from left to right, until, he comes to the 
final throwing of them off. When the game has proceeded so far that one 
player has hit and thrown out so many of his adversary's men that the 
.latter has no double points on his board, the former has won a " single," 
or " simple." When this state of things doesn't occur, then the player who 
has first thrown all his men off wins a " simple." If a player has captured 
so many men of the opponent's men, and his double points are so united 
that the latter can no longer find a point on which to re-enter, then the 
former wins a '^ double " and is said to become a jdhn (Jean), or to be 
'^John'd," as it has been styled in English in the same variety of back- 
gammon (there called '» verquere ") in the " Compleat Gamester," as we 
have already noted (see p. 189). " Doubles " are also won in other ways. 
There are rules given about moving or throwing off men towards the end 
of the gdime, when they have all reached the fourth quarter, very similar to 
those applied in the ordinary English backgammon. The second treatise 
is on trictrac or toccategli (pp. 316-360). The text of this is virtually iden- 
tical, except in respect to a certain typographical arrangement, with that 
forming a brochure (which we shall shortly notice), published separately 
three years later than the date of this issue of "L'hombre." The game 
described is, excepting a few modern alterations and additions, the '* Grand 



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STRAY NOTES 261 



trictrac," or complicated French variety, which we have heretofore imper- 
fectly described (pp. 180-182). The terminology is in general, either French 
(with the various Jans) or a kind of French- German, like marqmren, de»* 
marsch^ marquirte points. We find partie d^bredouille, Jan auf drey toUrfe, 
contrqjan^ jan van seeks bldttem, doppeldoubletteuy der Jan der nicht kann, 
schulen machen, teufelsband^ hurgerwinkel or burgerhucKe (these last being 
the two points 5 and 6 nearest the bar, which might, perhaps, be roughly 
rendered ^* bar-points *'). The compiler of this last essay begins by giving 
us some etymological information, a part of which we have learned before, 
declaring that trictrac is derived from two Greek words xp^^ and xpa^i!)^ 
it being so called on account of the difficulty of mastering it. It is said by 
some to be more rightly designated trictrac or tictac^ on account of the 
clatter made in playing it. Thereupon he gives the origin and meaning of 
the word ioccategliy which we have recently cited. Whenever the toccateglie 
(as it is generally here written) variety differs from trictrac proper, the 
variation is stated in a foot note. After the first treatise on verkehren 
(pp. 308-314) follows a Dutch poem containing advice to the player (signed 
at the end by the initials ^'I. G. K."); it is accompanied by an anonymous 
German metrical version on opposite pages. This latter is here reproduced 
in a foot note. ^^ The Dutch original will be given in treating backgammon 
in Holland. 

*"* Th« title of th« German tmniiUtion If ** AoweUung zam Terkehren ; " It eomprleea 
58 lines (two more than are In the Dutch original) : 

Ihr freunde horet sa, liebhaber vom verkehren, 
H5rt melnen nnterrleht, und wae leh each will lebren, 
Seut fleleiiff itelne ab, wenn Ibr das tplel anfangt, 
Daiiilt ihr in dem brei die eeke glelch eriangt. 
Sehlagt ohne vorthetl nioht, wenu ihr glelch kOnnot relehen, 
Man muss oft wiederum mit grosien sehadcn weichen. 
Reisst, wenn Ihr schlagen kSnnt, sogleieb die bftndo nicht, 
Man bauet allsu schleoht, wo hols and grund gebrleht. 
Werft nicht, bis contrapart die steloe hat gesetset, 
Wer spejt gem wieder aas, was ihu suYor ergOttet, 
Rfn ander nimmt es glelch sa seinem vorth«ll etn, 
Und iehrat ans sa sp&t mift sehaden king su seyn. 
Bait enro b&nde feet, Terlaaft eueh nieht su welt, 
Setat nicht fOnf stelae blosx, wo nicht die aoth geboat: 
Splelt redlieh, sonder falseh, das nnrecht soil hlor passen, 
So wie Ihr each es nleht wollt wiederfahren lessen. 
Setst seehs and viere gut, wie man doabletten macht, 
Die einqaen slnd nicht schleeht, nar nohmet each In acht, 
AUwo sle miUsen stebn, imglelehen seehs uud drey, 
Was man nieht wehren kann, steht nicht sa setxen frey. 
Bevor ihr werft, so seht, was gut and sehleeht sa wagen, 
AUsdann so splelet friseh and aach mit mladerm sagen. 
Ich hab es erst galernt, da mir ein braver mann 
EIn fltsehen batter leleht doreh solehes abgewan. 
BeUt nieht verw&gea aus, wenn Ihr es anders kOnnet, 
Sonst furchtet, dass Ihr selbst lelcht ins gefangnlsx rennet. 
Doch kOnnt ihr sicher seyn, and lachet each das gltlek, 
So splelet, aber sleht bey noth aach wohl sarttek. 
Splelt elnor each sa king ; welch kinger wird sich wagen, 
Mit einem starken kerl, sleh ohne noth sa sehlagen ? 
Und splelt Ihr aaf credit, so sehreibt nicht sa g«sehwinde, 
DasB, wenn Ihr anch Terllert, man eoeh nicht sornlg (Inde. 
Beym credeeplelen kanne nieht eoader sehaden eayn, 



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In a still earlier issue of Das neue konigliche Vhomhre-spiel (as it is styled 
on the title-page), that of Hamburg 1737 (supposed tabe the fourth edition), 
the backgammon section, as afterwards, closes the volume (pp. 291-318). 
The first page of this part is in the shape of a bastard title: Das verkehren 
im bretlspiel recht und wohl su spielen, samt denen grundregeln. This is 
followed (292-6) by the Dutch poem, and (297-301) its translation, and then by 
a description of verkehren^ tcxtually the same as in the later issues. There 
is as yet no account of the irictrac-toccaiegli game, from which we may 
possibly conclude that the oldest German variety of the modern backgam- 
mon is verkehren. To this 1737 issue is prefixed a pretty copperplate front- 
ispiece, in the style of the day, portraying groups of players at chess, cards, 
backgammon, billiards, tennis, the backgammon-board being precisely like 
the ordinary folding-ones of our own time. 

Another edition of " Das neue kdnigliche Thombre," also under our eye, 
is that of Hamburg 1783, which, though stated, like the other one, on its 
title-page to be a Neu vei^esserte und vermehrte au flags, exhibits few im- 
provements and few additions. The edition is not numbered, but, according 
to the list published by Van der Linde, must be at least the Ilth of the 
German series. So far especially as the backgammon pages are concerned, 
the modifications in the descriptions of the two games are very slight, but 
the Dutch poem, '* Ordonantie op't verkeeren,'* as well as the German render- 
ing of it, is omitted. The volume has a larger page (there are 275 in all), 
but the printing and paper are much inferior. The opening of the trictrac 
treatise varies somewhat in this issue, the etymological first paragraph 
being omitted; for it are substituted five lines stating the slight differences 
between trictrac and toccategli, abbreviated from the foot note to be men- 
tioned in the next paragraph but one. 

It may be well to mention that the oldest issue^of the " Neue k5nigliche 
riiombre spiel,'' published, as we have stated, at Hamburg in 1708, has a 

Detwegen thut •• nleht, «■ sind iwey gef«n eln. 
Dooh UMet den verdrass niobt aoa den augen spftrcn, 
Man kann aoch intt geduld oft waa naeh haas« fabren. 
Sohwalgt, nvann eln an der tplelt, ei lettat nar rerdraM, 
Wonn ibr so andern tprccbt, und Icb verapiolen mniia. 
Zumal, wana eontrapart arht iteine noob surlleke, 
■ Und nfobtt Terlaafen bat, ao aofaweigt bey aolebem glQckc. 
RIn klnger ttaut dabey riel boaaer, daas er aebwclgt, 
Und aieb genihtg hftlt, ala actne bl5«ie eeigt. 
Seht Ofters livjiaa buob, dat belaxt : anf eure aaokeu. 
So kann man allot leloat In eel ten riobtig roachen. 
Seyd artig In dem spiel, modest In den raanteren, 
Und lasit, wenn ihr reraptoU eaeb nlcht den corn verfnbren. 
Ja flaeht and sebwttret nieht, seyd im gestebte frey ; 
Dean sanersobn iat sebleebt, ob glelch eriaubt dabey. 
Spreobt wohl tou Jedermann, er sey da odor nicht, 
Und well aueb der gewlnnst nocb kelue rent bersprlctat, 
So praleC nieht dabay, eo triift cam Ofterii etn, 
Heat pflegt eln apieler releh and morgen arm «a seyn. 
Und endlleh wenn Ihr oplelt, ao nchmt kein falaebea geld, 
Hingegen aahlt anoh ao, dasx es die wage bait. 
Verkehren iat eln spiel, ao edel und ao worthy 
Daas, war mit raeht gewlnnt, recht gate mans begehrt. 
Indeaien lebot wohl, ihr fronnde roa ▼erkehren, 
Und splelet nun geeehlckt, naeh wohl gegebnei lehren. 



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STRAY NOTES 263 



frontispiece portraying, above, a tennis court with players, and, below, a 
round table at which five persons are engaged at cards; on the floor lie an 
open backgammon-board and other implements of games. The full title (in 
red and black) is (we retain the typographical features) : " Das Neue E5nig- 
licho THombre Spiel, Auch wie Espadille For^^, L'Hombre selb Ander, 
selb Dritte und selb FiinfTen nach jetziger Manier zu spielen; wobey ncbst 
noch andern Carten-Spielen beygefiiget: Das Pilcken-Tafel, Das Schach, 
Das Ballen-Spiel, Und Das Verkehren im Brett. Mit Erklarung der Worter, 
welcher man sich bey don Splclen gebrauchet.— Hamburg, Bey Benjamin 
Schillern, 1708.'' The unnumbered folio after the title-folio (that is the 
third) has the " Vorrede" and the •' Innhalt." Then come "Thombre" and 
other games, the pagination being irregular, as is sometimes the case with 
old books. It goes on all right to page 216, and then changes to 127 (in 
the middle of the section on "Ballen-Spiel'*), and the new numeration 
continues to the final page 167 (which, properly, should be 267). In tlie 
course of the erroneous pagination occurs the division of backgammon. 
"Ballon-Spiel" ends on p. 135, with a blank reverse. The next page, 
[137] =237, is a new title-page: "Das Verkehren Im Bret-Spiel Recht 
und wohl zu spielen, Samt denon Grund-Regeln. [Vignette]— Hamburg, 
Anno 1708." On the reverse of this the text opens (p. 138), with the poem, 
Ordonnantie op" t Ve^-keeren, beginning: 

Aen boort Yrienden, aen hoort Beroinders vftn't rerkeeren, 

ending at the bottom of page 143 [=243J with the initials " I. G. K." On 
page 144 follows its German version with a heading which we reproduce 
exactly: " Denen Liebhabern zum Vergniigen, hat man die Regeln folgender 
Gestalt ins Hochteutsche iibersetzt." Hereupon succeeds the translation 
(with no hint of the translator's name) commencing: 

Ihr Frcande boret zu, Liebbaber von Vorkehren, 

and ending on page 150 (=250) with a phrase in large type in order to fill 
a too -vacant space: Mehres hievon findet der geneigte leser in folgenden 
zu seinem Unterricht. After that follows (pages 151 = 251 — 167=267) the 
prose description of the game, precisely as in the edition of 1737, which we 
have already summarized. In this "Verkehren" portion there is likewise 
some irregular paginal numeration. After page 151 [=251] the numbers 
run 152, 143, 145, 151, 156, and then regularly to the end (143 = 153, 145=154, 
151=155). The words, verkehren im brett^ in the two title-pages, perhaps 
throw as much light on the origin of the name as can be gleaned by re- 
search. The verb vei^kehren means to "come and go," "pass and repass," 
"reverse," "invert;" "passing and repassing in the board," or "reversing 
in the board " may possibly be the original signification as nearly as we 
can define it. The second edition (Hamburg, Bey Benjamin's Schillers 
Wittwe 1715) has the same frontispiece. . At the end of the title proper (after 
geb7'auchet) is inserted this additional matter: "Mit mtiglichster Accuratesse 
nach der neuesten Frantzdsischen Edition durchgesehen und an vielen Orten 
verbessert." The erroneous paging in the first part is repea^ted (which is 
singular, as the volume is wholly reprinted). The section devoted to back- 
gammon is likewise newly printed but with its erroneous pagination cor- 
rected, and yet its special title-page still bears the date: "Anno 1708." 



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264 CHESS IN ICELA ND 



The volume ends with a supplement of 71 pages, with title-page and text 
in both French and German, containing the novel matter alluded to on the 
main title-page, being "Decisions novelles" relating to "Thombre." The 
title-page to this bears the date of 1715. In this second edition the back- 
gamihon part is virtually unchanged; for the longer heading at the begin- 
ning of the German rendering of the Dutch poem, is substituted simply the 
words: *^ Teutsche Ubersetzung/' With some regularity there was published 
at Berlin, from 1797 to 1820, an annual under the general title of Spielal- 
vianack. This was under the editorship, first of one Julius Casar, secondly 
(beginning with 1810) of G. W. von Abenstein (both of which names Van 
der Lindo declares to be pseudonyms). Wo add a description of one issue, 
which chances to be at our service. Its title is: ^* Spielalmanach fiir karten- 
schach-bret-billard-kegel-und ball-spieler zum selbstunterrichte von Julius 
Casar.— Nach den griindlichsten regeln und gesetzen durchaus verbessert 
und mit neuen spielen vermehrt von G. W. v. Abenstein. — icaidia toiv 
itovcuv Yj8o3p.a Spiel ist die wiirze der arbeit. Plutarch, — Berlin, bei Gottfr. 
Hayn. 1810.'' This is the first volume of the continuation by ''Abenstein'* 
of the ** Julius Ciisar" series of the "Spielalmanach." How far its con- 
tents are those of the preceding issues wc cannot say. It comprises 396 pa- 
ges, of which pages 322-345 are devoted to das tohkateglispiel. The first 
third of the article forms the ioccategli portions of the ** Hans Helling" 
Buch der spiele, on which we have commented— neglecting, however to say 
that the English word 7tiatch is used, as we have found it used in another 
foreign language, to signify the highest kind of a winning, namely a "qua- 
druple." " Helling " has been copied, as far as near the bottom of page 331. 
Thereafter we are presented with twenty-four numbered pieces of advice as 
to the proper playing of the game, of which we translate the earlier ones 
as specimens: 1. If, in the beginning, you throw dice with fewer than seven 
points fin all] try for the little Schuster [that is, the little Jan, or six 
combined double points in the home-board]. 2. But if your dice result in 
more than seven points, try for the possession of the hucke [that is the 
final or eleventh point from your massed men], 3. Endeavour to form a 
barrier of six covered points in the second quarter of the board. 4. Prevent 
your adversary from making a barrier (sumachen), which can only be done 
by getting a double (covered) point in his board. These observations are 
all clearly written, and contain one or two noticeable points. Thus wo 
learn, in the twenty-first paragraph, that when the dice run against a 
player, and he cannot unite a barrier of six adjoining covered points, the 
position is called an enfUade, Tables of the chances of throwing combina- 
tions of the different dice-numbers (pages 336-7), and observations on them 
(pages 338-40) then follow; thirteen numbered rules of play {gesetze des 
tokhaieglispieles) terminate (pages 340-343) the section. The almanach is 
well-printed, and has on its cover- title a vignette showing a section of a 
billiard-table, with cues, cards, chess-men etc. lying upon it. 

The following anonymous pubblication must be here briefly noticed: 
"Neueste anleitung wie die trictrac und toccateglie-spiele recht und wohl zu 
spielen. — Mit allergnadigsten privilegiis. — Niirnberg, bey Johann Eberhard 
Zeh, 1773." It is a small octavo of 48 pages. To the end of page 46, it seems 
(with two slight exceptions) word for word the same as the treatise on the 
same game, or games, in the " L'hombre " book of 1770. The first difference 



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STRAY NOTES 265 



is a foot-note to the first page of the text as follows: Das triclrac^ oder vote 
man es auch sonstcn nennet grand trictrac^ ist ton dem toccategli-spiel in 
vielen unierschieden^ und muss also mit selhigen nicht vermenget toerden. 
Dann, so unterscfieidet sich dieses von jenem i. in schlagen^ 2, zahlen oder 
merken^ und 3, im fortrOcken oder bande machen, vole unten bey gelegenheit 
hin und xoieder^ too es von dem trictrac abgehet, angemei'ket werden soil, 
Dann ausser diesen drey en stUcken toird es gespielt wie das trictrac. The 
othor distinguishable feature of the ** Neue anleitung'' is that here the small 
dissimilarities between the two varieties, mentioned on the title-page, are 
described in more or less brief paragraphs inserted here and there, in 
SDiallcr type, in the text. The text is mainly occupied with trictrac, but 
whenever a feature occurs, which is not exactly the same in toccategli, the 
difference in character, or in the method of play, is explained in these 
inserted notes. As we have giv