Germany

The "Selenus" sets were typical of Germany and Northern Europe and named after Gustavus Selenus, the pen name of Augustus the Younger, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, author of the Chess or the King's Game (German: Das Schach- oder Königsspiel), an important chess manual published in the early 17th century. There are chess pieces pictured in the book, but of different form than the model we call "Selenus" today.

The standard includes delicate lathe turned bases and shafts and tiers with galleries resembling crowns. Pieces were distinguished by heights, the number of tiers and sometimes by symbols. In England they were frequently called "Tulip" chess sets, because of the shape of the middle sections of the King and Queen.

The pieces are very fragile and easily damaged. The sets are very common, but complete and undamaged sets are scarce. You will notice that some sets listed here are rather damaged. There are 10 typical "Selenus" sets listed here, followed by some others which are discutable "Selenus" sets.

It is difficult to date these sets accurately. They have been made a long period and the shape didn't change that much. My theory, but not proven, is that in older sets the King has only one gallery, the galleries are not pierced, King and Queen do not have the feather finial, or only the King has a feather, and bishops have not a flower like top. Of course not all of these aspects act always together.

The ivory Selenus set of the late 19th century is scarce because almost all Selenus sets have been made of bone. That set is a bit unusual of form as well.

The set estimated early 20th (late 19th?) century is an exception, because it has the old characteristics, except for fragility. Actually I think it is a later reintroduction of an old set. There exist also new Indian reproductions of the "Selenus" type set, which are easily recognizable because they are uncouth and miss the elegance of the antique sets. Unfortunately I do not have an example of it.

These sets came in small pine boxes with a sideway sliding lid. However I did not make pictures of them always. Note, however, that the ivory Selenus set came in a carton box with compartments for the pieces.

The lead or pewter set is more a curiosity. I'm not sure that it counts as a "Selenus" type set.

The last 2 bone sets, sets without galleries, are a “Selenus” type according Strouhal, but "Nuremberg" is used too, because the type appears on a Nuremberg pattern sheet of 1840/1850. This type is, in the English world, sometimes called "Spindle" set.

At last a wooden set which is hard to categorize. Although it was said Polish, probably because of the indication on the box, I believe it is a German set with characteristics influenced by both "Selenus" and "Toy" sets. I think it has been made in same region, and probably by the same makers, as the "Toy" sets, which came in shaker boxes as well.

353 01
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Selenus"
  • 18th century?
  • Bone K 7.5; p 4.0
052 02
« 1 of 2 »
  • Germany, "Selenus"
  • 18th century
  • Bone + horn? K 10.0; p 3.8
311 01
« 1 of 5 »
  • Germany, "Selenus"
  • 1800?
  • Bone K 8.6; p 3.3
  • Box 11.8×8.3×6.4
094 03
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Selenus"
  • Early 19th century
  • Bone K 10.7; p 3.6
  • Box 12.6×9.1×6.6
066 02
« 1 of 2 »
  • Germany, "Selenus"
  • Early to mid 19th century
  • Bone K 11.4; p 4.6
475 01
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Selenus"
  • Early to mid 19th century
  • Bone K 11.1; p 4.1
380 01
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Selenus"
  • Early to mid 19th century
  • Bone K 10.5-10.7; p (4.1)4.4-4.6
undefined
« 1 of 4 »
  • Germany, "Selenus"
  • Early to mid 19th century
  • Bone K 10.0; p 3.7
491 01
« 1 of 12 »
  • Germany, "Selenus"
  • Late 19th century
  • Ivory K 7.1; p 3.3
  • Cassette 23.5×21.6×3.3
050 03
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Selenus"
  • Early 20th (late 19th?) century
  • Bone (or Ivory?) K 8.6; p 3.2
  • Box 20.9×13.2×6.2
  • Board 31.6×31.6
378 01
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Selenus"
  • Early 20th century?
  • Lead or pewter K 7.8; p 4.3
476 01
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Selenus" or "spindle"
  • Mid 19th century
  • Bone K 7.3; p 3.0
302 02
« 1 of 4 »
  • Germany, "Selenus" or "spindle"
  • Mid to late 19th century
  • Bone K 7.5; p 2.4
  • Box 10.5×7.7×5.4
180 02
« 1 of 4 »
  • Germany or Poland, Czech, maybe Ore Mountains? "Selenus inspired"
  • 18th-19th century
  • Fruitwood K 10.5; p 5.4
  • Shaker box 18.4×10.9×6.4

German "Toy" sets are so named because these sets appeared in the German toy catalogs of the mid to late 19th century. These sets are most likely made in the Ore Mountains. But we have seen them also in Nuremberg pattern sheets from the mid-19th century.

Specific on those sets is that there are some figural aspects. You always see small faces and mostly hair and hoods and so on the pieces. In spite of being somewhat figural, are these sets well suited to play with. Those sets came in shaker boxes as far as I know, but those boxes have been lost very often. I do not have a "Toy" set with its shaker box.

Knowing this, then this list of sets starts with a set without the typical "Toy" characteristics, as no faces are drawn on the pieces. However, the whole set is just in line with the "Toy" sets.

438 01
« 1 of 5 »
  • Germany, "Toy alike"
  • Mid 19th century
  • Fruitwood K 7.7; p 3.7
  • Box/Board 29.7×14.6×5.4
389 01
« 1 of 5 »
  • Germany, "Toy"
  • Mid 19th century
  • Fruitwood K 9.6; p 5.2
143 02
« 1 of 5 »
  • Germany, "Toy"
  • MId 19th century
  • Fruitwood K 9.1; p 4.7
  • Board 41.3×41.3
335 01
  • Germany, "Toy"
  • Mid to late 19th century
  • Fruitwood K 8.9; p 3.1

"Nuremberg", and Augsburg as well, were in the 19th century centers for toy makers. They made also chess sets. In Nuremberg pattern sheets from the mid-19th century you see this type of chess sets. Also Selenus type, including the narrow Spindle ones, and the "Toy" sets are found in those pattern sheets.

Pieces of Nuremberg sets are very fragile, like the "Selenus" sets, and easily damaged, especially the bone ones. The sets are very common, but complete and undamaged sets are scarce. You will notice that some sets listed here are rather damaged.

Here you see 3 groups: 5 bone sets in different variations, 6 common wooden sets and 4 common bone sets.

The Nuremberg variations in the first group are actually less common. The 3rd set in this group is large for the type. The 5th set in that groep, where King/Queen have no lower stem, might be an odd man out.

The other two groups show a very common model. These sets often make part of a compendium or are accompanied by a rollboard that together with the pieces fit in a coffin. Sorry, I do not have an exampe of that, but a compendium is present.

One execption is the first wooden set. That is extremely scarce, because of the size and the box that was said being original. That box has not a sideway sliding lid as (smaller) Nuremberg sets have, but maybe such box is not suitable for such very large set. I bought this very large set on an auction and the set was listed in the catalog as made from arbutus wood, but I do doubt that strongly. I believe these wooden sets were made of Maple and Cocobolo, but I am not 100% sure of these woods.

The second wooden set, although smaller, is scarce as well because of its size. It is a very pretty size to play with. This set has its original, sideway sliding, box.

The wooden set with the black pieces is odd. I found it intriging, as these sets are never black. Most likely this set has been over-painted some day. Not sure when that's done. The set has still its original, sideway sliding, box.

Especially the bone sets in the last group are often confused with the English Barleycorn sets. That mistake is very persistent and enters even the best books on chess sets. The wooden Nuremberg sets, although similar in shape, are not confused with Barleycorn, because wooden Barleycorn sets do not exist. Other Nuremberg sets, like those in the first group, may be confused if they look like Barleycorn sets. This counts for plain sets, because Nuremberg decorations are not Barleycorn.

312 01
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Nuremberg"
  • ca. 1850
  • Bone K 10.9; p 3.7
123 02
« 1 of 4 »
  • Germany, "open Nuremberg"
  • Mid 19th century
  • Bone K 11.3; p 3.9
  • Box/board 31.2×15.6×5.7
  • The knights in this set are better than average
352 01
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Nuremberg"
  • Mid 19th century
  • Bone K 12.6; p 4.1
474 01
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Nuremberg"
  • Mid 19th century
  • Bone K 9.6; p 3.2
330 01
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Nuremberg"
  • Mid to late 19th century
  • Bone K 9.3; p 3.5
224 02
« 1 of 8 »
  • Germany, "Nuremberg"
  • 2nd half 19th century
  • Maple? + cocobolo? K 12.4; p 4.5
  • Original? box 21.6×12.6×7.4
442 01
« 1 of 6 »
  • Germany, "Nuremberg"
  • 2nd half 19th century
  • Maple? + cocobolo? K 10.0; p 3.5
  • Box 14.8×11.3×7.5
263 02
« 1 of 5 »
  • Germany, "Nuremberg"
  • 2nd half 19th century
  • Maple? + cocobolo? K 7.7; p3.0
  • Box/board 26.4×13.1×5.7
439 01
« 1 of 6 »
  • Germany, "Nuremberg"
  • 2nd half 19th century
  • Maple? K 7.1; p 2.6
  • Box 13.1×9.9×7.4
177 02
« 1 of 2 »
  • Germany, "Nuremberg"
  • 2nd half 19th century
  • Maple? + cocobolo? K 7.0; p 2.2
241 01
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Nuremberg"
  • 2nd half 19th century
  • Maple? + cocobolo? K 5.8; p 2.4
072 03
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Nuremberg"
  • Mid to late 19th century
  • Bone K 7.1+7.4; p 2.6
  • Box 11.8×8.3×6.5
  • Board 31.3×30.3
336 01
« 1 of 4 »
  • Germany, "Nuremberg"
  • Mid to late 19th century
  • Bone K 9.5; p 4.4
275 01
« 1 of 6 »
  • Germany, "Nuremberg"
  • Mid to late 19th century
  • Bone K 8.3; p 2.7
217 02
« 1 of 9 »
  • Germany, "Nuremberg" compenduim
  • Mid to late 19th century
  • Bone K 7.6; p 2.7
  • Box with heraldic decoration 27.7×17.6×11.5
  • Board 24.5×24.5

"Régence" sets of Germany are, just like the French, hard to date. However, the history of the German "Régence" sets does not go that far back as the French. I believe mid to late 19th century are the oldest. I do not have one. Sometimes it is even hard to tell what the origin is. The first set you see has been bought in Vienna and could be Austrian as well. The second could be French. But I have listed the sets here because of what I think is most likely.

The other three sets are 20th century and definitely German. The set from Oberlausitz could be Polish, but that's only a few km away from Oberlausitz. All three are cheap and small sets. No real value for the true collector, but just informative.

278 01
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany or Austria, "Régence alike"
  • 19th century?
  • Maple? K 9.7; p 4.5
412 02
« 1 of 4 »
  • Germany or France? "Régence"
  • Early 20th century
  • Wood K 7.5; p 3.5
  • Box/board was part of the deal!
411 02
« 1 of 5 »
  • Germany, "Régence"
  • Early 20th century
  • Wood K 6.0; p 3.2
  • Box/board 20.0×10.4×5.5
169 02
« 1 of 2 »
  • Germany, Oberlausitz, "Régence"
  • 1960
  • Abachi K 5.1; p 2.2
309 01
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Régence"
  • ca. 1980 ?
  • Wood K 6.3; p 3.1

"Coffeehouse" sets of Germany are less common as the Vienna ones. There were several makers in the Ore Mountains like Uhlig and Wittig. The first set listed here is a real beauty and probably made by either one of those makers. The box is original I think, because it is periodical, made as chess box and fits the set very well. But I'm not 100% sure, as others could not tell me.

The "Coffeehouse" set from Oberlausitz came together with the "Régence" set in the same sideway sliding box. Like that "Régence" it can be Polish, a few km from Oberlausitz.

Set 3 is a wartimes poverty set, always sold as glass. I have seen them in war boxes for he war front. I call this rather common set "Coffeehouse inspired", but is that designed so!?

436 01
« 1 of 6 »
  • Germany, Ore Mountains, maybe by Uhlig or Wittig, "Coffeehouse"
  • ca. 1930
  • Wood K 9.9; p 4.7
  • Box 24.8×13.6×7.7
168 02
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, Oberlausitz, "coffeehouse"
  • ca. 1925
  • Maple K 6.6; p 3.0
  • Box 19.2×12.4×6.4
261 01
« 1 of 4 »
  • Germany, "coffeehouse inspired"
  • ca. 1940
  • Glass K 5.1; p 2.7

"Staunton" sets did everywhere take over as a standard to play with. From 1924, when also the FIDE declared them standard for their tournaments, it became the type to use.

The first set is a beautiful presentation set of which some said that it could be Uhlig, but I do doubt that strongly because some specific characteristics are not seen. Especially the very own cross on the King, as well as the characteristic form of the Knight. Of course this exquisite Knight is not comparable with the usual Uhlig Knights. There are ivory Uhlig sets in a presentation box known with all pieces as the ordinary bone sets of Uhlig and the Uhlig catalogue does mention an ivory set, but there is no drawing.

The 2nd set is a nice and bit unusual ivory Staunton set of late 19th or early 20th century. I do not know if series production of German ivory Staunton sets actually existed.

The 3rd set is a bone set made by Uhlig. These common sets are recognizable by the specific Kings cross, the construction of the bases and the typical Knights. The example here has its original box with original paper the pieces were packed in.

The 4th set is reminiscent to Jaques, but has no makers name nor any mark (crown) on Knights and Rooks, so I think the set has been made for the continent. The set came in a French box/board, but I bought it in Berlin, so I assume it is German.

Set 5 is a Lardy pattern, which was also used by Hempfling and Bohemia in license. Clasp has inside "GES. GESCH." (gesetzlich geschutzt=legally protected). I assume the set is Hempfling because of the similarity with the 6th set. But I have seen a Bohemia set in a box with similar clasp. Then I think: that clasp could have been used by many manufacturers.

Set 6 is a Lardy pattern, which was also used by Hempfling and Bohemia in license. The logo on the box is Hempfling, so this set has been made by Hempfling.

Set 7 can't be attributed to a specific maker. If someone knows more, then contact me.

Set 8 is a common glass set, which is somewhat less common than the smaller glass sets. All these glass sets were sold to tourists. Examples of the smaller sets can be found on the Netherlands 20st Century page

490 01
« 1 of 9 »
  • Germany, is it Uhlig?, "Staunton"
  • ca. 1900
  • Ivory K 7.6; p 4.5
  • Cassette 37.1×33.3×5.3
428 02
« 1 of 4 »
  • Germany, "Staunton"
  • ca. 1900
  • Ivory K 8.4; p 3.9
  • Box 15.8×11.2×6.7
170 02
« 1 of 2 »
  • Germany, by Uhlig, "Staunton"
  • Early 20th century
  • Bone K 7.0; p 3.2
  • Box 18.2×12.0×6.8
172 01
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Staunton"
  • ca. 1930
  • Boxwood + ebony K 10.3; p 5.2
  • Box/board 56.5×43.6×4.9 (open)
402 02
« 1 of 5 »
  • Germany, by Hans Hempfling in Nuremberg? "Staunton"
  • before 1977
  • Boxwood K 8.8; p 4.4
  • Box 20.0×12.9×8.0
403 02
« 1 of 5 »
  • Germany, by Hans Hempfling in Nuremberg, "Staunton"
  • before 1977
  • Boxwood K 8.6; p 3.9
  • Box 20.0×13.3×7.7; logo on box is Hempfling
401 02
« 1 of 5 »
  • Germany, "Staunton"
  • ca. 1980
  • Boxwood K 9.1; p 4.5
  • Box 20.0×13.0×7.0
163 02
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, by Leonardo
  • 2000
  • Glass K 7.6; p 4.0
  • Box 41.5×41.5×7.4
  • Board 38.0×38.0

The board was originally part of a little table. Closed you would see the nice burr-walnut side on top. Then you could turn it 90° and open it to reveal the beautiful inlaid chess and "molenspel" (mill game) board.

The well known "WMF" chess sets exist in different versions. The most common have silver and gold metall pieces in a box covered with cloth. There exist also one with a metall cassette. This one has painted pieces in a naked cassette. The sets were made by the Württembergische Metalwarenfabrik as promotional gift I believe.

Next a set which is often confused with the English "St.George" style sets. Those sets must have inspired these German sets. English sets are mostly made of boxwood and ebony or rosewood, but the German ones are made of lesser quality wood. I think Maple.

374 01
« 1 of 2 »
  • Germany?
  • 19th century
  • Wood 52.0×41.0×3.4 (closed)
333 02
« 1 of 4 »