“Selenus”  (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
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« 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