France

"Lyon" sets are called after the city Lyon, but it is not known whether the sets actually were made there.

The "Lyon" sets have been produced in same period as "Directoire": from beginning 18th century till the end of it.

You see bone sets as well as sets of wood with bone combined. I do not know of ivory "Lyon" sets. One typical pattern of this type is the so called "Inverted Lyon" pattern, where bodies seem upside down and Kings and Queens have bone skirts to their bellies. I think the term "Inverted Lyon" was coined by our old friend Garrick Coleman. He certainly claimed it and thought he would at least be remembered for this if nothing else.

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  • France, "Lyon"
  • 18th century
  • Bone K 8.1; p 4.0
  • Box 27.8×16.1×6.7
  • France, "Lyon"
  • 18th century
  • Wood/bone K 8.0; p 4.4
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  • France, "inverted Lyon"
  • 18th century
  • Wood/bone K 7.9; p 4.4

"Directoire" is the name we use today for the sets with abstract knights that, historically, can be placed between and along the "Encyclopedia" and "Régence" sets. These sets do give a lot of misunderstanding about the Knights and Bishops. The source of this is the encyclopedia of Diderot/D'Alembert where drawing and associated text don't match. It says that the taller piece is the Knight ("Cavalier") and the piece with triangular collar is the Bishop ("Fou"). But it says also that the pieces in the drawing are standing in place. Both cannot be true simultaneously, but what is wrong? Some mean that the place in the picture is wrong. However more logic to me (and others) is that the statement of "Cavalier" and "Fou" in the text is wrong, because such mistake is easier made and overlooked. Besides. there exist at least one "Encyclopedia" set with figural knight and a triangular bishop. "Directoire" sets are different! They have Bishops with cut collar, but it consist either of 2 incisions or 2 angled cuts (or both) and is not a triangle. Moreover, in old "Régence" sets you see Bishops with cut collar like in "Directoire" sets. So, in "Directoire" sets, I'm convinced that the taller piece is the Knight and the cut collar piece the Bishop. I also suppose that in real live the sets were often used with swapped Knights and Bishops indeed.

"Directoire" sets have been made from beginning of the 18th century until the end of it. Or maybe still in early 19th century. Those days it could be a cheaper alternative for the "Régence" sets, because the knights don't need to be carved. Today it is opposite, because of the rarity.

The first "Directoire" set displayed here is early to mid 18th century and does still have the original box. Only a few of these boxes survived. Not many complete sets as well.

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  • France, "Directoire"
  • Early to mid 18th century
  • Boxwood and rosewood K 9.1; p 5.2
  • Box 15.0×8.8×8.6
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  • France, "Directoire"
  • Mid to late 18th century
  • Ivory + ebony K 8.5; p 5.5
  • Box 17.4×11.4×6.2 (not pictured)
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  • France, "Directoire"
  • Late 18th century
  • Boxwood K 8.3; p 4.5

"Régence" sets are called after "Café de la Régence", a famous chess café in Paris from 1718 till 1910 when it became a restaurant. In the café they used this type of set. Main difference with "Directoire" sets is the figural Knight. Note that Keats and some others call these sets "St.George".

The "Régence" sets have been produced from about 2nd quarter 18th century till even today. It was the most widely used pattern, certainly at the continent, as standard before the "Staunton" sets took over. In 1924 the FIDE declared "Staunton" as standard for their tournaments as well, after which the "Régence" style was used less and less.

It is not easy to date the sets accurately, because of their long production period in both France and its colonies as well as in other countries by many manufacturers. Generally spoken, the sets evolved from tender fragile pieces to thicker ones. This applies to all aspects like the stems and finials. Knights heads became less tall and Rooks more straight. Bishops did not change that much further, although they lost their cuts at the collar in due time. Pawns evolved from having a very small, or even almost absent, collar to wider ones and to an extra small collar in the stem, as we see in 20th century sets.

Most of the Régence sets have been made of boxwood, only occasionally combined with either ebony or rosewood. Ivory and bone sets are known as well. Ivory sets can be very beautiful. The one listed here is one of my favourites, and I do consider it the finest set I do have in my collection.

The pewter set has turned pieces and hand-carved knights. You can see the turning marks on the pieces. The set was bought in England, but the shape is almost identical to the French Régence sets of late 19th till early 20th century. I must assume it is French.

The 2 late 19th or early 20th century wooden sets are very common and were in use at home and in chess clubs as well. The set of the Dutch chess player does have better knights than average. Sometimes I do see a set where the bottoms have a number. Chess clubs did that trying to keep sets together. That didn't work always, as sets with different numbers on the bottom proof. You see this mixture also at Staunton chess sets used in clubs, even at Jaques sets.

The last 3 sets are early 20th century sets. The Galalith "Régence" set is hard to find complete with cassette and board. That board is the only one I have seen! Some pieces are glued, but that does not distract from the beauty of this set, which is one of my favourites. At time of production these sets must have been expensive. The material was quite new and trendy and the pieces all had to be made by hand. Especially the knights are beautifully carved! No wonder you don't see much of these.

« of 7 »
  • France, "Régence"
  • Mid 18th century
  • Boxwood K 8.3; p 4.8
  • Box 19.3×12.9×7.1
« of 3 »
  • France, "Régence"
  • Mid to late 18th century
  • Boxwood K 8.5; p 4.3
« of 5 »
  • France, "Régence"
  • 18th-19th century
  • Boxwood K 6.8; p 4.1
  • Original? box 16.3×10.3×5.8
« of 3 »
  • France, "Régence"
  • Early 19th century
  • Wood K 8.5; p 4.4
« of 3 »
  • France, "Régence"
  • Early 19th century
  • Ivory K 8.9; p 4.9
  • Box 22.3×12.5×6.5
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  • France, "Régence"
  • Mid 19th century
  • Boxwood K 9.8; p 6.2
  • Box 21.5×15.2×11.9
  • From The Martine Jeannin Gallery, 13, rue Jacob, Paris
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  • France, "Régence"
  • Late 19th century
  • Boxwood K 10.5; p 5.9
« of 10 »
  • France or England? "Régence"
  • Late 19th century
  • Some heavy metal K 6.8; p 3.9
  • Tin box 10.9×15.4×3.9
  • The set is bought in England, so maybe made in England?
  • Turned pieces with hand carved knights.
522 01
« of 3 »
  • France or Netherlands, "Régence"
  • Late 19th or early 20th century
  • Boxwood K 9.1; p 4.5
  • Belonged to Dutch chess player
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  • France?, "Régence"
  • Late 19th or early 20th century
  • Boxwood K 8.4; p 4.3
« of 5 »
  • France, "Régence"
  • ca. 1910-1920
  • Boxwood K 7.8; p 4.2
« of 10 »
  • France, "Régence"
  • ca. 1920
  • Galalith K 7.7; p 4.3
  • Cassette 32.0×32.0×5.2
  • Board 29.6×29.6
« of 3 »
  • France, "Régence"
  • ca. 1930
  • Boxwood K 8.7; p 4.6
  • Original box 19.1×10.8×7.5

"Staunton" set made of Galalith of which I do not know the maker, but cassete says "Made in France". Maybe produced in the Jura. I think these sets are very collectable, although many collectors do ignore them!

« of 2 »
  • France, "Staunton"
  • ca. 1920
  • Galalith K 7.7; p 3.7
  • Cassette 31.0×24.7×4.5

These 2 sets are listed as "Galalith or Bakelite" and ca.1920, but could be of some other plastic (Catalin?) and of some later date (1950?) as well. I'm not sure. I noticed that the disks at the set with checkers could be of another plastic as the chess pieces. Need some more investigation here...

« of 2 »
  • France, "Staunton"
  • ca. 1920
  • Galalith or Bakelite K 3.2; p 2.5
  • Box 37.0×26.8×7.7
  • Board 21.5×21.5
  • Set "Made in France" for "Juegos y juguetes", "Arnau", "Fernando 18 Barcelona"
« of 3 »
  • France, "Staunton"
  • ca. 1920
  • Galalith or Bakelite K 3.2; p 2.5
  • Box 30.0×24.0×7.0
  • Board 20.0×20.0

Wooden "Staunton" sets have been made in France in huge quantities. The area around Saint Claude in the Jura, because boxwood was present in huge quantities, was important for chess set manufacturing in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Henry Lardy, being the biggest, Henri Chavet, Michel Roz, Vauchier et fils and Jurabuis are all chess set manufacturers. Next to "Staunton" they did also produce "Régence" sets.

Lardy was founded in 1890 and situated in Dortan in the French Jura. Their dominance of chess set making was in period 1930ies till early 1970ies, when they sold their sets all over the world. Late 1980ies they stopped producing chess sets. Apparently their shop closed in 1992. The Lardy pattern has been licensed to many other manufactures around the world. See for instance Hempfling “Staunton”  (Germany) or Homas 20st century  (Netherlands). Lardy chessmen were available felted and unfelted, as well as weighted and unweighted. They ranged in size from the small set with a 2-3/4” King, to large Club-size sets with King heights over 4-3/4”. Next to the Lardy pattern with it's characteristic Knight, they made also better quality sets with knights having glass eyes.

The Staunton chess set from 1968 was a gift of my parents and I used that set many years to play with. I simply did not have another playable set! It was not my very first one, that one is lost, but the longest present in my collection. Most likely it is a Lardy set, but there is no Lardy label, only a sticker on the bottom of the box stating "Made in France".

The 1970 chess set is an ordinary boxwood "Staunton" set, made by one of the makers in the Jura. I do not know who, but if someone knows, please tell me. This set is equal to my first set that I used to learn chess with. Or maybe it is just a bit larger than my lost set. In my childhood I could only afford a small set!

The Chavet chess set from 2000 was a gift of Nicholas Lanier when I visited him august 2016.

« of 2 »
  • France, by Lardy? "Staunton"
  • 1968
  • Fruitwood + rosewood K 8.5; p 4.1
  • Box 21.2×13.5×7.0

Maybe the white pieces are Olivewood?

« of 2 »
  • France, "Staunton"
  • 1970
  • Boxwod K 7.5; p 3.5
  • Box 19.4×10.1×6.6
« of 6 »
  • France, by Chavet Chess, "Staunton"
  • 2000
  • Wood K 7.5; p 3.6
  • Box 18.0×11.4×6.8

I do have some French Miscellaneous sets which I cannot categorize. One set has been made by a furniture maker and that set can be used for play well, but is also decorative.

The aluminium set by Lexon is meant more decorative as playable. This purple set can be found in the 2007 Lexon catalogue, together with a black anodised version. A green one does also exist.

« of 3 »
  • France, Agonac, by a furniture maker
  • 1998
  • Beech K 6.8; p 4.5
« of 2 »
  • France, by Lexon, "LH 19"
  • 2005
  • Aluminium K 7.6; p 4.4
  • Cassette/board 26.6×28.0×2.9
  • Design by Elise Berthier

At last there is a set which easily could be used as travel set as well. Not to say it is a travel set. Didn't want to omit those in my French playing chess set pages.

« of 5 »
  • France
  • ca. 1930?
  • Wood Pieces 1.9 (without pins)
  • Box 21.1×21.3×3.9