Ms Typ 45


Ms. Typ 45, fol. 17v Konrad von Ammenhausen (ca. 1300), Schachzabelbuch, a translation into German of Jacobus de Cessolis (flourished 1288-1322), De ludo scachorum. Austria (Vienna?), before 1408

The full title of the original Latin work, of which this manuscript presents a translation into German, reads, in translation: "Book of the Customs of Men and Duties of the Nobles and the People as Seen through the Game of Chess." The translator, Konrad von Ammenhausen, was a Benedictine monk at Stein am Rhein, a small town close to the point at which the Rhine exits the Bodensee. The work, which speaks to the popularity of chess as a pastime, uses the game as a point of departure for an allegory of the prevailing social hierarchy. A popular work, it survives in a number of illustrated copies. Harvard's exemplar contains twelve tinted drawings of people in various callings, among them, bishops, knights, peasants, money changers, physicians, innkeepers and gamblers. The final image (f. 75v) shows a man and woman wearing clothing of kind fashionable at court in the early fifteenth century playing a game chess on a table with a chess board as a table top. In the opening illustration, exhibited here, two elderly gentleman dispute over an open book. The scroll reads: "Von der gestalt der alten vnd von iren ampten," "On the state of the elderly and about their offices." With their floppy caps, long grey hair, and profuse beards, the two elders look rather like prophets as they are commonly depicted in the art of the later Middle Ages. Their bodies are linked by the long, looping folds of their oversized garments, a characteristic trait of painting (and sculpture) ca. 1400. Although the artist makes no attempt to reproduce actual script in the depicted book, he does clearly show the ruling that defines the justification, as well as the curvature of the spine caused by the force with which the two men hold the book open, less to read it themselves than to display it to the reader.