Luke Honey | Decorative Antiques, Chess, Backgammon & Games


June 01, 2016

Rare pocket chess set by Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), the industrious compiler of Roget’s Thesaurus. The chess historian, Michael Mark, has written on these early pocket chess sets:

“The earliest English pocket chess set of which I have found any record is the Economic Chess-Board designed by Dr. P. M. Roget, the compiler of Roget’s Thesaurus. It was first marketed in April 1846 by De La Rue and the following advertisement appeared in the Illustrated London News of 18th April 1846:

“THE ECONOMIC CHESS-BOARD.- This is an elegant and ingenious contrivance lately published by De La Rue, for facilitating the study of our famous game. It consists of a small paste-board diagram of the exchequeur, each square representing a chess-man. These men are of a corresponding size with the squares, and can of course be drafted from one to another as required, so that we have a chess-board with moveable type, enabling you to try conclusions or even to play a whole game through, of so compact and portable form that it may be carried in a waistcoat pocket.  To the amateurs of Chess Problems we in particular command the Economic Chess-Board. On a journey by coach or railway, in the cabin of a steamer, or during a pedestrian ramble, it must prove an inexhaustible source of instruction and enjoyment.”