Luke Honey | Decorative Antiques, Chess, Backgammon & Games

“Spanish Pulpit” Bone Chess Set, 18th century

  • “Spanish Pulpit” Bone Chess Set, 18th century
  • “Spanish Pulpit” Bone Chess Set, 18th century
  • “Spanish Pulpit” Bone Chess Set, 18th century
  • “Spanish Pulpit” Bone Chess Set, 18th century

A “Spanish Pulpit” Figural Carved Bone Chess Set, Late 18th century

one side stained dark brown, the other wide left natural, kings with crowns and feathers, queens with feathers and of a slightly smaller size, bishops with mitres, knights as arched horse’s heads over pierced galleries, rooks with finials and pierced galleries, pawns with tear-drop finials

King: 8cm high

Pawn: 5.6cm high 

Stock Reference: FL 1601

Provenance: Major European Chess Collection

The set has been photographed with an 18th century German board for chess and backgammon (from the same private chess collection), which is being sold separately. You can view it here.


‘Very Good’. NIcely carved from cow-bone so can be sent to the United States. A good example.

Small chip to brown bishop finial and finial of one brown rook re-stuck. Some rubbing to brown side. One or two bases probably period replacements. Further photographs available on request.

A Note From Luke

A nice example of the mysterious so-called Spanish Pulpit chess set.

Despite the name, chess historians are still not entirely sure where these sets come from. One suggestion is Russia; another more plausible theory is that they were made by French soldiers and sailors held in English prisoner of war camps during the Napoleonic period. Certainly, the odd set has turned up in late 18th century English house inventories, so an English attribution is another possibility.

Gareth Williams writes: ...”mystery surrounds the original source of the “Pulpit” family of sets, for instance. Carved from cattle bone in an original and distinctive style, and indicating a date of between 1770 and 1830, ...Like the Dieppe and Selenus sets, the Puplit has also been attributed to prisoners of war”.


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