Free Chess Book about the Art and History of Chess Sets

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has made available for free a book that goes over the history and art of Chess sets.



Chess: East and West, Past and Present published in 1968 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It talks about chess sets from India, China, Japan, Europe and America with very nice photos of chess sets.

If you are interested in learning about the history of the chess pieces, this is a good book to read.


The chessmen and boards illustrated in this book range from the seventh century to the present and come from Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. Although all made for a single game, they give a very good idea of the diversity in the world. They form the bulk of an exhibition entitled Chess: East and West, Past and Present, shown at The Brooklyn Museum from April to October, I968, sponsored by that museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Most of them were given to the Metropolitan by Gustavus A. Pfeiffer, a devoted collector keenly interested in the history and meaning of chess” or purchased from monies bequeathed by him. In addition to the objects acquired directly or indirectly from Mr. Pfeiffer, this publication contains a few ivory chessmen of the early ninth century, excavated at Nishapur by the Metropolitan’s Iranian Expedition in 1940, and early Islamic and medieval chessmen given by J. P. Morgan, Alastair Bradley Martin, and others. There is only one piece from the thirteenth century, and none from the fourteenth to the late seventeenth centuries. Pieces of this period are rare in Europe outside of museums and church treasuries, and few have been acquired by American collectors.

The book is available on our website here or you can download it directly from the MOMA at this location.