The World of Chess, by International Master Anthony Saidy and Senior Master Norman Lessing, is the handsomest and most informative chess picture book ever produced. Its illustrations include Persian paintings, medieval manuscripts,18th century court scenes, 20th centmy abstractions, a few sly cartoons and some arresting photographs of the strange cold men who become grand masters.
In the text, Saidy has provided some moving excerpts from his diary of a fumbled tournament that cost him a grand master's rating. Lessing has wittily recalled a misspent youth in one of Manhattan's less salubrious chess and coffeehouses. The authors have also taken care to make the historical sections pert and amusing. "Can you forgive me this indiscretion?" Benjamin Franklin writes to a wealthy Frenchwoman. "Never hereafter shall I consent to begin a game [of chess] in your bathroom."
You gotta love that Ben Franklin character :-)
This book complimented very well another favorite of mine - The Fireside Book of Chess by Irving Chernev and Fred Reinfeld. Unlike the Fireside Book, this book was up-to-date at the time and contained dozens of great black and white and color pictures. It was more than just a "coffee table" picture book, however, as it was filled with interesting chess facts and stories, fascinating anecdotes, several dozen classic chess games, and some very insightful thoughts about the game from two chess masters who were intimately familiar with the topic the were writing about.
I don't imagine this will ever be republished, but it must be added to the list of Chess Books That Should Be Reprinted.
Look for the next installment of the series Rook's Rambling Rants & Raves each Wednesday.