A lot of chess knowledge (especially games and opening
analysis) can be gleaned from books and online sources.
But if you are serious about chess or interested
in chess history, you will inevitably be drawn to
the books and articles that are no longer in print.
There are some wonderful and accessible library
chess collections around the U.S. and all over the
world, and most are underutilized. I suspect that
players simply don't know about them or would rather
play the game than wade through old books. I hope
the following collection of links and resources helps
change that a bit.
Home to the John
G. White Chess and Checkers Collection, the Cleveland Public Library is
worth knowing about and visiting if you are serious about chess history. At
over 33,000 volumes devoted to chess and checkers, it is by far the largest
collection of its kind in the world.
Treasures at the British Library by Tim Harding
A great introduction to England's venerable library and its periodicals collection,
but also a good introduction to library research for chess history enthusiasts.
Legacy: The Great Chess Libraries by Allan Savage
Notes from a lecture discussing the great chess libraries, both U.S. and abroad,
available from Chess Archaeology.
U.S. Chess Libraries
An excellent table by Allan Savage, listing and detailing the most important
library collections with public access. Appendix to his article (see above).
Libraries in America (see pp.147-152) by Dr.
The famous bookseller and historian wrote an article on chess libraries for
the Princeton University Library Chronicle 2.4 (June 1941): 147-152,
available online at the link above.
the Blue-Eyed Chess Score, by John S. Hilbert
One of the best pieces I've read on the fun to be found in a chess library
or really any library (if you know what you are doing).
Columns: Now and Then, by John S. Hilbert
A great article on the fun to be had at many libraries tracking down chess
columns. One great column he does not mention here was by Herman Helms in the
Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Thursdays.
Home to the Eugene B. Cook chess collection, one of the largest in the United
States. Cook was a famous problem composer and editor, immortalized by the
term "to cook a problem" (i.e.: find errors or alternate solutions).
His collection included many old and rare books. The library of William Spackman
was later added, giving Princeton a great collection of old tournament books.
The collection has been kept relatively current, with many opening periodicals
and books. For more information about the collections and other libraries,
Guide to PUL Special Collections: Chess, especially Albrecht Buschke's "Chess
Libraries in America" (pp.147-152) and "The
Spackman Collection of Chess Books" (pp. 62-64). Princeton is a "closed
stack" library that requires permission to access,
so be sure to read through the website or call ahead about their policies before
making the trip. One of the best features of the library is their Special
Collections, which include many old and rare books. They sponsored an exhibition
Art of Chess in 1997 to showcase some of the more interesting and rare
items in the collection.
Institute Library and Chess Room
A great resource, located in San Francisco and associated with the famous club
of the same name. See the links to the Library and
the Online Catalogue.
Or go directly to a
search for "Chess."
York Public Library
The main library at 5th Ave and 42nd Street tends to have the largest holdings.
York University Libraries
The library has a fairly good collection of books and is said to have received
Fred Reinfeld's collection and materials from other New York masters, though
I have not yet investigated that. Any information about their special collections
or other holdings would be most welcome.
and Draughts Collection (The Hague)
The link takes you to excellent introductory pages to the collection at the
Hague, mostly in English.
See Tim Harding's article (above) for details and further links about the British
Library of Philidelphia
A surprisingly large collection, thanks to the Charles Willing Collection.
Especially strong in periodicals.
A very large collection, from 1450 to the present. Good in periodicals, early
works, game collections, and openings with quite a bit of rare material.
Library of Congress
Good on chess history and periodicals.
Daily Eagle Online, 1841-1901
A great treat from the Brooklyn Public Library (which has its own chess collection,
separate from the NYPL above). The Eagle would later run an excellent column
by Herman Helms every Thursday (and Wednesdays before Thanksgiving), but there
was quite a bit of chess coverage even before Helms began writing. Many libraries
have the Eagle on microfilm. There is, unfortunately, no good listing of historic
chess columns readily available on the web, as Anders
Thulin notes. Ken Whyld has put together a list of columns from Moravian
Press for serious researchers. And there is a good
listing of contemporary chess columns out there. But if anyone knows of
a readily-accessible listing of chess columns, let me know!
Chess Problem Society
Includes a listing and borrowing information.
A short listing with links from Brainy Encyclopedia.