Last updated on April 14, 2021
This post is with thanks to our friends at Christopher Clarke Antiques, specialists in campaign furniture.
Occasionally at Deluxe Backgammon, we like to look at something different. This post is about a leather-bound, book-style backgammon set we saw on the Christopher Clarke Antiques website.
Backgammon has been banned a number of times throughout history. It was banned in 16th century England, due to its association with gambling. Cardinal Wolsey demanded that all backgammon boards be burnt and declared the game “the devil’s folly”. However, English craftsmen quickly came up with the idea of folding the boards in half in the form of a book to disguise them. The book-style backgammon sets continued to remain popular into the 19th and 20th centuries. The most common binding on these sets was the “History of England Vol. 1 and 2”. However, it was possible to pay to have your own title printed on the spine.
The Army & Navy Co-operative Society Ltd. was formed in 1871, by a group of army and navy officers. The aim of the co-operative was to supply goods to its members at the lowest prices. The original store offered groceries, stationery, a drapery, fancy goods, tailoring, groceries, a chemist and firearms. The business group and expanded offering its goods for sale in Army and Navy Stores, a UK based chain of department stores. Ultimately, the Army and Navy chain was acquired by the House of Fraser group in 1973.
This delightful antique backgammon set from Christopher Clarke Antiques dates from around 1900. It is most likely to have been purchased from the Army & Navy Store, where it was offered in three sizes and qualities. This set is the middle size and likely to be the middle quality.
The cabinet is made of softwood with a leather playing field. The tooled decoration is quite intricate with floral motifs ingrained in the centre of the playing field. It is in remarkably good condition for a piece that is nearing 120 years of age. It would serve as a decorative piece or a practical playable backgammon set.
H 7cm x W 37.5cm x D 22cm.
The accessories include boxwood and ebony checkers enclosed in a neat mahogany box. It also includes a set of Staunton pattern chess pieces, also in boxwood and ebony. The playing pieces for these sets would often be purchased separately depending on personal preference. The set does not include a dice cup. The dice and doubling dice are modern. Note, there is no doubling cube as this was not introduced to backgammon until the 1920s.
This backgammon set could serve as a purely decorative piece, or as a perfectly useable games piece with the addition of some suitable dice cups. The condition is great for its age and with care could last another hundred years or more. We would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this piece as a Deluxe Backgammon set. Decorative, practical and beautiful, it would make a sound investment. The set has sold since the time of writing. We hope to review more antique backgammon sets from Christopher Clarke Antiques in the near future.