Last updated on April 14, 2021
This post is with thanks to our friends at Luke Honey Ltd. Operating from premises in central London, Luke offers an eclectic range of decorative antiques and fine works of art. In addition, Luke is a leading specialist in antique chess and backgammon boards.
Occasionally, at Deluxe Backgammon we like to look at something different. We have a particular fondness for antique pieces because they are things of both beauty and age. They also remind us that the game of backgammon has been enjoyed by many generations before ours. This post is about an antique leather-bound, book-style backgammon set we saw on the Luke Honey Ltd website. This particular piece had sold at the time of writing, but we hope to revisit the website in the near future and explore some other antique backgammon offerings.
This eye-catching piece is an English gilt-tooled leather folding games board from circa 1890. The board has been made in a book-style, with an outer chessboard, inner backgammon board and a spine disguised as a book.
Historically, the book-style backgammon set was invented as a means to disguise the board. At various stages throughout history, the game of backgammon had been banned by the church. In 16th century England, because of its association with gambling, Cardinal Wolsey demanded that all backgammon boards be burnt and declared the game “the devil’s folly”. English craftsmen quickly overcame this obstacle by designing the book-style games board.
By the time this antique piece was made, there was no longer the need to disguise the board and the book-style games sets were purely a decorative design. This particular piece, in the form of an antiquarian book, has the title “History of England” stamped on the spine. This was a particularly common title for games sets of this style and period. The backgammon playing field has a leather surface with elaborate gilt-tooled decoration. The ends of the book appear as marbled paper. When open the set is 44cm long x 37.5cm wide.
The accessories include three bone dice. It doesn’t include a doubling cube as this was not invented until the 20th century. Also included is a set of 30 turned backgammon checkers in ebony and boxwood (with baize insets). When not in use the checkers are housed in a hinged red leather and gilt cylinder. Finally, there is a red leather and gilt shaker.
The entire set is in remarkably good condition for its age. I don’t know if this was because it was used simply as a decorative piece and rarely played. Or perhaps, the careful owner lovingly cared and maintained the set throughout their lifetime. Either way, this remains a decorative, but definitely useable backgammon set. At Deluxe Backgammon we would have no hesitation in recommending the purchase of a luxury backgammon set of this age and quality. In the future, we hope to bring you more examples of antique backgammon sets from Luke Honey Ltd.