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This item is a graphics resource
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2001-04-03
 Author: Tony  Quintanilla. Isle of Lewis Chess Men. Missing description[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Joe Joyce wrote on 2010-07-16 UTC
Hey, John. I would actually display the set with the warder-rook and the little berserker pawns, and might even try to play a game with it. The 2 gentlemen are a couple of our site artists. Gary makes chesspieces from Sculpy, a clay-like sculpting material, as well as more common materials; and James does statues as well as some excellent artwork. They've both added some fine pieces to the site's piece sets.

John Ayer wrote on 2010-07-16 UTC
Nifty idea! Now, which of us will write to Chessbaron? After that, I give up: who are those TLAs?

Joe Joyce wrote on 2010-07-15 UTC
John, thanks for the information. I like the 'tower rook' set better than the 'stylized shield pawn' set, but you are obviously right about the rooks/warders. And using them as rooks completes the full-human-figure theme of the Isle of Lewis chess sets. I still think the rune stones Mats identified make lousy pawns. Maybe a set with one [style of] warder as the rooks and the other [say the berserker type chewing on the shield, because like pawns, they go out to charge and die] shrunk down to make pawns. Where are JKS or GKG when you need them to make pieces?

John Ayer wrote on 2010-07-01 UTC
It seems to me that the armed footsoldiers, four of them berserkers, must be rooks. They appear to be about the same size as the other pieces, just a little shorter, as the end pieces usually are, in modern chess sets and in other connections (even the Rockettes in Radio City are arranged with the tallest in the center and the shortest at the ends). In order to make them pawns in reproduction sets they have to be scaled down. Rooks are depicted as warders, castle guards, or captains afoot in German and Scandinavian sets down into the nineteenth century.

John Ayer wrote on 2010-06-28 UTC
I made a slight mistake. The set with square towers as rooks and the footsoldiers reduced by about a quarter to serve as pawns is at http://www.chessbaron.co.uk/chess-TH2003.htm . That company carries four sets based on the Lewis chessmen; the other three all have runestone pawns.

Anonymous wrote on 2010-06-26 UTC
Why queen have this aspect? My opinion about rook: even in some modern sets pieces' size is determined not by it's power, but by proximity to king (that is, queen is tallest, bishop is shorter, kniht is middle, rook is short).

Charles Gilman wrote on 2010-06-26 UTC
Here's a heads-up for those living in Britain or otherswise able to access B.B.C. Radio 4. Sorry for the short notice but it was announced only last night. On Monday 28th June at 9:45, and repeated at 19:45, the Lewis Chessmen are the 'object' in that day's edition of A History of the World in 100 Objects. More detail here.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2009-04-19 UTCGood ★★★★
I carefully avoid rating this page in my earlier comments while the error was in place - there was no 'Average' at that time - but with it corrected the page deserves a higher rating. I hope that thos ewho previously rated it 'poor' will also reappraise the page.

Tony Quintanilla wrote on 2007-06-18 UTC
I have revised the page, changing the attribution from the 'English Isle of Lewis' to the 'Scottish Isle of Lewis.'

ShuShu wrote on 2007-06-17 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
I can understand why you are angry at the book, but why did you give the page a Poor rating ?

thylda wrote on 2007-06-17 UTCPoor ★
that is sheer ignorance in my book! even if most of the pieces are in london does not make them english. they are hebridean found and scandinavian made and should be back in scotland.

John Ayer wrote on 2007-06-13 UTC
They also offer at http://www.chessbaron.co.uk/chess-TH2002.htm a chess set based on Isle of Lewis pieces with a tower as rook and with the berserkers reduced to about half size to serve as pawns.

M Winther wrote on 2007-06-10 UTC
I discovered that one can buy the Lewis chess pieces, at £98.95, here: http://www.chessbaron.co.uk/chess-TH2001.htm They are made of crushed stone. There is no stone board. But in the plaster cast set it's possible to make an attractive stone plaster board. Marilyn Yalom ('Birth of the Chess Queen: A History') says that the set is from around 1200 when the Norwegians ruled the Isle of Lewis. /Mats

M Winther wrote on 2007-06-03 UTC
The pawns in the Lewis set are actually runic stones, easily identifiable for us living in Scandinavia. In Sweden we see them everywhere in the landscape, and sometimes they have been inserted in the foundation of old churches. They typically have a dragon ornament with runes on it. /Mats

Tony Quintanilla wrote on 2007-06-03 UTC

This page was originally meant to simply present some images that could be used with Zillions of Games. Here are some other links that may be of interest:


Joe Joyce wrote on 2007-06-03 UTC
rossco, John is certainly right about the bishop. But notice he said nothing about the rook. I've always felt the piece labelled 'rook' is actually a pawn, or, at the very least, should be. It is a footsoldier with a shield, smaller than all the other pieces. It has none of the features of what we associate with the modern rook, that is, a castle or tower; nor does it have any of the features of the original 'rukh', a chariot. It has all the features we associate with pawns. They will tell us that the large shield the footsoldier holds represents a curtain wall or other fixed defense, thus by analogy is a tower or castle. But if I were to create a chess set from my set of the Lewis pieces, I'd make a new, tower piece for the rook, and use that footsoldier piece as the pawn, personally. What they call a pawn in the illustration looks to me like a piece from a smaller, cruder set, and not at all like it belongs with the first 5 pieces.

John Ayer wrote on 2007-06-03 UTC
I think that the piece labeled a bishop is actually a bishop, because it wears a miter, as a bishop does, and carries a pastoral staff, as a bishop does.

M Winther wrote on 2007-06-02 UTC
But they are amazingly beautiful, carved by a 13th century(?) Norwegian craftsman. One can buy plaster cast sets of these and use stone plaster to create perfect replicas (in reality they are made of some form of bone). /Mats

rossco wrote on 2007-06-01 UTC
i think that the rook and thge bishop are confused becuase the rook should be a strong piece with a solid base like th eking and queen

Anonymous wrote on 2005-05-22 UTCPoor ★
The Hebrides Islands, of which Lewis is one, are part of Scotland, not England.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2004-06-16 UTC
Variation among the sets found at Lewis were only the tip of the iceberg as regards far northern sets generally. Some had the King and Queen on horseback (though still distinguished from the Knight by their crowns). Towards the end of the Middle Ages the Queen was further distinguished by being depicted side-saddle. Regarding the England/Scotland question the DISCOVERY site of the Lewis men is in Scotland, but most of them are now KEPT in England (where the British Museum is) although a few remain in Scotland.

Anonymous wrote on 2004-03-10 UTC
The Isle of Lewis is not an 'English Island' it is in Scotland, a different country to England.

sh1n0b1 wrote on 2003-12-18 UTC
Tony Where can you buy the molds do you know because im interested in purchasing one thank you

Tony Quintanilla wrote on 2003-08-12 UTC
The Isle of Lewis chessmen found comprised parts of several chess sets. The sets commercially distributed appear to use a few of these pieces for their molds. Different sets seem to use a different selection of pieces, such as a tower or a soldier for the Rook. Or the same set may use different pawns or kings for white and black. Basically, selection of pieces that will comprise a set is somewhat arbitrary. If you like the set provided, that's what counts.

Skye wrote on 2003-08-12 UTC
I got an Isle of Lewis set. You might want to know that the black pawns are different. They are more round and have several sides. You may also see several little different things like the black king has a beard but the white one doesn't.

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