Haltern Chess Exhibition

An overall pleasing Sunday morning

Last Sunday (25/11/2012) the opening of the chess exhibition in Haltern am See took place where I had been invited to by Mrs Eva Masthoff. The background story is easily told.

In the last months, the author and journalist Eva Masthoff as well as her husband Dr. Horstfried Masthoff (founder of the Kulturstiftung Masthoff in Haltern) dealt with the preparation of two book chapters on chess bookplates, and in the course of her research work Mrs Masthoff had contacted me whereupon some e-mails had been exchanged about chess in general and ex libris in particular. Later on I gladly accepted her invitation to the Haltern chess exhibition as (inter alia) it gave me the opportunity to write this pictorial report for our website, and Haltern is only one hour’s drive off from Meerbusch. I am also still grateful to Mrs Masthoff that she had warned me the day before against a starlings' nest box (Starenkasten) on the way into town, maybe otherwise I had fallen into that non-chess trap. (In Germany starlings' nest boxes are preferentially installed on tremendously wide roads with an incomprehensibly low speed limit.)

Arrived at Haltern’s public library, I was cordially received by Mr and Mrs Masthoff, and I could shake quite a lot of hands, also of members of the chess club Königsspringer Haltern 1962 whose 50th anniversary was celebrated with this exhibition. Naturally at the start of the event some short welcoming speeches were given by several officials who also appreciated the intensive commitment of all those involved in the realization of the exhibition. I will only give here the names and add the photos, the reader will find more substantial content in the jubilee book which also contains some forewords by the speakers.

In view of the early Sunday morning hour (start at 10 am) the event was very well-attended, after the speeches most visitors moved to the basement of the public library where the chess exhibition was housed and where the guests could take some refreshment (beverages and snacks). I was pleasantly surprised then by the exhibition, as the collectibles provided largely by Haltern citizens were most remarkable, and it is very meritorious what a comparatively small local chess club (with only about 60 members) has achieved here together with helpers and sponsors. Similar applies to the beautiful and recommendable jubilee book (see our announcement Halterner Schachspiegeleien …) which was offered (fresh from the press) in the exhibition hall – I was very pleased to receive a copy from the hands of Mrs Masthoff. Aditionally it should be mentioned that the chess club offered a little competition for the visitors (i.e. to solve a not so hard chess problem with an ornamental constellation of the pieces).

Naturally the exhibition in Haltern is not comparable with (for instance) the chess exhibition in Hamburg 2005 (see Outstanding Chess Exhibition in Hamburg) which was realized by a big chess club and with the assistance of Chess Collectors International – such a comparison would be unfair. On the basis of the photos below the reader will get an idea of the Haltern event which certainly has exceeded the expectations of most visitors.

The most valuable item of the exhibition, a gorgeous facsimile of the Codex Alfonso.
The most valuable item of the exhibition, a gorgeous facsimile of the Codex Alfonso. Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge detail.
Chess set "Alice in Wonderland"
Chess set "Alice in Wonderland" (Click to enlarge)

A goodly collection of altogether 132 bookplates could be admired in the exhibition. The ex-libris in the red frames are on loan from the German Ex-libris Society.

Always click small photos to enlarge:

I will take the opportunity to deal a little with the bookplate of our late member Dr. Jean Mennerat (for Jean Mennerat see our former birthday greetings 2005 and 2007 as well as our obituary):

Mrs Masthoff has contacted the French artist Gilles Erny who had prepared the copper engraving for Jean Mennerat and this way learned some informative details about this ex-libris. Generally the bookplate reflects Dr. Mennerat’s profession and his varied private passions: The Aesculapian staff with the snake is well-known as a symbol of the medical profession, the chess board with the curved lateral branch can be interpreted as a microscope while the head of the microscope is partly concealed by an ancient Egyptian female head (Pharaoh) whose headdress (crown – an attribute of Kings and Queens only) is again modified by a chess pattern. A plausible explanation for this head would be that it adverts to the old Egyptian medicine which is regarded as the beginning of medical science.
The head-on approaching biplane refers to the fact that Mennerat was an enthusiastic pilot, and the stars in the upper part of the bookplate bear witness to his interest in astronomy. A number of books underneath the chess board (= microscope stage) is self-evident (Mennerat’s bibliophily); the fungi (bottom left) which represent - besides animals and plants - an independent realm, as well as the fossil (ammonite) depicted on the right may indicate further fields of interest. Whether the ammonite is also intended as a hidden hint at the Pharaonic empire has to remain unsettled (an etymological connection: Am[m]on was the Greek / Roman name for the Egyptian sun-god Amun-Re, see http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammoniten). Beyond question, a fascinating bookplate with interesting details to discover and to discuss.

Dieter Stüber closes both eyes while library director Bernhard Köster flirts with Mrs. Masthoff.
Dieter Stüber closes both eyes while library director Bernhard Köster flirts with Mrs. Masthoff.

You may enjoy 26 further photographs in this gallery!

(Press) articles on the event:

PS (22/03/2013): Eva Masthoff has also reported about the exhibition in the "Mitteilungen" of the German ex-libris Society, available online as PDF: Mitteilungen 2013 – 1, see p. 17f.

PS (19/05/2013): Irene Stock wrote an article on the exhibition ("Schachausstellung in der Stadtbücherei lockt 3000 Besucher") in Lokallust Haltern am See, issue 05.2013, p. 22f.

Ralf Binnewirtz

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