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Rare 17th Century Military Board Game

Fine example of Peter Schenk's rare “War Game,” a set of playing cards describing the art of war.

The sheet comprises 52 playing card sized engraved panels, showing the French suits, each bearing an illustration of a military maneuver or fortification element along with a brief explanatory text. The 53rd card is double sized image of a king awarding a victorious general with a marshal’s baton.

Along the top of the sheet additional panels list the game’s rules, and a panel along the right edge contain an index of important terms. A central panel bear the Schenck imprint against an architectural backdrop adorned with military hardware. 

The sheet was intended either to be cut up for use as a traditional deck of cards or left intact for use as a board game, with the rules at the top.  Players rolled dice to move around the board, with the first to arrive at panel 53 being the winner.  In playing the game, one could learn the conventional strategies of a typical military campaign, from enlistment and training through the final assault and conquest of a fortified town. 

Peter Schenck based his game on a French board game designed by Gilles de la Boissiere and published in 1668, bearing the title Jeu de la Guerre. Boissiere and Schenck each also issued companion versions of a “Fortification Game” (Jeu des Fortifications / Festung Baues Spiel), which employs a very similar graphic design and set of rules.

The sheet is very rare on the market.

Peter Schenk Biography

Peter Schenk the Elder (1660-1711) moved to Amsterdam in 1675 and began to learn the art of mezzotint. In 1694 he bought some of the copperplate stock of the mapmaker Johannes Janssonius, which allowed him to specialize in the engraving and printing of maps and prints. He split his time between his Amsterdam shop and Leipzig and also sold a considerable volume of materials to London.

Peter Schenk the Elder had three sons. Peter the Younger carried on his father’s business in Leipzig while the other two, Leonard and Jan, worked in Amsterdam. Leonard engraved several maps and also carried on his father’s relationship with engraving plates for the Amsterdam edition of the Histoire de l'Académie Royale des Sciences.