The Turk, Chess Automaton


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About the Book

With all-new research and facts unknown for two centuries, this is a richly detailed and comprehensive account of “The Turk,” Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen’s amazing but fraudulent Chess Automaton that held the world spellbound for 85 years beginning in 1770. In actuality, the Turk was manipulated by a man housed in a hot box, working by candlelight—but the secret was kept for decades. Besides playing a good game of chess within an hour’s time, the manipulator had to keep track of the moves, work the pantograph arm apparatus, nod the head, roll the eyes, cover up sneezes and coughs, and work the sound mechanism. This work contains a detailed discussion of the literature surrounding the Turk along with an analysis of its hidden operation. The complete collection of published games played by the Turk, many, again, unknown for 200 years, is also included.

About the Author(s)

Gerald M. Levitt has been playing postal and over-the-board chess for many years. He has authored numerous articles for Chess Life and Florida Chess, written a chess column, and made live radio appearances as a chess expert. A retired doctor of podiatric medicine, he lives in Naples, Florida.

Bibliographic Details

Gerald M. Levitt
Format: softcover (7 x 9)
Pages: 268
Bibliographic Info: 101 photos & facsimiles, diagrams, appendices, bibliography, indexes
Copyright Date: 2006 [2000]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2903-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii

Preface      1

Introduction      3

Part One: The History

1. Schonbrunn Place, Vienna      9

2. Excitement at the Exhibition      14

3. Requiescat      18

4. The Resurrection      23

5. Many Moons and Many Wives      30

6. The Musical Showman and the Emperor’s Attack      38

7. The Men in Hiding      44

8. Mouret’s Fifty Games in London as the Turk      49

9. Troubles in the New World      64

10. Mulhouse      70

11. Philadelphia, Baltimore, and an Attack of Spies      74

12. Fakes, Travels, and Exposes      81

13. Disaster Stirkes      87

14. The Phoenix      92

Part Two: The Mystery

15. Windisch, Dutens, Decremps—The Mystery Ferments      101

16. Thicknesse and Racknitz—Enemy and Admirer      107

17. Hunneman, Willis, and Bradford—Cracking the Darkness      119

18. Brewster and Edgar Allan Poe—The Attacks Strengthen      130

19. Mouret—The Key Unlocks the Door      138

20. Mitchell—The Hero is Saved and Secrets Revealed      144

21. Kummer and Others—Voices, Views, and Visions      150

Part Three: Games, Documents, and Sources

Appendix A : Eighty-Three Non-Turk Games Played by its Directors      159

Appendix B : The Book of Endgames (CA. 1818)      182

Appendix C : Dutens’ Letter to Gentleman’s Magazine (1771)      191

Appendix D : Windisch’s “Inanimate Reason…” (1784)      193

Appendix E : From Decremps’ “La Magie Blanche Devoillee” (1784/1785)      200

Appendix F : Thicknesse’s “The Speaking Figure…” (1784)      202

Appendix G : Racknitz’s “Ueber Den Schachspieler…”(1789)      206

Appendix H : Willis’ “an Attempt to Analse…” (1821)      216

Appendix I : The Pittoresque Article (1834)      221

Appendix J : De Tournay’s “La Vie Et Les Aventures…” (1836)      223

Appendix K : Poe’s “Maelzel’s Chess-Player” (1836)      226

Appendix L : Mitchell’s “The Last of a Veteran Chess Player      236

Appendix M : The Walker Automaton of 1845      241

Appendix N : The Reconstructed Turk      243

Chapter Notes      245

Bibliography      251

Index of Games and Players      253

Index      255

Book Reviews & Awards

“fascinating”—The Washington Post; “detailed and thoroughly documented history”—C&RL News; “deeply researched…highly recommended”—Blitz Chess; “exhaustive details”—Chess Horizons; “Dr. Levitt’s new book is indispensable to everyone with the slightest interest in the subject…this book is essential to anyone studying the Turk…handsome…tells a gripping tale, it is well worth its price”—Quarterly for Chess History; “the definitive work on this subject. Absolutely fascinating”—IM John Donaldson (; “deeply researched…brilliantly put together…will fascinate chessplayers and nonchessplayers alike”—Inside Chess Online; “the most complete compilation of information about the Turk ever in one volume…a fine piece of work…recommended”—; “a really special book…a fascinating book that has been written in a very readable way…fascinating stories…highly recommended”—Magic Week; “a delightful book”—British Chess Magazine; “outstanding…extensive research…most interesting”—Musical Box Society International; “very eye-appealing…generously illustrated”—Infinityplus; “interesting”—The Intelligencer Record; “lavishly illustrated…a delightful book to read”—Book Lover’s Review; “beautifully researched”—Global Stamp News; “lavishly illustrated. It is mouth-watering to leaf through the handsomely laid out pages”—E-G.