Turk, Chess Automaton
by Gerald M. Levitt
286pp, Illustrated case binding 8.5" x 11"
Over 100 illustrations, facsimilies, photographs and chess diagrams
Published by McFarland & Company
Reviewed by MagicWeek
This is a special book, a really special book.
Many readers will remember seeing John Gaughan present a reconstructed "Turk" (the original had burned in 1854) on British Television just a few years ago, it was very magical and seemed quite impossible. The Turk, Chess Automaton, is an incredible piece of research into the "life" of Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen's uncanny automaton, that baffled the world throughout its working life, beginning in 1770.
Its inner secrets were kept for many decades, but with the aid of numerous original illustrations, and in-depth research, methods are revealed.
The book is divided into three main sections: Part One: The History, Part Two: The Mystery, and Part Three: Games, Documents, and Sources. The History starts in Vienna in 1740 setting the climate in which The Turk was created, and continues, interweaving the adventures of "The Turk" with the history of the day. The Mystery, Part Two, looks at the ingenuity that went into its creation, and uncovers nearly all its secrets. And Part Three profiles various recorded games, reproduces many documents, and highlights sources. Throughout letters are reproduced and stories recounted. It's a fascinating book that has been written in a very readable way. And it's big!
If you've got an inquisitive mind you'll take great delight in this book, from the cunning methods of the inner workings, to the fascinating stories that surround "The Turk."
© Duncan Trillo December 2000