Sarah's Chess Journal

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The History and The Culture of Chess

Jean-Benjamin de Laborde
April 2007


Jean-Benjamin de Laborde
(Sept. 1734- July 22,1794)

La Borde was "un historien français et fermier général" during the 18th century. He was a composer, a historian, a cartographer, traveler and an author. At age 14 his first musical composition, La Chercheuse d'oiseaux, was produced on stage. During his life he accumulated a library of 25,000 books and innumerable musical scores (most of which were lost during the French Revolution). He married Adélaïde Suzanne de Vismes de Saint-Alphonse (the sister of Alphonse de Vismes de Saint-Alphonse, from Amiens, he would become fermier général in 1786) who was a lady-in-waiting (dame du lit) to Marie Antoinette. This marriage allowed La Borde to attain the position of premier valet de chambre and confidant of Louis XV. Unfortunately, this arrangement also eventually led to his death by guillotine even though by then he had, by then, retired Rouen.

His writings:

Essai sur la musique ancienne et moderne, Paris, P. D. Pierres, 1780.
Voyage pittoresque de la France.
Mémoires historiques sur Raoul de Coucy, 1781.
Pensées et Maximes, 1791, ed., Paris, Lamy, 1802

In Essai sur la musique ancienne et moderne, La Borde traced the history of the Philidors and gave us much insight into the life of the great  musician/chess-player François-André Danican Philidor. *


* But La Borde isn't the only one to give the history of the Philidors. They were referred to in Abraham Du Pradel's list of Paris musicians in 1692 {Le Livre commode des addresses de Paris pour 1692) and by Michel de La Barre of the Académie Royale de Musique around 1740. But according to La Borde, Michel Danican (who was born in Dauphiné around1580 and died in Paris no later than 1651) came to Paris as a maker and player of the oboe around 1620. His playing  impressed Louis XIII who compared him to Filidori, a famous player from Siena, Italy originating the use of Philidor as the family name.


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