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Currently the most popular chess font is Merida. I used to be under the impression that this was a new font from the computer era, but I found it in a German chess book from 1952 (Lasker's biography).

The question is about the origin of this font. When was it introduced and how widespread was its use in the precomputer era? Does anyone have old books with such diagrams?

diagram from German 1952 book

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    I can only add that the font is very familiar. I have seen it in numerous places. Most chess fonts hurt my face; that one does not. – Tony Ennis Jul 21 '16 at 11:59
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    The only reference I've found is that it's named after the city of Mérida (Yucatán). This is the city Carlos Torre was from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Torre_Repetto, so I guess the chess font could be created by the printer of one of his books, but I'm just speculating. – sharcashmo Jul 22 '16 at 9:50
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The oldest reference I have for that chess typeface is to Linotype, so I suspect it may have been one of their foundry typefaces (i.e. created by their own artists, not by a 'well-known' type designer). The lack of detail suggests it may have been intended for a printing process that could not do fine details very well: some of the earlier chess typefaces had very fine details, and required good paper as well as good printing technique for those details to be seen. This typeface looks more as if it might have been intended for newspaper printing or similar 'fast' printing.

Adobe has it in their 'Linotype Game Pi Chess Draughts' font set, so I'm fairly certain it's a Linotype face.

Best way to find out more is probably to visit museums of printing, or type design, such as the Letterform Archive (who seem to have a large number of Linotype master drawings). They are planning for online access -- it may possibly be found there when that comes on-line.

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Unfortunately I can't comment. Perhaps a moderator can transform this answer as a comment, to give it a proper place. I found the following information from:

Archivo con figuras basadas en el tipo Mérida

... The figurines of this font are a simple design from my CHESS MERIDA font. The font was created exclusively in Corel Draw 3.0, drawings and exporting to TTF format. I made the font in the "Colegio La Salle de San Cristobal" (La Salle School of San Cristobal), located in the pleasant mountains of the south of Mexico; in order to expand our collection of chess fonts. This font is freeware, I hope it is useful for the chess community. If you want to repay us, you can send us some other chess fonts (we are collecting them). Your comments and suggestions would be welcome; please send them to either of address that appear below.

                            **************

I wish to thank:

  ERIC BENTZEN
  http://users.cybercity.dk/~ccc25222/homeeng.htm

  HANS BODLAENDER
  http://www.cs.ruu.nl/~hansb/d.chessvar/d.font/index.html

  SETEPHANE MOUCHEL
  http://www.europe-echecs.com/

for the Website space which has enabled you to receive these fonts, to ANDY TEMPLETON for the advices and ideas, and to VIRGINIA CALHOUN my friend translator.

ÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍËÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍ
CIRCULO LASALLISTA DE AJEDREZ         º  ARMANDO HERNANDEZ MARROQUIN
Apartado Postal 168                   º
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas.  º  mquin@sancristobal.podernet.com.mx
29200 MEXICO                          º
                                      º
lasalle@sancristobal.podernet.com.mx  º  Marzo 18 de 1998.
ÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÊÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍ

The designer does not inform at all what was the source of his inspiration.

And, about your question of what books do we have with this font, I can't remember any book with this design. I have books in Spanish from 1970.

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