Introduction | Earliest Book About Tennis | Tennis as a Royal Game
Art of the Paumier-Raquetier | Enlightenment, Revolution & Tennis: Diderot & David
Court Tennis in the 19th Century | Beginnings of the Lawn Tennis
From Recreation to Competition | Some 20th Century Court Tennis Rarities
Stars & Icons of Modern Lawn Tennis | Survival of Court Tennis as an International Sport
Billy Haggard: Sportsman and Bookman | Selected References

The Earliest Book about Tennis

The Origins of Tennis

This illuminated medieval manusorigin of tenniscript, ca. 1450, shows how the traditional ball game played in monastic cloisters provided the model for the roofed gallery of the traditional tennis court.  The players wear a leather glove on the right hand, later replaced with a scoop, bat, or racket.   Reproduced in Gillmeister, Tennis, A Cultural History (1997), from British Library MS. Harley 4375. 



The First Book about Tennis, by Antonio Scaino

Scaino, Atratto del givoco della pallantonio, 1524‑1612.
Tratto del Givoco della Palla.
Vinegia: Gabriel Giolito de’ Ferrari, et fratelli, 1555.  Modern red morocco, gilt.

This is the first book written about tennis, published in Italian in 1555.  Antonio Scaino, an Italian priest, dedicated the book to his patron Alphone d'Este, Duke of Ferrara.  The book discusses five variant ball‑games, including a form of soccer, but the treatment of the rules and method of playing tennis is much the most detailed, and all Scaino's illustrations are of tennis. 

Scaino, Antonio, 1524‑1612.scaino on tennis
Tratto del Givoco della Palla.
Vinegia: Gabriel Giolito de' Ferrari, et fratelli, 1555.
Facsimile reprint: Salerno: W. Casari, n.d.  Half morocco, marbled boards, in slip‑case.

This facsimile is opened to show one of Scaino's five engraved plates illustrating tennis court lay‑outs.  Shown here is the plate of the royal tennis‑court at the Louvre, in Paris, showing a court with a line or cord near the mid‑point, and a dedanspenthouse, as in a modern court.  Inset is a small racket, in something near modern shape.   The court at the Louvre had been constructed for Henri II, to dimensions that the king himself paced out.  

Scaino, Atratto del givoco della pallantonio, 1524‑1612.
Scaino on Tennis: Tratto del Givoco della Palla.
Translated by W. W. Kershaw, with notes by P.A.Negretti.
London: Strangeways Press for C. B. Gabriel, 1951.  No. 213 of 250 copies,  signed by Negretti.  Original cloth.

This was the first English translation of Scaino's work, opened at Scaino's discussion of good manners on the tennis court, showing the close relation between the evolution of the sport and the Renaissance ideals of deportment.

Morgan, Rogtudor tenniser, M.D.
Tudor Tennis, A Miscellany.
Oxford: Ironbark/Ronaldson Publications, 2001.  Full red morocco in jacket. Inscribed by the publisher to "My good friend Billy."

One of the most interesting recent discoveries about early British tennis concerns its relation to the London trade guilds or livery companies.  The plat shown here, dating from ca. 1612, shows a tennis court on property then owned by the Clothworkers’ Company, but previously the site of the Ironmongers’ Hall.   During their tenure, between 1461 and 1535, the Ironmongers are known to have regularly sold tennis balls in large quantity; the accounts indicate that many of the purchasers were livery members–London merchants and their apprentices.  This court, open to the sky, with wooden fence‑type walls, and a stone floor, was subsequently leased to individuals and stayed active till the mid‑seventeenth century.
A Renaissance Court Still in Use

The Royal Tennis Court, 

royal tennis courtFalkland Palace, Fife, Scotland.
N.p.: n.p., n.d.

The open‑air court at Falkland Palace, was completed for James V of Scotland in 1539; the court is still in use, managed since the 1960's by a specially‑formed club.


In the sixteenth century, a version of tennis developedfirst tennis net in which the court was divided by a drooping rope or line.  This water‑colour sketch, ca. 1600, by a German student who had studied in Italy shows students playing with rackets across a net in a covered tennis court.  Reproduced in Gillmeister, Tennis, A Cultural History (1997), from the student’s notebook in a private collection. 



In the eartennis court renaissance germanyly seventeenth‑century the best‑known German ballhaus or covered tennis court was at the Collegium Illustre in Tubingen.  This painting, again from a student's personal sketchbook, ca. 1598, shows spectators strolling on the court in debate, while the game is in progress behind them.  Reproduced in Gillmeister, Tennis, A Cultural History (1997), from the student's notebook in the State Library at Tubingen.


A Guide to Playing Traditional or Court Tennis

Danzig, Allison, 1898‑1987.
royal & ancient game of tennisThe Royal & Ancient Game of Tennis.
Philadelphia: United States Court Tennis Association and the United States Court Tennis, 1997.

This illustrated history and guide is based on an article first published in theCornell Alumni News in 1974.

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