Tennis in Diderot's Encyclopedie, I
Diderot, Denis, 1713-1784, and Alembert, Jean Le Rond d', 1717-1783.
Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société de gens de lettres.
Paris [etc.]: Briasson [etc.] 1751-65. Avec Approbation et Privilege du Roy.Printing & the Mind of Man, 200.
Tennis was included in the first encyclopaedia, Denis Diderot’s great overview and assemblage of the thought, science and technology of the French Enlightenment. Diderot and his collaborator Jean d’Alembert engaged as contributors the leading scholars and philosophes of the age. The work was a huge success, with sales rising from the original thousand subscribers to four thousand. After the first seven volumes of the seventeen‑volume series, the work was banned by the French government and condemned by the Pope. Later volumes were published clandestinely, and, in the South Carolina College set, volumes 8-17 carry a Neufchastel imprint.
The Haggard Collection has two sets of the distinctive engraved plates from the Encyclopédie that dealt with tennis (le jeu de paume). This first set, like the plates in the South Carolina College copy, is from the earlier, full‑sized issue, and has been loosely stitched and preserved in a custom quarter‑morocco box. The plate shown here, a section view of a tennis court with an adjoining billiard hall, indicates the height of building needed.
Tennis in Diderot's Encyclopedie, II
Diderot, Denis, and Alembert, Jean Le Rond d'.
Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers.
Paris [etc.]: Briasson [etc.] 1751-65.
The Haggard Collection’s second set of tennis plates from the Encyclopédieare in the subsequent smaller format, and have been bound as a separate slim volume. The vignette shown here illustrates the alternative layout of an eighteenth‑century tennis court, the jeu de Paume quarré, with a penthouse only across one end.
Tennis and the French Revolution
Jacques‑Louis David, 1748‑1825.
La Serment du Jeu de Paume
Reproduced from the engraving by Jazet, 1822.
France’s violent transition from the ancien regime that had nurtured tennis (le jeu de paume) to the anti‑aristocratic revolution began, appropriately enough, with the take‑over of a tennis court. In June 1789, following a month‑long deadlock in the States‑General over constitutional reform at the royal palace of Versailles, the frustrated Third Estate (the commons), which had been locked out from the formal meeting‑place by King Louis XVI, declared itself a National Assembly, took over the royal tennis‑court, and on June 20th took an oath (serment) not to disperse till their demands were met. Three weeks later, on July 14th, followed the mob attack on the royal prison, the Bastille.
A Preliminary Sketch for David's La Serment du Jeu de Paume
Jacques‑Louis David, 1748‑1825.
Versailles Sketch‑book, ff. 33v, 34 r.
Reproduced from Brookner, Jacques‑Louis David (1980).
David had planned a great heroic oil‑painting, to measure 35 feet by 26, which remained unfinished. This sketch shows the simple, almost domestic scale of the court that would be overwhelmed by the epic scale of the Revolution. Apart from a brief interlude in the mid‑nineteenth‑century, the Revolution ended tennis at Versailles, with the tennis court itself becoming a political shrine to liberté, egalité, fraternité.