The William D. Haggard III Collection brings to Thomas Cooper Library its first major collection of rare books about sports history. Billy Haggard, who died in 2004, was a champion equestrian, all‑round sportsman, and long-time resident in Aiken, SC. Aiken boasts one of only ten courts in the United States designed for traditional tennis ("court tennis" or "real tennis"), a sport at which Mr. Haggard became an outstanding competitor. He was also a renowned collector of rare books, especially books related to the sports that he enjoyed. In 1998, he loaned some of his court tennis books for an exhibition at Thomas Cooper Library, Real Tennis or Le Jeu de Paume, curated by Roger Mortimer, and he visited the library several times. In the fall of 2004, his tennis collection came to the University, through the support of some of Mr. Haggard’s friends and with a matching grant from the Lucy Hampton Bostick Trust.
This exhibition tells the story of tennis over the past seven centuries. The earlier segments illustrate the development of tennis from its medieval origins in cloister and royal palace, through its central role in the Renaissance and pre‑Revolutionary France. The second half of the exhibition follows the reshaping of tennis in France, England, and America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as court tennis stubbornly survived alongside its upstart younger cousin lawn tennis, and as lawn tennis mutated from country‑house recreation to suburban club sport, and was further transformed through the rise of media stardom and a new democratization. The long history of tennis is a remarkable example of how sports reflect, and adapt to, wider social and cultural developments.
Highpoints of the exhibit include the very first book about tennis, Antonio Scaino's Trattato del givoco della palla, published in Italy in 1555, eighteenth‑century engravings of courts and equipment from Enlightenment French tennis books, and inscribed or limited editions of later titles. Except in the second section (on royal tennis players), the books on exhibit are almost all drawn from the Haggard Collection, which has been expanded since its original transfer with books about lawn tennis, tennis engravings, and tennis memorabilia, donated by Janet Haggard Harkins. The inscribed copy of Pierre's Book in the final section was kindly donated by Mr. Julian Peabody. The racket and balls on display have been loaned through Dr. Harry Shealy and Mark Devine of the Aiken Tennis Club. In the section on modern media stars, the item descriptions have been contributed by my colleague, Jeffrey Makala.
Director of Special Collections