Badminton Library

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Tennis, Lawn Tennis, Rackets, Fives (1890), standard trade edition, decorated brown cloth cover

The Badminton Library, called in full The Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes, was a sporting and publishing project conceived and founded by Henry Somerset, 8th Duke of Beaufort (1824–1899). Between 1885 and 1902 it developed into a series of sporting books which aimed to cover comprehensively all major sports and pastimes. The books were published in London by Longmans, Green & Co.[1] and in Boston by Little, Brown & Co.

The series was dedicated to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, "one of the best and keenest sportsmen of our time".[2][3]


The founder of the Library, the Duke of Beaufort, acted as its overseeing editor, assisted by Alfred E. T. Watson,[2] and chose authors who were authorities in their fields. Explaining his purpose, the Duke said:[1]


The Badminton Library was originally published in twenty-eight volumes between 1885 and 1896. To these was later added Rowing & Punting (1898), superseding Boating (1888). New volumes for Athletics (1898) and Football (1899) supplemented the original Athletics and Football (1887). In 1902, the final entirely new volume, Motors and Motor-Driving, covered a new sport, and lastly there was a new edition of Cricket in 1920.[1]

On the combining of athletics and football in a single volume, Mike Huggins says in The Victorians and Sport (2004) that it suggests "...that football's leading place was not yet assured amongst the more literate reading public."[4]

The original volume on Cricket (1888) has sixteen chapters on topics such as 'Batting', 'Bowling', 'Fielding', and 'Umpires'. It defines the Marylebone Cricket Club as "The Parliament of Cricket" and describes the sport as "Our National Game".[3] Allan Gibson Steel wrote the chapter on bowling.[5]

Cycling (1887), by Viscount Bury, notes that riding the tricycle and bicycle, whether by women or by men, "is by far the most recent of all sports in the Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes. There is none which has developed more rapidly in the last few years." It considers that "England may be looked upon as the Home of Cycling" and quotes Thomas Huxley's words to the Royal Society: "Since the time of Achilles, no improvement had added anything to the speed or strength attainable by the unassisted powers of man", commenting that a bicyclist had recently raced 146 miles in only ten hours.[3]

Skating (1892) deals first with 'Origins and Development', 'Figure skating', and 'Recreation and Racing', noting that Holland was "the Skater's Paradise" and giving a list of racing records since the 1820s, then continues with chapters on Curling, Tobogganing, Ice-Sailing and Bandy.[3] [6]

Laura and Guy Waterman's Yankee Rock & Ice (2002) calls the Badminton Library "a quaint turn-of-the-century British series",[7] while a review of the publication Collectors Guide to the Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes says of the books:[8]

A useful series for purposes of comparison is the slightly later American Sportsman's Library.


The Badminton Library was published in three different formats:[1]

  1. The standard trade edition: octavo, bound in brown illustrated cloth.
  2. The deluxe edition: octavo, bound in half blue Morocco, gilt titles to the spines and bright orange boards with a gilt coat of arms to the upper board, top page edges gilt.
  3. The large paper deluxe edition: large octavo or quarto, a limited edition of only two hundred and fifty copies, also bound in half blue Morocco and much the same in appearance as the deluxe edition.


The name 'Badminton Library' was derived from that of Duke of Beaufort's principal country house, Badminton in Gloucestershire. There is no volume in the series on the sport of Badminton, named after the same house.[1]


Viscount Bury, author of Cycling (1887), caricatured in 1875 by Carlo Pellegrini

In fiction[edit]

J. K. Stanford's fictional game shot George Hysteron-Proteron was said to have been educated at Eton, the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and the Badminton Library.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e Badminton Library at (accessed 3 April 2008)
  2. ^ a b Badminton Collection – Special Collection (SPC.10) online at (accessed 3 April 2008)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Victorian Entertainments: We Are Amused An Exhibit Illustrating Victorian Entertainment at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois (Item 31: Golf in 1890, Item 32: Skating in 1892, Item 33: Cricket in 1888, Item 34: Cycling in 1887) online at (accessed 3 April 2008)
  4. ^ Huggins, Mike, The Victorians and Sport (London, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004, ISBN 1-85285-415-4) p. 11
  5. ^ "Allan Gibson Steel – A tribute". Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. 1915. 
  6. ^ a b Heathcote, J.M.; Tebbutt, C.G. (1892). Skating. Longmans, Green and Co. OL 7132924M. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  7. ^ Waterman, Laura, Waterman, Guy, & Lewis, S. Peter, Yankee Rock & Ice: A History of Climbing in the Northeastern United States (Stackpole Books, 2002, ISBN 0-8117-3103-0) page 16 online at (accessed 3 April 2008)
  8. ^ review of Badminton Library Guide online at (accessed 3 April 2008)
  9. ^ "Cycling". Longmans, Green, and Co. (Google Books). 1887. Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  10. ^ W B WOodgate Boating
  11. ^ Court Tennis in the 19th Century at (accessed 3 April 2008)
  12. ^ Stanford, J. K., The Twelfth and After (London, 1964), p. 12

See also[edit]

External links[edit]