The Library’s Main Reading Room has two reading alcoves, and the one near the front gets most attention from our visitors. As they browse through, it’s not uncommon for some of the items shelved there to receive a chuckle.
What’s Badminton Magazine, you may ask? And does NSLM really have two decades of periodicals on rackets and shuttlecocks? To get at the answer, we have to look back a good long way into history.
The history of Badminton Magazine truly starts in 1762, when exhausted after a fruitless day of hunting deer, Henry Somerset, the Fifth Duke of Beaufort decided to try hunting fox for a change. The hunting must have gone much better, for the Duke continued on hunting, establishing the Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt, one of the oldest fox hunts in the world. The Dukes of Beaufort have continued to hunt fox with the pack every since, each Duke typically serving as the Master in his turn. Over the years, the family has become one of the truly great sporting families in British history.
Between 1885 and 1902, Longmans, Green & Company produced a series of encyclopedic books covering the whole spectrum of British sports and pastimes. The series was the brainchild of Henry Somerset, the Eight Duke of Beaufort. Wishing to equip neophytes with the basics on sporting topics the Duke served as the initial overseeing editor for a series that would ultimately swell to include 30 volumes on horse racing, hunting, fishing, polo, falconry, golf, cricket, punting, and even dancing. The book series was titled The Badminton Library.
The success of The Badminton Library became evident to the publishers early, and by 1885 the Badminton Magazine of Sport and Pastimes had been established. It ran from 1895 to 1923, and covered the same wide variety of sports in The Badminton Library: shooting, foxhunting, fishing, and falconry are blended with yachting, sprinting, and golf. And that’s why we have Badminton Magazine in the Library.
Why the name Badminton? It only seemed natural. The Somerset family has resided at Badminton House since 1612, and it has since served as the principal seat of the Dukes of Beaufort. For unclear reasons, the mansion has also given its name to the sport of badminton. The house’s oral legends claim that the Eight Duke of Beaufort’s children invented the game during a long, dreary winter in 1863. Ostensibly, it was a safe game to play indoors without fear of damaging the equestrian paintings by John Wooton in the hall.
Historians indicate that badminton was likely played earlier in India before being brought back to England by the military in the 1870s. But Badminton House’s name stuck to the sport as it developed and established itself in the 1880s and beyond.
John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail