One of the most frequently asked questions on tours of the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room is how old is our oldest book. We always ask guests to guess and they are rarely even close. Our oldest book was published in 1523, just shy of 500 years ago! Perhaps even more interesting than its age is its subject matter. It’s a volume on dueling!

De Duello, or On the Duel, by Paride del Pozzo (1410-1493) was first published in 1471 or 1472. Pozzo, also called il Puteo, Paridis or Paris de Puteo, was an Italian jurist who translated his professional experiences gained while serving the king of Napoli, Alfonso V of Aragon, into several popular legal treatises, including De Duello. This volume is of great interest today because it not only enumerates the laws of dueling in the 15th century, but also includes detailed accounts of actual duels, which allow the modern reader to understand how these conflicts actually played out.

Title page of De Duello (1523) showing two combatants fighting with halberds in front of five jurists. The gift of John H. and Marta Daniels.

The publication history of De Duello is complex. It spawned several editions, was published in three languages, was reprinted at least 16 separate times, and sections of the book were included in other titles on dueling. The first edition was published in Latin and targeted jurists. An Italian edition soon followed which expanded on the Latin, and targeted the participants of duels rather than those adjudicating the contests. In the 16th century, the Italian edition was republished in Venice a number of times and featured a resetting of the type, and updated spelling and punctuation. The NSLM’s copy dates from this time period.

De Duello‘s subject matter is sorted into a series of books, the number of which depends on the edition being viewed. Various editions combine books or expand their content. This table of contents gives a good idea of the material covered:

  • Book 1: by Paride del Pozzo
  • Book 2: On the place of combat or battle
  • Book 3: On the duel
  • Book 4: On armaments
  • Book 5: On the need of a champion
  • Book 6: On the causes for dueling
  • Book 7: On noble fights and on [rebrociis]
  • Book 8: On cases of duels and pacts to fight
  • Book 9: On capture and redemption in duels
  • Book 10: On heraldry and unsaying
  • Book 11: On the decision and appeal in making battle

Interest in the book remained strong throughout the 16th century and it was even translated into English. In an interesting coincidence the first author to make an English translation of De Duello is Thomas Bedingfield. He is familiar to me for his 1584 volume, The Art of Riding, which the NSLM also owns. Apparently Bedingfield’s 1580 translation, Questions of Honor and Arms, was never published and only exists as a manuscript held by the Folger Shakespeare Library. De Duello finally makes it into English publication in 1590 when it is translated and abridged by William Segar.

When showing this volume on tours I often speculate about the life of the book. Our copy is in good condition which makes me a little sad since that implies that it was either loved but little used, or just completely forgotten on a shelf. Granted the materials of which books were fabricated in the 16th century are far sturdier than those in today’s books but I regularly handle books nearly as old that are in rough shape. Sometimes that damage is due to neglect but more often it’s the dogeared pages, dedications scrawled on the endpapers, notes of all sorts along the margins, and stains, all resulting from heavy use.

Our copy of De Duello was given to the Library in 1999 by John H. and Martha Daniels. At some point it belonged to the collector Jack Grolin who’s bookplate remains inside the cover.

Bookplate of Jack Grolin pasted inside the front cover of the NSLM’s copy of De Duello.

The last clue we have is an inscription on the fly leaf. The first line might be some sort of inventory notation, it’s difficult to say, but the rest of the inscription appears to read “di L. Giovanni Romani di Casalmaggi 1808. So we can assume the book was still in Italy in 1808, but the nearly 300 years between its printing and 1808 remain a mystery.

Notation on the flyleaf of NSLM’s copy of De Duello.

Due to the pandemic the Library is currently closed to visitors. We hope to welcome guests again soon. When we do, we’d love it if you’d come visit our oldest book!

Sources: The Wiktenauer website was extremely helpful in describing the publication history of De Duello and with the background of Paride del Pozzo.

Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 450 years of the history of equestrian sport, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

George Algernon Fothergill (1868-1945) was trained as a physician but apparently found this practical career less enchanting than one as an artist. He would eventually give up medicine completely and make a living as an illustrator and artist. His work appeared in Vanity Fair magazine as well as other sporting periodicals. He also designed letterheads, bookplates, Christmas cards, advertisements, and published books of architectural details. The NSLM holds his first published book, An Old Raby Hunt Club Album (1899).

Title page of An Old Raby Hunt Club Album. The gift of Mrs. Ronald L.

It is a collection of portraits and biographies describing the members of the Club. The volume is a large folio sized work (51×37 cm) and features 65 leaves of plates, mostly in color. The NSLM’s copy is number 21 of 100 editions De Luxe which include additional plates. According to the label it was originally the copy belonging to Club member C. E. Hunter who is pictured on plate XXV.

Label inside the cover of An Old Raby Hunt Club Album. The gift of Mrs. Ronald L.

After an introduction in which Fothergill describes the production of the book he addresses the confusing history of foxhunting in the area, mainly by deferring to Scarth Dixon, an author of hunt histories, who had begun on a similar project for the Raby Hunt. Fothergill limits himself to touching on the enormous territory of the Raby Hunt, how Lord Darlington kept several kennels throughout the territory, and how a number of other established hunts somehow existed in the same geographic area. His main point however, is that the Old Raby Hunt Club is not tied to the historic Raby Hunt. “In 1866 the late Mr. Christopher Cradock formed a pack, and hunted a portion of the Raby territory, which is now known as the Zetland country – Lord Zetland purchasing his hounds in 1876. The Old Raby Hunt Club, with its somewhat ambiguous title, originated in 1872, and was established for the purpose of furthering the interests of fox-hunting in Mr. Cradock’s country; and although that gentleman generously maintained the hounds at his own expense, as the Marquis of Zetland does now, yet the Hunt Club (by its five-guinea entrance fee and five-guinea annual subscription) provided a certain amount towards poultry and covert funds and earth-stopping fees… The Old Raby Hunt Club was merely founded to back up a generous-minded Master, and in the event of nobody caring to keep the hounds at his own expense, doubtless the Club would come forward, purchase a pack, and subscribe for a Master, and so keep up the connection of fox-hunting in this particular district with the Raby hunt of days gone by.”

The album provides a fascinating look at the colorful members of the Club at the turn of the century. In addition to sketches of the hounds, and some of the territory and its buildings, the book features a color sketch of each Club member, accompanied by a brief biography. It is interesting to see how each member chose to be pictured. Some are mounted and in hunt attire, others are shown in their hunt attire but are standing or seated in rooms whose decoration is significant once one reads the accompanying text. Still others are shown in non-hunting costumes, or with the trappings of sports other than foxhunting. I especially like the sketch of Charles Henry Backhouse who is shown using a telephone. His biography also mentions his squash court, which is lit by electric lights. I imagine if this man was alive today he would be your friend with the latest iPhone and a fully connected smart home. What follows is a selection of sketches and excepts from their accompanying descriptions. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do and if you would like to get a closer look at this book please don’t hesitate to contact me for an appointment. I would love to share it with you.

Plate I: Marquis of Zetland — “MFH for 23 years, it has been said that he errs in the opposite direction to that of many Masters of Hounds — he is too kind, too gentlemanly, too forgiving in the field. Lord Zetland always wears glasses in the hunting-field, but was too modest to put them on for this portrait! As a fisherman, he can lay claim to have landed a record salmon, weighing 55 pounds, and 50 inches in length. This fish he killed with a fly in the Stanley Water, on the river Tay, taking only thirty minutes to land the monster, which took place on the 15th of October, 1895.”

Plate I. The Marquis of Zetland.

Plate XIX: Captain Charles Michell — “As a Captain in the King’s Royal Rifles, he has seen active service in Zululand… He also served in the Boer rebellion of 1881. He has hunted and shot big game in many parts. The rifle in our friend’s charge has no connection whatsoever with the brush on the wall! for the Michells of Forcett have always been too well esteemed as keen preservers of foxes, though shooting has been and is their chief sport. The Captain is a great fisherman, so he finds Glassel House, Aberdeen, suites his taste well in this direction. He, too, smokes just a little!”

Plate XIX. Captain Charles Michell

Plate III: Johnathan Edmund “Jed” Backhouse — “…still, there are a few little items left out which go towards caricaturing “Jed” that might be inserted here. We all know he is a banker; we all know he is a politician of no mean order, and that his father was M.P. for Darlington…; we all know he wears an Inverness coat and an eyeglass both in summer and winter; and we all know he married a daughter of a famous Cornishman; but we don’t all know that he provides a pound of sugar nearly every day for his various home and stable pets, such as his walked hound puppies, his poodles, his terriers, his whippet, his schipperke, his pocket beagle, and all his other dogs, and his four or five ponies, giving each in his turn his share out of a grocer’s blue bag.”

Plate III. Johnathan Edmund “Jed” Backhouse

Plate XXV: C. E. “Charlie” Hunter — “Always called “Charlie” by his friends… He has just taken up polo again, and played in a match for Catterick Bridge last year, thereby showing that forty-seven years are still able to compete with the “young bloods” in the quickest and severest game there is.” This is the original owner of NSLM’s copy of An Old Raby Hunt Album.

Plate XXV. C. E. “Charlie” Hunter

Plate XXXI: Charles Henry Backhouse — “He has bred a good Irish terrier, and is a judge of one too. Squash racquets in his excellent covered court, lit up with electric light, gives the gallery-man an opportunity of seeing our friend in his true element… There are those who hunt, but never aspire to be anywhere than at the tail of the hunt, are never expected to be anywhere else, and never despised for being there. Such are the words of a contributor to the Badminton Magazine; and such appropriately describe our friend… “Charlie” Backhouse goes out to enjoy himself, to get exercise, and to see his acquaintances. He is fond of shooting, and a good friend to farmers; also a keen supporter of all forms of manly exercise. A collector of sporting books and pictures… He is quite an authority on cigarettes.”

Plate XXXI. Charles Henry Backhouse

Plate XXXVII: Captain Gerald Walker — “A rugby boy, and a 15th (King’s) Hussar man, who was born in September 1841. He joined the 15th when he was eighteen, going with them to India nine years afterwards. He has been devoted to hunting, following the chase in Ireland with the Meath and Kildare, as well as in Yorkshire and Durham. All pursuits, such as cricket, football, golf, and cycling, find in him a warm supporter… No man likes his pipe better than Captain Gerald Walker. He thinks his portrait somewhat of a caricature.”

Plate XXXVII. Captain Gerald Walker

Plate XLI: Captain W. K. Trotter — William Kemp Trotter. “At Sandhurst he got into the XV, and was gazetted to the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in 1889… His regiment took out a pack of hounds, which went by the name of the Cape Town Foxhounds, to hunt the jackal… Most wild beasts all over the world have fallen to his rifle, including every kind of African buck. He is now a farmer and hunts five days a-week, and possesses a good ‘chaser in “Withern,” winner of several steeplechases… “Creelor,” that he is mounted on for this sketch is a good type of weight-carrying hunter, and came from the Dublin Show. The skeleton has no connection with hunting, but with the Mounted Police in Africa!”

Plate XLI. Captain W. K. Trotter

Plate XVI: H. Gurney Pease — “In Harold Gurney Pease we have an athletic, hard fellow, and a thorough good sportsman to boot… As a lawn tennis player, he was quite one of the best while at Cambridge, and won many prizes up there, and afterwards in open tournaments. He has now converted the “grasshopper” green coat into that of a master and huntsman of harriers, a sporting little pack of over twenty couples of dwarf foxhounds and harriers… All his life, Harold Pease has been fond of a fox-terrier and rabbit-coursing. He has shot a black bear and a leopard. He smokes hard.

Plate XVI. H. Gurney Pease

Plate XL: “Bob” Lancaster — “Bob” Lancaster, who has been a good many years in charge of the George Inn, Piercebridge, is quite a character, apart from his appearance, which is somewhat original and unique in its way. Few people can count as many buttons to their waistcoats as “Bob” can on his! He has travelled many thousands of miles in America with a team of mules, and his yarns on that country are legion. He is well known and much respected by everyone.”

Plate XL. “Bob” Lancaster

Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 450 years of the history of equestrian sport, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

After exploring the NSLM’s collection of sporting books for the last four and a half years I’ve learned that while many sporting volumes were produced with commercial success in mind, many more were simply passion projects authored by true lovers of sport for the sake of celebrating a given activity and perhaps sharing their enthusiasm for it with readers, themselves likely also disciples of the sport. A lot of these volumes are quite elaborate as well, making commercial success even more unlikely. One such work is The Fishes of North America that are Captured on Hook and Line by William C. Harris (1830-1905).

Original half-title page of volume 1, published in 1898. Image from the New York Public Library.

Harris was an editor of American Angler, and a well published author of angling books. His intention with this project was to create a comprehensive work on the game fishes of North America, including not only textual information but also accompanying color illustrations. To achieve this goal he teamed up with artist John L. Petrie (19th century) and the two of them traveled the continent. Harris would fish and lay out his catch for Petrie to paint on the spot “before the sheen of their color tints had faded.” The preface of the book clearly describes their dedication to the project:

“I have been engaged nearly a quarter of a century in gathering the notes from which the text of this book has been written, and twelve years in procuring the oil portraits of living fish, caught from their native waters, that I might obtain lithographic facsimiles … The aggregate distance travelled was 28,558 miles, and the days occupied in transit and in catching and painting the fishes numbered nine hundred and seventy-two, or eighty-one working days of each angling season during twelve years. Mr. John L. Petrie, the artist, has been my steadfast companion during this protracted but pleasant task. He has painted the portraits of each fish represented … from living specimens caught on my own rod, with the exception of the Pacific Salmons, which were taken alive in traps.”

william C. Harris, In the preface to The Fishes of North America that are Captured on Hook and Line (1898). From Donald A. Heald RAre Books, Prints & Maps.
How the Work was Done by J. L. Petrie. Illustration facing the introduction. Image from Case Antiques.

Harris had planned to publish the final work in two volumes each featuring 40 color plates. Unfortunately he died before the second volume was completed and only the first was ever published. The NSLM does not hold a copy of this work but we do have a wonderful collection of the illustrations by J. L. Petrie which were created for a planned deluxe subscription edition of The Fishes of North America that are Captured on Hook and Line. This set was sold under the title Portraits of Fishes in Natural Colors and included 38 color lithographs made from Petrie’s paintings of both fresh and salt water fishes.

Sales sheet included with the set of 38 color lithographs. The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The Fresh Water set: The Small-Mouth Black Bass — The Large-Mouth Black Bass — The American Brook Trout — The Unspotted Muscollonge — The Brown or German Trout — Winninish-Land-Locked Salmon — The Rocky Mountain Trout — The Michigan Grayling — The Rock Bass — The Eastern or Banded Pickerel — The Pike — The Common Sunfish — The Fresh Water Drum or Sheepshead — The White or Silver Bass — The Rocky Mountain Whitefish — The Montana Grayling — Hybrid Trout-cross of the Lake and Brook Trout — The Kern River Trout of California — The Common Bullhead or Horned Pout — The Mirror Carp — The Cisco of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin — The Sacramento Pike, Squaw’s Fish or Yellow Belly

Brown or German Trout. Specimen weight 1 lb. caught at Caledonia Creek, NY. The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
The Common Bullhead or Horned Pout. Specimen weight 3/4 lb. caught at Greenwood Lake NY. The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The Salt Water set: The Striped Bass — The Weakfish or Squeteague — The Blackfish or Tautog — The Kingfish, Whiting or Barb — The Bluefish — The Spanish Mackerel — The Porgee or Scup — The Spot or Lafayette — The Dollar or Butter Fish — The Mangrove Snapper — The Striped Mullet — The Spotted Sea Trout — The Sea Bass — The Pompano — The Red Drum or Channel Bass — The California Redfish

The California Red Fish or Fat-Head. Specimen weight 3 lbs. caught and painted off Catalina Island, coast of California. The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
The Pompano. Specimen weight 1 lb. caught and painted at Naples, Gulf of Mexico. The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The illustrations are lovely to look at but I enjoy imagining Harris and Petrie road-tripping around the country fishing and painting year after year during the late 19th century. It would be interesting to hear what it was like. Perhaps the NSLM will acquire a copy of The Fishes of North America that are Captured on Hook and Line in the future and maybe Harris put a small anecdote or two about their journeys in an introduction or afterword.

Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 450 years of the history of equestrian sport, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

By Charles Caramello

Scholars in equine history generally agree on the broad historical contours of early European dressage and equitation: Italian schools, particularly Neapolitan, introduced and developed the first modern systems of the two closely related arts in the second half of the 16th century; Italian and French schools advanced them further in the 17th century; and French schools became the dominant force in the 18th century. Austrian and German schools, their theories and practices based on somewhat different principles, evolved with great refinement over the 18th century; and French and German schools, for all intents and purposes, competed for hegemony and influence throughout the 19th century. Spanish and Portuguese schools, of course, also played important roles in this history; while “English schools,” as a phrase, is often considered an oxymoron.[1]

Gil Ordini di Cavalcare by Federico Grisone (1550). Part of The Ludwig von Hunersdorf Collection, the gift of the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation.

The National Sporting Library holds a large number of works on dressage and equitation spanning this history, including and featuring many of the earliest seminal titles. Exceptionally rich in both quality and quantity, NSLM’s rare book collections house, for example, no less than ten separate editions of the ur-text of modern horsemanship, Federico Grisone’s Gli ordini di cavalcare, ranging in dates of publication from the first edition of 1550 to early 17th century editions of 1608 and 1620.[2] In addition to Grisone, the collections include first or very early editions of pivotal works by the 16th Italian masters, Claudio Corte,  Cesare Fiaschi, and Alessandro Massari Malatesta, as well as by the 17th and 18th century French giants, Salomon de la Broue, Antoine de Pluvinel, William Cavendish, and François Robishon de la Guérinière. NSLM also boasts copies of the some of the few and very rare early works on horsemanship published in English.

Gil Ordini di Cavalcare by Federico Grisone (1550). Part of The Ludwig von Hunersdorf Collection, the gift of the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation.

Though Early Modern British horsemen, like generations of their descendants, preferred hunting to schooling, “manège riding,” as Elizabeth Tobey reminds us, “had been practiced at the English court since the early sixteenth century” (Grisone, 43). Italian masters taught in England, British noblemen studied in Italy, and “the Neapolitan school,” as a result, became known in England and “excited the interest of English horsemen” (Felton, 43). Ten years after Federico Grisone published his Gli ordini di cavalcare (1550), the first modern equestrian treatise to appear in print, as opposed to manuscript (Tomassini, 79), the English courtier Thomas Blundeville published an adaptation and translation of Grisone as The Arte of Ryding and Breakinge Great Horses (1560).[3] Blundeville’s translation enjoyed “ten historical printings between 1560 and 1609” (Grisone, 18) and influenced “English horsemen for over a century” (Van der Horst, 128).

The Art of Riding by Thomas Blundeville (1609). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

In the Preface to The Arte of Ryding, Blundeville advises readers to be thankful both to Grisone for having invented a system of horsemanship and to Blundeville himself for translating it and reordering and clarifying its presentation. He then adds: “And you shall haue very good cause also to be thankful unto my deare frende John Astley,” who practiced Grisone’s rules daily. I sawe him without helpe of any other teacher, bring two of his horses . . . into such perfection as I beleue few gentilmen in this realme haue the lyke” (Blundeville, np). Blundeville’s point is not that his readers should thank Grisone for Astley’s exceptional horsemanship, but rather, and obliquely, that they should thank Astley as the “deare frende” who introduced Grisone’s Ordini to Blundeville  and encouraged him to adapt and translate it into English (see Van der Horst, 128, 132).[4]

The Art of Riding by John Astley (1584). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

An accomplished horseman and highly regarded courtier, John Astley published in 1584 the second book on horsemanship written originally in English: The Art of Riding, “a breefe treatise,” to cite its title page, “with a due interpretation of certain places alledged out of Xenophon, and Gryson [Grisone], verie expert and excellent Horssemen.”[5] Brevity notwithstanding, Astley’s Art of Riding is a treatise of signal importance to the emergence of systematic dressage and equitation in England. Its importance lies, one, in Astley’s technical analysis of “the true vse of the hand, wherein the chiefe substance of the whole Art of Riding standeth,” by which he means the fundamental principle of contact, “a thing not easie, but very hard to be understood” (Astley, np); and, two, in his essentially historical explication of Xenophon and Grisone and their respective developments of the principle: similar in their methods for achieving contact, they differed in the degree of control that contact should produce.

The Art of Riding… by Thomas Bedingfield (1584). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The year 1584 also saw the publication of Thomas Bedingfield’s The Art of Riding, a translation, abridgment, and adaptation of Claudio Corte’s treatise, Il cavallerizzo di Claudio Corte (1562).[6] An influential and cosmopolitan Neapolitan master, Corte resided in the English court in the 1570s. Bedingfield most likely knew Corte both through the latter’s writing and teaching, so he obliged when Henry Macwilliams entreated him “to afford his paines in the reducing of these few precepts, gathered out of a larger volume written by Claudio Corte, into our English toong.”[7] Corte’s “larger volume” comprised three books, only the second of them, on the art of riding, the basis for Bedingfield’s translation and adaptation. Bedingfield not only provided an English readership access to Corte’s technical precepts on riding, but he also advocated Corte’s related social ideas on figura (appearance, or overall presentation of self), advising against “affectation” while encouraging the gallop, for example, as a means of developing a “comelie” seat (73).

Il Cavallarizzo by Claudio Corte (1562). Part of The Ludwig von Hunersdorf Collection, the gift of the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation.

With the publication of Corte’s Il cavallerizzo, Giovanni Tomassini observes, “books on equestrian art [began] to speak to each other” (Tomassini 137). Almost from its inception, put differently, the European discourse on dressage and equitation became not only international, but also intertextual: it would proceed through the following centuries as an ongoing conversation among and between theorists and practitioners, and masters and students, in books that constantly invoked one another. Astley’s treatise and Bedingfield’s translation of Corte provide an almost too literal metaphor for that conversation: the same London printer, Henry Denham, not only published both books in the same year, and sold each book separately, but he also, and not uncommonly, sold the two books bound as one volume.[8]

[1] Though William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle and one of the most important theorists in the history of horsemanship, was English, he spent many years on the Continent as a political exile. Cavendish wrote two treatises, one in French and one in English.

[2] Given NSLM’s stunning collection of Grisone editions, it is not surprising that the first English translation of Grisone since Blundeville’s translation of 1560 was executed at NSLM, using its collection, under the auspices of the John H. Daniels Fellowship. See Grisone, The Rules of Riding.

[3] A Renaissance polymath and polyglot, Blundeville wrote or translated some ten books on topics as diverse as morality and logic; courtliness and politics; cartography and historiography; cosmography, astronomy, and geography; and “the Arte of Nauigation.”

[4] Astley returned the compliment in the Dedication to his Art of Riding, citing Blundeville’s Arte of Ryding as a skillful translation and adaptation of Grisone’s work that “if men take good heed, & will be diligent, they cannot but greatlie profit thereby, to the great benefit of themselues, and the seruice of their countrie” (Astley, np).

[5] Blundeville’s The Foure Chiefest Offices belonging to Horsemanship (1565-66) was the first book written in English (as opposed to translated into English). Blundeville incorporated a “newly corrected and amended” version of The Art of Ryding as the second tract in this more comprehensive treatise. NSLM holds two copies of the revised edition of 1609: one with all four tracts and one with the first two only.

[6] NSLM’s holdings include a copy of the first edition of Il cavallerizzo of 1562 and two copies of the subsequent edition of 1573.

[7] See Macwilliams’s prefatory epistle directed “To the right worshipfull, my verie louing companions and fellowes in Armes, hir Maiesties Gentlemen Pensioners.”

[8] Astley’s treatise appeared earlier than Bedingfield’s translation, and the two texts appear to have been bound together in that order. I base the generalization on Van der Horst’s description of the copy in the library of Johan Dejager (Van der Horst, 190), and on my examination of the copy in the John H. Daniels Collection at NSLM.


Astley, John. The Art of Riding, set forth in a beeefe treatise [etc]. London: Henrie Denham, 1584.

Bedingfield, Thomas. The Art of Riding . . . Written at large in the Italian toong, by Maister Claudio Corte. London: H. Denham, 1584.

Blundeville, Thomas. The Arte of Ryding and Breakinge Greate Horses. Facsimile 1560. New York: Da Capo Press, 1969.

Felton, W. Sidney. Masters of Equitation. London:  J.A. Allen, 1962.

Grisone, Federico. The Rules of Riding. 1550. Ed. with an Introduction by Elizabeth MacKenzie Tobey. Trans. Tobey and Federica Brunori Deigan. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2014.

Tomassini, Giovanni. The Italian Tradition of Equestrian Art: A Survey of the Treatises on Horsemanship from the Renaissance and the Centuries Following. Trans. by author.  Franktown, VA: Xenophon, 2014.

Van der Horst, Koert, ed. Great Books on Horsemanship: The Library of Johan Dejager. Leiden: Brill, 2014.


Charles Caramello is John H. Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Library & Museum and Professor of English at University of Maryland. This article was adapted from his forthcoming book, Horsemen, Horse Soldiers, and Grand Illusions.

The lures used by fly-fisherman fall into two general categories, dry flies and wet flies.  Both are meant to trick fish into biting on the hook by imitating the look and behavior of the insects that fish feed on.  Dry flies imitate insects that land upon the water’s surface, while wet flies imitate those which live beneath the water’s surface.  In either case, success hinges on the angler’s ability to mimic both the look and behavior of an insect the fish is interested in eating.

Traditional Stimulator dry fly. Photo by Mike Cline / CC BY-SA ( Wikimedia Commons.

The use of dry flies is challenging.  The fisher must cast with pinpoint accuracy and be able to land the fly gently on the surface of the water.  A splash-landing is likely to frighten off the very fish being targeted.  The selection of fly is also critical.  Surface insects represent the final stage of development and matching the fly to the specific type of insect maturing at any given time is required in order to offer the fish what it expects to find.  Choosing a fly that is not currently hatching will result in the fish taking every other insect off the surface while disregarding the angler’s fly.  However, the fisher that chooses the correct fly and manages a cast that closely imitates the behavior of a live insect may be rewarded by seeing the fish surge out of the water as it strikes at the fly.

Frederic Halford. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Known today as the “Father of Modern Dry Fly Fishing,” Frederic Halford (1844-1914) was an avid fly fisherman and prolific author on the subject.  He felt that pursuing fish striking at the surface was the purist form of angling and developed a full range of floating flies to mimic the downstream drifting of real insects floating on the surface of the water.  He would become the recognized authority on the tying and use of dry-flies on the chalk streams of southern England.  He also enjoyed a good argument and frequently participated in debates with other anglers in which he insisted that the dry-fly technique was superior to any other form of fly fishing.

Dry Fly Entomology, Frederic Halford (1897). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The Library holds all of Halford’s books on dry-fly fishing and fly tying.  The volume seen here is the second volume of the deluxe edition of Dry Fly Entomology. The first volume contains the text and the second comprises boards displaying actual specimens of the artificial flies described in the first volume. NSLM’s copy is signed by Frederic Halford.

A Grizzly King wet fly. Image By Jimmy1shot , CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Fishing with a wet fly is generally more forgiving for beginners than fishing with a dry fly.  In this technique the targeted fish are feeding underwater, not at the surface.  Fish feed on submerged insects much more frequently than on those at the surface, providing more opportunities for the angler to catch a fish.  The heavier wet flies are easier to cast and a sloppy cast is less likely the scare off the targeted fish which are deeper in the water.  However the fisher must still imitate the kind of insect the fish expects and be able to land his fly at the correct depth in the water column in order to succeed.  It can also be difficult for the angler to know when a fish has taken the bait.  The strike takes place out of sight, under the water, and the pull of the current can easily be mistaken for that of a fish.

G. E. M. Skues. Image from Fly Fishing Devon.

George Edward MacKenzie Skues, usually known as G. E. M. Skues (1858–1949), was a British lawyer, author and fly-fisherman.  He developed the method of wet fly fishing known today as nymph fishing. Rather than tempting trout with imitations of flying insects at the water’s surface, he advocated for imitating nymphs, the earlier developmental stages of the same insects.  Most of the insect’s life occurs underwater and Skues felt that limiting fly fishing to imitating only the final adult stage at the surface caused anglers to miss out on many opportunities for success below the surface.

As Skues perfected his technique and others began to adopt it, tension grew between the nymph, or wet-fly fisherman and the dry-fly fisherman.  Although the wet-fly technique that Skues used was successful, the school of dry-fly fishing described it as, unethical and bad for the chalk streams.  The debate would continue for many years but in the end both techniques have survived and are widely used today.

The Way of a Trout with a Fly, G.E.M. Skues (1921). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The Library holds several books by and about G. E. M. Skues including his, The Way of a Trout with a Fly (1921) which is considered the seminal work on nymph fishing. This deluxe two-volume set contains 20 nymphs that were tied to the stringent specifications of G.E.M. Skues by famed English fly dresser, Jim Nice. Only 150 sets of the deluxe edition were made. In total, 3,000 nymphs were tied for the 150 sets. The NSLM owns set number 75.

To see either Dry Fly Entomology or The Way of a Trout with a Fly plan to visit the Library before the end of August.  Both books are included in our Angling in Special Collections exhibition which features a number of rare books on angling, a large collection of mounted flies from the George Chapman Collection, and angling related artwork from the Museum’s permanent collection.  If you can’t make it to the Library, the exhibition may be viewed online.

Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

This week I’d like to share Oriental Field Sports: being a complete, detailed, and accurate description of the wild sports of the East by Captain Thomas Williamson.  Published in 1807, this folio sized book is aptly described by its full subtitle:

being a complete, detailed, and accurate description of the wild sports of the East and exhibiting, in a novel and interesting manner, the natural history of the elephant, the rhinoceros, the tiger, the leopard, the bear, the deer, the buffalo, the wolf, the wild hog, the jackall, the wild dog, the civet, and other undomesticated animals: as likewise the different species of feathered game, fishes, and serpents. The whole interspersed with a variety of original, authentic, and curious anecdotes which render the work replete with information and amusement. The scenery gives a faithful representation of that picturesque country together with the manners and customs of both the native and European inhabitants. The narrative is divided into forty heads, forming collectively a complete work, but so arranged that each part is a detail of one of the forty coloured engravings with which the publication is embellished.

The text of the book is supplied by Captain Thomas Williamson who spent twenty years serving in India.  The striking accompanying illustrations were made from Williamson’s drawings by the English illustrator, Samuel Howitt.  The overall result is a large and engaging book.  But before we delve too deeply into the book, let’s look at the story of how Captain Williamson came to create it.

Thomas Williamson left England for India on May 27, 1778 at the age of 19.  At that time there were two military organizations operating in India under British control.  The first was the British Military known as the Queen’s army and the second was the East India Company army.  The Queen’s army was made up of British soldiers serving tours of duty in India under the same regulations as British troops elsewhere in the empire. The East India Company army was composed of what amount to mercenaries. The Company recruited an assortment of European soldiers specifically for service in India and also organized native companies made up of indigenous men under the command of British officers.  The differences in background, culture, pay, and status between the two armies resulted in hostility and tension which would ultimately lead to the Crown assuming control of the East India Company’s army and absorbing its units in 1858. 

Williamson began his career as a Lieutenant in the East India Company army’s 2nd Battalion, 3rd European Regiment.  His career would culminate with his appointment to Captain in the 2nd Battalion of the 13th Native Infantry and very briefly in the 17th Native Infantry in 1798.

As early as the 1790’s the problems resulting from having two armies operating in the same region but under differing regulations had become apparent.  Discussions on how to deal with the situation were underway on both sides of the issue and on May 15, 1797 the Calcutta Telegraph published a letter from Lord Cornwallis which outlined his solution to incorporate the East India Company units into the British military proper and subject them to the same rules and requirements.  Captain Williamson, during an illness in February and March of 1798, responded to these plans in a vehement letter to the Telegraph attacking Cornwallis. It is described as, “Seething with at first barely controlled anger he throws common sense to the winds as he covers page after page, and his manner of address develops from restrained hectoring to outright insult” (Edwards, 678).  

Although he signed the letter “Mentor,” it did not take long for an investigation to identify Captain Williamson as the author and a trial ensued.  As his defense Williamson claimed the delirium of illness, and that he had no recollection of writing to the paper.  His doctor testified to Williamson’s condition at the time and the course of his treatment but ultimately the defense was not allowed.  In the end he was suspended from service by the East India Company Board and sent back to England.  Three years later he was permitted to retire on half pay.

Thus Williamson was left scrambling for a means to support himself and his family.  He would prove resourceful in this endeavor, opening a shop selling musical instruments, sheet music, drawings, and prints.  In addition to publishing his own musical works, he was among the first to publish transcriptions of Indian music.  He also wrote a number of books on a range of topics, some drawn from his experiences in India.  One such volume is Oriental Field Sports (1807).

The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

I’ve written before about how accounts of hunting expeditions often double as interesting travelogues or amateur works of anthropology but Captain Williamson’s work intentionally set out to incorporate these elements.  He cleverly paired experiences familiar to his intended audience such as riding to hounds, wingshooting, and hunting, with detailed descriptions of “What Life is Like in India.” This framework resulted in a fascinating book.  Each color engraving is accompanied by a detailed description.

Hunters Going out in the Morning

The first plate in the book is titled, Hunters Going out in the Morning and depicts a scene packed with activity.  It shows the camp, the hunters, horses, elephants, hounds, and the native staff.  Williamson spends a full page describing the accommodations.  Not simply a general description, but one that includes the layout of the tents, what materials they are built from, how they are constructed, and how each feature is adapted for the Indian climate.

Description of tents.

He covers the necessary retinue for European parties, describes the foods they will encounter and the methods used to cook it, what the environment is like, and some information about the local people.  Finally he gets to a description of leaving for the hunt.  He reports that most hunters will travel to and from the field via elephant in order to spare their horse, as they usually only have a single mount.  He describes the various sorts of elephants employed, and details about their equipment and their training, before commenting on the horses involved. 

Description of hunter horses in India.

In the next plate, Beating Sugar Canes for a Hog, he delivers not only a full recounting of one of his own experiences hunting hogs, but also a great deal of information about the lifestyle of the animal. 

Description of wild hogs.

He uses the hunting framework to describe the agricultural setting, the surrounding landscape, the method of yoking oxen, and even the well and irrigation pump shown in the plate.

Beating Sugar Canes for a Hog

Below are images of several other plates found in Oriental Field Sports.  As with the first two, each of these is accompanied by Williamson’s fascinating descriptions and anecdotes.

He gives the reader the Indian version of wingshooting in the plate titled Peacock Shooting. Note the details: monkeys in the near tree, additional peacocks in the far tree, cranes or ibises in the water, and a boar lurking in the reeds at the edge of the pool.

Peacock Shooting

In Hunting a Hog Deer and Hunting Jackalls we get riding to hounds.

Hunting a Hog Deer
Hunting Jackalls.

And no book about India would be complete without tigers. Williamson gives us several tiger scenes.

A Tiger Prowling Through a Village.
A Tiger Seizing a Bullock in a Pass.
Driving a Tiger out of a Jungle.
The Tiger at Bay.

Sadly for Thomas Williamson he never recovered from his rash decision to publicly air his opinions on the military situation in India.  Despite vigorously transforming his experiences into marketable commodities he was ultimately unsuccessful economically and he died in 1817 leaving his wife and seven children destitute.

Edwards, Owain. “Captain Thomas Williamson of India.” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 14, no. 4, 1980, pp. 673-682. JSTOR accessed 16 Mar. 2020.

Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

Formal veterinarian training, delivered in an institutional setting, didn’t begin until 1761 when Claude Bourgelat founded the first veterinary school in Lyon, France, but since the domestication animals, people have been accumulating knowledge on how to care for them. The earliest record of what we would call a veterinarian is from Mesopotamia circa 3000 BC where Urlugaledinna was known as an “expert in healing animals.” Works on animal care can be found in China dating back to at least 2500 BC. In Babylonia the Eshuna Code describes methods to control rabies, and the Code of Hammurabi specifies veterinary fees. In India, Shalihotra authored the Shalihotra Samhita, a large treatise on the care and management of horses in the 3rd century BC. The Greek and Roman knowledge of horse care was compiled in The Hippiatrika during the 10th century AD and it would continue to function as the mainstay of veterinary education through the 16th century. At that point Carlo Ruini’s book, L’Anatomia del Cavallo, Infermita, et suoi Rimedii, would kick off a burst of equine veterinary scholarship that would culminate in the foundation of modern veterinary science. 

The NSLM’s copy of Ruini’s L’Anatomia de Cavallo Infermita et suoi Rimedii dates to 1618 and was the gift of the Arundel Foundation.

Carlo Ruini was a member of a wealthy family in Bologna, Italy and received the private education that was usual for men of his class. He did not attend the University in Bologna and there is no record of him receiving medical training. His book, L’Anatomia del Cavallo, Infermita, et suoi Rimedii, which translates as The Anatomy of the Horse, Diseases and their Treatments, was not written until late in his life and was published in 1598, two months after his death.  It is comprised of two sections, the first describes the anatomy of the horse, and the second deals with the diseases of the horse and their treatment.  It is the anatomical section that is most significant.  It is organized in five separate parts:

The Animal Parts, which deals with the head and brain,

L’Anatomia de Cavallo Infermita et suoi Rimedii, Carlo Ruini (1618). The gift of the Arundel Foundation.

The Spiritual Parts focusing on the neck and chest,

L’Anatomia de Cavallo Infermita et suoi Rimedii, Carlo Ruini (1618). The gift of the Arundel Foundation.

The Nutritive Parts dealing with the abdomen,

L’Anatomia de Cavallo Infermita et suoi Rimedii, Carlo Ruini (1618). The gift of the Arundel Foundation.

The Generative Parts describing the reproductive organs,

L’Anatomia de Cavallo Infermita et suoi Rimedii, Carlo Ruini (1618). The gift of the Arundel Foundation.

And finally the Muscles and Skeleton.

Ruini’s illustrations were very likely influenced by those found in human anatomical works published earlier in the 16th century, especially Andreas Vesalius’ De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543). 

L’Anatomia del Cavallo, Infermita, et suoi Rimedii set a standard for equine anatomical description that would not be surpassed for more than two hundred years.  Numerous editions were published, it was translated into several languages, and it served as inspiration for many other similar works.  One such work is The Anatomy of an Horse (1683) by Andrew Snape (1644-1708) who was a sergeant farrier to King Charles II.  Published 85 years after Ruini’s, Snape’s book closely follows the example laid out by the earlier work, breaking down the anatomical description into five similar sections and including beautiful illustrations throughout.  Some of the images are direct copies of those in Ruini’s book.  Snape’s book is significant in that it was the first such anatomy published in English.

The Anatomy of an Horse, Andrew Snape (1683). The gift of the Arundel Foundation.

It is during the 16th and 17th centuries that structured scientific thought developed and these early monographs on horse care show the application of the budding field of scientific description to equine subjects.

It is fascinating to me how beautiful the images in these works are despite being derived from what must have been fairly gruesome models in reality. Both of these books, along with some other interesting anatomical works, are on view through the end of March in the cases in the lobby of Library. I encourage you to drop by and have a look.

Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. 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 Erica by e-mail.

By John H. Daniels Fellow, Professor Mike Cronin, Boston College

As an historian of Ireland, I have been the lead researcher in the Irish government’s digital history offering for the period 1913-23, namely the decade of upheaval that led to the creation of an independent Irish state. The project, named Century Ireland, explores the day to day history of Ireland in real-time on the web and twitter. The period begins in 1913, when Ireland was in a state of turmoil. The Home Rule bill, that would potentially lead to Ireland’s independence was working its way through the British Parliament, but had met with a violent response from the unionists of Ireland (those people, mainly Protestants, who wished to remain part of Britain). There was a major general strike that was ongoing in Dublin, a housing crisis that was symbolised by the deaths of seven people in the collapse of a tenement building, and levels of poverty and illness that led Dublin to be unfavourably compared to the destitution of contemporary Calcutta. To many observers in the press there was a sense that Ireland was in utter crisis, and many writers and politicians argued that the country was heading towards civil war. This would be fought by those nationalists and Catholics who desired an Ireland independent of Britain, against the unionists and Protestants who wanted Ireland to remain part of Britain and Empire. The threat of civil war was not idly made, as both sides had spent much of 1912 and 1913 arming themselves and organising their men into private armies.

British politicians forced to forced to endure the stink of Campbell-Bannerman’s “cigar” of Irish Home Rule.  From Wikimedia Commons

In the event the threat of civil war in Ireland was side-lined by the outbreak of World War One. Some 210,000 Irishmen, both Catholics and Protestants fought against Germany and her allies, and some 35,000 of them would die. At the end of World War One, Ireland did not find peace. Between 1919 and 1921 a War of Independence was fought against the British. When this did not produce the complete freedom that many Irish had dreamt of, the nation drifted into civil war which would run from 1922 into 1923. The end result of this decade of upheaval was a tremendous loss of life, the destruction of much of the national infrastructure and a political settlement that created a truncated Irish independence. The southern twenty-six counties of Ireland were formed into a sovereign state, titled the Irish Free State, while the six northern counties, renamed Northern Ireland, remained part of Britain. The island was split by a border along ethno-sectarian lines. The Free State was predominantly Catholic, while in Northern Ireland a Protestant majority held sway. As a result of the fighting and upheaval many Protestants, around 60,000 people, could not see a future in the Irish Free State and left for Northern Ireland or a home elsewhere.

Harry Worcester Smith of Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.A.  Master of the Westmeath Hunt, Ireland, 1912-1913, at the kennels.  From A Sporting Tour (1925), vol. 1, facing pg. 40.

So how is all this relevant to the collection at the National Sporting Library and Museum? I was fascinated to see, when I looked at the Library catalogue, that Harry Worcester Smith had visited Ireland and had written about his experiences. Travel writing is not unusual, but the date of Smith’s journey and the social world into which he entered were extraordinary. Ireland had been in a state of political and economic turmoil ever since the Great Famine of 1845-51. Indeed, as one writer noted in the pages of Baily’s Magazine of Sport and Pastimes in 1896, the upheavals in the country meant that ‘the fair land of Erin is even now almost a terra incognita to the great majority of travellers.’ The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Houghton, had even gone so far to give the country the name ‘unvisited Ireland’. That Smith chose to live in Ireland when he did is quite remarkable as it was not a country often embraced by outsiders.

Title page to Harry Worcester Smith’s A Sporting Tour (1925)

Smith took the job of Master of the Westmeath Hunt for a year, arriving in Dublin in August 1912 and departing for England, and a stop at Aintree’s famous Grand National, in March 1913, before his return to the United States. What Smith offers in his two volume A Sporting Tour Through Ireland, England, Wales and France (Columbia: State Company, 1925) is a unique insight into the lives of a hunting and racing fraternity in 1912 and 1913 which, due to the chaos of the revolutionary period in Ireland and the loss of life during World War One, had all but disappeared by the time the book was published.

Knockdrin Castle.  Westmeath Hounds, the Master Servants and American Horses. From A Sporting Tour (1925), vol. 1, facing pg. 16.

Against the backdrop of political upheaval and the gathering storm clouds of war, Smith enjoyed a full season of hunting in Ireland. He hunted across the island, in Westmeath where he was based, across to Galway and down to Cork and beyond. His book recounts not only the hunts themselves, but the hectic social life that accompanied the Irish hunt season. He wined and dined (and sometimes danced) with the elite of Anglo-Irish society. There were days at the Dublin Horse Show, masked balls at the Rotunda in Dublin, meetings with the British Vice Regent and dinners with the British military top brass stationed in Ireland. His book is a journey through the world of Irish Lords and Ladies, the landed elite whose presence in Ireland was so problematic to the nationalists who wanted independence for their nation. Smith, nor the Anglo-Irish elite he hunted and socialised with, would have realised it in 1912/13, but most of them were enjoying their last ever hunting season in Ireland.

On the lawn.  Harry Worcester Smith, M. F. H., the late Sir Richard Levinge, the now Sir Richard Levinge and lady Levinge.  From A Sporting Tour (1925), vol. 1, facing pg. 42.

The description of the hunt balls in Volume 2, shortly before Smith leaves Ireland is most revealing. Drinks prior to the hunt ball of Smith’s own Westmeath hunt, for example, were hosted by Sir Richard and Lady Levinge at Knockdrin Castle, a 12,000-acre estate which had been in the family since the late seventeenth century. Sir Richard, the 10th Baronet of Knockdrin, like many of his social standing (including all four of his brothers), was among the first to sign up to fight in World War One. He was killed in the third month of the war, on 24 October 1914, by sniper fire in France. By the end of the war his younger brother had also been killed, and a further brother had lost his leg. In the wake of her husband’s death, Lady Levinge left Ireland for London and rented out Knockdrin. During World War Two it was commandeered by the Irish state to house troops, and finally, in 1946, the Levinge family sold the estate.

Ringside Dublin Horse Show, 1912.  From A Sporting Tour, vol. 1, facing pg. 18.

Equally telling, in Volume 1, just after Smith’s arrival in Ireland, is his attendance at the famed Dublin Horse Show. There he met Lord Castlemaine of Moydrum Castle, which sat in the east of County Westmeath. Castlemaine was a subscriber to the Westmeath Hunt, and he and Smith would meet often during the latter’s stay in Ireland. Moydrum Castle had been completed in 1814, and Lord Castlemaine was the fifth baron to occupy, overseeing an estate of some 11,000 acres. On 4 July 1921, at the height of the Irish War of Independence, Republican forces targeted Moydrum Castle, as a symbol of British rule in Ireland, and set fire to the building, which was completely destroyed. The family left Ireland for Britain, and the remaining estate was taken off them by the new Irish state in the 1920s, and sold on. Between 1919 and 1923, approximately 170 of the ‘big houses’, with which Smith would have been so familiar, and wrote about in depth, were destroyed by military action.

Smith enjoyed a life as a huntsman and, as is clear in the holdings of the Library and Museum in Middleburg, was a prodigious collector and recorder of the hunting he experienced. His two volumes recounting his Irish experience fit into the pattern of his life. What makes the books, and the associated notes and photographs in the archive, is that Smith was observing a way of life, a social elite at play in Ireland, that would cease to exist. Smith was not simply recording the hunting life of Ireland in 1912/13, but rather he was unknowingly recording a collection of hunts, social and sporting events, people and buildings that would be largely erased from history by World War One and the specific train of events in Ireland between 1916 and 1923. This is a work and a collection to be treasured for unwittingly capturing a key moment, a last bright blooming, of an Anglo-Irish way of life.

Mike Cronin


Michael Cronin is a professor at Boston College, teaching in Dublin, Ireland.  During his John H. Daniels fellowship at NSLM he worked on a project about the life of James Brendan Connolly, the first modern Olympic champion.  His research at NSLM served to set Connolly’s life within the broader sporting context during the period from 1890 to 1914.

As a Visitor Services Associate at the National Sporting Library & Museum, I often talk to guests about two artworks: an oil, Over the Brush Fence, 1930 and a watercolor, Portrait of a ‘Chaser, 1935. Both were painted by Paul Brown (American, 1893-1958).  Visitors enjoy reminiscing about Paul Brown drawings, prints, and illustrations that they have seen over the years.

Paul Brown (American, 1893-1958) Over the Brush Fence, 1930, oil on canvas, 
26 x 32 7/8 x 1 7/8 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Nancy Searles, the artist's daughter, 2011
Paul Brown (American, 1893-1958) Over the Brush Fence, 1930, oil on canvas,
26 x 32 7/8 x 1 7/8 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Nancy Searles, the artist’s daughter, 2011

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Brown was a well-known equestrian artist and illustrator. He captured the excitement of polo matches, horse shows, and steeplechase events in whimsical, yet accurate detail. He also illustrated over 100 children’s books. NSLM is lucky to be the repository of the largest Paul Brown archive of first edition books and artwork in the world.  An especially intimate part of this collection came to us in 2011 from his daughter, Nancy Brown Searles.  Part of the Searles Collection is an archival box filled with drawings in pencil, pen and ink, and watercolor. Many are charming sketches drawn on nothing more than a torn piece of newsprint or remnant of an art board. 

[untitled], 1935, illustration, pen and ink, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11,
Searles Collection, 2011

The oldest drawing is of a lion, signed “Paul Brown, age 6.”

[untitled], 1899, pencil on paper, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11, 
Searles Collection, 2011
[untitled], 1899, pencil on paper, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11, Searles Collection, 2011

There are also endearing sketches and drawings that include handwritten notes to family and friends.

 [untitled], early 20th century, watercolor, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11, 
Searles Collection, 2011
[untitled], early 20th century, watercolor, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11,
Searles Collection, 2011

In addition to my position at the museum, I am working, part-time, on a Master of Museum and Gallery Studies at University of St Andrews in Scotland.  As part of my collection-based project, I am cataloguing the Searles Collection. I write condition reports and confirm dates so that relationships between drawings in the museum and books in the library can fill out a narrative of the artist’s career.  Paul Brown’s joie de vivre and consummate draftsmanship shines through in all his work from early sketches to mature drawings.

A few works from this treasure box, as well as some of his books from the NSLM’s F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, will be on display in the Library’s Mars Gallery beginning in late September.  Artwork from the archive will be seen, publicly, for the first time ever!  This small exhibit may make you think twice before you throw away a box of childhood drawings.  You never know where the pen, pencil, or paint brush may take you. Check our website soon for exhibition details.

Grace Pierce is a part-time Visitor Services Associate at the National Sporting Library & Museum.  She is also pursuing a Master of Museum and Gallery Studies at University of St Andrews in Scotland. When not greeting visitors at the museum or cataloguing in art storage, Grace can be found on the links in St Andrews. 

One of the most significant collections held by the Library is the John H. Daniels Collection.  It comprises 5,000 volumes collected over thirty years by John Hancock “Jack” Daniels and was donated to the Library by him and his wife between 1995 and 1999.  The magnitude of the gift required more room for housing than that which was available in the Vine Hill house and spurred the construction of the Library’s current building, including its climate-controlled F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

Books in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

The collection includes books, periodicals, manuscripts, and ephemera, and covers a variety of sporting topics including sporting art, horsemanship, foxhunting, equestrian sports, shooting, fly fishing, veterinary medicine, and more.  Anyone who has been on a tour of the Rare Book Room will be familiar with items from the Daniels collection such as the handwritten manuscript on fox hunting by Teddy Roosevelt or one of many books featuring a fore-edge painting.

John Daniels
John H. Daniels.

Daniels was a life-long sportsman himself.  He played polo and was MFH of the Camden Hunt in South Carolina.  He co-founded and served as Joint-MFH of the Long Lake Hounds in Minnesota, and the Old Stonington Hunt in Illinois. He also served on the boards of the Carolina and Colonial Cup Steeplechases, and the National Steeplechase Museum.  He was a member of the board of directors here at the National Sporting Library from 1987 to 2004.

JH Daniels with family Long Lake Hounds
John H. Daniels and family with the Long Lake Hounds.

By donating his impressive collection of sporting books to the NSLM, John Daniels preserved the books themselves and shared the knowledge contained within them.  He was adamant that his books should be used.  He envisioned scholars developing new research from and about these books and sharing it with the larger world.  In 2007 the NSLM realized that vision though the creation of a fellowship program named in his honor, The John H. Daniels Fellowship.  This September we will welcome our 80th Daniels Fellow.

The program is open to university faculty, graduate students, museum professionals, librarians, independent researchers, writers, and interested others.  Recipients of a Daniels Fellowship have come to the NSLM from across the country and around the world.  They are supported during their research through stipends, and out of town researchers are frequently housed in a cottage on the NSLM campus.  Research conducted through the program has resulted in the publication of books and articles, and scholars frequently share their research with the public through the NSLM’s lecture series.  Their research topics have been as varied as the Collection, including horsemanship and equestrian sport, art, fly fishing, shooting, and literature, just to name a few.

Dr. David Gerleman, Professor at George Mason University and one of NSLM’s 2019 John H. Daniels Fellows discusses his research during a lecture in June 2019.

The application period for the 2020 John H. Daniels Fellowship program closes on August 15th.  I would like to encourage researchers whose projects touch on field sports or sporting art to look at our collections, and if they can identify useful resources, to apply for a John H. Daniels Fellowship.

SONY DSCErica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. 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 Erica by e-mail