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.

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Badminton Magazine. Many guests to NSLM find this title a little confusing.

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.

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Portrait of Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort (1744-1803). Accessed via Wikimedia Commons. The Fifth Duke of Beaufort founded The Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt.

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.

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“Over an Obstacle By Himself,” by G. D. Giles. Illustration from The Badminton Library: Riding (1891). National Sporting Library & Museum.

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.

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The Badminton Library continued to add volumes after the death of the Eighth Duke of Beaufort in 1899, adding a total of 30 volumes by 1920.

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.

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A page from a 1902 issue of Badminton Magazine with photographs of foxhunting, sprinting, and yachting in a variety of British localities.

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.

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“Badminton House,” from the Preface to The Badminton Library: Riding (1890). National Sporting Library & Museum.

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.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

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

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People often ask how exhibitions are developed. Sometimes it starts with a book, in this case – Peter Corbin: An Artist’s Creel. Peter Corbin presented the hardbound volume by Tom Davis and foreword by John Merwin to the National Sporting Library & Museum a few years ago. This sounds a lot more formal than it was. Peter was on his way back to Millbrook, NY, from the 2013 Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival in Thomasville, GA, where he’d been the featured artist. He popped into the Museum, introduced himself, and dropped off the hardbound volume published by Hudson Hill Press in 2005. The exchange was brief, but the cover of the book captured my imagination. It sat on my desk for weeks reminding me of how much I love Wyoming.

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The 24 x 40-inch painting, Partners, 2004,  reproduced on the front cover was loaned by Mr. & Mrs. William C. Egan, III to the current NSLM exhibition.

I was already familiar with Peter’s work and only now feel marginally better admitting that we had strongly considered one of his paintings from the American Museum of Fly Fishing collection for the 2012 NSLM Angling in the Western World exhibition. We had a lot of tough choices to make in the twentieth-century section for the broad survey of the topic spanning over 300 years and ended up not including his painting.

We try to touch on a variety of NSLM’s core mission topics as often as possible which, other than equestrian pursuits, includes field sports such as freshwater fly fishing and wingshooting. As I thumbed through An Artist’s Creel, I was reminded that a member of the NSLM had suggested that the recognized sporting and wildlife artist, who is also an avid wingshooter and angler himself, would be a good candidate to consider for a fly fishing exhibit.

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Power and Grace, 2001, oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches, Collection of the Treiber Family, © Peter Corbin, 2001

The emerald green water and the energy of the leaping tarpon in Power and Grace caught my eye. Although Peter has also painted many freshwater scenes, this was the opposite of a depiction of a serene, contemplative moment. There’s been debate in fly fishing circles about whether fresh and saltwater fly fishing can even be considered the same sport. The NSLM’s collections focus on freshwater. With the addition of the George “Chappie” and Mary Chapman book collection in 2012, the Library became one of the most comprehensive research centers on twentieth-century freshwater fly fishing in the United States.

The diversity of the angling compositions in Peter’s book intrigued me. All captured the essence of some of the finest fly fishing waters in North America.

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Near the Net, 1980, acrylic on canvas, 19 x 32 inches, Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Walter C. Teagle, III, © Peter Corbin, 1980

Near the Net, 1980, an acrylic painting of salmon fishing on the Restigouche River, Silas Beach, Quebec, Canada, won Peter the American Salmon Federation’s Artist of the Year in  1981. I learned that he came from a family of fly fisherman; his father taught him to cast his first fly by the age of seven. His great-grandfather started a hunting and fishing club in the Catskills, and Peter spent much time over the years trout fishing in the region, like the fly fisherman in the painting, The Sound of the Falls, 2002.

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The Sound of the Falls, 2002, oil on canvas, 24 x 40 inches, Private Collection, ©Peter Corbin, 2002

Peter’s lifetime love for sport and art are reflected in each of his paintings. All of the works on view through July 3rd in Line Dance: The Art of Fly Fishing by Peter Corbin were selected to show the variety of compositions for which he has become known during his almost forty year career.

To gain a bit more insight into Peter’s quiet passion, motivations, and philosophy on art, we invite you to join him for a Gallery Talk on March 19th at 10:00 am and to take a moment to watch the 10-minute narrated slideshow below which he created to accompany the exhibition. A catalog is also available if you’d like to learn more about Peter Corbin’s sporting art career and fly fishing adventures. We look forward to seeing you in the galleries.

…and to think it all started with a book.

 

Our recent Fellow, Collin McKinney, has left the NSLM and returned to Bucknell University. We asked Collin to share some of his experiences over the last two months in Middleburg and in our collections. Here’s what he had to share.

I arrived in Middleburg on a sunny day at the beginning in January. I think it might have been the only sunny day during my entire stay. Notwithstanding the snow and cold—and it sure was cold—I spent a fantastic two months working at the National Sporting Library. During my eight weeks in Middleburg I had a simple routine. I would wake up and go for a jog around town and out by the Salamander Resort. After breakfast I would work at the library, compiling notes and references from the books in the library’s collection. After lunch and an espresso at Common Grounds I would head back to the library and work until closing time. After dinner in the cottage I would review my notes for the day and plan my work for the next morning. That might not seem very exciting to most people, but for an academic to be able to escape department meetings, course prep, and household chores in order to focus on research, it was pure bliss.

My short stay was extremely productive. I am researching the link between masculinity, militarism, and sport in Spain. Although the library’s collection is especially rich in American and British sources, there are also some real treasures on Spain. I found books on bullfighting, jousting, fencing, dueling, and hunting. One of my favorite discoveries was a hunting manual attributed to the King Alfonso XI, Libro de la montería (the NSLM has an 1582 edition as well as a facsimile version from the nineteenth century).

Cover page from "Libro de la Monteria" used in Collin's research
Cover page from “Libro de la Monteria” used in Collin’s research

Besides being a fascinating description of the hunting practices in medieval Spain, it confirms the link between hunting and martial success. King Alfonso tells his readers that: “a knight should always engage in anything to do with arms and chivalry, and if he cannot do so in war, he should do so in activities which resemble war. And the chase is most similar to war.” Over the centuries, as military activity became professionalized and Spain created a standing army, men no longer needed to hunt but continued to do so for pleasure.

Woodcut illustration from "Libro de monteria"
Woodcut illustration from “Libro de  la monteria”

While a cursory glance might suggest that modern sport is far removed from the battlefield, a more careful look will reveal the link between field sports, indeed all sport, and warfare.  The next time you turn on a football game, notice the military rhetoric used by sportscasters, watch the strategies involved as teams attack and defend their terrain, and note the way spectators demonstrate their loyalties with flags, fight songs, and uniforms as they celebrate symbolic battles of controlled violence.

Another illustration from "Libro de la monteria" - Dogs and men hunting elk with a fence barrier
Another illustration from “Libro de la monteria” – Dogs and men hunting elk

During the coming months I plan to write two articles. The first is titled “How to Be a Man in Nineteenth-Century Spain,” which will outline the tension between traditional, rough masculinity and modern, refined masculinity. This study will examine the rise of the bullfight as an example of the way that bellicose masculinity was socialized, codified, and relegated to the sporting arena by Spain’s middle class. The second article I plan to write deals with the sportification of warfare more generally, beginning with medieval field sports and continuing to present-day activities like soccer and tennis.