SCAINO DA SALO, Antonio (1524-1616). Trattato del giuoco della palla. Venice: Gabriele Giolito de'Ferrari and brothers, 1555.
3 parts in one, 8o (141 x 94 mm). 6 double-page woodcut engravings of equipment and court plans inserted in signatures K and L with starred page numbers, text on the verso of the illustrations continuing the text of the regular signatures, woodcut grotesque and historiated initials, printer's device on title, larger version on verso of colophon leaf, V8 blank (a few plates slightly cropped at edges). (Some occasional pale spotting, a few leaves cropped close at headlines.) Early 19th-century calf, spine gilt, edges stained red (joints weak with some wear, worn at edges and corners).
FIRST EDITION OF THE THE FIRST BOOK ON THE GAME OF TENNIS, dedicated to Alfonso d'Este (1535-95), last Duke of Ferrara, grandson on his mother's side of Louis XII of France, and on his father's side of Lucrezia Borgia. Scaino, a priest and theologian, was apparently prompted to write his book after a dispute arose during a game of court tennis. In it he establishes rules and a scoring system for the game, sets the standard court sizes, and mentions some principles of etiquette to be practiced between players. It also covers many forms of tennis, his definition of "ball-game" in W.W. Kershaw's English translation (London, 1951) being: "a contest between at least two players who, placed one on one side and the other on the other as adversaries, do battle together with a solid and round instrument made from the skin of an animal and capable of bouncing, called a ball, each doing his utmost to obtain victory for himself by striking the ball as far as possible towards his adversary, striking it sometimes at the volley in mid-air, sometimes after the first bound, and sometimes at the half-volley ...." (ch. iii, pt. II). The key differences in the varieties of the game depend on whether it is played with a solid or air-filled ball, with the open hand or a clenched first, with the fist without an instrument or with the fist with an instrument, and in the open or with a cord (ch v, pt. II). Two chapters in part II (xvi and xvii) describe the larger and smaller court for the cord game with the racket and are followed by two chapters (xviii and xix) on the closed and open court for the cord game with the hand. Scaino admits to being a player of "il guioco della corda", the closest equivalent to present day real tennis and lawn tennis, describing it (ch. xx) as "the rarest and most valued" form of ball-game because it is confined to a limited space, making it less subject to chance as well as requiring a greater degree of art and skill.
Tennis historians have all emphasized the enormous value of Scaino's book, serving as an accurate foundation for the history of the sport. Adams II, S-547; Brunet V, 178, Supplement II, 606; Mortimer/Harvard Italian 465; Garnett p. 288; Henderson p. 176.