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ANTONIO SCAINO
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ANTONIO SCAINO

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ANTONIO SCAINO

Trattato del giuoco della palla. Venice: Gabriele Giolito de'Ferrari and brothers, 1555. 3 parts in one volume, 8° (14.6 x 9.8cm). Italic letter with text endings in decorative forms, title with Gioloto phoenix device and scrollwork cartouche surrounding the first word, 6 double-page woodcuts of equipment and court plans inserted in signatures K and L with starred page numbers, and with text on the verso of the illustrations continuing the text of the regular signatures, type ornaments, woodcut grotesque and historiated initials, larger Giolito device on V7v, V8 blank. (Title spotted and with small hole in blank area, light waterstaining at upper margins, N1 with horizontal but clean tear through two bottom lines of text, quire Q browned.) 18th-century vellum, blue edges. Exhibited: The Queen's Club, 2004, no. 301.

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. Four of the woodcuts illustrate types of court for the cord game, that reproduced above representing the court of Henry II in the Louvre which allowed the game to be "extensive, and in a way magnificent and royal through the far-reaching strokes that can be made in it". The initial on *2r contains the arms of the Orsini family. A large 7-line initial on S8r depicts tennis.

Scaino (1524-1612), priest and doctor of theology, was thirty-one when his book was published. It 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 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; 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. While anxious to be impartial, Scaino admits to being a player of "il guioco della corda", the closest equivalent to present day real tennis and, indeed, 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 than the others and requiring a great degree of art and skill to surmount the cord ("a difficult and excellent feat not to be found in games played in the open"). In the next chapter, the argument between two students, Spanish and French, as to whether the cord game for the hand is better than the cord game for the racket, is left undecided, there being much to be said in favour of both.

Tennis historians including Marshall, Noel and Clark, and the late Lord Aberdare have all emphasised the enormous value of Scaino, without whom there would scarcely be an adequate 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.
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