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Unsigned, Diagram of a court.

Diagram of a court., 1555


RA Collection: Art

A first edition of the first book printed about tennis. Tennis was one of the most popular hand ball games for more than four centuries from the 16th century onwards, existing in a variety of versions. Scaino da Salo was an Italian priest welcomed into the ecclesiastical court of Alfonso d' Este. The rules for different types of games and their various interpretations often led to arguments and it was apparently after one such discussion with Alfonso that Scaino decided to pursue writing a book which formalised and detailed the rules of the game.

Scaino's text covers a variety of ball games played using the hands, known collectively as "sferistici", but the illustrations specifically show equipment and courts related to 'il giouca della corda', or the game played with a cord, the closest equivalent to today's tennis. His 'Trattato' establishes the rules and scoring system, standards of court sizes and points of etiquette between players. Numerous testimonies of distinguished persons of the period indicate the vast following that the game of tennis had in Italy. Wolfgang Goethe records having attended a game in Verona in 1786, in the company of 5,000 other spectators. Scaino himself described how "the enjoyment of the spectators is such that many times I have seen them watching with such intensity that they neither draw breath, nor open their mouths, nor bat an eyelid while they watch.'

Object details

Diagram of a court.
Drawn by
Published by
Antonio Scaino, Trattato del giuoco della palla ... diviso in tre parti. - Vinegia : apresso Gabriel Giolito de'Ferrari, et fratelli, 1555 [pl. 4].
Object type
Place of Publication

145 mm x 100 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
This image is from a book

Trattato Del Giuoco Della Palla Di Messer Antonio Scaino Da Salò, Diviso In Tre Parti. Con Due Tavole, L'Una De Capitoli, l'atra delle cose piu notabili, che in esso si contengono. Con Privilegio. - In Vinegia: [1555]

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