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1189.1 "Unconfirmed" Report of a Stoolball Reference by Iscanus
There is "an unconfirmed report which was published in the beginning of the Century quoting one Joseph Iscanus, of Exeter, as having referred to stoolball in 1189, but no satisfactory evidence that this quotation was genuine." National Stoolball Association, "A Brief History of Stoolball," page 2. This mimeo, available in NSA files, has no date or author, but has one internal reference to an 1989 source, so it must be fairly recent. It contains no hint on the source of the 1189 claim or how it has been assessed. Note: Is it now possible to further pursue this claim using online resources? The 1189 claim appears nowhere else in available writings about stoolball.
However, some cite a Joseph Iscanus couplet: "The youth at cricks did play/Throughout the livelong [or "merry"] day/" as an indicator of early cricket. However, the online source of this rhyme does not give a source. Very murky, no? [The rhyme is quoted as early as the 1860 edition of The Cricketer’s Manual, and ten years earlier in Bell’s Life in a letter from “Alexis” on the subject “When Was Cricket Invented?” ] Query: what do leading cricket historians say of this alleged reference?
1200s.1 Bat and Ball Game Illustration Appears in English Genealogical Roll
"The [1301 - see below] illustration is a very early depiction of the game we know as baseball, but it's probably not the first. In 1964, a writer named Harry Simmons cited an English bat and ball picture from a genealogical roll of the Kings of England up to Henry III, who died in 1269."
Baltimore Sun article on the Ghistelle Calendar [see entry for 1301], April 6, 1999, page 1E.
1205.1 "Ball" Rolls into the English Language
Scholars report that the Chronicle of Britain  contained the words "Summe heo driuen balles wide . . ." which they see as "the first known use of the word ball in the sense of a globular body that is played with." The source? Old Norse, by way of Middle English. [Old High German had used ballo and pallo, but the English didn't use "ball" in those days.] The source does not say whether people in England used some other term for their rolling playthings prior to 1205.
Source: Wikipedia entry on "ball," accessed 5/31/2006.
1255.1 Spanish Painting Seen as Earliest Depiction of Ballplaying
The book Spain: A History in Art by Bradley Smith (Doubleday, 1971) includes a plate that appears to show "several representations of baseball figures and some narrative." The work is dated to 1255, the period of King Alfonso.
Email from Ron Gabriel, July 10, 2007. Ron also has supplied a quality color photocopy of this plate, which was the subject of his presentation at the 1974 SABR convention. Note: can we specify the painting and its creator? Can we learn how baseball historians and others interpret this artwork?
1300s.1 Trapball Played in the British Isles
Trevithick, Alan, "Trapball," in David Levinson and Karen Christopher, Encyclopedia of World Sport: From Ancient Times to the Present [Oxford University Press, 1996], page 421.
1300s.3 Stoolball Said to Originate Among Sussex Milkmaids
"Stoolball is a ball game that dates back to the 14th century, originating in Sussex [in southern England]. It may be an ancestor of cricket (a game it resembles), baseball, and rounders. Traditionally it was played be milkmaids who used their milking stools as 'wickets.' . . ." Later forms of the game involved running between two wickets, but "[o]riginally the batsman simply had to defend his stool from each ball with his hand and would score a point for each delivery until the stool was hit. The game later evolved to include runs and bats."
Source: Wikipedia entry on "Stoolball," accessed 1/25/2007. Note: this source does not credit bittle-battle [see entry 1086.1] as an earlier form of stoolball. It gives no citations for the evidence of the founding date. The Wikipedia entry is compatible with entry #1330.1, below, but evidently does not credit 1330 as the likely time of stoolball's appearance.
1301.1 Ghistelles Calendar Depicts Vigorous-Looking Bat/Ball Game
A manuscript obtained in 1999 by the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore appears to show a batted-ball game played by two young persons. The manuscript, called the Calendar of the Ghistelles Hours, dates from 1301. It is a small monthly calendar of saints' days from a monastery in the town of Ghistelles, in southwestern Flanders. The illustration is for the month of September.
Schoettler, Carl, "The Old, Old, Old Ball Game," Baltimore Sun, April 6 1999, page 1E.
1310.1 Documents Said to Describe Baseball-like Romanian Game of Oina
According to an otherwise unidentified clip in the Origins file at the Giamatti Center, an AP article datelined Bucharest Romania [and which appeared in the Oneonta Times on March 29, 1990], the still popular Romanian game of oina can be traced back to a [unspecified] document dating to the year 1310. The game itself "was invented by shepherds in the first century."
The article is evidently based on an interview with Cristian Costescu, who sees baseball as "the American pastime derived from the ancient game of oina." Oina reportedly has eleven players per side, an all-out-side-out rule, tossed pitches, nine bases describing a total basepath of 120 yards, plugging of baserunners, the opportunity for the fielding side to score points, and a bat described as similar to a cricket bat. Costescu is reported to have served as head of the Romanian Oina Federation in the years when baseball was banned in Romania as "a capitalist sport."
The Oneonta Times headline is "Play Oina! Romanians Say Their Game Inspired Creation of Baseball." Note: Can we find additional documentation of oina's rules and history? Is the 1310 documentation available in English translation? Have others followed the recent fate of oina and the work of Costescu?
1310c.2 A Drawing of "A Game of Ball," with a Player in a Batting Pose
A 1915 book on ancient British schools includes a drawing dated circa 1310. It shows two players, one clad in a garment with broad horizontal stripes. Both players hold clubs, and the player in stripes appears ready to swing at a melon-sized ball. The other player appears to be preparing to fungo the ball . . . or, conceivably, toss it with his left hand, to the striped player. The illustration's caption is "A Game of Ball, Stripes vs. Plain, c. 1310." The British Museum's documentation: MS Royal 10 E. iv, f. 94 b.
Posted by Mark Aubrey to the 19CBB listserve on 1/10/2008. The 1915 source, available in full text on Google Books, is A. F. Leach, The Schools of Medieval England (Macmillan, New York, 1915), on the unnumbered page following p. 140.
1330.1 Vicar of Winkfield Advises Against Bat/Ball Games in Churchyards; First Stoolball Reference?
"Stoolball was played in England as early as 1330, when William Pagula, Vicar of Winkfield, near Windsor, wrote in Latin a poem of instructions to parish priests, advising them to forbid the playing of all games of ball in churchyards: "Bats and bares and suche play/Out of chyrche-yorde put away."
Henderson, Robert W., Ball, Bat and Bishop: The Origins of Ball Games [Rockport Press, 1947], p. 74. Note: The Vicar's caution was translated in 1450 by a Canon, John Myrc. Henderson's ref 120 is Mirk [sic], J., "Instructions to Parish Priests," Early English Text Society, Old Series 31, p. 11 [London, 1868]. A contemporary of Myrc in 1450 evidently identified the Vicar's targets as including stoolball. Block [p. 165] identifies the original author as William de Pagula. Writing in 1886, T. L. Kington Oliphant identifies "bares" as prisoner's base: "There is the term "bace pleye," whence must come the "prisoner's base;" this in Myrc had appeared as the game of "bares." Kington Oliphant does not elaborate on this claim, and does not comment on the accompanying term "bats" in the original. The 1886 reference was provided by John Thorn, 2/24/2008
1344.1 Manuscript Shows a Club-and-Ball Game with Stool-like Object
"A manuscript of 1344 in the Bodleian Library at Oxford (No. 264) shows a game of club and ball. One player throws that ball to another who holds a vicious-looking club. He defends a round object which resembles a stool but with a base instead of legs. . . ". "In the course of time a second stool was added, which obviously made a primitive form of cricket. Now a stool was also called a "cricket" and it is possible that the name cricket came from the three-legged stool . . . " "We may summarize: The game and name of cricket stem back to ancient games played with a curved stick and ball, starting with la soule, and evolving in England through stoolball . . .".
Henderson, Robert W., Ball, Bat and Bishop: The Origins of Ball Games [Rockport Press, 1947], pp. 130-131. Henderson's ref 17 is Bodleian Library, Douce MSS 264, ff 22, 44, 63. Cox's 1903 edition of Strutt includes this drawing and its reference. Note: do other observers agree with Henderson on whether and how stoolball evolved into cricket?
1363.1 Englishmen Forbidden to Play Ball; Archery Much Preferred
Edward III wrote to the Sheriff of Kent, and evidently sheriffs throughout England. Noting a relative neglect of the useful art of archery, the King said he was thereby, on festival days, "forbidding, all and single, on our orders, to toy in any way with these games of throwing stones, wood, or iron, playing handball, football, "stickball," or hockey, . . . which are worthless, under pain of imprisonment." The translator uses "stickball" as a translation of the Latin "pila cacularis," and suggests that it might have been an early form of cricket. We might also ask whether it was referring to early stoolball.
A. R. Myers, English Historical Documents (Routledge, 1996), page 1203. [Viewed online 10/16/08]. Provided in email from John Thorn, 2/27/2008. Myers' citation is "Rymer, Foedera, III, ii, from Close Roll, 37 Edward III [Latin]."
Caveat: The content of this entry resembles that of #1365.1 below, and both refer to a restriction imposed by Edward III. However that entry, stemming from Strutt, refers to "club-ball" instead of "stick-ball," and identifies the Latin as "pilam bacculoream," not "pila cacularis." It is possible that both refer to the same source. Strutt’s text reads: “The recreations prohibited by proclamation in the reign of Edward III., exclusive of the games of chance, are thus specified; throwing of stones, wood, or iron….” The accompanying footnote reads: “Pilam manualtm, ptdinam, el bacculoream, et ad cambucam, etc.” Also: the letter to Kent is elsewhere dated 1365, which could be consistent with Edward III's 37th year under the crown, but Myers uses 1363.
Note: this entry replaced the former entry #1365.1: "In 1365 the sheriffs had to forbid able-bodied men playing ball games as, instead, they were to practice archery on Sundays and holidays." Source: Hassall, W. O., [compiler], "How They Lived: An Anthology of Original Accounts Written Before 1485" [Blackwell, Oxford University Press, 1962], page 285. Submitted by John Thorn, 10/12/2004.
1385.1 English Boys Play Ball "To the Grave Peril of Their Souls"
A letter written by Robert Braybroke laid out the palpable risks of ball-playing: "Certain [boys], also, good for nothing in their insolence and idleness, instigated by evil minds and busying themselves rather in doing harm than good, throw and shoot stones, arrows, and different kinds of missiles at the rooks, pigeons, and other birds nesting in the walls and porches of the church and perching [there]. Also they play ball inside and outside the church and engage in other destructive games there, breaking and greatly damaging the glass windows and the stone images of the church . . . .This they do not without great offense to God and our church and to the prejudice and injury of us as well as to the grave peril of their souls." And the sanction for such play? "We . . . proclaim solemnly that any malefactors whatever of this kind [including churchyard merchants as well as young ballplayers] whom it is possible to catch in the aforesaid actions after this our warning have been and are excommunicated . . . ."
Crow, Martin M., and Clair C. Olson, eds., "Chaucer's World" [Columbia University Press, New York, 1948], pp. 48-49. Submitted by John Thorn, 10/12/2004.
1450.1 John Myrc Repeats Warning Against Ball Play in the Churchyard, Including "Stoil Ball"
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It [page 165], cites the Myrc work, "early poetic instruction of priests," as "How thow schalt thy paresche preche," London. It warns "Bal and bares and suche play/ Out of chyrcheyorde put a-way." A note reportedly inserted by another author included among the banned games "tenessyng handball, fott ball stoil ball and all manner other games out churchyard." Note: can we determine when the "other author" wrote in "stoil ball? This may count as the first time "stool ball" [virtually] appeared.
1470c.1 Editor Sees Stoolball in Verse on Bachelorhood
"In al this world nis a murier lyf/Thanne is a yong man wythouten a wyf,/For he may lyven wythouten strif/In every place wher-so he go.
"In every place he is loved over alle/Among maydens grete and smale-/In daunsyng, in pipyngs, and rennyng at the balle,/In every place wher-so he go.
"They leten lighte by housebonde-men/Whan they at the balle renne;/They casten ther love to yonge men/In every place wher-so they go.
"Then seyn maydens, "Farewel, Jakke,/Thy love is pressed al in thy pak;/Thou berest thy love bihynde thy back,/In every place wher-so thou go."
Robert Stevick, ed., One Hundred Middle English Lyrics (U of Illinois Press, 1994), page 141. Posted to 19CBB on 11/14/2008 by Richard Hershberger. Richard reports that Stevick dates this poem—#81 of the 100 collected in this volume—to c. 1470. He interprets the lyric's 'running at the ball' as 'stool ball, probably,' but stow ball [resembling field hockey] seems apter. Richard also points out that "for the sake of precision, it should be noted that this volume is intended for student use and normalizes the spellings."
1477.1 List of Banned Games May Include Distant Ancestors of Cricket?
A Westminster statute, made to curb gambling by rowdy soldiers upon their return from battle, reportedly imposed sanctions for "playing at cloish, ragle, half-bowls, handyn and handoute, quekeborde, and if any person permits even others to play at such games in his house or yard, he is to be imprisoned for three years; as also he who plays at such game, to forfeit ten pounds to the king, and be imprisoned for two years."
Observations Upon the Statutes, Chiefly the More Ancient, from Magna Charta to the Twenty-first [Year] of James the First, etc. (Daines Barrington, London, 1766), page 335.
The author adds: "This is, perhaps, the most severe law which has ever been made in any country against gaming, and some of the forbidden sports seem to have been manly exercises, particularly the handing and handoute, which I should suppose to be a kind of cricket, as the term hands is still retained in that game [for what would later be known as innings].
An1864 writer expands further: "Half-bowls was played with pins and one-half of a sphere of wood, upon the floor of a room. It is said to be still played in Hertfordshire under the name of rolly-polly. Hand-in and hand-out was a ring-game, played by boys and girls, like kissing-ring [footnote 31]." John Harland, A Volume of Court Leet Records of the Manor of Manchester in the Sixteenth Century (Chetham Society, 1864), p 34. Accessed 1/27/10 via Google Books search ("court leet" half-bowls). "Roly-poly" and hand-in/hand-out are sometimes later described as having running/plugging features preserved in cat games and early forms of base ball. Thus, these prohibitions may or may not include games resembling baseball. Query: Can residents of Britain help us understand this ancient text?
1478.1 Du Cange Mentions "Criquet" Game in his Glossary
While others see cricket as taking its name from the term for a staff, or stick, "[T]he famous New English Dictionary favors a word used as a [game's] target: criquet. Du Cange quotes this word in a manuscript of 1478: 'The suppliant came to a place where a game of ball (jeu de boule) was played, near to a stick (attaché) or criquet,' and defines criquet as 'a stick which serves as a target in a ball game.'"
Du Cange, Glossarium Mediae ET Infimae Latinatis [Paris, 1846], Vol. 4: Mellat, Vol. 5 Pelotas. Per Henderson ref 48.
1478.2 Parliament Speaks: Jail or Fine for Unlawful Gameplaying
An Act of Parliament forbade unlawful games as conducive to disorder and as discouraging the practice of archery. The games that were forbidden, under penalty of two years' imprisonment or a fine of ten pounds, were these: quoits, football, closh, kails, half-bowls, hand-in and hand-out, chequer-board.
This Act is cited as Rot. Parl. VI, 188. Information provided by John Thorn, email of 2/27/2008.
Caveat: The list of proscribed games is similar to the Edward III's prohibition [see #1363.1 above] adding "hand-in and hand-out" in place of a game translated as "club-ball" or "stick-ball." We are uncertain as to whether hand-in and hand-out is the ancestor of a safe-haven game.
1500s.1 Ballplaying Permitted at College of Tours in France, If Done 'Cum Silentio'
"Parisian legislators were more sympathetic with regard to games than their English contemporaries. Even the Founder of the Cisterian College of St Bernard contemplated that permission might be obtained for games, though not before dinner or after the bell rang for vespers. A sixteenth century code of statutes for the College of Tours, while recording the complaints of the neighbors about the noise made by the scholars playing ball ('de insolentiis, exclamationibus et ludis palmariis dictorum scholarium, qui ludent . . . pilis durissimis') permitted the game under less noisy conditions ('pilis seu scopes mollibus et manu, ac cum silentio et absque clamoribus tumultuosis.')
Rait, Robert S., Life in the Medieval University [Cambridge University Press, 1912], p. 83. Submitted by John Thorn, 10/12/2004.
1523.1 Baron's Trespass Records Mention Stoball
"Item, quod petrus frankeleyne vid posuit iiiixx ovesin le stoball field contra ordinacionem."
Source: National Stoolball Association, "A Brief History of Stoolball," [mimeo, author and date unspecified], page 2. This wording is reportedly found in "an extract from the rolls of the Court Baron of the Royal Manor of Kirklington, belonging to the Duchy of Lancaster (16th Century), under the heading of trespass." Note: We need a citation here, and a reason for assigning the 1523 date. The relation of stoball to stoolball remains under dispute, with many observers seeing stoball as an early golf-like game. Can we obtain a good translation and interpretation of this quotation?