Cover image for Tennis : a cultural history
Tennis : a cultural history
Gillmeister, Heiner, 1939-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Kulturgeschichte des Tennis. English
Publication Information:
Washington Square, N.Y. : New York University Press, 1997.
Physical Description:
xii, 452 pages, 16 pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV1002.95.E85 G5613 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The first comprehensive history of tennis, Henry Gillmeister's Tennis may also be considered the first truly scholarly history of any individual sport.

Supported by a startling wealth of linguistic and documentary research, Gillmeister charts the global evolution of tennis from its origins in the early Middle Ages to the appearance of the modern game in the twentieth century. Along the way, he debunks several firmly established myths about the history of the game, including those surrounding the invention of the Davis Cup. Rare photographs and never before published medieval and renaissance drawings generously adorn the text, and a treasure trove of bibliographical information provides its coda.

A delight for the sports fan and the scholar alike, Tennis will prove the athorative text on tennis for years to come.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

First published in Germany in 1990, this detailed history has been translated by its author, a professor of medieval English at the University of Bonn. The work offers a definitive account of tennis as played from the Middle Ages to the present. In the first five of nine chapters, Gillmeister treats the origins of the game, probably an offshoot of the French jeu de paumes, a kind of handball. He also traces the etymology of the word tennis (from French tenez!, which means "stick with it,"he concludes) and such terms as advantage and deuce, both from the late 16th century, adding the surprise that the wordsmiths who derive love from l'oeuf (egg) cannot be right. The last four chapters trace the development of lawn tennis, begun in the 1870s in England then exported to France, the U.S. and Germany. This rambling encyclopedic tome with its 120 b&w photos and 16 pages of color prints will sate the curiosity of the most avid tennis enthusiast. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gillmeister (medieval English, Univ. of Bonn) essentially divides this well-researched history of tennis into three time periods: tennis from the Middle Ages in England and France, the same countries from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, and the latter period in Germany. Employing extensive footnotes and a bibliography, he keeps a light tone even when verifying minute details like the physical layout of Henry V's tennis court. Despite some fascinating tidbits‘e.g., the first record of the game was passed down by a monk; it was recommended to German wives of the 1890s as a way to keep their husbands‘this is truly a scholarly work replete with many medieval illustrations. Primarily for academic libraries.‘J. Sara Paulk, Coastal Plain Regional Lib., Tifton, Ga. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Gillmeister (linguistics, Univ. of Bonn) is one of the leading experts on the history of tennis. In this volume, which he translated and updated from the German edition of 1990, Gillmeister provides an exhaustive survey of the sports that contributed to the evolution of modern tennis. Based on extensive use of linguistic, literary, and other resources, Gillmeister's encyclopedic study of the origins of tennis up to 1907 debunks many traditional beliefs. His major contribution is a detailed examination of medieval influences, in which he argues that European competitive ball games like tennis were modeled on medieval tournaments. This work is particularly valuable for its thorough coverage of premodern sport, which makes up nearly two-thirds of the book. The United States chapter is only 16 pages long--about the same as that for France--while modern Germany gets 70 pages. In the latter chapter, Gillmeister argues that American and English sportsmen played a major role in popularizing tennis in Germany. The book is beautifully produced, with 105 illustrations and 16 color plates. The text is supported with over 100 pages of endnotes and a 24-page bibliography. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; general readers; professionals and practitioners. S. A. Riess; Northeastern Illinois University