The Book of Sports

James I and Charles I of England. The Kings Maiesties Declaration to His Subiects. Concerning lawfull Sports to bee vsed. (London: Robert Barker and John Bill, 1633). Quarto. STC 9254.7.

Best known as the Book of Sports, this proclamation was first issued at the order of James I in 1617. Originally, it applied only in Lancashire, but in 1618, the next year, James extended it throughout the nation more generally. And it was at this point that it was first printed. Much to the chagrin of many Puritans, the Book of Sports demanded the reversal of any and all policies that prohibited sports and several other leisure activities on Sundays. James specifically allowed “dauncing, [for] either men or women, Archery for men, leaping, vaulting, or any other such harmelesse Recreation, […] having of Maygames, Whitson Ales, and Morrisdances, and the setting vp of Maypoles & other sports therewith vsed,” but still banned “all vnlawfull games […] as Beare and Bullbaitings, Interludes, and at all times in the meaner sort of people by Law prohibited, Bowling.” In 1633, Charles I again issued the proclamation, reportedly at the behest of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. The 1633 printed edition, the second, adds to the original text a new preface and conclusion. When issued under both James and Charles, the Book of Sports faced strong opposition from those who wished to preserve the austerity of the Sabbath. Indeed, in 1643, the Puritan-leaning Parliament ordered it publicly burned.

The present copy, secured in an older marbled wrapper with endpapers, collates complete, including both A1 and the final blank, C4. Trimming at the top occasionally encroaches into page numbers, but the margins are otherwise quite ample. The coat-of-arms impression on the title page verso is bold and clear, as are the text and ornaments throughout.

All said, this is a nice, complete copy of an important entry by the Crown into the religious debates of seventeenth-century England. It is relevant not only to students and collectors of religious and political history, but also those interested in the Early Modern stage. SOLD