Early tennis prints found at Glasgow university

An image thought to be one of the earliest printed pictures of a game of tennis found in a book published in Paris in 1540. Picture: PA

An image thought to be one of the earliest printed pictures of a game of tennis found in a book published in Paris in 1540. Picture: PA

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EXPERTS have scored an ace with the discovery of what are thought to be the earliest printed pictures of a game of tennis.

The 16th century images were found by archivists at the University of Glasgow in a newly acquired French printed picture book which has been described as the Instagram of its day.

The printed images were found in a book by Guillaume de La Perriere called "Le theatre de bons engins" at the University of Glasgow. Picture: PA

The printed images were found in a book by Guillaume de La Perriere called "Le theatre de bons engins" at the University of Glasgow. Picture: PA

Revealed as Scottish tennis star Andy Murray takes on Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the US Open, the scenes are a far cry from the modern game, featuring bearded, well-dressed gentlemen with rudimentary racquets playing on a real tennis court.

They are in a book by Guillaume de La Perriere called “Le theatre de bons engins”, or the theatre of fine devices, published in Paris in 1540, and recently purchased from a private collection for the Stirling Maxwell Collection at the university library.

The book is filled with pictures and accompanying mottoes which talk about life in general, with images ranging from moths with candles that warn against rushing into war to domestic pictures.

The university’s Professor Laurence Grove said that for the time the books were high tech, printing not just words but pictures.

“It’s Instagram for the 16th century,” he said.

Finding the images was a surprise, he said, adding “you never know what’s in there, there are some funny images, and they remind us that what you think is modern isn’t modern, it’s been there for four centuries.”

And he said: “Part of the fun of history is it allows us to connect with what’s happening today.

“By having the world’s best collection of picture books we can compare the images of yesteryear with those of Andy Murray taking on Mannarino today.

“The images are clearly of a jeu de paume, an earlier form of what we now know as tennis, and these are the earliest printed images of such a match.”

The book, which joins the University of Glasgow’s world-leading collection of some 2,000 picture books, is one of several newly-acquired volumes on display at the emblem conference, a meeting of leading researchers and academics, at the university.

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