A Sphairistike Lawn Tennis Box and Contents including three ...
A Sphairistike Lawn Tennis Box and Contents including three rackets 1874.
This standard original first box manufactured by French & Co is smaller than the slightly later “Extra Large Box” and measures 36 x 12 x 6 inches. The box painted red has a carrying handle through which a rope passes and is knotted behind the holes inside. The lid is secured by hooks and eyes and when open supported by original red cloth straps.
The outer label in red and black on gold paper measures approximately 8.5 x 7.5 inches in rectangular form with a domed top reminiscent of photographs of this period in shape. The centre of the label has an illustration of Wingfield’s net and to the lower left a pair of crossed rackets and a ball. Sphairistike written in script meaning “skill in playing ball” from the ancient Greek, together with the term soon widely adopted Lawn Tennis is central. To the outer edges – “The court can be erected in five minutes and need never be taken down, as it is made to stand all weather. The bats however must be brought into the house, as they are liable to damage”. Inventor’s Agents. Messrs French & Co, 46 Churton Street, London.
The inner white paper label is an advertising list of available equipment and prices in black script, approximately 8 inches square. The royal crest and maker’s details are accompanied by a cash only statement! Listed are sets, shoes, tape measure, seats, bats etc.
Amongst the contents are the original red mallet, a net and three rackets. The rackets measure 27 inches in length and 8 inches across the head.
Racket one Stamped Henry Malings, Frances Street, Woolwich together with an appointment crest this racket with original gut stringing has one break with four rows of trebling top and bottom. The handle has a three-quarter calf skin grip. In good condition the frame is straight with no warp. This racket weighs 311 grams/10.9 ounces
Racket two Stamped Henry Malings, Frances Street, Woolwich together with an appointment crest running vertically. This racket with original gut stringing has one break with four rows of trebling top and bottom. The handle has a black three-quarter calf skin grip. This racket weighs 290 grams/10.2 ounces. To the reverse of the concave wedge written ink is W. Dod. Lottie and Willy Dod were ancestors of the vendor. In good condition the frame is straight with no warp.
Racket three Stamped Henry Malings, Frances Street, Woolwich together with an appointment crest this racket with original gut stringing and no breaks with four rows of trebling top and bottom. The handle has a white three-quarter calf skin grip with the original red leather collar. In good condition the frame is straight with no warp. This racket weighs 341 grams/12 ounces.
The Rackets – The rackets supplied for Sphairisike box sets were made by Malings or Jeffries, in symmetrical form like a rackets racket or badminton racket. These three Malings rackets are all similar with a ¾ length grip and vary in weight slightly with a symmetrical head. All three are lighter than later rackets and measure 27” in length and 8” across the width of the head. These dimensions are the same as Sphairistike rackets known to exist today. The rackets have been used and were found with the Spharistike box. Each racket weighs slightly differently from 10 ounces to 12 ounces. In November 1874 Sphairistike rackets changed to a heavier weight and an asymmetric shaped head. We may conclude that these rackets date before the change i.e. prior to November 1874. Although not stamped Sphairisitke we may conclude these rackets were produced during 1874 prior to the shape change. Either slightly different rackets of that period or non-stamped Sphairistike rackets.
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