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Francis Willughby's "Book of Games" Surveys Folkways: First Stoolball Rules Appear

Salience Prominent
Game Stoolball, Horne-Billets
Age of Players Unknown

Warwickshire scientist Francis Willughby (1635-1672) compiled, in manuscript form, descriptions of over 130 games, including, stoolball, hornebillets, kit-cat, stowball, and tutball [but not cricket, trapball or rounders]. He died at 36 and the incomplete manuscript, long held privately, became known to researchers in the 1990s and was published in 2003.

Willughby described stoolball as a game in which a team of players defended an overturned stool with their hands. Hornebillets, unlike stoolball and early cat games, involved using a bat, and also base-running [between holes placed 7 or 8 yards apart], but it used no ball - a cat was used as the batted object. A runner [running was compulsory, even for short hits] had to place his staff in a hole before the other team could put the cat in that hole. The number of holes depended on the number of players available. Stowball appears as a golf-like game. Kit Cat is described as a sort of fungo game in which the cats can be propelled 60 yards or more.



David Cram, Jeffrey L. Forgeng, and Dorothy Johnston, Francis Willughby's Book of Games: A Seventeenth Century Treatise on Sports, Games, and Pastimes [Ashgate Publishing, 2003].

See also L. McCray, "The Amazing Francis Willughby, and the Role of Stoolball in the Evolution of Baseball and Cricket," in Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game, Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 17-20.

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