I just read David Block’s Baseball before We Knew It. As might be inferred from its title, this book is not about skating. It’s still great. I found a lot of parallels to my work on skating history in it. It covers some of the same ground that histories of skating cover, namely, various nineteenth-century and earlier works on sports and games.
Among these is Joseph Strutt’s Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, first published in 1801. Block accuses Strutt of “taking some serious liberties with his scholarship”—specifically, fabricating evidence for club-ball, an early ball-and-stick game, by changing a jug to a ball in his copy of a picture from a medieval manuscript (Block 2005, 104–107). This is cause to look on the rest of his work (including his short passage on skating!) with more than usual suspicion.
Block also talks about the excitement of finding rules for a game called “das englische Base-ball” (English baseball) in a German book from 1796. That book was Johann Christoph Friedrich GutsMuths’ Spiele zur Übung und Erholung des Körpers und Geistes: für die Jugend, ihre Erzieher und alle Freunde unschuldiger Jugendfreuden (Games for the Exercise and Recreation of Body and Spirit: For Young People, Their Teachers, and All Friends of the Innocent Joys of Youth). Gutsmuths is also an early but often-neglected source of information on skating. This particular book includes a few pages (starting with 217, or 239 of the linked pdf) on different games played on ice. Maybe I’ll write about them another time.
David Block. 2005. Baseball before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
Joseph Strutt. 1801. Glig-gamena angel-deod, or, the Sports and Pastimes of the People of England: Including the Rural and Domestic Recreations, May-Games, Mummeries, Pageants, Processions, and Pompous Spectacles, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time. London: T. Bensley. The second (1810) edition is available in HathiTrust.
Johann Christoph Friedrich GutsMuts. 1796. Spiele zur Übung und Erholung des Körpers und Geistes: für die Jugend, ihre Erzieher und alle Freunde unschuldiger Jugendfreuden. Schnepfenthal.