Frostiana’s chapter on skating

The cover of my edition of Frostiana.

Frostiana is a book about various ice activities that was allegedly (but probably not literally) published on the ice during the last London Frost Fair in 1814. I put together an edition of it a few years ago.

The whole book is a collection of previous works, generally without citations. Today we call this plagiarism in academic circles. I added some citations, but not all, to my edition.

The last chapter of Frostiana is about skating. It’s a mix of several different sources, but I’ve just figured out that the main one for the chunks called “Origin of skating” and “Rules for learners” was the first Encyclopedia Britannica article on skating. It was included in volume 10 of the second edition, published in 1783. You can read it at the Internet Archive.

There’s one important difference between the original and the reprint that says something about how far knowledge of skating came between 1783 and 1814. The original says:

Although the ancients were remarkable for their dexterity in most of the athletic sports, yet skating seems to have been unknown to them. It may be looked on, therefore, as a modern invention; and probably derived its origin in Holland, where it naturally became habitual and necessary, not only as a graceful and elegant amusement, but as an expeditious mode of travelling when the lakes and canals were frozen up during winter.

Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 10, p. 9186

Frostiana says:

Although the ancients were remarkable for for their dexterity in most of the athletic sports, yet skating seems to have been unknown to them. According to the antiquaries, this exercise made its appearance in the thirteenth century. It probably derived its origin in Holland, where it was practised, not only as a graceful and elegant amusement, but as an expeditious mode of travelling when the lakes and canals were frozen up during winter.

Frostiana, p. 159

The thirteenth century still seems about right for the introduction of metal-bladed skates. The antiquaries made good progress!

Frostiana also cuts the paragraph bout the Edinburgh skating club and the article’s author:

The metropolis of Scotland has produced more instances of elegant skaters, than perhaps any other country whatever; and the institution of a Skating Club about 40 years ago, has contributed not a little to the improvement of this elegant amusement. We are indebted for this article to a gentleman of that Club, who has made the practice and improvement of skating his particular study; and as the nature of our work will not permit the insertion of a full treatise on skating, we shall give a few instructions which may be of use towards the attainment of the art.

Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 10, p. 9186

The date of the Edinburgh Skating Club’s founding has been unclear to skating historians for years. Here, it sounds like a member is putting it in the 1740s.

References

“Skating.” In Encyclop√¶dia Britannica. 2nd ed., vol. 10. Edinburgh: J. Balfour et al., 1783

B. A. Thurber, ed. 2018. Frostiana: Or a History of the River Thames in a Frozen State. Evanston, IL: Skating History Press.