The first picture of metal-bladed skates

It’s not the famous woodcut of Lydwina’s accident from 1498. Check out this image from Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 5. (I can’t post the image here because of copyright restrictions.)

This picture is from a Flemish manuscript that’s around 170 years older than the famous woodcut. It’s a calendar, and the February page shows two kids at the bottom. The one on the left is sliding on a mandibular sled, and the one on the right is ice skating—on metal-bladed skates! You can tell because he or she is not using a pole. Look carefully at the toes of the skates, and you might even see toe picks.

This picture hasn’t made its way into histories of skating yet (except my edition of Fowler, which mentions it in the commentary), but it has been known to archaeologists studying skating for years. It’s included in Randall (1966). MacGregor (1985:146) mentions the sled on the left, but not the skater, perhaps because he was only interested in bones. Küchelmann and Zidarov (2005) bring it into contemporary skating history in their paper on bone skates.


G. Herbert Fowler. 1892. On the Outside Edge: Being Diversions in the History of Skating. London: Horace Cox.

Hans Christian Küchelmann and Petar Zidarov. 2005. “Let’s skate together! Skating on bones in the past and today.” In From Hooves to Horns, from Mollusc to Mammoth: Manufacture and Use of Bone Artefacts from Prehistoric Times to the Present, Proceedings of the 4th Meeting of the ICAZ Worked Bone Research Group at Tallinn, 26th–31st of August 2003, ed. H. Luik, A. M. Choyke, C. Batey, and L. Löugas, pp. 425–445. Tallinn: Ajaloo Instituut.

Arthur MacGregor. 1985. Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn: The Technology of Skeletal Materials Since the Roman Period. London: Croom Helm.

Lillian M. C. Randall. 1966. Images in the Margins of Gothic Manuscripts. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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