Student life

Sports and various outdoor activities seem like an appropriate subject for a post, now that we have 123 days to go before the London Olympics start, Hilary term has just ended, and the first days of Spring have brought sun and lovely warm weather -perfect for any of the pastimes depicted in the prints that Douce filed as ‘Cricket, Racquets &c., Bat and Ball’:

Crispijn de Passe, Game of balloon, 1612, engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

This print belongs to a series published by Crispijn de Passe and Jan Janszoon of Arnhem under the title Academia sive speculum vitae scolasticae  (The university, or mirror of student life) in 1612. In his book Profit and Pleasure (Rotterdam, 2001), Ilja M. Veldman explains how this set of prints aimed at students presented them with detailed scenes of university life. Sports were included because, as De Passe optimistically states in the Preface:

It is a quality common to almost all, not so much habituated as bestowed by Nature herself and in a sense innate, to amuse themselves with various activities and exercises, and to guard life against sloth.

The ball game depicted above was played with a leather ball struck with the hand protected with a cork brace (see Veldman, p. 49). Another sport supposed to keep ‘bodies and minds constantly engaged’ was real tennis, played with racquets and a net in special indoor courts. Veldman suggests that the court depicted below was the private court in Leiden, which was as exclusive as it sounds:

Crispijn de Passe, Game of real tennis, 1612, engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Some of the De Passe’s plates, however, had already appeared in Jacob van der Heyden’s Pugillus facetiarum iconographicarum (1608) and they were reused again in his Speculum Cornelianum. The Cornelius of the title was a dissipated student, whose adventures and misadventures were further illustrated by the German engraver Peter Rollos in his Vita Corneliana (Berlin, 1625). Most conveniently, Douce also had Rollos’ versions (in reverse) of de Passe’s engravings. To make things even more confusing, Rollos’ plates were copied in a number of late seventeenth-century editions of his work, published in Paris under the title Le Centre de l’Amour:

Peter Rollos I, Apte mitto pilam..., c. 1625, etching (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Peter Rollos I, Quando pilla et spherae flectuntur..., c. 1625, etching (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)


Le Centre de l’Amour (Paris, 1687)

A 1643 edition of Jacob van der Heyden’s Pugillus facetiarum iconographicarum owned by Douce is still in the Bodleian -the call no. is Douce Prints e.37 (f.10-61). The two prints above are not the only images from this series that Douce kept with his Sports and Pastimes: the engraving below, which appeared in the 1608 edition of the Pugillus, is filed under ‘Gaming with Cards, Dice, &c’:

Jacob van der Heyden, Der Teuffel hatt dasz best im Spill, 1608, etching and engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Why would this satirical print be included? Like De Passe’s and Rollos’s books, Van der Heyden’s work was aimed at students, but it was not an illustration of student life. It was a miscellaneous collection of prints based on students’ drawings, which allowed for the inclusion of what is, ultimately, an anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim satire. The student in question was not terribly original (or witty, for that matter), since a similar theme had been used with the same purpose in an anonymous Dutch print a few years earlier:

Anonymous, O ghy valsche ketters..., 1598-1600, engraving, BM Sat 81 (The British Museum, London)

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