Exploring The Collections: Books

Every Skate Guard blog that is put together draws from a variety of different sources - everything from museum and library holdings and genealogical research to newspaper archives and dusty old printed materials I've amassed over the last ten years or so. 

I thought it would be fun to give you a bit of a 'behind the scenes' look at the Skate Guard Collections, which include books, magazines, VHS tapes, show and competition programs, photographs and many other items. These Collections date back to the nineteenth century and chronicle figure skating's rich history from the days of quaint waltzes in top hats and tails to quadruple toe-loop's. Whether you're doing your own research about a famous 'fancy' skater in your family tree or a long-lost ice rink in your community or just have a general skating history question you can't find the answer to online, I'm always happy to draw on these resources and try to help if I can.

Books are one of the and most indispensable and largest aspects of the Collections. About thirty percent of the books in the Collections are in digital format, the other seventy being in hard or soft cover format.

The books in the Skate Guard Collections bear witness to the evolution of figure skating from the nineteenth century to modern day, each author bringing their own perspective to the table. Biographies and autobiographies give us an in-depth perspective of the journeys of the world's top skaters. There are biographies or autobiographies of dozens of Olympic Medallists including Sonja Henie, Barbara Ann Scott, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, John Curry, Donald Jackson, Toller Cranston, Janet Lynn, Kurt Browning, Karen Magnussen, Peggy Fleming and Robin Cousins. Each of these books give us a bigger picture of the person behind the skater as well as their rise to the top and life after skating. No doubt you have many of these on your own bookshelves - they are to be treasured!

The first known English language figure skating book, Captain Robert Jones' "A Treatise On Skating: Founded On Certain Principles Deduced From Many Years Experience: By Which That Noble Exercise Is Now Reduced To An Art" was published in 1772. It serves as a starting point for the books that focus more on the instructional/educational side of things. A handful of Victorian era books from both England and the Continent chronicle the evolution of school and special figures and free skating. In the twentieth century, books like Captain T.D. Richardson's popularly combined instructional advice with history.

As you can imagine, the majority of the books in the Collections focus on the sport's history in some way, shape or form. A few 'must-haves' that I refer to often in my research are both of ISU Historian Benjamin T. Wright's books, T.D. Richardson's "Ice Skating", Nigel Brown's "Ice-Skating: A History", Lynn Copley-Graves' "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On The Ice", Dennis Bird's "Our Skating Heritage" and Frances Dafoe's "Figure Skating and the Arts: Eight Centuries of Sport and Inspiration". 

As many excellent books about skating history are out of print, two things I always suggest to anyone looking for copies are to look on Biblio.com and talk to your friendly neighbourhood librarian about doing an inter-library loan.

If you'd like me to look up anything in the books I have for you, I'm always happy to do so. For a list of the books currently in the Skate Guard Collections, click here. If you have skating books collecting dust in your attic or basement that you'd like to donate, I'd love to hear from you.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.