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The Code of Health and Longevity (extract)

Sir John Sinclair, “A Collection of Papers on the Subject of Athletic Exercises, &c.”, in “The Code of Health and Longevity; or A Concise View, of the Principles Calculated for the Preservation of Health, and the Attainment of Long Life”, Volume II, 1807.

“A Collection of papers on the Subject of Athletic Exercises, &c.”

pp. 82-163 inc, plus (163) 1, (163) 2, (163) 3, (163) 4, (163) 5, (163) 6, 164, 281, 282, 283.

 

The author: 

Sir John Sinclair was a Scot, who was born in 1754.  He was the Earl of Caithness, and served as a Member of Parliament for 30 years, and was President of the Board of Agriculture for 14 years.  He was also responsible for the 21-volume Statistical Account of Scotland, plus scores of other volumes, and was author of 367 pamphlets on farming, public finance, health, animal husbandry, and the Scottish language and poetry.  Around the turn of the eighteenth century Sinclair became ill, and when he recovered, set about compiling a Code of Health and Longevity which was to include all the known information on air, diet, exercise, digestion, sleep and clothing, and how, if lost, health could be restored.  His inclusion of details about athletic training in this Code of Health and Longevity was because of the ‘success with which the human frame was invigorated, by those who train up persons to athletic exercises.’  In 1806 one of his earlier works carried the sub heading – ‘The art of training men to athletic exercises is wonderfully effective’.

 

The place of Sinclair’s “A Collection of Papers on the Subject of Athletic Exercises, &c.” in the history of Athletics literature:

This collection marks the beginning of the written analysis of training methods in Athletics.  Prior to this, most training information was passed by word of mouth.  It is unique because Sinclair compiled a 22-item questionnaire (9 on training for athletic exercises, and the rest on training for jockeys, race-horses, and game-cocks) which was used by ‘intelligent men’ to gather information in face-to-face conversations with trainers of a variety of sports.  Their answers were taken down in the shorthand of the day.  Not all trainers cooperated, but one, John Jackson, a noted trainer, pugilist and ex long-jumper, cooperated fully, and his answers led to a further nine questions being asked, which he then answered.  This led to another seven questions, plus a further seven, leading to a total of 32 replies.  This series of questions and answers is the closest thing we have to a recorded conversation with one of the great trainers of the early nineteenth century, and it is at the heart of the collection.  The information in this collection found its way into training texts over the next one hundred years.

 

The text:

There are four versions.

  1. A pamphlet entitled A Collection of Papers on the subject of Athletic Exercises, etc., was printed in London in 1806 and circulated by the author, which gave the questions and some preliminary answers, and was published to attract attention to the work and to help stimulate others to provide further answers.

  2. This pamphlet was reprinted in four parts in Nicholson's Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts (1806-7). It was slightly abbreviated in parts and carried new sub-headings.

  3. The full version of A Collection of Papers was compiled and added to Volume II as the 4-volume Code of Health and Longevity (1807) went to press, hence the odd numbering of its final 12 pages: p 102, 163, (163)1, (163)2, (163)4, (163)5, (163)6, 164, 281, 282, and 283. This version was reprinted the same year, including the odd page numbering, but never again reprinted. It is the only full and complete version.

  4. A summary version (or Results of the Enquiries Regarding Athletic Exercises) was produced (in Volume I of The Code of Health and Longevity), 1807, which consisted of a 6,000 word synopsis of all the Collection of Papers and written by Sinclair himself. It also appeared in the 1807 reprint. The Results of the Enquiries was printed separately in 1809. A one-volume summary version of The Code of Health and Longevity was published in 1861 and it included the Results of the Enquiries. A one-volume edition of The Code of Health and Longevity was translated into French in 1810 and included the Results of the Enquiries. The French version was translated into Italian in 1811 and it, too, contained the Results of the Enquiries. Other, later, editions of The Code of Health and Longevity included the Results of the Enquiries and were published between 1817 and 1844.

 

Suggested further reading: 

Peter Radford, From Oral Tradition to Printed Record: British Sports Science in Transition, 1805-1807, in Proceedings of the XII HISPA Congress, (Gubbio, Italy, June 1987), Manfred Lammer, Roland Renson and James Riordan, eds.), a special issue of Stadion, (International Journal of Sport History, Vol. XII/XIII (1986-87), pp. 295-304.

 

Peter Radford


Bibliographic details:

Title: The Code of Health and Longevity; or A Concise View, of the Principles Calculated for the Preservation of Health, and the Attainment of Long Life, Volume II.
Extract Details:

“A Collection of papers on the Subject of Athletic Exercises, &c.”


pp. 82-163 inc, plus (163) 1, (163) 2, (163) 3, (163) 4, (163) 5, (163) 6, 164, 281, 282, 283.

Publisher: Arch. Constable & Co.*, and T. Cadell, and W. Davies, and **J. Murray
Place of Publication: *Edinburgh and **London.
Date of Publication: 1807
Date(s) of Re-Publication:
BL Catalogue: General Reference Collection 41.d.15-18.
"An Athletics Compendium" Reference: Not listed

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