When watching the bright lights of the College Football Playoff it is tempting to think that football has always been football. The pageantry and spectacle seem today as natural and American as apple pie and the changing leaves of the fall. As with most things, however, a look into the historical evolution of the game reveals just how easily American football could have remained rugby’s twin. Rare, historic publications tell the story and you can find most of them inside the Complete Library of College Football.
Dawn of Football Rules and First Game
The first published work on American football dates to 1864. Public Business by Dick and Fitzgerald includes the first documented list of rules of the game. These rules, in fact, are defined as “The laws of Foot-ball as played at rugby.” The primary difference between America’s game and that played by the English is the ability for blockers to advance ahead of the ball to impede defenders. In soccer and rugby, advancement of a player ahead of the ball to impede or block defenders is disallowed.
The first ever college football game was played by Rutgers and Princeton in 1869. Rutgers won the game 6-4. The Complete Library of College Football contains the signature of the first ever college football coach, William Gummere. Gummere was the team captain, and de facto coach, of Princeton. He later became Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Father of Football and His Publications
As the game developed, there were several prominent figures who influenced its trajectory. None was more prominent than Walter Camp. A prolific writer and early advocate of physical fitness, Camp was a coach at Yale University. He’s known as the Father of American Football, and with good reason. Simply stated, without Walter Camp we would be watching rugby on Saturday afternoons.
The Library has perhaps the most comprehensive catalog of Walter Camp publications in the world. Camp’s most seminal works were American Football, of which he published five editions spanning the 1890s. The Library contains all five editions, each in very good condition. American Football provided football players, coaches, and fans with a standardized account of rules, techniques, and procedures. As the game evolved, this standardization ensured that programs across the country developed in similar terms.
The preface of Camp’s American Football provides context for his aspirations in producing it: “The progress of the sport of football in this country, and the corresponding growth of inquiry as to the methods adopted by experienced teams, have prompted the publication of this book. Should any of the suggestions herein contained conduce to the further popularity of the game, the object of the writer will be attained.”
Walter Camp’s centrality to the development of the game football is further evidenced by his authorship of the Spalding Guides beginning in 1891. The Spalding Guides were the predecessor to the NCAA Annual guides, which were published continuously until 2009. The Library contains the only complete run of NCAA/ Spalding Guides known to exist. The Spalding Guides were the central vehicle through which rules and procedures were propagated during the early days of football.
The Walter Camp Collection is an exhaustive compilation of Camp’s football-related work, as well his other writings. All told, the catalog includes 117 books and 57 magazine articles (not counting the Spalding Guides). Perhaps the most intriguing single artifact in the Camp Collection is Walter’s junior high geography book which is signed. To view the entire holding, click here.
Publications Chronicle Football’s Rise
In addition to the work of the individuals central to football’s organization, the Library also includes extensive holdings of some of early football’s most prominent programs. The books catalog includes many rare, interesting titles that describe football’s rise. From period-specific books featuring Red Grange of Illinois, Notre Dame’s “Golden Boy” Paul Hornung, to works such as the 1932 Texas Tech Coaching School Handbook (by Pop Warner, Phog Allen and others), the Library contains the substance of how football became football.
The 10,000 volume media guide houses the metrics by which individual programs evolved. The conference section includes 54 different conferences while the school section includes over 540 different schools. The primary focus of the guide section has been on collecting a complete run of each Division I program. Although that objective was not met, many schools have over 50 annual guides. Media guides proliferated after World War II, however, the oldest in the collection dates from 1910.
While football fans may think of the sport as the nationwide, monolithic machine that it is today, this was not always the case. The story of how football became football is fascinating. Perhaps, more than anything else, telling and preserving this story is what the Complete Library of College Football is all about. Whether to the collector or fan, it is the preservation of the story that is important.
The Complete Library of College Football is considered the most comprehensive catalog of college football literature and memorabilia in existence. It is being offered for sale, in its entirety, for the first time. For more information, click here.