In the mid Nineteenth Century, increasing literacy levels and the industrialisation of printing and book-making combined to create a demand for cheap publications. This demand was well-met by ‘yellowbacks’: low-priced octavos with strawboard boards covered with yellow paper and often block-printed with pictures. Yellowbacks were ubiquitous in the 1870s and 1880s and George Routledge dominated the field. His publishing house started to experiment with non-fiction and with educational handbooks and thus the series Routledge’s Sixpenny Handbooks was born.
Skating and Sliding by the Reverend J.G. Wood and other writers is an example of the series which also treated such subjects as cricket, manly exercises, fireworks, swimming and conjuring. This particular manual takes learners through the history of skating, putting skates on, how to start from the inside edge and progresses to various skating figures, such as the Dutch Roll and the Figure of Three. It quotes three maxims attributed to renowned skater Robert Ferguson: “Throw fear to the dogs”, “Put on your skates securely” and “Keep your balance”!
From 1607 to 1814 a frost fair was held on the River Thames and into the early- Nineteenth Century rivers and canals froze sufficiently to support skating. The Skating Club was founded in London, 1830 and in 1876, the first artificial ice-rink (the Glaciarium) opened in Chelsea.
John George Wood (1827-1889), having worked in the anatomical museum, Oxford and having made a name for himself delivering illustrated lectures on zoology, was best known as a writer on natural history. However, he also wrote books on gymnastics and other sports and even edited The Boys Own Magazine.