Monday, 3 July 2017 13:20 PM BST
Tales from the Library: The Wimbledon Compendium
Tales From the Library

The Kenneth Ritchie Wimbledon Library, founded in 1976 by Alan Little, holds one of the largest and most diverse collections of tennis literature in the world.

Dating from the birth of Lawn Tennis in the 1870s, the collection holds books, magazines, yearbooks, annuals, programmes and newspaper cuttings from more than 80 countries and continues to grow. In celebration of the Library’s status in charting not only the history of The Championships but the history of the sport, the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum has assembled its 13-day guide showcasing the stellar sources available. Librarian Robert McNicol explains which titles he has selected and why.


The Wimbledon Compendium, by Alan Little, has been published every year since 1991 and is in many ways the bible of Wimbledon.

Attention to detail is a mantra at Wimbledon - from the grass cut to a height of 8mm to the strawberries picked when between 25mm and 45mm in diameter to the precise colour palette of the English Garden planting scheme.

When it comes to a collection of concise but detailed information about every aspect of the iconic grass court Grand Slam, look no further than the official 2017 Wimbledon Compendium. Diligently built up over the years by Librarian Emeritus Alan Little, a book collector, writer and all-round tennis enthusiast who has attended every tournament since 1946 bar one (1947, when he was doing his National Service), it contains thousands of facts and figures. With sections on “Champions who wore headgear in a singles final”, “Runners-up who wore glasses in a final” and the history of seat cushion hire (which started in 1924, since you ask) - the Compendium has fast become its own Wimbledon legend.

1949, Tuesday 21st June... a squirrel appeared on Court. The players relaxed while the ball boys chased it away.

- Wimbledon Compendium

As well as containing every fact you could possibly want to know about The Championships, it offers hundreds of nuggets you didn't even realise you were missing. Did you know, for example, that The Championships in 1949 introduced female line judges? How about that in 1967 the charge for a seat cushion was 1s 6d, or that on 22 June 1998 a mouse interrupted play between Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Mark Philippoussis?

There's plenty to keep even the most serious statistician occupied, with a year-by-year section going all the way back to 1868; details of every winner, runner-up, seed, qualifier and wild card; lists of attendance, prize money, seat prices and birthday of every player, all interspersed with wonderful gems such as the fact that Britain's Brame Hillyard, in 1930, was the first gentleman to wear shorts, and in 1927 Miss Ruth Tapscott of South Africa became the first lady to play "without stockings".

And, as one would expect in SW19, there is a lot to read about the weather over the years. We can only hope that The Championships 2017 mirror those of 1949, which was blessed with "brilliant sunshine during the whole meeting" and not 1964 which, according to records, was a "cold, miserable meeting".

Running to more than 640 pages, the Wimbledon Compendium is still the go-to source for information about The Championships and is distributed every year to members of the press and media.

The 2017 Wimbledon Compendium, compiled by Alan Little and Robert McNicol, is available for purchase in the Wimbledon shop.

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