Thursday, September 9, 2010

Three Dozen Centuries of Juggling

"Research in Juggling History"
Professor Arthur Lewbel (November 1995, revised March 2002)

"While some reference works on jugglers from the Vaudeville era to the present exist, to my knowledge no one has attempted a rigorous investigation into the history of juggling prior to Vaudeville. This article summarizes material I have found during some years of casual research in this area, and some of my own analyses and conclusions. This is not intended as a definitive study, but will I hope provide a useful starting point for anyone interested in pursuing thorough research.

"This paper ends with a bibliography of articles and books that specifically discuss medieval or earlier juggling. Though short, compiling this bibliography proved extremely difficult. Using computer searches for finding juggling publications is almost impossible, because the very vast majority of published material containing the word juggle does so only as a metaphor for coping with many problems at once, instead of being literally about juggling. Most of the few references that really do concern juggling then turn out to be either fiction or instructional materials. Almost all of the references I ultimately did find were in places that are too obscure to be found by computer searches.

"A wealth of information can be found on topics related to juggling history. Hundreds of books and articles can be found concerning jesters, jongleurs, fools, clowns, magic, etc. These generally will mention juggling only in passing, if at all. Some histories of ball play and ball games, while not directly about juggling, may be useful for descriptions of balls that jugglers might have used. ..."

As you see, this isn't the lightest reading you'll find on the Web. On the other hand, it's a pretty good resource for someone who's interested in learning who was juggling what and when.

The professor traces juggling back quite a long ways - over three dozen centuries to ancient Egypt. The article's an overview, touching on juggling in places including China and the Americas.

Then, if you want to dig deeper into the subject, there's that bibliography at the end of the page.

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