University of Notre Dame


Hesburgh Libraries

Rare Books & Special Collections

The Joyce Sports Research Collection

Four-color lithographic poster of the professional wrestler Wladek Zbyszko. 1921. From the Jack Pfefer Collection.

RBSC's Joyce Sports Research Collection is one of the largest accumulations of sports-related print and manuscript matter in the world, facilitating scholarly inquiry into the history, sociology, and economics of American sports and their antecedents abroad. Related subject areas supported by the collection include health and exercise, sporting activities and the outdoors, and sports literature and journalism. The most prevalent formats are books, periodicals, printed ephemera, printed illustrations and photographs, and manuscripts. As a general rule, audio and video are not collected. Most items predate the 1970s.

The Joyce Collection's rare book component, numbering upwards of 3,000 monographs, includes many of the field's scarce and foundational titles. The earliest imprints demonstrate the rise of a sports-related literature in Early Modern Europe. Those of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are primarily British, while later books are in the main American (though many British imprints will still be found). Among the subject areas especially well represented in the book collections are baseball, American football, ice hockey, boxing, billiards, and golf. The collection's many hundreds of periodical titles range from the earliest of all sports journals (the Sporting Magazine, published in London from 1792 to 1871) to American titles of the mid- to late twentieth century. These periodicals include not just magazines and newspapers but guide format annuals, including a particularly rich assemblage of the hundreds of Spalding Athletic Library titles published between the 1870s and 1940. But perhaps the greatest strength of the Joyce Collection lies in its tens of thousands of pieces of printed ephemera—record books, rulebooks, media guides, yearbooks, programs, scorecards, catalogs, sheet music, broadsides, and the like. Many of these items were published by colleges and universities, or by franchises in the professional sports leagues that flourished in the U.S. from the later nineteenth century. There are, for example, more than 18,000 college football game programs predating 1970, and more than 3,500 professional football programs from the same era. The Joyce Collection also contains more than 500 linear feet of non-printed matter, much of it relating to boxing and wrestling. Among the more substantial manuscript groups are the Jack Pfefer Wrestling Collection; the Nat Fleischer Papers; the Gene Tunney Papers; and the Red Smith Collection. Two important pictorial resources are the Michael Oriard Collection of Football Illustration and the Harry E. Winkler Collection of Boxing Photographs.

The Joyce Collection has been assembled over the past fifty years, the product of dozens of important donations as well as purchases large and small. Much of the present collection was culled from the purchase, in 1975, of the inventory of the Los Angeles sports publications dealer Goodwin Goldfaden. The collection was endowed by the university in 1987, in honor of Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Notre Dame's longtime executive vice president.

Finding Aids to Joyce Collection Materials

Books, periodicals, and some other items in the Joyce Collection may be searched in the ND Catalog. Patrons wishing to limit a search to items in RBSC may proceed to Advanced Search and, in the drop-down menu under Search Scope, select Rare Books & Special Collections. In addition, researchers interested in baseball, basketball, boxing, American football, ice hockey, or wrestling may consult the resource guides that have been compiled for each of these subject areas. These guides provide finding aids to some kinds of materials—especially printed ephemera like media guides, yearbooks, and programs—not currently accessible in the ND catalog. Finally, researchers interested specifically in sports-related manuscript collections (hand- and typewritten texts, scrapbooks, photographs, and other formats) may consult the Sports Manuscripts pagesdedicated to these kinds of materials.

In addition, patrons are invited to visit the digital exhibits Fighting Words: English and American Boxing Literature from the Joyce Sports Collection; and Words on Play: Baseball Literature before 1900 from the Joyce Sports Collection.