August 2013 | Nate Pedersen

13 Original Laws of Soccer On Display at British Library

Soccer to us - "football" to the rest of the world - is the most widely played sport on the globe, employing thousands of people, inspiring millions of fans, and generating billions of dollars in revenue. In many countries, including England, football is akin to religion in terms of the devotion and passion it inspires in its followers.  Perhaps it's only fitting then, that the centerpiece of the British Library's new exhibition on football is a book of handwritten rules from 1863 defining the modern conception of the game. Yes, the 13 Original Rules of Football currently has a place beside the Magna Carta.

BL-Football-small.jpgThe handwritten book, entitled the 1863 Football Association Minute Book, was compiled by Ebenezer Cobb Morley (no joke) as he attended a series of meetings of the Football Association.  The organization formed in 1863 to set ground rules for the new sport, meeting in the Freemasons' Tavern in London. Morley's book contains the thirteen original rules of football along with the minutes of the Football Association meetings from that year.

In short, this little book is where it all began. Perhaps it's fitting, then, that the book was recently included in Melvyn Bragg's Twelve Books that Changed the World.

The price of the 1863 Football Association Minute Book on the open market is staggering to think of. Its current assessed value is £2.5 million, however I have a sneaking suspicion it would go for much higher at auction. It is, after all, the only copy of a exceedingly influential document.  But as the current chairman of the Football Association, Greg Dyke, said to the British press, that £2.5m ""would be a lot of money in most worlds but wouldn't buy you a decent full back in football."

So there you go.

Image: Courtesy of the British Library.