Cover of the book De Arte Gymnastica, by Hieronymous Mercurialis in 1573; from the collection of David P. Webster, OBE; and donated to Stark Center co-founders Jan and Terry Todd at the Arnold (Schwarzenegger) Strongman Classic, in Columbus Ohio, in 2005.


Published by the Italian physician Hieronymous Mercurialis in the sixteenth century, De Arte Gymnastica has long been cited by historians as a pivotal moment in the revival of European gymnastics. Coming at a time when interest in Greco-Roman culture was growing, Mercurialis’ work was one of the first monographs to focus almost exclusively on exercise and the building of strength. De Arte was significant then, for three reasons. First it was highly regarded on publication and indeed, stayed within circulation for close to a century. Second it included several wonderfully illustrated plates of muscled men exercising, wrestling and fighting. It thus served as inspiration for innumerable exercisers, artists and physicians. Finally, De Arte was published by a well-regarded physician and helped circulate the importance of health as medicine. Turning to the Stark Center, the archives hold several editions, including a rare but well preserved 1577 edition donated to the Center by David P. Webster, O.B.E., a Scottish writer, sports promoter, world record-holding athlete, collector, Olympic Games official, and the leading historian on Scotland’s Highland Games. 

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