Uncertain on the ice? Try learning how to skate from a book. Swedish figure skating master Bror Meyer’s 1921 instructional manual, Skating with Bror Meyer, is a thorough manual on the sport, illustrated with photos of Meyer performing the moves he describes. He used a cinematograph—an early motion picture camera—to catch his body's position at each stage of the movement. 

In the 1920s, skating wasn’t as vertically focused as it is now. Skaters spent more time on figures—intricate loops traced on the ice that show off a skater’s precision. (Figures are no longer required in competitions.) However, Meyer still demonstrates basic jumps, like the axel, the loop, and the salchow (though now skaters perform double, triple, and even quadruple rotations of these jumps). Here are nine moves he shows his readers how to perform. 


"'Commencing from rest,'" Meyer writes, "means, as regards forward edges, that the free foot, with which the push off is made, is not allowed any preliminary stroke, and as regards the backward edges, that the impetus must only be obtained by a quick rotation of the body. The tracing foot must also take up the edge without any preliminary movement on the ice. Learn to start from rest equally well on each foot."


This move is named after Axel Paulsen, a Norwegian ice and speed skater who first performed the jump in the 1882. "From the outside forward edge to the outside back of the other foot, requiring one and a half revolutions," Meyer writes.


Another move named after the first person to perform it, Swedish skater Ulrich Salchow. "Outside forward three with jump from the back inside edge to the outside back edge of the other foot, necessitating a complete revolution," Meyer writes.


This move has both preliminary steps—"Right forward outside, left forward inside (crossed behind), right back inside (crossed in front), left forward outside, right forward inside (crossed behind), left back inside (crossed in front), right forward outside, left forward inside (crossed behind), right back inside (crossed in front)"—and main steps, which begin at number 14 (on the right): "Left forward outside, right forward inside (crossed behind), left back inside commencing at about spread-eagle position, right back outside, jump from the left toe (crossed behind) and describe a half revolution to the left, alighting on the right toe, and repeat the main steps."


Meyer instructs the skater to "Commence on a strong inside forward edge and do not make the first curve too large. The first turn is identical with the plain inside forward three. After this turn, the rotation of the shoulders is slowly continued, and the unemployed leg (which is now behind) is brought forward shortly before the second turn is to be made, so that this turn is skated in the same manner as the plain outside back three. The skater should stand erect at the first turn with the unemployed foot under great control and not too far away."


"The body should be strongly inclined forward with the back well hollowed, the unemployed arm making a continuous line with the unemployed leg," Meyer writes. "The spiral is completed by raising the body and spinning on the toe of the skate."


This one seems easy enough: "Outside back to outside forward."


This move, according to Meyer, starts "in the same manner as for the inside forward eight, the shoulders are rotated with the curve, and at the same time the unemployed foot is moved slowly forward, passing close to the tracing foot. When about two-thirds distance through the first curve, the shoulders commence to rotate against the curve and the inclination of the body is lessened, care being taken that the edge is not lost. Just before the turn the unemployed foot is brought back to the tracing foot, and after the turn is at once pushed quickly forward and held slightly inside the print. The turn comes by the contrary rotation of the shoulders together with a quick movement of the unemployed foot, and is made on the front part of the skate. After the turn the shoulders are approximately square with the print, the unemployed foot is first rigid in advance, and then passes backward in the ordinary way as for inside back edge. With the turn the weight of the body is thrown into the new circle. The tracing knee, which is somewhat straightened before the turn, becomes well bent immediately afterward and is gradually straightened as soon as the skater has established firmly the inside back edge."


Spin one is "The common two-foot spin and the cross-foot spin," with both feet on the ice. "The two-foot spin on the flat of the skate must first be learnt, in order that the skater may accustom himself to the rotation of the spins," Meyer writes. "In this as in all other spins, the employed knee must first be well bent in order to assist the balance before attaining an erect position. The arms should be outstretched, and then during the spin gradually brought to the sides to increase the speed of the rotation."

The second spin is the "one-foot spin," while the third is the Jackson-Haines spin, "perhaps the most difficult of all spins, but at the same time is probably the most effective and necessitates the greatest practice," Meyer writes. "Special attention must be given to the commencement, which must come from a strong edge with a good body inclination."

Read the book at the Internet Archive

[h/t: Public Domain Review]

All images by Bror Meyer via the Internet Archive // Public Domain