One of the world’s rarest cricket books to be offered for sale in UK

London, Apr 27 (PTI) A first edition of one of the world’s rarest books on cricket from the library of eminent cricket commentator and collector John Arlott is eyeing a world record when it goes on sale at the Firsts Rare Book Fair in London next month, priced at GBP 225,000.

“Cricket. A Collection of All the Grand Matches of Cricket played in England within Twenty Years, viz. from 1771 to 1791” by William Epps was printed in 1799 and only a handful of copies are known to have ever existed.

The writer was working at the very dawn of the collection of cricket statistics and the book is therefore valued as a precious account of the history of the sport.

“Epps’ volume has long been recognised as virtually unobtainable. Only a handful of copies are known, apparently, just four have previously come up at auction,” said Pom Harrington of rare bookseller Peter Harrington, which is offering the book for sale at the book fair event at London’s Saatchi Gallery between May 18 and 21.

“The book would rank among the most expensive cricket books of all time. In today’s money, it would equate to a price near what was achieved for the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) copy, which sold for GBP 151,250 with a premium at Christie’s in 2010. This is believed to be the highest price ever paid for a cricket book,” said Harrington.

The book is considered doubly special on account of its emotive provenance, having come from the library of John Arlott – BBC Radio’s Test Match Special from 1957 to 1980.

He was widely known as “the voice of cricket” and in 1946 was asked by the Head of the BBC Overseas Service, Donald Stevenson, to commentate on the warm-up games of India’s tour of England.

Arlott’s commentary reportedly “went down very well in India” and he was invited to continue to commentate on further matches, including the Test matches, initiating a 34-year career as a cricket commentator for the BBC.

The book by William Epps was a personal gift from his father and the last book of his reputedly fine cricket collection that he personally retained. It is considered valuable both because there are so few copies and for its rare contents.

At the time Samuel Britcher, the first scorer for the MCC, had started issuing annual accounts of matches dating back to the 1790s and Epps’ book collects and presents the records for the preceding 20 years.

The book therefore preserves records of the earliest days of the game and institutionally there is no record of the book in any library worldwide.

Epps is not listed in the English Short Title Catalogue, the authoritative record of publications in English 1473-1800, and it appears to be because he published it on only a small provincial run.

One copy was sold in June 1958 for GBP 85 and then one in 1966 for GBP 50. The next appearance was at Christie’s auction house in 2005 when a copy sold for GBP 90,000, and finally, in 2010 the MCC duplicate copy sold at the same auction house for GBP 151,250.

Peter Harrington, the London firm which specialises in sourcing, selling and buying the finest quality original first editions, hopes to break that record with their 2023 sale.

Source: PTI News


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