Rare cricket book from 1700s set to be sold in the UK
“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
The Aussies will clash with India in five T20 matches after the conclusion of the World Cup. (Photo: iStock)
The upcoming Firsts Rare Book Fair in London is set to showcase a rare first-edition book on cricket, previously owned by renowned cricket commentator and collector, John Arlott.
“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 is considered one of the rarest cricket books in the world, with only a few known copies in existence.
Valued at GBP 225,000, the book holds significant historical value as it was written at the beginning of the collection of cricket statistics.
According to Pom Harrington of rare bookseller Peter Harrington, Epps’ book has long been considered almost impossible to obtain. Only a handful of copies are known to exist, with just four previously sold at auction.
The book will be offered for sale at the Firsts Rare Book Fair at London’s Saatchi Gallery from May 18 to 21.
Harrington notes that the book’s sale price is likely to rank among the highest ever paid for a cricket book, approaching the amount paid for the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) copy, which sold for GBP 151,250 with a premium at Christie’s in 2010.
Harrington believes that the book’s emotive provenance, having come from the library of Arlott – BBC Radio’s Test Match Special from 1957 to 1980, adds to its unique value.
Arlott earned the name “the voice of cricket” and was approached by Donald Stevenson, the Head of the BBC Overseas Service, in 1946 to provide commentary on the warm-up games of India’s tour of England.
According to reports, his commentary was well received in India, leading to further invitations to commentate on subsequent matches, including the Test matches. This marked the beginning of Arlott’s 34-year career as a cricket commentator for the BBC.
The last book in Epps’ reputedly impressive cricket collection was a personal gift from his father. It is considered to be a valuable piece due to the rarity of its content and the scarcity of its copies.
Samuel Britcher, the first scorer for the MCC, had started publishing yearly accounts of matches dating back to the 1790s, and Epps’ book presents the records for the preceding two decades.
The book contains valuable records from the early days of the game, and it is noteworthy that no library worldwide holds any institutional record of it. Epps, the author, is not listed in the English Short Title Catalogue, which serves as the authoritative record of publications in English from 1473 to 1800. This is likely because Epps only published the book in a limited provincial run.
In June 1958, a copy of the book was sold for GBP 85, followed by another copy in 1966 for GBP 50. The book made another appearance in 2005 at Christie’s auction house, where it was sold for GBP 90,000. In 2010, the MCC’s duplicate copy of the book was also sold at Christie’s auction house for GBP 151,250.
The London-based firm Peter Harrington, which specializes in sourcing, selling, and buying original first editions of the finest quality, is hoping to surpass this record with its 2023 sale.
(With inputs from PTI)