Thursday, September 05, 2013

Happy Birthday to the man who gave us the 'bible'

One of the most obvious developments that the Internet has brought us is the collective celebration of the lives of the great and the good, and the merely interesting. Yes I know that you can read about peoples birthdays on a daily basis in the broadsheets and also the obituaries but what the Internet, and in particular the Google 'doodles', has done is achieve a collective awareness of these special days.

They are also an opportunity for those of us of a certain age to go all misty-eyed and behave like one of the four Yorkshire men (and you have to be of a certain age to get that reference) reminiscing about glorious summers past and feats of greatness achieved on the cricket field.

Wisden isn't just about records, it's not just about scorecards from matches you've never seen (or indeed heard of), it's not just about obituaries of past players it's all of that and much more. In 2013 Wisden published its 150th edition, today Google celebrates the 187th anniversary of the birth of John Wisden, the great, great, grandfather of sporting anoraks and cricket bores everywhere. The man who is responsible for the stunted mental development of so many of us, those of us who carry on our lives as perfectly respectable members of society for eight months of the year and then suddenly become teenagers again between 1st May and 31st August when the sound of leather on willow replaces the sound of dissenting footballers, the polite ripple of applause replacing shouts of 'whose the ****** in the black?'.

When it was first published Wisden included the results of the 'classic' flat races as well as the university boat races, it has since evolved into the cricketers bible we know and love today. Almost everybody I know who owns several editions of Wisden secretly craves owning a full set, when I was a teenager there was a local bookshop, which specialised in antiquarian books, that did indeed own a full set from the 1864 edition through to the mid 1970's, it was one of those collections that didn't have a display price, the message being 'if you really want this, there's no need to ask the price!". A complete set of Wisden: all 144 volumes issued from 1864 to 2007 along with 2 index issues, one covering the years 1864 to 1943 and the other 1864 to 1984, the entire set handsomely bound in uniform brown half morocco by Bayntun-Riviere of Bath,was sold at auction in February 2008 for £84,000 - that needs a healthy bank balance, large room and very understanding wife.

Incidentally, according to the notes on Bonhams website, "The vendor collected this set over the last 20 years and bought sufficient morocco goatskins and end papers to ensure that the set could be uniformly bound through to 2030, the residue of these are included in the lot for sale."

How cool is that, sufficient goatskins to allow for the binding of the books twenty two years into the future at the point of sale! Not too cool for the goats obviously.

So chapeau to John Wisden for thinking up one of the great British institutions.


A Northern Bloke said...

We may be a small island but we've got plenty to be proud of. Wisden is one of them.

P.S. I've seen some of your new photos on Flickr but the new layout has got me beat : I can't figure out how to send you a message. Doh!

Span Ows said...

Agree and I don't even like cricket that much!

Agree re 'How cool is that', doesn't happen often.

Paul said...

I agree Shy - liked David Cameron's little speech sticking up for us yesterday.

re new Flickr - I really don't like the new layout at all - uploaded one set of photos and then promptly removed them!

I thought it was good forward planning Span - not something we are generally good at!

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