Cricket Ceramics (1750-1977)

Published: 2023
Pages: 255
Author: Merchant, James
Publisher: Private
Rating: 4 stars

This book has much to commend it. Its author has a track record of publishing interesting and original items. It is lavishly produced, with hundreds of high quality illustrations. It is undoubtedly devoted to cricket as its subject matter and, to appeal to the collectors amongst us, comes in a signed and numbered of just one hundred copies.

Yet despite all that I was initially reticent about investing and, had I not been treated to a look at an early electronic version of the book I suspect I might not have done so. The reason is simple, in that I have never so much as considered purchasing a cricketing ceramic. Dropping any piece of memorabilia is a bad move, but at least with a book, and certainly with a booklet or other ephemeral publication, it is unlikely to cause too much damage. If, on the other hand, your Parian bust of WG hits the floor, the consequences are unthinkable.

But that doesn’t mean I am not interested in cricket ceramics. I am happy to wander round a museum, dealer’s showroom or the collection of a fellow addict and enjoy what I see, even if the desire to own similar items is not stimulated by the experience. A further factor with a book like this, which is so well illustrated, is that in many ways I now feel that I do own the items that are pictured, and do so without the stress of the constant worry when children, animals or clumsy adults are in the house of some terrible fate befalling us.

James Merchant’s celebration of the world of cricketing ceramics comprises more than fifty separate sections, each dealing with a particular object, set or group of items or a particular facet of ceramics. He begins with a sugar bowl produced in England in around 1750, in porcelain’s earliest days, and signs off in the 1970s after which, he candidly concedes; the material produced is neither good quality, nor of any value.

Cricket Ceramics does not purport to be an exhaustive catalogue of what has been produced over the 227 year period it covers nor, I suspect could such a publication ever exist. But it does cover everything of historical importance that appeared over that time and, slightly to my surprise, there were quite a few that I had seen before, no doubt primarily in auction catalogues and magazine articles.

There was however just a single item featured that not only had I seen before, but I had also taken some interest in, that being a plate produced by Coalport to commemorate WG Grace’s hundredth First Class century.What I now understand are the origins of the project, and more importantly the details of the various versions of the plate that were produced. I have, of course, also now seen them all.

The distinctly niche subject matter and/or the substantial price the book carries will doubtless dissuade many from investing in Cricket Ceramics (1750-1977), but it is nonetheless a fascinating read for anyone who takes an interest in the subject. Most of the copies will already have doubtless been picked up by the cognoscenti, but there are a few available from Boundary Books in the UK, and from Roger Page in Australia.

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