CW’s Guide to the Dealers

Wisden Books
CW's Guide to the Dealers

When it comes to collecting cricket books, ephemera and other memorabilia there is undoubtedly an advantage to living in the Northern Hemisphere. The seat of power in the world game may have shifted to the subcontinent yet that vast hinterland has yet to produce a single specialist dealer, or at least if it has he or she needs to dramatically improve their marketing, as their existence has yet to come to the attention of any member of the CW Book Review team. New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies also lack a specialist dealer so, sadly really, this review only deals with England and Australia, and reports a convincing 16-2 victory for England.

Any review of the world’s cricket dealers must begin with J W McKenzie (www.mckenzie-cricket.co.uk) who will be celebrating forty years trading in 2011. John’s business is run from a shop on an otherwise unremarkable parade in Ewell in Surrey. He has an enormous stock of Wisdens, other books and all sorts of Cricketana that occupies the whole of the premises. Browsing properly is an exhilarating if slightly daunting prospect, but regular caffeine injections are provided and, importantly, two hours free parking is available on the parade. That said if planning a first visit do be aware that two hours may not be long enough. In his time John has issued more than 160 printed catalogues and will happily add you to his mailing list. Catalogues are generally themed and contain some high quality items. John’s website is extensive, carrying something of the order of 2,000 items but at any one time only a selection of his stock is actually advertised.

John has also published more than 30 cricket books. Initially these were reprints of old books, otherwise all but impossible to obtain other than by collectors with the deepest of pockets. Increasingly in recent years John’s publications have generally been valuable new writing on aspects of the game too far from the mainstream to interest major publishing houses. John’s publications are invariably handsomely produced limited editions, which have become collectors items in their own right, and will stand in perpetuity as his legacy to the game.

Of a similar vintage to John McKenzie is Martin Wood (www.martinwoodcricketbooks.co.uk) in Sevenoaks in Kent. Sadly Martin has not enjoyed the best of health in recent years and is much less active than he once was although I can confirm he is still trading. Oddly, given the well stocked web list, he has no PC at home so attempting to communicate via the somewhat out of date website will not produce a response. I did however try telephoning Martin in 2009 and found him at home and receiving visitors. His stock is no longer particularly extensive, but is interesting nonetheless, although the most attractive part, a nice selection of jacketed pre war tour accounts, was sold last August.

When I first started collecting cricket books, in the late 1980’s, John and Martin were two of around half a dozen UK dealers. They are the only two of those still around although Ian Dyer Cricket Books, www.cricketbooks.co.uk , is still trading albeit under the stewardship of Michael Gauntlett, Mr Dyer’s son in law. I have never met Michael, and given his location in North Yorkshire am unlikely to, but I have bought via the website on several occasions and been happy with my purchases and the service received. Michael is not a publisher but do keep an eye on the “New Publications” section as he does get involved in the distribution of some books and pamphlets that are otherwise tricky to find.

The dangers to collectable books that are presented by the smaller variety of human being meant that from around 1990 to 2004 my book collection, and as a result my interest in the subject, went into the attic. Once I dared start again the internet had changed the collecting landscape completely and there were a whole new collection of dealers around. I shall continue my review in reverse order of longevity although I would stress that I make no claim to accuracy about the exact order in which these gentlemen arrived.

I shall therefore start with Boundary Books, www.boundarybooks.com, which is run by Mike Down, no mean author himself (most notably a fine biography of Archie MacLaren), in Oxfordshire. Boundary Books started trading in 1989, so it is a little odd that I never dealt with them in my younger days, but perhaps their then location in Cheshire deterred me. Mike is also a publisher with a long track record of producing sumptuous limited editions (amongst them the CW Book of the Year 2009). In more recent times the move to Oxfordshire has meant a move to a purpose built showroom and some very fine stock can be seen there. The website contains only a small selection of what Mike has on offer and printed catalogues are rare (though of exceptional quality when they do appear) but there are regular e-alerts to those who sign up for them. To get the full picture of what is available a visit is essential and most enjoyable. The showroom is located in a delightful setting, parking is plentiful and free as is Mike’s excellent company, the fruits of his espresso machine and, generally, a selection of fine biscuits.

Christopher Saunders, who is ably assisted by David Wilkinson, is located in a picture postcard setting on the banks of the River Severn. Chris works from home but from a large purpose built office/showroom. His stock is extensive and with well over 9,000 items on his website, www.cricket-books.com , much of it can be viewed online. That said not everything is online, and even if it were given his attractive location a visit to the showroom is well worth arranging. Chris also, uniquely as far as I am aware, takes some of his books “on tour” to various book fairs around the UK and has also been to Australia. Chris and David also issue catalogues from time to time and these always contain an interesting selection of items most of which are not advertised online. A related business, Christopher Saunders Publishing Limited, must also be mentioned. Publications generally are limited edition pamphlets and smaller books looking at the scholarly, the old and subjects otherwise “off the beaten track”, but there have also been lavish productions of the works of Britcher and Denison and a reproduction of Victor Trumper’s photograph album from the 1909 Ashes tour all of which are still available.

In the early 1990’s Giles Lyon started Bodyline Books in West London. Bodyline Books would occasionally venture into publishing, generally with limited editions of other publishers books (a fine leather bound edition of CW Book of the Decade, “Bodyline Autopsy”, being one). The business is now based in Farnham in Surrey and occupies an old oasthouse. It has become Sportspages, www.sportspages.com , and is no longer just a cricket book dealership. It is certainly the largest business covered by this review and has a bewildering selection of the literature of every field of sporting endeavour. There is a huge selection of Wisden, particularly the rarer volumes, and the entire building is chock full of fascinating items. The website is very good and the e-commerce service is excellent. Printed catalogues appear occasionally, and when they do they are worthwhile pieces of memorabilia in themselves, and e-catalogues are sent frequently. The website carries a significant quantity of the company’s stock but not, I would think, a great proportion in percentage terms and again a visit is well worth arranging. Parking near the premises can be problematic, but Farnham is not a large place and for the unfamiliar it is best to park in the modestly priced town centre car park and then make the fairly short walk to the Oast House. I will however issue one warning and that is in relation to Giles’ skills at hypnosis. He will probably deny it but the fact that I have never emerged from his premises without spending at least double my preset maximum limit is, in my eyes, conclusive proof of such a talent.

Ken Faulkner is based in Wokingham in Berkshire and has been trading for the best part of 20 years. Having had a shop at Gloucestershire’s home matches for many years Ken is particularly strong in anything related to that county but also has an extensive stock of Wisdens and other books. His website is www.bowmore.demon.co.uk although again only a relatively small amount of his stock is listed and if you cannot find what you want there, particularly in relation to Wisdens, then a phone call is always advisable. Although very newly established I will also mention at this juncture Tony Sanders, www.cricketbiogs.co.uk , who started trading in 2009 from his home near Newbury, also in Berkshire. Tony, who as the web address suggests specialises in biographies, has taken over Ken’s connection with Gloucestershire.

There are two further dealers based in the North of England by virtue of which, and I stress that is the only reason, I have not had an opportunity to visit. In Bolton is Martin Tebay of Red Rose Books, www.redrosebooks.co.uk. Martin also publishes and his Red Rose imprint has produced facsimiles of old and rare books as well as new material, predominantly written by Blackpool historian Gerry Wolstenholme and himself. As the business’s name suggests much of this output is concerned with cricket in Lancashire and as a consequence is of special interest to this reviewer. Martin issues regular catalogues, increasingly electronically, but also has a considerable number of titles on his website. Uniquely amongst the UK dealers he also sells regularly on Ebay and the description of anything listed there by kmt405gah can be relied on as completely accurate. I have bought many times from Martin and have never been disappointed.

From t’other side of t’Pennines, near Huddersfield to be precise, comes William Roberts who, not surprisingly, specialises in material relating to the what some describe as God’s Own County (others call it France). William’s website is www.williamroberts-cricket.com and is worth keeping an eye on as he updates it rather more often than is apparent from its Homepage. Never having visited the premises I am unable to comment on how much of William’s stock appears on his site but based on the days when he used to regularly list items on Ebay, I suspect it is, as with most of his competitors, only a relatively small proportion. Sadly, as with Martin Tebay, I cannot comment from personal experience on the quality of refreshments provided but I am given to understand that, as with all the dealers in the south, both gentlemen recognise that browsing is thirsty work and that plenty of tea and coffee must be provided. I will also mention that William braved hazardous blizzard conditions at the beginning of 2010 to ensure he was able to despatch my last order from him promptly so he gets high marks for dedication to duty and customer service as well.

There are some dealers who specialise in Wisdens and, largely if not exclusively, Wisdens alone. Bill Furmedge at www.wisdenworld.com is one. Bill is a collector at heart, and an entertaining and interesting bloke who is always happy to chat about the good book and offer advice to fellow collectors. St Mary’s Books, www.stmarysbooks.com is a rarity in that it is a proper “bricks and mortar bookshop” in a small English town, Stamford in Lincolnshire. St Mary’s, a family run business, has various specialisms and some very desirable Wisdens is one of them. Next in this group is Peter Taylor who trades as “Aardvark Books” and who deals only in the Almanack. Peter doesn’t have a website but does issue quarterly catalogues. His email address is pete@aardvarkcricketbooks.co.uk. It should also be mentioned that Peter is, probably, the world’s leading restorer of old and battered Wisdens. Lastly in this category is www.wisdenauction.com which is run by Chris Ridler as an adjunct to the splendid unofficial Wisden collectors site www.wisdens.org. The auction site is, I am pleased to note, slowly expanding into other areas of cricket literature and memorabilia – it has very high ethical and service standards and, unlike the larger auction site on which it is modelled, its descriptions are always detailed and reliable.

Finally in the northern hemisphere I am going to give a mention to my old friend Ken Derrick who has some sort of interest in the cricketing bit of his daughter’s business, www.siansrarebooks.com which currently has the best part of 200 Wisdens and 350 other cricket books for sale – good luck Ken! Also deserving of a recommendation is Roger Heavens, www.booksoncricket.net , whose main service to we bibliophiles has been to republish and extend Arthur Haygarth’s monumental “Scores and Biographies” series, but he gets in here firstly because his website has a small section listing general second hand books for sale and secondly because he’s a really pleasant bloke.

To turn now to the southern hemisphere I have had dealings with a couple of dealers there, and entirely satisfactory they have been, but I thought I’d leave it to Archie to deal with his half of the world. Having discussed it with him however I was rather disappointed to learn that the two gentlemen I have dealt with are the only two there are so, in the circumstances, I’ve decided to introduce them myself.

First and foremost, and while I never dealt with him in my formative years as a collector I know he was around then, is Roger Page. I cannot praise Roger too highly for his service and attention to detail. On more than one occasion I have had a welcome email from him telling me that a book he didn’t have when I initially enquired had come into stock. It is a matter of slight regret that Roger doesn’t have a website and that his catalogues are rudimentary but that is more than made up for by the pleasure of knowing that if one of those half dozen or so elusive title falls into his lap that I will get first refusal. Roger’s email address is rpcricketbooks@unite.com.au.

Secondly, and also finally, is author Ken Piesse, www.cricketbooks.com.au, who regularly updates his website and who also appears, as the “Sultan of Spin”, as a seller on Ebay. My dealings with Ken have been limited but whenever I have bought from him I have been completely happy with his service as indeed I was on one isolated occasion when he bought a book from me.

Having got to the end of my task, this is one of those rare occasions when, having set out to provide a definitive list, I find myself hoping that there might just be someone out there who I have missed and who has a website full of interesting books for me to study. So if anyone reading this feels aggrieved at their own omission, or that of someone they know, please do get in touch!

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