Warren Bardsley: The First Mr Cricket

Published: 2021
Pages: 486
Author: Lloyd, Peter
Publisher: Private
Rating: 5 stars

It was back in October that I first received this splendid book and, for the first time in my life, agreed to read and then review what I will sniffily refer to as an ‘electronic book’. Having got used, in the course of my day job, to using reference materials in electronic form I am not quite as implacably hostile to the concept as I once was, but when it comes to reading for pleasure I’m afraid that I remain firmly of the view that there is no adequate substitute for a print book.

In this case however I made an exception. After all I would be getting a print copy in the fullness of time (although thanks to the UK and Australian postal services that time turned out to be a good deal fuller than I had anticipated), and sometimes you just have to provide a service to those who take an interest in cricket literature. As history records even on the strength of a pdf copy of Warren Bardsley: The First Mr Cricket, neither myself nor The Mac had any difficulty in concluding this one was worthy of 5 stars.

Three months has been a long wait for the real thing but, having finally received my copy, I thought it worth revisiting this one again, especially as my understanding is that there are a handful of copies that are still available both from Christopher Saunders and Roger Page. So this review is not about the narrative content of the book and its very considerable literary merit, but as to whether the finished product lived up to expectations.

The first striking feature of the book is its weight. In size it is, I believe, a crown quarto, so around 10% smaller than A4 size. With 486 pages it is not slim, but at the same time does not give the impression of being particularly bulky. The reason for the weight is therefore a simple one – the highest quality paper.

High quality paper is of course a good start, but certainly does not of itself guarantee excellence. Another factor is fonts, their size and spacing. These are matters that are to a large extent ones of personal taste. Personally, I think that Peter Lloyd has made excellent choices, but the main point is that the typeface itself is an attractive one, but at the same time easy on the eye, so it enhances the text and does not dominate it.

Something that is much easier on better paper is the reproduction of images, and there are an awful lot of them in Warren Bardsley: The First Mr Cricket, some black and white, but very many in colour. The colours in those images and the sharpness of them are remarkable and, if anything, improve even on the high standards set in the Trumper and Bradman extravaganzas that Peter Lloyd produced with Peter Schofield.

The use of the best paper money can buy does, as a matter of course, demand something special as a binding, and Bardsley certainly gets that, in quarter leather. I am not an expert on bookbindings by any means, but do know that most ‘leather’ bindings are bonded leather, which means that scraps are used are in the manufacturing process and then shredded and mixed with a glue like substance. Google tells me that bonded leather may contain no more than 10% real leather. It may be that Peter Lloyd has fooled me, but the leather used here feels and smells like the real thing. Another feature of the leather is that there are very attractive raised bands on the spine.

The bands mean there is no dust jacket, but I suppose there might have been a slip case, but then the expense has to stop somewhere, and I cannot imagine that a slip case would have materially enhanced the appearance of the book. One last point to make concerns the book’s endpapers. Many limited editions make use of marbled or other patterned endpapers. I won’t say I don’t like them, but I have never been entirely convinced, and it was pleasing to see unpatterned pale blue endpapers have been used. In other circumstances I might have described them as ‘plain’, but that would create the wrong impression altogether.

So, as I hoped and expected, the print version of Warren Bardsley: The First Mr Cricket certainly lives up to the hype, and I shall be only too happy now to free up a bit of my hard drive and delete that pdf. And what about the future? I can confirm that plans for Peter Lloyd’s next venture are well advanced, a long overdue biography of Monty Noble that should arrive in January 2023 in time to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the great all-rounder’s birth. I am given to understand that full co-operation has been secured from Noble’s granddaughter and a nonagenarian family member who knew Noble well, and that through them many family photographs and other mementoes have been made available. That one will, naturally, be another high quality limited edition, once again limited to 100 copies, and I have no doubt it will sit handsomely alongside its author’s previous books.

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