Britcher's Scores 1790 - 1805
Author: Samuel Britcher/David Rayvern Allen
Publisher: Christopher Saunders
Rating: 4 stars
By Martin Chandler
31 Jul 2008
Samuel Britcher was the first MCC scorer and between 1790 and 1803 he gathered together scores which, together with an additional volume covering 1804/05, were published in 15 small books over that period. They were the first books of scores and are extraordinarily rare a total of only 52 copies (in total) being known to exist.
Since this facsimile production appeared some of the 52 have changed hands - at auction in 2005 a shade under 100,000 pounds each was paid for two of the elusive volumes and hefty if less spectacular sums for two more. For some editions only one copy is known to exist so it goes without saying that a full set is now, for any mere collector, unattainable whatever wealth that collector may possess.
The pamphlets are around 30 pages each. There is no narrative content whatsoever, the scores are rudimentary and the players, and indeed many of the teams, have wholly unfamiliar names.
Book dealer Christopher Saunders produced these facsimiles in 2003. They are faithful reproductions of the originals using wherever possible equivalent materials to the originals and they come housed in a purpose built quarter leather bookbox with a slipcase and are accompanied by a lengthy (140+ pages) commentary written by David Rayvern Allen. The sumptuous production standards and aesthetic beauty cannot be understated and as a consequence the cost is high - 450 pounds for a set.
The commentary starts with a brief outline, by way of necessary background for all non-historians, of what stage in history England had reached in the 1790's and goes on to provide such biographical material about Britcher as is available before the majority of it is taken up with notes on the matches that Britcher records and the players involved. Finally there is a 'census' setting out where the 52 copies were at the time and dealing with the history of the books themselves.
The commentary is at the same time fascinating, because of what it contains, and also frustrating by virtue of the fact that for everything Rayvern Allen has uncovered there are many more questions that remain unanswered which will doubtless, sadly, be likely to remain unanswered in perpetuity.
The facsimiles themselves will, I would suggest, be likely to be of no interest whatsoever to the mere cricket enthusiast but to those of us with a love of the history of the game and/or its literature the opposite applies - having read the commentary first the use of our imaginations in the manner that we have learned from reading the works of the great writers on the game does bring these long forgotten matches to life again and for that I for one am deeply grateful to all involved in this project.
By virtue of its specialist nature five stars is out of the question and, of course, despite the best endeavours of Mr Rayvern Allen it is not the whole story but four stars notwithstanding if this sort of cricket history interests you this is an essential purchase - if you have deep pockets!