Bibliography of the Works of Albert CraigMartin Chandler |
Author: Laughton, Tony
Publisher: Boundary Books
Rating: 4 stars
It is the best part of a decade since Boundary Books published Captain of the Crowd, Tony Laughton’s biography of Albert Craig, the Surrey Poet. It was Archie Mac’s first five star review, and there have been precious few of those since. The book was a unanimous choice for our Book of the Year award in 2008. It appeared in a beautifully bound limited edition of fifty copies, each accompanied by a selection of facsimile Craig publications, as well as a standard hardback edition. The good news for those who missed out at the time is that Boundary Books still have a few copies of the standard edition available at a very reasonable cost, as well as a copy or two of the luxury version, albeit at a price, like that of all Boundary Books limited editions, commensurate with its rarity and desirability amongst collectors.
Given that the sale of the printed word was Craig’s raison d’etre it was inevitable that Captain of the Crowd would contain a bibliography of his work, and that appended to the book ran to around ten pages. Despite such a comparatively lengthy list however there was never any suggestion that it was exhaustive, nor was it ever intended to be.
The acclaim the biography attracted was no doubt responsible for a spike in interest in Craig, and it became apparent to Laughton that as full and detailed a bibliography of Craig’s work as possible was, if not essential then certainly desirable. That such a listing could never be complete is a given, as at least one additional item has appeared even since the book went to press.
That there will be more ‘finds’ in years to come must be inevitable. After Craig’s relatively early death at the age of 60 in 1909 his widow and children found themselves in a precarious situation which led to a number of collections of Craig’s work being published. That there were four is established beyond doubt as copies survive. It was suggested in contemporary advertising that others would be forthcoming, although no trace has been found.
Might copies of these missing volumes one day turn up? I suspect not. It is not unusual for forthcoming titles to be axed from publisher’s lists. In the 1960s an autobiography of Lancashire and England pace bowler Ken Higgs never appeared, despite the publisher announcing it. More recently Stephen Gibbs’ monumental Post Padwick, published in 2008, lists an autobiography of Ed Giddins. Publisher, ghost and title are all referenced, but the book never appeared.
For the missing Craig volumes Laughton ventures the view, surely correct, that the proposed books, double the page count of the largest of those that did appear, ultimately proved not to be viable and thus were shelved. That is unfortunate. Those books that did appear contained 84 examples of Craig’s work, 50 of which have never been seen in the ephemeral form in which they originally appeared. Perhaps another 84 would have revealed 50 more? It seems very likely that in years to come a supplement to this bibliography, or maybe even a second edition, will be needed.
When I read Captain of the Crowd one of the thoughts that crossed my mind was to wonder just how many of its readers would subsequently want to go out and acquire some of Craig’s original works. No doubt there would have been some, but probably not too many. This is perhaps why there are only 75 copies of this bibliography (of which 15 are in a special edition which matches the 50 of Captain of the Crowd). But you don’t have to be an afficianado of Craig’s works to enjoy reading this one. This reviewer is known for having a number of collecting interests which some have said (unfairly) border on the obsessional. Despite that I have never bought nor been tempted to make an offer for an original Craig. I still found the booklet and its commentary immensely enjoyable though. Cricket and bibliography are two of my favourite subjects so, as someone close to me has a habit of saying with irritating frequency, what’s not to like?