CW’s Guide to the DealersMartin Chandler |
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 who in 2021 celebrates his fiftieth year of trading. 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 200 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 40 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.
Next we move to the edge of the Cotswolds and Oxfordshire and the premises of Boundary Books, run by Mike Down who is no mean author himself (most notably a fine biography of Archie MacLaren). 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 has a large purpose built office/showroom. His stock is extensive and with well over 9,000 items on his website 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 in the past has also been to Australia. Chris and David still issue printed 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 near Farnham in Surrey and is run by Magnus Bowles. It has become Sportspages 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. 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.
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 Blackpool is Martin Tebay of Red Rose Books. Martin also publishes and his Red Rose imprint has in the past produced facsimiles of old and rare books, although he concentrates now on producing new material, often written by Blackpool historian Gerry Wolstenholme or 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.
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 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 on one occasion braved hazardous blizzard conditions to ensure he was able to despatch an order 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 Wisdenworld 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 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. 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.
To turn now to the southern hemisphere I have placed orders with a couple of dealers there, and entirely satisfactory they have been, but I thought I would 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 have 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. Roger’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his website is here.
Secondly, and also finally, is author Ken Piesse who regularly updates his website and who also occasionally appears, as the “Sultan of Spin”, as a seller on Ebay.
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!