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Christopher Saunders Publishing

This year Christopher Saunders celebrates forty years as a bookdealer. He began in the trade as a general bookseller, but has specialised in cricket for as long as I have known him, which must be the better part of two decades, and he was well established in that niche long before he and I ever met.

In time the dealership began some publishing activities and, like other specialist dealers collectors have ever reason to be grateful to Christopher for a wide and eclectic range pf publications. Some have been facsimile reprints of old and scarce titles, and others new projects shedding light on a variety of aspects of the history of cricket, many in superbly produced limited editions.

Beginning with the facsimile reprints there have been two ambitious projects both of which we have already reviewed. First to appear, in 2003, was a splendid production of the impossible to obtain set of fifteen volumes of Britchers Scores. Five years later came The Essential Denison, a similar exercise in respect of four annuals produced by Denison in the 1840s, second editions of two of those, and of a fascinating little book of pen portraits, The Sketches of the Players. Both are accompanied by a detailed commentary from David Rayvern Allen and, always assuming a reader is interested in that sort of thing, invaluable. Both are still available at the original price of £450 per set.

Rayvern Allen has also been involved in two rather less expensive projects. The first appeared in 2000 and is entitled E.W.S (1907-2000) The Last Interview. The initials are those of ‘Jim’ Swanton and the original purpose of the interview was to celebrate Swanton’s 93rd birthday. It was a landmark that was destined not to be reached as Swanton passed away three weeks before reaching the occasion. The slim sixteen page volume appeared in a signed and numbered limited edition of 93.

As long ago as 1858 a small sixteen page pamphlet appeared on the subject of the Life of Richard Linsell, subtitled The Essex Cricketer, Pedestrian and Quoit Player. As far as I am aware no copy of that edition survives, but one must have remained 63 years later as in 1921 it was reprinted. In 2014 Rayvern Allen penned a new introduction and postscript and Christopher published those, with a third edition of the original in a signed and numbered limited edition. Sadly it proved to be Rayvern Allen’s final contribution to cricket literature as cancer claimed him before 2014 was over.

Another major project was Arlott and Ackroyd, subtitled A Celebration of Cricket, Wine, Poetry and Place. John Arlott needs no introduction to anyone reading this. Norman Ackroyd is a celebrated artist, best known for etchings and aquatints. As well as a friendship with Rayvern Allen, who provides the commentary in the book, both men shared a love of books, wine, poetry and prints. This very high quality production reproduces eleven Ackroyd etchings and contains one signed and numbered original etching in a pocket before the title-page. The book is beautifully bound in full green leather and housed in a board slipcase. On publication in 2002 there were 295 copies and, at £395, a few are still available.

In 2005 Christopher went down a not dissimilar path in another project, albeit this time the facsimile was of a one-off item rather than a publication. The original was created in 1909, and was a photograph album put together by the player/manager of that summer’s Australian tourists, Frank Laver.  Separate albums were put together for Laver’s fellow tourists each containing a core of the same images, accompanied by a personalized selection of others. Victor Trumper’s album contained 86 photographs. Two hundred copies of a facsimile album were produced complete with an introductory booklet. The album is available at £375.

In common with other dealer/publishers Christopher has worked with mainstream publishers in order to produce limited editions of important books, although there was a long gap between the first two occasions on which he did so and the second two. The first two of these collaborations were back in 1995 and involved what was, effectively, a third edition of Michael Manley’s seminal A History of West Indies Cricket, published by Andre Deutsch. The Saunders version of the book was limited to 120 copies bound in red leather with marbled endpapers and top edge gilt. The book is housed in a slip case and each copy was signed by Manley and Clive Lloyd, who provided an introduction.  In addition the same publisher’s 500 Notable Cricket Quotations, compiled by Irving Rosenwater, appeared in a limited edition of 95 copies.

Twenty years after the Manley, in 2015, Christopher embarked on a much more extensive project in conjunction with Fairfield Books in order to publish a limited edition of Stephen Chalke’s masterly history of the County Championship, Summer’s Crown. A much more daunting challenge this one involved the preparation of 18 different limited editions, one for each of the counties. All are cloth bound and slipcased in the county’s colour with special endpapers. Each contains an eight page supplement devoted to the county in question and is signed by Chalke and a significant cricketer from the county. Each book is individually numbered and were supplied only to subscribers, so limitations range from the 18 Leicestershire editions to 50 for Yorkshire – apparently as many as seven subscribers purchased a copy of the edition for each of the eighteen counties.

The fourth and so far final publication to fall into this category also came from Fairfield Books who, last year, published The Greatest Season by Patrick Murphy. At the request of the Warwickshire club a limited edition of 100 copies was produced later in the year.

In 2007 Martin Wilson contributed what is in many ways a remarkable volume to cricket literature, An Eighteenth Century German View of Cricket. The author of the original work, Johann Gutsmuths was a German, and evidently and according to Wilson is still regarded as the father of physical education in Germany. Wilson also points out that although by the date Gutsmuths’ work was published, 1796, there had been around 500 references  to cricket in UK publications this chapter in a German book was the first attempt to write a general guide to the game, rather than simply mention it or, as Britcher had done, record scores. There are 28 pages to the booklet of which eight are the original German text, another eight Wilson’s translation and the remainder an introduction and a look at a couple of other references to cricket in eighteenth century Germany that Wilson had located. A signed and numbered limited edition of 100 copies was produced and is still available at £25.

Wilson has also turned his attention westwards and across the Atlantic with Dawn’s Early Light. This one gathered together references to cricket in the USA dating back before 1820 and appeared in 2008. This time there were 160 copies of a 56 page paperback. It is still available at £25. A similar but more varied theme was in evidence in 2009 in First Cricket In……. The subject is exactly what the title suggests, a reference to the first published mention of the game in each of the English counties, and on a wider scale many countries of the world including a considerable number where the game has never really taken root.

To date the last Saunders published Martin Wilson book appeared in 2011. The title, Lillywhite, confirms it to be a biography of William Lillywhite. Known as the nonpareil Lillywhite was the first great round arm bowler and Archie Mac reviewed the book here

A more recent biography to emerge from Newnham on Severn appeared in 2017. The Lord of Lord’s is a biography of Lord Frederick Beauclerk and the link to our review will tell you more about the subject matter. Both the limited edition (£85) and paperback (£10) versions remain available.

The Saunders imprint has also ventured several times into the field of bibliography. The first was a general and wide-ranging survey by Stephen Gibbs, The Gibbs’ Guide to Items ‘Not in Padwick’. In one sense this was already long out of date when it appeared, as it only covered items up until 1990, but proved a useful tool nonetheless. The first edition, in August 2004, was a mere ten copies. The second edition, two months later, was of 100 copies and there the matter rested until 2014 when a further edition appeared, again covering only titles issued up until 1990. The earlier version was a spiral bound and fairly basic production whereas the latest, with the best part of double the number of entries, is a much more satisfying illustrated paperback.

More specialised bibliographies have also appeared. The first of these was in 2005 and also written by Stephen Gibbs. Remarkably it was devoted to just one man, Donald Bradman. The Don: A Bibliographical and Reverential Journey is not a short book either, comprising 174 pages. 

Also in 2005 A Bibliography of Nottinghamshire Cricket by Duncan Anderson was published. This small paperback appeared in a signed and numbered limited edition of 100 copies. The following year saw Rob Franks’ Kiwi Cricket Pages released, doing a Padwick for the Shaky Isles, and then in 2010 Kim Baloch did the same for Pakistan, K.H Baloch’s Journey Through The Bibliography of Pakistan Cricket. Neither of these two is a limited edition as such and both are still in print, at £35 and £30 respectively.  Also still in print and available at £30 is Surrey Cricket – A Reader’s Guide by John Per and Michael Pearce, published in 2014 at the same time as the latest edition of Gibbs.

Returning to Kim Baloch Christopher has also been involved in another publication, albeit one that was printed in Pakistan and does not therefore bear the Saunders imprint. Baloch’s Encyclopaedia of Pakistan Cricket bears a title which does not necessarily inspire great confidence, but it was a marvellous book when it appeared in 2004, and whilst a supplement would be very welcome the original remains indispensable to anyone with an interest in the game in Pakistan. It has a broad remit and comprises a bulky 665 page count and its main value is in the pen portraits that appear in respect of, to that time, every man who had appeared for Pakistan in a Test as well as a number of other ‘notables’ whose stories need to be told.  These are not just brief summaries either, the entries (some of which deserve to be described as essays) without exception being well researched, informative and impressively written.

Another book about books, although not a bibliography as such, was Nicholas Sharp’s The Various Editions of AJ Gaston’s Sussex County Cricket 1728-1923. Gaston, also known as ‘Leather Hunter’ produced four editions of the booklet between 1923 and 1925, some or all of which were also produced in a special autographed edition. Only cricket could produce a 34 page booklet dealing with such a subject. The booklet was published in 2006 in a signed limited edition of 75 copies, all of which must have sold as there are none currently available.

Still on a bibliographical journey I come to A Guide To Cricket, published in 2013 and a fascinating history by Tony Laughton of Cricket – A Weekly Record of the Game, a periodical that ran from 1882 to 1913 with, rebranded as The World of Cricket, one further year in 1914 before the Great War brought down the curtain on the game’s first regular periodical. By its nature the book will appeal most to collectors of the magazine, but even those whose ambitions do not stretch that far will enjoy Laughton’s account. Our review of the book can be found here

In 1905 there was an exhibition held at The Fine Art Society in Bond Street in London comprising 88 lithographs of Albert Chevallier Tayler, 48 of which subsequently formed the basis of one of the classic works of cricket literature. Both book and exhibition were called The Empire’s Cricketers, and in 2006 Christopher published a reproduction of the exhibition catalogue along with an introduction by John Hawkins. The twenty page signed and numbered limited edition of 100 card covered copies is still available at £25.

Moving forward to 2012 John Hawkins appears again, on this occasion with a rather different subject matter, albeit of a similar vintage. Trumper’s Team in Queensland 2006 is an interesting little publication, which we gave full details of in our review.

Between 1995 and 2005 Christopher also published nine monographs for Irving Rosenwater. Much more detail in relation to those can be found in this post on Rosenwater’s oeuvre.

An unusual book published by Christopher in 2013 was Those Were The Days by John White. Sub-titled A Yorkshire Boy’s Cricket Scrapbook the book is partly the autobiography of a lifelong cricket tragic, and in part a showcase for the collection of memorabilia that White acquired over a lifetime in love with the game. A good deal of the collection was biographical material on the subject of former Yorkshire and England captain Norman Yardley, whose son contributes an interesting foreword as well as a number of family photographs. This is a large A4 sized paperback running to the best part of 250 pages. It is still available at £20.

There is a Christopher Saunders book which, as far as I know, has never been made generally available – certainly I do not ever recall seeing a copy either on his website or in one of his catalogues. The book is A Verray Parfit Gentle Knight by Rayvern Allen. The book was produced for that group who gather annually as The Master’s Club to celebrate the life of Sir Jack Hobbs and all the copies produced went to the club. I cannot even be certain when the book appeared, but it must have been around ten years ago.

The last book to appear under the Saunders imprint was the unusual but rather splendid celebration of the means of getting into major matches at Lord’s. Jules Akel’s Cricket Tickets appeared in 2019 in a standard hardback and a limited edition. Both are still available and a detailed review appears here.

For the future I have not given up hope that one day Christopher will find the time to go through the remaining papers that he holds from Rosenwater’s Estate and for a new book or books to be the result of that but, dreams apart the one certainty is a book by the the grandson of the renowned administrator and historian Harry Altham. The book will contain a biographical essay but I understand its focus will be the correspondence that passed over many years between Altham and Sir Donald Bradman.

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