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JW McKenzie: Cricket’s Bookman

The first catalogue issued by John McKenzie appeared back in 1972, so the best part of a half a century ago now. He has just issued Catalogue 200, a bumper 168 pages with well over 1,100 items. More than half of the catalogue is taken up with books, but autographs, postcards and prints have their own sections. There are a few ceramics bringing up the rear, so it is certainly a case of ‘something for everyone’.

Interestingly Catalogue 200 allows John’s customers to have a glimpse of the man himself. A couple of recent articles from The Cricketer and The Cricket Paper are reproduced, and there are appreciations from an Australian customer, Peter Lloyd, and an old friend, Vic Rigby, whose name will crop up again later. There are even a few words from John himself, and a photograph that confirms the passing years are treating him very well.

A year after Catalogue 1 John’s business moved into the shop premises in Ewell it has occupied ever since. Eight rooms of books and other memorabilia are more than sufficient to set a cricket tragic’s pulse racing, but it is not the selling of cricketana that is the main purpose of this article. By the end of the 1970s John had embarked on his first publishing project and ever since all collectors have had cause to be grateful to him for his unstinting efforts in that department.

Wisely John started his publishing career with a book on the Ashes, a subject he revisited a number of times. That said there are plenty of subjects that have been covered over the years, and the rest of this article will look at them all, one by one.

The origin of the best known rivalry in sport was ‘Spofforth’s Match’. That game and its aftermath has been the catalyst for a number of books over the years, but there was only one contemporary account of the doings of the party led by The Honourable Ivo Bligh, that ventured forth to Australia just a few weeks later to try and avenge that famous 1882 defeat at The Oval. The account was published in Melbourne and written by RD Beeston and, as important as the narrative, contained a number of cartoons by MCB Massie. Both seem to have been army men holidaying in Australia.

St Ivo and the Ashes in no way resembles what the tour book was to become, but is an entertaining if short description of the cricket that was played. The cartoons are excellent and, perhaps unexpectedly, there are scorecards of the matches and statistics of the series. There are also some advertising pages which, as period pieces, become infinitely more interesting as time passes. The book is an exact facsimile of the original to which is added a three page foreword by John Arlott and, reprinted from its 1884 edition, the Wisden account of the tour.

The book is, probably, the most difficult of the McKenzie reprints to acquire and, appearing in a numbered limited edition of just 75 copies, the smallest limitation John has used. It is still a great deal cheaper than the original however, which sold for £4,200 at the Curry* sale in 2006. Catalogue 200 lists a copy of the reprint at £200.

Curiosities of Cricket by An Old Cricketer (AL Ford) was the next to appear. This 48 page book was originally published in 1897 in a limited edition of 25 copies. At the Curry sale a copy was sold for £1,200 which, given that we do not know how many copies of St Ivo and the Ashes were printed, is an interesting figure. John’s original print run was limited to 150 books, which must have sold well as he published another edition in 1989. The 1978 edition is more expensive than the 1989, but neither will break the bank. As the name suggests the book is a collection of odd incidents, including 26 deaths of players engaged in matches, and if it has a fault it is a lack of detail in respect of some truly bizarre occurrences. In addition to an exact facsimile of Ford’s text there is also a four page introduction from Irving Rosenwater, most of which is taken up by debunking a theory that ‘An Old Cricketer’ was in fact someone other than AL Ford. Catalogue 200 lists the 1989 edition at £12.

In 1979 John, again with the benefit of an introduction from Arlott running to nine pages, republished Some Recollections of Cricket by Lord Charles Russell. A small 60 page book appeared in an edition of only a dozen copies on publication in 1879, and the 100 in John’s limited edition have acquired a not insignificant value of their own. At the Eagar sale a copy sold for £2,880. Catalogue 200 has a copy at £75.

John’s other publication in 1979 was of a book originally published in Sydney in 1878; The Australian Cricketers’ Tour Through Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain by PE Reynolds. Those Australians did not play any Tests, although they recorded a famous victory over the MCC. The book contains a faithful commentary of each match and, in the manner of the times, contains some interesting advertisements. The reprint, which contains a new introduction, uncredited but written by John himself, was limited to 150 copies and is not an easy book to obtain. The original is exceptionally rare, a copy changing hands at the Curry sale for £19,200 (against an estimate of £2,000 to £3,000). Catalogue 200 has a copy of the reprint at £100.

There was just one reprint in 1981, of Thomas Boxall’s Rules and Instructions at the Game of Cricket. The one area of cricket literature that is most neglected is the instructional book, but Boxall was the first ever, originally published back in 1801. The McKenzie edition has a nine page introduction by Diana Rait Kerr, who spent many years as the curator of the museum at Lord’s. At the Curry sale a copy was sold for £960. One of the limited edition reprint of 150 will not set a buyer back anything like that much, but still commands a premium over its original selling price. In Catalogue 200 it is £85.

In 1982, in order to mark a centenary, John republished Charles Pardon’s account of the visit to England of William Murdoch’s Australians thus, effectively, a prequel to Beeston. The Australians in England has a five page introduction by Geoffrey Moorehouse which prefaces a detailed account of the tour, reprinted from the popular magazine Bell’s Life. As usual there are some interesting advertisements and the 120 copies printed have risen steadily in value. Perhaps because this one was published in England the original is nothing like so rare as Beeston or Reynolds, the copy at the Curry sale achieving a relatively modest £300. A copy of the reprint will, as per Catalogue 200, set a purchaser back to the tune of £65.

Two years later, in 1984 a very similar book by Pardon, with the same title, covered the 1884 series. Once more Moorehouse contributed the foreword, but this time there were 150 copies. Catalogue 200 does not however distinguish the books on grounds of price, this one also being £65.

Also published in 1984 was the second edition of EW ‘Tim’ Padwick’s Bibliography of Cricket, on this occasion John collaborating with the Library Association over the book. Not a limited edition as such there were 750 copies of the 904 page magnum opus printed. Later books have expanded the Padwick ‘brand’ but no one has ever attempted a true third edition, something which constraints of size would now make all but impossible anyway. The book is an essential tool for anyone seeking to establish a serious collection of cricket literature. To readers of Catalogue 200 the cost is £100.

John’s next reprint appeared the following year, 1985, and was another centenary publication, this time of the release of a book by Alfred Shaw and Arthur Shrewsbury that contained an account of their tour of Australia in 1884/85. This one contains an introduction by Arlott, and on this occasion was limited to 200 copies and has held its value well. There were two copies of the original in the Curry sale, which fetched £780 and £840. There is a copy available in Catalogue 200 at £85.

There was also a change of direction in 1985 in that John published his first title that was not a reprint. The Art of Nicholas Felix was written by Gerald Brodribb and appeared in a signed and numbered limited edition of 220 copies. Felix, born Nicholas Wanostrocht, was one of the leading players of the 1840s and was also a writer and artist. In 1962 Brodribb’s biography of Felix had been published and this one is, essentially, a supplement to that cataloguing Felix’ work. The book does not appear on the market very often, although when it does it is not prohibitively expensive, Catalogue 200 listing it at £20.

1987 saw a return to the reprint, and a very scare account of the tour to South Africa of 1888/89. The Cricketing Record of Major Warton’s Tour was published in South Africa and the original is seldom seen. John’s book appeared in a numbered limited edition of 200 copies with a four page introduction by David Rayvern Allen. It is a bulky book, including its splendid advertisements running to well over 200 pages, and if anything seems scarcer than the shorter runs of Pardons and the Shaw and Shrewsbury. The original certainly is rare, a copy having changed hands at the Eagar sale for £4,200. There are two copies in Catalogue 200, an original at £5,000, or a reprint at £75.

In 1988 John published a reprint of Lillywhite’s Illustrated Handbook of Cricket, that had originally been published in 1844 in three alternative editions containing either one, four or eight illustrations. This is not to be confused with any of the subsequent annuals that appeared under the banner of different members of the Lillywhite family, and was not repeated. The facsimile is, unsurprisingly, of the more extensive of the three variants and contains a four page introduction from Arlott. This very slim volume was not, for once, issued in a specific limitation and remains available at £28. As far as an original is concerned a copy of the full edition reached £6,000 in the Curry sale. 

As the 1980s came to a close there were three more facsimile reprints of very different types. First was Recollections of Lord’s and the Marylebone Cricket Club by William Slatter. The 32 page memoir of a member of the Lord’s groundstaff was originally published ‘for private circulation’ in 1914. Brodribb was responsible for a two page introduction to the new edition. Again there was no limitation and this one is currently available at £21.

The second book issued in 1989 was The Third Australian Team in England and, as with the first Pardon, it is a reprint of a contemporary account of the 1882 Australian tour. Again an ‘unlimited’ edition this book is not a costly one, although as there was no copy available in either the Curry or Eagar sales it must remain rare in its original form. In Catalogue 200 the reprint is available at £18.

Finally in 1989 John brought us a reprint of Grand Matches of Cricket 1771 to 1791 by William Epps. An ‘Epps’ is right up there with Britcher’s Scores in terms of its rarity and importance to collectors. As a source of reading it is, like Britcher, nothing more than a collection of scorecards, and fairly rudimentary at that, the only narrative content being the excellent five page introduction by David Rayvern Allen. The book, another unlimited edition, is still available in Catalogue 200 at £21, a snip compared to the cost of an original. There are only a handful of copies known to exist, and at the Eagar sale one of those went for a cool £90,000.

In October 1990 John retrod familiar ground once more with a second reprint of a book on the 1884 series. The contemporary competition for the second Pardon came from a collection of the writings on the tour that had previously appeared in Cricket, A Weekly Record which were gathered together as The Doings of the Fourth Australian Cricket Team. A copy of this unlimited edition can be obtained via Catalogue 200, a snip at £12.

John Arlott departed this mortal coil in December 1991. Back in 1957 he had published a monograph on the subject of Ted Alletson’s remarkable innings of 189 for Nottinghamshire against Sussex in 1911. For a new McKenzie edition copies and transcriptions of correspondence were added as well as additional photographs and a new introduction. There was also a new limited edition (the original 1957 book had appeared in one as well) this being a signed and numbered run of 250 copies. The shaky signature of Arlott circa 1991 is in stark contrast to the bold signature usually seen and is a sad reminder of how unwell he was by then. Both appear in Catalogue 200, at £25 and £15.

The Australian tour of 1902 is one of the most famous of them all, renowned for ‘Jessop’s Match’, ‘Tate’s Match’ and more generally for the genius of Victor Trumper. Oddly the nearest thing there was to a contemporary account was a brief Australian publication, The Kangaroo in England. There was also a pre tour brochure, The Eleventh Australian Tour 1902. In The Australians in England 1902 both were reproduced together in 1993 with a two page introduction from the pen of Donald Bradman. The basic book is available in Catalogue 200 at £21. Rather more expensive at, currently, £100 is a numbered edition of 250 signed by Bradman, the first ten of which, at around double that cost, are bound in red morocco.

In 1886 a group of amateurs, led by EJ Sanders, toured North America and WC Sim produced a slim 30 page account of the trip entitled The Log of the Old ‘Un. An excellent introduction by Peter Wynne-Thomas (Awarded a British Empire Medal in the New Year Honours List 2019) to a 1994 reprint runs to seven pages. The unnumbered edition of this one is not expensive and can be ordered from Catalogue 200 at a mere £8. As for an original there was not a copy in either the Curry or Eagar sales and, somewhat to my frustration, I cannot recall what the copy that recently appeared at Knights went for, other than that it was a substantial four figure sum.

Also in 1994 John tried something new, a collaboration with a mainstream publisher to produce a limited edition of a biography of a player of the 1950s. The publisher was Andre Deutsch, the author Alan Hill and the subject Bill Edrich. A limited edition of 170 copies, was bound in half calf, presented in a slip case and with the top edge gilt was signed by Denis Compton as well as by Hill. Certainly the book seems to have appreciated in value as the copy in Catalogue 200 is £150.

The Don figures again in a new book published in 1995, The Don Meets The Babe, Ric Sissons’ account of a tour of North America undertaken by a very strong Australian team. The book is completed by reprints of two brochures issued at the time to mark the tour and the whole production is a very satisfying one. The book is available in a standard edition at £18. Alternatively there are two limited versions with a total run of 250 copies. All but the first 25 are the same as the standard edition save that they are numbered and signed by Sissons and Bradman and cost £85. The first 25 are bound in full morocco and also signed by Lady Bradman, and command a substantial premium.

In 1996, for the second and last time, John tried a collaboration with Andre Deutsch and Alan Hill, this time in respect of the latter’s biography of Peter May. This time the limited edition was of 126 copies signed by Hill and Colin Cowdrey. The first 25 were bound in full morocco rather than quarter calf, and also signed by May’s widow. There is no copy available in Catalogue 200.

1997 saw two more new books, albeit about historical subjects. The first was MCC in South Africa 1938-39 and, almost sixty years on, the first account of the visit that culminated in the notorious timeless Test. That said there was an element of republication, a brochure issued by the shipping line that took the MCC side to the Cape being reproduced at the end of the book. Once more there were three versions, a standard edition and a version of that limited to 250 copies signed by Bassano and England’s Len Wilkinson. Of those 250 the first 25 were bound in full green morocco and also signed by three of the South African team. All three are still available at £10, £18 or £250.

The second new book in 1997 was The Australians in England by Peter Sharpham, another book covering a previously unchronicled tour, the Australian visit of 1899. Sharpham’s thoroughly researched narrative is supplemented by facsimiles of two contemporary brochures. On this occasion there is just one unlimited and unsigned cloth bound version. It is still available at £21.

County cricket cropped up in 1998 with a detailed account, by Neil Jenkinson, of Hampshire’s remarkable victory over Warwickshire in 1922 after being dismissed for just 15 in their first innings. The standard edition is still available at £12 and there is also, at £35, a numbered limited edition of 200 copies, signed by Jenkinson and John Woodcock, who contributes a foreword.

The twentieth century closed with John going back to the publication of an old tour account, this time Major Philip Trevor’s With the MCC in Australia, the only account of the 1907/08 Ashes series. The original turns up from time to time, but is generally in a somewhat dilapidated state due to the poor quality paper used. An excellent reproduction comes with a new two page introduction from Wynne-Thomas. The book is unsigned and with no express limitation stated, but it has appreciated in value considerably after publication, so there cannot have been too many printed. Catalogue 200 has a copy available at £65.

In 2000, in the manner of Jenkinson’s book, John published a book by John Shawcroft about a County Championship match. The Rise and Fall of Percy Perrin deals with a match between Derbyshire and Essex in 1904 in which Perrin scored 343 not out, but still ended up on the losing side. The book is an 85 page hardback and currently costs £12, unless you want one of the numbered limited edition of 41 copies bound in half morocco, slip cased and signed by Shawcroft and the Derbyshire centenarian Jim Hutchinson, whose career overlapped with a number of the participants, in which case a purchaser is looking at ten times that price.

In 2001 another joint venture was tried, this time with Stephen Chalke’s Fairfield Books. The volume concerned is At the Heart of English Cricket, a splendid biography of Geoffrey Howard. The McKenzie edition is one of 100 bound in half calf and signed by Chalke, Howard and Scyld Berry, who provided a foreword. The book is still available, at a relatively modest £65.

Also appearing in 2001 was another joint venture, this time with the MCC. Lord Harris’s Team in Australia 1878/79 is a small 82 page book which comprises a facsimile of the diary of one of the England players, Vernon Royle, an introduction by Gerald Howat and the account of the tour and scorecards reprinted from Wisden. The book is currently £18.

In 2004 John published Brian Bassano again, on a similar subject to his previous book. Mann’s Men is an account of the 1922/23 tour by an England side led by Frank Mann. The 140 page softback was published in an unnumbered limited edition of 250 copies. Sadly Bassano had died in 2001, but his friend Rick Smith then proceeded to conclude his unfinished projects, and Mann’s Men was the first of three posthumously published titles. In Catalogue 200 it is £15.

For 2005 John went back to republishing but, on this occasion, a second edition of a relatively recent book. Rayvern Allen’s biography of Charles Aubrey Smith, Sir Aubrey, had first appeared in 1982. The second edition was considerably expanded and appeared in a paperback edition as well as a numbered hardback edition of 150 copies, signed by Rayvern Allen and Smith’s daughter. The limited edition is currently available at £25 and the standard one at £12.

A reprint of a rather different nature, also published in 2005, was The Dawn of Cricket, written by HT Waghorn and originally published in 1906. The book attempted to pull together references to the game as it was played prior to 1800. It contained a new introduction from John Goulstone, like Waghorn a man steeped in the history of the game. This one is still available, at £12.

The McKenzie book of 2006 was another to concentrate on a single match, this time a Test, Old Trafford 1956 and Jim Laker’s 19-90. The book was written by Vic Rigby and came in to two editions. There was a signed paperback or, for the fan of the limited edition, 75 numbered hardbacks signed by Rigby, Ian Craig of Australia and Peter Richardson of England. Uniquely no copy is available in Catalogue 200, rather suggesting this is a rare one.

The second posthumous Bassano/Smith book appeared in 2007, The Visit of Mr WW Read’s 1891/92 English Cricket Team to South Africa. The 178 page paperback is still available, at £15.

For 2008 John published Rayvern Allen again, and the project was With the Bookplate of AE Winder, a numbered limited edition of 175 signed hardbacks. The story was that of a well known collector, Tony Winder, whose passion in life was the acquisition of cricket books and memorabilia. Winder was a regular bidder at auction and, accordingly, often John’s competitor. Winder’s main triumph however was to buy the bulk of John Arlott’s substantial collection prior to the latter’s move to Alderney. The book consists of a listing of the collection, the acquisition costs of which in the 1970s and 1980s are enough to make a man weep. Ultimately however the story is a sad one, Winder’s business failing and its creditors forcing the sale of his beloved collection. He died within a few years. The book is currently available at £65.

The Noble Cricketers is a poem written by John Wolcot that was first published in 1778. It concerned Wolcot’s criticism of the Duke of Dorset and the Earl of Tankerville for playing too much cricket during the American war of independence. The poem was reproduced in full in 2010 together with an introduction and a commentary from Goulstone. The book itself is a nicely produced hardback in a signed and numbered limited edition of 100 copies. It is still available at £35.

The (so far) last of Brian Bassano’s posthumous books appeared in 2012. Maiden Victory is an account of South Africa’s surprising but well-earned victory in England in 1935. If it is to be the last of the author’s work to appear in book form it is appropriate that his oeuvre should be completed by a story of South African success. The book is a paperback, and was published in a numbered limited edition of 150 copies and, at least in Catalogue 200, is not currently available.

Philip Snow was a fine writer, and a brother of the novelist CP Snow and of the great authority on Leicestershire cricket Eric Snow. Philip knew Pelham Warner well and was persuaded, at 96, to write a monograph on the subject of ‘Plum’ in 2012. Reminiscences of Plum Warner, a slim 16 page booklet published in a signed and numbered limited edition of 75 is one of the very best of John’s publications. It is available from Catalogue 200 at £18.

Questions of Identity in Late Eighteenth Century Cricket is slightly larger than the Snow, weighing in at 20 pages. It is a scholarly look by Goulstone at some incorrect identifications in 18th century matches, and is much more interesting than it sounds. Published in 2015 in an edition of 50 numbered and signed copies it is still available at £65 which may sound like a great deal of money, but Goulstone’s work is amongst the most valuable of any living author.

The next McKenzie release, in 2017, was the last writing to appear from the immensely popular West Indian writer and broadcaster Tony Cozier. Sir Everton Weekes – An Appreciation was a 50 page book that appeared in three formats. The standard paperback is currently available at £15, and on publication there was also a hardbacked limited edition of 125 numbered copies signed by Cozier and Sir Everton at £100. Numbers 1-25 were bound in half calf, but there is no copy available in Catalogue 200.

To date the last publication from JW McKenzie, at the beginning of 2019, again has a Caribbean theme. Sir Garfield Sobers: The Bayland’s Favourite Son is an essay by Sobers’ friend of more than seventy years, Professor Keith Sandiford. It is available as a standard paperback at £15 or, cloth bound and signed by author and subject in a numbered limited edition of 125 at £120. As for the future Vic Rigby’s appreciation suggests that a book about Richard Keigwin must be imminent, and it was reassuring to note his reference to with others planned. I certainly hope so, and look forward to be able to report more details in the near future.

*I will admit straight away that I could have put more effort into valuing the original publications, but the vagaries of the condition of the books and a market that is still not as buoyant as it was in the early noughties means I limited my research to the outcome of the sale of Guy Curry’s collection at Christies in 2006 and, a year before that, the same auctioneers disposal of Desmond Eagar’s cricket library. Prices quoted are the hammer price plus the buyer’s premium.

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