MCC ‘grand matches’ up for auction

THE MCC are putting some fabulously valuable and rare cricketana up for auction with Christie’s in November, including three books on ‘grand matches’ published in 1799 with an estimated value of more than £50,000.

The MCC announced that their auction of sporting books and pictures would take place at Christie’s auction house in South Kensington on November 17. It would hardly take a master salesman to say that the occasion offers a unique opportunity to own a piece of cricketing history from a curated selection of 100 lots.

A complete set of Wisden Almanacks seems likely to be the most valuable lot, but the outstanding items of great rarity would be the William Epps set Cricket: A Collection of All the Grand Matches played in England from 1771 to 1791, published in Rochester, Kent.

Also on offer will be the almanack’s less well known predecessors, most notably three editions of the rare scorebooks produced by Samuel Britcher (1792, 1793 and 1796). Estimates for these are £40,000-60,000, £40,000-60,000 and £20,000-30,000 respectively. The importance of these works is highlighted by the fact that their author, Britcher, was an official scorer for Marylebone Cricket Club, and the first person to produce an annual scorebook on a regular basis.

Epps’s books are considered by many as the most important historical publication on cricket in the later 18th century, compiled from the manuscripts of noblemen such as the Duke of Dorset and Earl of Tankerville. His work was intended to supplement the publications of Britcher, which ran from 1790 to 1805.

All the MCC lots to be offered at Christie’s are duplicate items from the collections, and proceeds will be used by MCC to sustain and care for the core collections and facilitate further strengthening through acquisitions.

Adam Chadwick, curator of collections at MCC, commented: “MCC Collections continue to attract an increasing number of admirers, and in 2009 we set a record having welcomed 60,000 people through the doors. We are committed in our aim to continue developing the accessibility of the collections, and to maintaining them as the world’s most important celebration of the history of cricket.

“Following advice from the arts and library committee, the MCC committee has authorised the sale of a number of duplicate items from the collections. The majority of items will come from the MCC Library collection and we are pleased to offer international cricket enthusiasts, as well as MCC members, the opportunity to bid on items from the library at Lord’s. The proceeds will provide MCC with the much needed funds required to enhance and conserve the core collection.”

A familiar sight for any Lord’s visitor is a portrait of The Young Cricketer – Portrait of Lewis Cage

by Katharine Lloyd, which has hung in the pavilion at Lord’s for the past 60 years (estimate: £4,000-6,000). The charming portrait is after an original by Francis Cotes RA and was commissioned to coincide with the opening of the Lord’s museum in the 1950s. It is offered by MCC following their recent acquisition of the original portrait.

The first independent works on cricket ever published were verse accounts of cricket matches, mock heroic poems in the genre established by Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock (1714). Highlights of the MCC auction include the first of these humorous poems, James Dance’s Cricket. An Heroic Poem, London (1744), and three other rare cricket, which appeared as 18th Century pamphlets.

John Duncombe’s Surry Triumphant and John Burnby’s Kentish Cricketers were both written by clergymen and both published in 1773, and MCC are offering a magnificent volume, in which these two poems are bound together. Estimates range from £18,000 to £25,000. The fourth of these 18th Century poems is the anonymous The Noble Cricketers … addresss’d to Two of the Idlest Lords in His Majesty’s Kingdom –estimate £7,000-10,000 – a 1778 satire on two indolent, cricket-loving aristocrats, the Duke of Dorset and the Earl of Tankerville. They were accused of preferring to play cricket while England was losing the war against the American colonies.

Public viewing:

Saturday November 13: 11am – 5pm

Sunday November 14: 11am – 5pm

Monday November 15: 9am – 7.30pm

Tuesday November 16: 9am – 5pm

Auction:

Wednesday, November 17: 10.30am

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