OXFAM stands to gain thousands of pounds from the proceeds of the first four editions of Wisden almanacks on offer at Bonhams book sale in Oxford on June 29.
The books have been put up for sale with the auctioneers on behalf of the charity, and the first edition alone, published in 1864 by the cricketer John Wisden, could raise about £4,000. The three subsequent annual editions have usually attracted lesser bids, but all four carry the title The Cricketer’s Almanack before the name was changed in 1869 to Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, still familiar to this day.
Wisden has been published without interruption since 1864, even during the two world wars. This makes it the world’s longest running sports reference book as well as the most famous. “In all that time,” Bonhams say, “it has only had 18 editors and has carried articles by all the great names in cricket writing.” Including Charlie Randall.
In contrast to recent editions, with their 1,500 or so pages, the first edition had only 112 pages and contained non-cricketing information such as the winners of the Oaks and the dates of the battles of the English Civil War. The Bonhams book specialist at Oxford, David Walker, said: “It’s a thrill to be able to offer such wonderful, historic books especially in such a good cause.”
Full sets of the almanack attract big money. An unbroken set from the first year 1864 to 1984 was auctioned at Bonhams in London in November 2009 for £90,000, well above the expected price. Though this was not a full set up to the year of sale, the books were handsomely bound and offered in fine condition as the top lot.
A proper full set was sold at auction by Graham Budd at Sotheby’s for £120,000 in 2006. The following year a price of £144,000 was apparently achieved at auction, the highest on record. Certainly, early gaps can be expensive to fill. For example, the year 1896 is notoriously rare, once fetching £24,160 in 2007 as an original hardback with surface wear.