Book Review: First Cricket In …

(by Martin Wilson, Christopher Saunders Publishing, pp80, £25, limited edition of 150 of which copies 11 – 150 are for sale, available from Christopher Saunders at Kingston House, High Street, Newnham-on-Severn, Gloucestershire, GL14 1BB, tel 01594 516030)

Members may remember Martin Wilson’s two most recent works on cricket’s ancient history, both also published by Chris Saunders: Dawn’s Early Light on cricket in the USA before 1820, and a critical edition of an eighteenth-century German pamphlet. His latest work is similarly international and historical in flavour. It is an attempt to collect in a single volume the first, verified, recorded references to cricket not only in every English county, but also in all countries in the world where cricket is played (and some where it is not). It grew out of a desire to update the index to Bowen’s Cricket: a History, previously the only means by which the earliest cricketing references could be identified, but this is more than just an index. Each reference is recorded in full, with explanatory notes where necessary, and Wilson often includes several references for each location, to demonstrate the development of the game.

The author’s task is made rather more complex by the shifting boundaries of English cricket over the years, and still more by the changing international frontiers, which for sound academic reasons caused him to omit Bangladesh altogether. Where county boundaries have changed significantly, he includes both the first occurrence of cricket in the county as it is currently, and also in the historic county. The book is arranged alphabetically, rather than chronologically, so it is easy to trace the first cricketing reference in any given location, and with the chronological index, one can trace the development of the game from its roots in Surrey, Kent and Sussex (probably in that order, although that will forever be a subject of debate), across England and the British Isles and the world. This little book is a highly valuable tool for the cricket historian.

Richard Lawrence – verdict: 8
Summer 2010

 

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