William Epps’ Cricket. A Collection of All the Grand Matches of Cricket played in England within Twenty Years, viz. from 1771-1791 was among the starring lots at the dealer’s stand at Firsts: London’s Rare Book Fair in May.
Offered for £225,000, this work covers a period when the sport was rising in popularity. In 1775, a new set of rules established the modern game as it remains today.
Despite its importance, the volume is one of only a handful of copies on record. Four are known to have gone through auction and prior to the sale the title was not documented in any library worldwide.
The example in question was particularly desirable having come from the private library of cricket commentator John Arlott (1914-91), who was the voice of BBC’s Test Match Special from its launch in 1957 to 1980. On his retirement he sold the bulk of his cricket collection but retained this volume, which was an inscribed gift from his father.
The acquisition was made possible by a private donor who contributed £180,000. Pom Harrington, owner of Peter Harrington, connected the donor with the British Library’s Printed Heritage Collections team and said it came as a “really pleasant surprise”.
Tanya Kirk, lead curator of printed heritage collections 1601- 1900 at the library, said the book was valuable for its rarity, its resource on the history of the sport and as an example of regional printing. Epps (d.1833) was a printer and cricketer from Troy-Town in Rochester, Kent, but this is his only known work as an author.