Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 1875, sold for £12,000 at Knights.

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Launched in 1864, the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanacks are now the world’s longest-running sporting annual.

Founded by English cricketer John Wisden (1826-84) as a competitor to Fred Lillywhite’s The Guide to Cricketers, the comprehensive and extensive selection across such a time period offers the collector plenty of entry points at a range of values, from ‘more affordable’ to pushing out the price boundaries.

But where do you start with the ‘Bible of Cricket’? And how much are you likely to spend? Knights Sporting Auctions(20% buyer’s premium) sale on July 6-8 featured a huge range of the authoritative guides – nearly 250 lots sourced from various collections - giving a snapshot of this market with crossover books and works on paper and sport memorabilia appeal.


Three Wisdens bound together, including 1864 (the first issued), 1865 and 1866, £11,000 at Knights.

Guide to the guides

Some basics first. Wisdens are published each year in April, just before the start of the English domestic cricket season. The first comprised just 112 pages while there are now regularly more than 1500.

They were known as The Cricketer’s Almanack for the first five editions.

Published initially just in paperback, hardback versions also featured from 1896 onwards, and from 1965 the latter were issued with dust jackets.

In 1938 typographer Robert Harling commissioned artist Eric Ravilious to produce an engraving for the almanack as a new look to mark the 75th edition. Ravilious, who was a keen enthusiast of the game, came up with an engraving of a mid-19th century batsman and wicket-keeper.

Prominent until 2003, that image was relegated it to the back and spine of the book’s jacket, replaced by a photograph of Michael Vaughan – thus annoying traditionalists. The engraving was restored, albeit in a smaller compromise format with a photo below.

Since 1938 the paperbacks have been linen. The cover is always yellow – before then salmon pink and buff Wisdens had also appeared.

Very early Wisdens are sought after but the most in-demand edition is not actually the debut year of 1864 but 1875 instead, the rarest example.

It has been suggested that Wisden faced bankruptcy that year. The 1869 edition is also said to be highly valuable. The earliest hardbacks are also popular, especially the first from 1896. Other years to look out for – and that command a premium at auction – are wartime issues which were produced in limited numbers (paper shortages) so are also rare.

Hardback dust jacket editions from when they started in 1965 up to about 1972 are possible rarities.

Debut edition

Knights offered a copy of the 1864 Wisden as a three-volume set bound together with an 1865 and 1866, which sold together for £11,000 against an estimate of £7000- 10,000. It featured the bookplate of Joseph Greene and label of LA Gaskin of Sittingbourne, Kent, to the inside front board.

This is another factor to be aware of in the Wisden market: many editions will be sold bound together with others. An 1864 offered individually in the right condition can make around £15,000-20,000, it has been suggested.

Other very early Wisdens sold at Knights included 1867 (hammer price of £1700), 1868 (£3200), 1869 (£4800, estimate £4000-6000), while a three-volume bound set of 1870, 1871 and 1872 took £3200.

But what about the 1875? Guided at £8000-12,000, Knights’ individual copy sold at the high estimate. It lacked the original paper wrappers, being bound in black quarter leather with green boards.

This Wisden also bore the label of LA Gaskin of Sittingbourne, Kent, to the inside front board.

In December 2016 Christie’s offered an 1875 edition as part of The Cricket Sale. Consigned from a private source, it was catalogued as “an unusually fine copy of the 12th and rarest edition, 212-page issue.

Mid 20th-century red buckram, spine titled in gilt, original pink printed wrappers bound in.” It was estimated at £20,000- 30,000 and sold for a hammer price of £18,000.

Going for the same price against an £18,000-25,000 guide, that same auction featured an 1875 bound in one volume with 1872, 1873 and 1874 which had originally sold at Christie’s Sale of MCC Duplicates in November 2010.

Hardback times

So, to the first hardback edition: 1896, the 33rd Wisden. Knights offered an individual copy that had some minor wear but was described as “good/very good condition” and valued at £8000-12,000. It sold on the low estimate. Back in 2004 Knights had sold one for £9200.

The 1899 hardback edition also offered this time around took £3500, dipping under the low estimate, however (one had gone for £3100 in 2004)

Just 900 hardback copies of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 1942 were issued – one of the now sought-after wartime issues. The example included at Knights in “very good condition” was estimated at £400- 600 and sold for £550. The 1943 hardback edition, one of only 1400 printed, made a low-estimate £300.

Copies of the 1916 and 1917 edition bound together took a withinestimate £420 and those of 1918 and 1919, again as one set, realised £200, also within the guide. Knights’ 2004 auction had included a single 1916 at £3400.


The first hardback edition from 1896, £8000 at Knights.

Wisdens in groups

If your purchasing power makes you a harder hitter, you can of course look out for collections of earlier Wisdens sold together for an instant shelf-filler.

However, these tend not to include the rarer editions thanks to their value as individual lots. Also, some copies may be rebound (individually or sets) and it is wise to check for facsimile editions.

Some comprehensive groups do come up. Derbyshire auction house Hansons offered an archive of cricket books amassed by life-long fan Derek Williams, who left part of his estate to The Lord’s Taverners, a youth cricket and disability sports charity, along with other worthy causes.

The January 2022 sale included a collection of Wisdens dating back to 1868 which took £10,000.

On July 20 this year Burstow & Hewett (20% buyer’s premium) of Battle, East Sussex, offered 28 volumes re-bound in brown hardback bindings of the years 1891 to 1922 complete (including First World War editions 1916-19 not rebound). It sold for a hammer price of £5000, ten times the low estimate.

Large collections of Wisdens certainly do not have to cost thousands. Later copies are available in group lots for two or three figures.

For example, a run from 1973-2011 guided at £30-60 made £70 at Burstow & Hewett on July 5.

Winning run

Back in 2008 an opportunity to own a whole collection did arise.

Bonhams Chester offered all 144 volumes issued from 1864-2007 along with two index issues, one covering the years 1864-1943 and the other 1864-1984. The entire set was “handsomely bound in uniform brown half morocco by Bayntun- Riviere of Bath, photographic plates in volumes 1889 and 1891-1915, some volumes with original wrappers bound in”.

Bonhams noted at the time: “The vendor collected this set over the last 20 years and bought sufficient morocco goatskins and end papers to ensure that the set could be uniformly bound through to 2030; the residue of these are included in the lot for sale.” The price was a high-scoring premium-inclusive £84,000.

Ashes scorecard


Original double-sided official scorecard from 1882 Ashes with complete printed scores, estimated £400-600 at Knights.

The thrilling recent Ashes series underlined the grip this contest still has on the imagination of sport fans. The famous urn originated in Australia’s famous victory over a full-strength England team in 1882 which inspired the legend of ‘The Ashes’, with the Sporting Times running a mock obituary of English cricket following their defeat.

Offered at Knights was an original double-sided official scorecard from that occasion – the second Test match to be played in England, at Kennington Oval, August 28-30, 1882, with complete printed scores. The match was scheduled for three days but finished in two. Estimated at £400-600 by Knights on July 6-8, the scorecard notched up £10,000.