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Lot # 30 (of 1525)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Absolute Proof Baseball Evolved From Rounders: "Origins of Baseball" Books/Robin Carver

Starting Bid - $2,000.00, Sold For - $3,770.00

The title of this lot may be overstated, but effectively communicates the potential significance of the three offered volumes to many historians. Studied together, these three volumes have been cited as shedding light on the true origins of the game of baseball in a unique and tangible way. Each of the three volumes presents rules by which to play various children's outdoor sports, and each is one of the earliest published works of significance relating to the game of baseball. 1) The Book of Sports by Robin Carver (1834, Lilly, Colman, and Holden, Boston), in particular, is of astounding rarity and significance. The Carver book is the first volume published in America featuring the rules of the game of baseball, the first book to refer to baseball by name ("base or goal ball"), the first to have a diagram of the diamond, as well as the first featuring the famous woodcut illustration of boys playing baseball on the Boston Commons, which is the most reproduced of all early baseball images and the earliest published illustration of an actual American baseball game in progress. This illustration first appeared in this volume. "The Carver Book," as it is often referred to by scholars, is universally recognized as an American classic, and one of the most important of all historic baseball books. No list of the several most important of all early baseball volumes is without the Carver book. Fewer than ten copies are known to exist in private hands. We have been able to verify the existence of only four copies including this example. Skip-numbered (as made) to page 164. The book measures 6 x 5 inches, with a reddish brown hard cover decorated with a paste-on decorative title with engraving. The book has the paste-on title complete and intact. The binding is tight. A couple of pages in the front are loose from the string binding but are still attached. All interior pages are intact. A few notes by the original owner, including his name, appear on the cover and title page. One of the woodcuts is neatly colored in with colored pencils. Other very minor faults include some discoloration to the back cover and a few insignificant tiny tears to a few interior pages. It is complete, intact, and sound, with no major flaws, and with an integrity one would ideally hope to find in such an early, rare, and historic volume. Overall in solid Very Good condition. This is a gem worthy of the world's finest baseball library. 2) The second volume is an early American edition, circa 1830, of The Boy's Own Book. This 307-page book was first published in England in 1828, and in America in 1829. This is the first book published in America to feature the rules of the English game identified as "rounders." We believe the offered book to be an edition dating from 1829, but because the title page is missing, it is possible this is a second or third edition published very shortly after 1829. The significance of this volume is that the English game of "rounders" described is obviously the basis of the Robin Carver's description of baseball in his 1834 book. Carver has literally "lifted" the diagram of the rounders field from the Boy's Own Book, and simply changed a few words here and there, Americanizing the Boy's Book of Sports description of rounders, and presenting it as "base or goal ball." Many of the sentences used by Carver in describing the game of baseball in 1834 have been copied word for word from The Boy's Own Book's description of rounders. The hardcover book measures 5 x 6 inches. The cover is very worn and barely attached though intact. This is the original cover, with a fancy red design and the book's title visible upon close examination. As noted, the title page is missing, but all other pages are present. Interior pages with general wear, and with substantial wear to the cover and spine; however, the overall integrity of the volume is sound. Though not without condition problems, still a valuable original example of one of baseball history's earliest published works, and a worthy and rare addition to the most advanced baseball library. In overall Good condition. 3) 1839 edition of The Boy's Book of Sports, published by S. Babcock, New Haven. 24 pages. This small (4 x 4.5 inches) soft-cover book is also one of the earliest published works to provide rules, and refer to the game by name as "base ball," as well as to feature an illustration of youngsters playing baseball. In fact, the illustration is the same woodcut of boys playing baseball on the Boston Commons as first published in the Carver book in 1834, and the rules of the game, now formally entitled simply "base ball" by Babcock, borrows heavily from Carver (who himself borrowed almost verbatim from the 1829 Boys Own Book). A few words have been changed here and there, in an effort to paraphrase rather than copy word for word, but it is clear that Babcock has indeed copied Carver, including entire passages verbatim. In addition to its extraordinarily significant content, the fact that this book dates from 1839, the very year in which Abner Doubleday allegedly invented the game of baseball (according to Al Spalding and the Mills Commission), gives this book an added dimension of historical significance. The book has a little general wear and some slight splitting along the spine, but the cover is still intact and is in especially fine condition considering its age; the interior pages have some minor foxing but are otherwise bright and clean. Overall in Very Good to Vg-Ex condition.

No index of historical publications relating to the rules of baseball are without all three of these volumes. It is very rare, however, that all three have been assembled in a single place for review and comparison. This is the first set we have ever seen in one place. The three books, each highly regarded as among the most significant of all early books relating to the origins of the game, together present a fascinating case in the form of period printed documentation that baseball evolved from the English game of "rounders." While the theory that baseball evolved from the English game of rounders has been promoted by Henry Chadwick and historian Robert Henderson, and embraced by most modern scholars, this now widely accepted theory itself has become very controversial. In recent years some historians have presented very compelling arguments that the game of baseball actually predates "rounders." The significance of the three published works offered in this lot with reference to the game may, in fact, be that they illustrate a semantic evolution rather than an historic evolution. At the very least, we can be sure that the mysteries and controversies relating of the origins of the game will not end with the offering of this lot. Total three volumes, each rarely offered museum-quality relics worthy of the most advanced nineteenth-century collection or baseball library. Reserve $2,000. Estimate $4,000/$8,000. SOLD FOR $3,770.00


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