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Extremely Rare 1859 Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion
Starting Bid - $2,500.00, Sold For - $11,600.00
Many historians consider the Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion to be the single most important of all early baseball books. It is revered both for its great rarity and significance. Published in 1859 by Mayhew & Baker, Boston, the Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion was the first book ever published that is entirely devoted to the newly emerging sport of baseball. Editions were also published in 1860 and 1861, but the 1859 edition is the first and most significant. This book was published during one of the most important evolutionary periods in the history of the sport. In the late 1850s, baseball was governed by two different sets of rules: those of the "Massachusetts Game," popular in the New England states, and those of the "New York Game," which were the rules set forth and adopted by the National Association of Base Ball Players. The primary differences between the two sets of rules were the "Massachusetts Game's" use of stakes instead of bases and the shape of the playing field, with the "New York Game" employing the familiar diamond layout as opposed to a square. This volume includes the rules, regulations, and field diagrams for both the "Massachusetts" and "New York" rules of the game, as this volume was published at a time when the controversy over which rules would gain acceptance was at its peak. The newer "New York" rules, which placed the batter at home plate and replaced posts with bases, were growing in popularity in the late 1850s. It was not until 1858 that the first game between prominent teams using the New York rules was played. This volume literally documents the work-in-progress nature of the game at that time, detailing the most significant changes to the rules of the game which largely define the game of baseball as we know it today. The monumental significance and dramatic presentation of its contents make it very easy to appreciate why the Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion is universally regarded as the most significant of all early books exclusively devoted to baseball and that were available to the general public. The book (3.75 x 5.5 inches) consists of thirty-six pages with its original thin, brown cloth cover, upon which is a gilt-stamped image of a player and the title, "Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion." Included within the pages are diagrams of the playing field for both games as well as four full-page illustrations depicting "The Thrower," The Catcher," "The Striker," and "The Base Tender" (standing next to a waist-high pole), respectively. The book also lists the names of the officers of the Massachusetts Association of Base Ball Players for 1859, as well as the names of the twenty member clubs. One of the most important aspects of this book is the author's note of the sport's growing popularity: "The game of Base Ball is fast becoming, in this country, what Cricket is to England, a national game, combining as it does, exciting sport and healthful exercise at a trifling expense." While this book is partial to the New England Game (it was published in Boston), it is the New York Game that eventually gained universal acceptance among players. In 1858, this was the volume which the most serious baseball teams and players in the country used to guide their rules of play. This was a book for teams and players of the highest caliber of play, produced at the time when the sport was developing into the game of baseball that we would recognize today, the game that would explode in popularity in just a few short years during the Civil War. The book is in remarkable condition considering its age and fragile nature. The covers and pages are all completely intact, displaying no tears. The front cover is partially separated from the interior of the spine, which has no impact on the integrity of the book and is mentioned strictly for the sake of accuracy. All pages remain attached to the main body and all of the pages are firmly anchored in place. Aside from a tiny stain on the right border of the first fifteen pages, the pages are clean and bright. The name of a previous (and most likely the original) owner is lightly written in pencil on the front flyleaf, "The Property of William White, Mansfield Mass." Written lightly in pencil on the interior cover is a partially illegible notation that appears to read "A member of the (illegible) club." There is a small hole in the back cover and each interior page which does not in the least detract from the book's overall Excellent appearance. The gilt lettering and illustration are fully intact, which is especially desirable for display of this nineteenth-century baseball collecting icon. The Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion is universally regarded as one of the rarest and most historically important of all baseball books. Probably no more than ten copies are known to exist. This is one of the finest of these few known surviving examples. Reserve $2,500. Estimate $5,000/$7,500. SOLD FOR $11,600.00
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