Extraordinary Alexander Cartwright Signed Book - The Epiphany for the Origin of the Baseball Diamond and for the Formation of the New York Knickerboc
Starting Bid - $5,000, Sold For - $9,480
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Due to space constraints here, the following is an edited (shortened) version:
Offered here is what we consider to be one of the most significant Alexander Cartwright items in existence, and one that might also merit equal status with regard to the very origins of baseball: a 1834 edition of The Club, written by James Puckle and published by Chiswick Press, London. The historical importance of this book is based on a number of factors, the most salient of which are these: 1) To the best of our knowledge it features the earliest known Cartwright signature and his only known full-name signature (signed "Alexander J. Cartwright Jr."). 2) It represents the only item extant that it is a virtual certainty was carried by Cartwright on his journey across the country from New York to California, and then on to Hawaii, where he finally settled and remained for the rest of his life (indicating its importance to Cartwright); 3) Lastly, and most important, the book, both in its content and design, may have been related to his inspiration to form the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club and to design the baseball field in the manner that he did.
That the book belonged to Cartwright is evident upon opening it. Affixed to the interior cover is Cartwright's personal illustrated bookplate bearing his name, "A. J. Cartwright." The fact that the book is his, and not his father's, is firmly established by the boldly scripted black-ink inscription on the front flyleaf: "Alexander J. Cartwright Jr./1839/New York" (grading "10"). To the best of our knowledge this is the only "Alexander J. Cartwright Jr." full-name Cartwright signature extant and, equally significant, the earliest example as well.
From Cartwright's inscription, we know that this book was in his possession in New York prior to his having formed the Knickerbockers in the early 1840s. That he carried it with him to Hawaii (or had his wife, Eliza, bring this along with other important personal items when she came to Hawaii via ship) is a reasonable assumption based upon a second inscription, scripted in blue ink on the third page of the book, which reads "Robert E. Van Dyke/from/Ruth Joy Cartwright Doyle/1966." Obviously, this book was handed down by Cartwright to family members, who in turn passed it on to other relatives. Ruth Joy Cartwright Doyle was Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr.'s granddaughter. In turn, we know from genealogy records (which are included with the book) that Robert E. Van Dyke was Ruth Joy Cartwright Doyle's nephew. Van Dyke was born in 1936, making him thirty years old when he received this family heirloom from his aunt. Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr. left New York in 1849 and headed West to claim his fortune during the California gold rush. Failing to strike it rich, he continued on to Hawaii, where he remained until the time of his death in 1892. Presently, this book is the only one of Cartwright's personal possessions at the time of his death that can be conclusively traced back to his residency in New York.
1839 has always been an important year in the history of baseball. In 1908, the Mills Commission, which was formed by Albert Spalding to investigate the origins of baseball, arrived at the erroneous conclusion that baseball was "invented" in the year 1839 by Abner Doubleday, who drew the first "diamond" in a field in Cooperstown, New York. Although most historians have since dispelled the "Doubleday myth," the year continued to be the basis for celebrating baseball's 100th and 150th anniversaries, in 1939 and 1969, respectively. However, 1839 might still prove to be a historic year, for it marked the time that a nineteen-year old boy named Alexander Cartwright Jr. either received or purchased the offered copy of The Club: reading it, Cartwright may have had the epiphany that resulted in his formation of the New York Knickerbockers and the origin of the baseball diamond.
The Club, which was first published in 1733, expounds upon the virtues of forming a club and the benefits of having the club membership made up of individuals from different walks of life and with different personalities. While the notion of forming a club, as Cartwright would do a few years later when he founded the Knickerbockers, is central to the book's thesis, even more influential to young Cartwright might have been what he saw every time he went to open the book. The brown leather boards featured on the 1834 edition of this book display elaborate gilt dentelles on both the front and reverse. What is striking is the design they make. The pattern is very similar to that of an elongated baseball diamond. In fact, today, anyone seeing the cover and reading the gilt-lettered title on the spine would almost certainly think this was a book relating to baseball. Is it possible that Cartwright's idea of forming a club to meet regularly to play baseball, and his implementation of a "diamond" design for the playing field were both related to and inspired by this book? The coincidence is hard to discount.
The New York Knickerbockers, the baseball club which Cartwright formed in the early 1840s, was made up of gentleman of various occupations and backgrounds. In 1845, the Knickerbockers drew up a constitution and a set of formal rules by which the game of baseball would be played. It is generally agreed that it was Cartwright who formulated most of the rules, especially the use of a "diamond-shaped" field. Could all of the unique and extraordinary qualities of this book that once belonged to Alexander Cartwright Jr. just be a coincidence? Possibly. But that is a lot of coincidences to dismiss. It is also possible that this book was the inspiration for Alexander Cartwright's contributions to the game, and as such is one of the most important items in existence relating to the true origins of baseball as we know it today.
This is certainly one of the most intriguing items we have ever handled on many counts. While no one will ever know if this little book is to be credited with giving rise to our national pastime, its content, unique cover design, and the fact that it was one of the few items deemed important enough by Cartwright to take with him when he left New York, suggest that it was more than merely reading material. Also significant is that as late as 1966 it was still being handed down among family members, suggesting that its value and significance were much greater than simply that of an old book once owned by Cartwright. The book (4.25 x 6.5 inches) displays moderate wear to the covers and a number of interior pages display light foxing and/or a few areas of light age toning. The binding remains tight and firm. In Excellent condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $9,480