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1907 History of Colored Base Ball by Sol White with 1908 Supplement
Starting Bid - $5,000.00, Sold For - $22,515.00
This exceedingly rare soft-cover book, titled History of Colored Base Ball, has long been considered the "Holy Grail" of all Negro League collectibles and is an extremely important artifact of twentieth-century American history as well. Written by black ballplayer Sol White and published in 1907, the 128-page volume chronicles the early history of professional black baseball, beginning with the Babylon, Long Island Nine of 1885. The significance of this book lies in the fact that it is the only source for much, if not all, of our knowledge regarding black baseball prior to 1908. The early Negro Leagues were a loosely confederated group of semi-organized ball clubs with little if any records maintained or retained. Although scores of histories of the game of baseball had been published in years prior, they rarely if ever even made mention of black baseball's events or players. Sol White sought to rectify this situation with the publication of this book. In his preface he writes: "Since the advent of the colored man in baseball, this is the first book ever published wherein the pages have been given exclusively to the doings and baseball teams. The players and the managers past and present and the patrons of colored baseball, to them I dedicate this book." The book is profusely illustrated with photos of star players and major teams as well as articles by prominent Negro players such as Andrew Foster ("How to Pitch") and Grant "Home Run" Johnson ("The Art and Science of Hitting"). It was edited and published by white sportswriter H. Walter Schlichter, who was cofounder (along with Sol White) of the Philadelphia Giants, black baseball's best club at the time.
In addition to its great significance, the rarity of this book is also extremely noteworthy. There may be as few as a dozen Sol White books extant, and many of those examples are in the permanent collections of public institutions. In 1907, when this volume was published, the audience for such a book was very small. It is not surprising that very few examples from the modest print run survived the ravages of time and prejudice. This was not a book that would have found its way into the libraries of many white people. This was not a book that easily found a safe and secure place in which to survive undisturbed for decades and be preserved for future generations. This was born from an era of oppression, not from enlightened times. We are lucky to have even the few remaining copies of Sol White's History of Colored Base Ball. For the times, even the publishing of this book was a brave expression of civil rights, foreshadowing all that would follow relating to the great future success of the Negro Leagues and beyond.
Incredibly, this volume is accompanied by its even rarer nine-page supplement published in 1908. The supplement, which is so elusive that many collectors are not even aware of its existence, is titled History of Colored Base Ball During 1907 and bears the page numbers 129 through 137. This is the only example of the supplement that we have ever seen offered together with the book and we would be surprised if more than one or two others have survived. It should be noted that few copies of Sol White's History of Colored Base Ball have ever been offered publicly. The offered volume is probably the most prominent of those that have reached the auction block. In 1997 it became the first example to ever be offered at public auction when it sold for $18,400 at Christie's in New York. Three years later it was once again sold at public auction, at which time it was purchased by our consignor for $19,861. It has remained in his sole possession since that time.
The book (3.5 x 6 inches) has clear tape along the entire spine, which extends onto both the front and back covers; however, the binding is still fairly tight. There are two light stains on the cover as well as two corner chips, one of which extends a few pages into the book. The back cover has a slightly larger corner chip along the bottom. The pages are extremely clean and bright. Despite the condition flaws this is believed to be the finest copy in existence. Very Good condition overall. The supplement (3 x 6 inches) has a light edge stain, and is otherwise in Excellent to Mint condition. Both the book and supplement are housed in a custom-made folding solander case for optimal display and preservation. A Camden reprint of the book is included for everyday reading. This is the finest overall copy of this book that we have seen, both because of its condition and because it is accompanied by its 1908 supplement. Given its monumental historic significance, it also stands as one of the most important American publications (baseball or otherwise) of the early twentieth century. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $22,515.00
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