1861 National Association of Base Ball Players Constitution and By-Laws - Signed by Henry Chadwick

Sold For: $8,813

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1139

Item Year: 1861

Category: Pre-1900 Baseball Memorabilia

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One of the rarest and most significant of all books ever published relating to the history of the game is this 1861 National Association of Base Ball Players Constitution and By-Laws . This volume is all the more significant as this was Henry Chadwick’s personal copy. Not only can this volume be traced directly to its sale in recent years by the Chadwick family, Chadwick has marked his ownership of this book by flawlessly signing it in black fountain pen on the interior of the front hardcover “Henry Chadwick, Sunday Mercury” (“10”). Even if it were not Chadwick's personal copy, and even if it were unsigned, this would be one of the most historically significant of all early baseball volumes in existence, as well as among the rarest (in fact, it is the only surviving example we have ever seen). As Chadwick's personal copy, it has an all the greater, even monumental, significance to the history of the game. This volume played an integral role in the dawn of organized baseball.

The small (3.5 x 5 inches) 56-page hardbound volume was published in 1861 in New York by “Wilbur & Hastings, Stationers and Printers, No. 39 Fulton Street” for distribution only to delegates attending the National Association’s convention of 1861. The National Association of Base Ball Players was the first formal baseball organization. This is the only NABBP constitution we have ever seen, and we are aware of the existence of only one other National Association of Professional Base Ball Players Constitution in private hands. This is one of the foundation pieces documenting and ushering in the new era of formal organization to the game of baseball at a high level of play in America. Chadwick, along with William Caldwell, also of the Sunday Mercury , was responsible for the assembling, editing, and production of the National Association of Base Ball Players Constitution. The fact that this was Chadwick’s personal copy, and that it is signed by Chadwick (identifying him as with the Sunday Mercury , one of the papers he was working for at the time) also makes this one of the most incredible signed Chadwick items that could possibly exist. Even if it were unsigned, this book would be among the most extraordinary of all early baseball-related printed books.

The front cover has a very dignified appearance, befitting its importance, with the words “National Association" gilt stamped above a large and fancy scrolling “BBP.” The fifty-six interior pages of the book open with one of the earliest published accounts of the history of baseball, beginning with the Knickerbockers of 1845. The Association’s elaborate proceedings comprise the next two chapters (covering all the business and significant matters of the Association, including rule changes), followed by chapters devoted to the League’s constitution, the League’s By-Laws, a listing of all officers and delegates to the convention, the rules and regulations of the game of baseball “as adopted by the Association on December 12, 1860,” a list of all member clubs with accompanying information about them, a list of all officers of the Association, a listing of all club representative delegates to the Association, and a list of club secretaries. Many of the listed team delegates, who attended the NABBP’s convention in anticipation of an exciting 1861 season of organized baseball, were called to war instead, as the Civil War began in April 1861. Their enthusiasm for the game no doubt played a role in popularizing baseball during the war, as soldiers learned and played the game, and when the war ended, brought it home with them to all parts of the country, setting the stage for an unprecedented explosion of interest in the game. This is one of the most historically significant of all early baseball publications and the fact that it was the personal copy of Henry Chadwick, “The Father of Baseball,” and also signed by him on the inside front cover, make it the finest copy that could possibly exist. The interior pages are in virtually flawless condition while the covers display modest handling wear and are in Excellent condition. The Chadwick signature and Sunday Mercury identification (also in his hand) have been perfectly preserved, protected from all elements including light in the interior of the book, and are virtually flawless, grading “10.” Overall in Excellent to Mint condition. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $8,813

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