1861 Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion

Sold For: $15,275

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1144

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This is without question the finest copy in existence of what many historians consider to be the single most important of all early baseball books: The Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion (A. Mudge & Son, Printers, 24 School Street, Boston, 1861, 36 pages). The Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion is revered both for its great rarity and significance. What makes it so important to historians is the fact that it includes rules, regulations, and field diagrams for both the "Massachusetts" and "New York" rules of the game. This book was published at a time when the controversy over which rules would gain acceptance was at its peak. The more recent "New York" rules, which placed the batter at home plate and replaced posts with bases, were growing in popularity in the late 1850s, but it was not until 1858 that the first game between prominent teams using the New York rules was played. Three editions of this book are known: the 1859 edition (of which fewer than ten examples are known), the 1860 edition (of which we know of fewer than five examples), and this 1861 edition (of which, to the best of our knowledge, this is the only extant example). The 1859 and 1860 editions have gold-stamped limp leather covers; the 1861 edition has the cover design printed in gold on striking blue paper wraps. The gold type and woodcut cover design are the same for all three editions, but are much larger and therefore better for display on the 1861 edition. The 1861 edition also features advertising on the reverse of the cover; the 1859 and 1860 back covers are blank. There is a wealth of important historical information relating to the development of baseball in this volume. This book presents in detail the early rules of the game as decided by the National Association of Base Ball Players, baseball's first organized association, and includes information relating to the NABBP as well. 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 which are exclusively devoted to baseball and which were available to the general public. The offered copy (3.5 x 5.5 inches) of this important work is simply extraordinary. Aside from the beautifully scripted name of the original owner ("S. G. Wallis") and the added notation of the date in the same hand below ("May 1866") on the blank front page, the book appears to have been virtually unused and never handled. It is at the very least in Excellent to Mint condition, with interior pages approaching Mint. While this is the only example of the 1861 Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion known by us to exist, this is actually the second time that Robert Edward Auctions has handled this very book. It appeared as Lot #32 in REA's April 2005 auction, where it realized a final sales price of $9,860, and has been consigned to this auction directly from the original purchaser. Reserve $2,500. Estimate $5,000++. SOLD FOR $15,275

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