WILLIAM EPPS, compiler and printer

Cricket. A Collection of All the Grand Matches of Cricket played in England within Twenty Years, viz. from 1771 to 1791, never before published. Troy-Town, Rochester: W. Epps, 1799. 8vo (225 x 138mm). 104p. (Some spotting and thumb-soiling, a few short marginal tears.) Brown half morocco and marbled boards, c. 1900, preserving original plain blue wrappers (spine chipped, upper joints cracked, some soiling and staining of wrappers). Provenance: contemporary manuscript notes on verso of front free endpaper; the dates '1771 to 1791' transcribed onto front wrapper; pencil correction in another hand on p. 31) -- [F.S. Ashley-Cooper?].

UNCUT COPY OF EPPS'S SCOREBOOK PRESERVING ORIGINAL WRAPPERS. William Epps (d. 1833) was a cricketer and provincial printer from Troy-Town, a district of Rochester named after the wine merchant, John Cazeneuve Troy. ESTC lists fourteen works known to have been printed by Epps in the 1790s, published at either Canterbury, Margate or Rochester, the last being The Royal Progress to Maidstone by Jan Ploughshare of Devonshire (Rochester, 1800). Epps's cricket book, so rare that it is not even listed in ESTC, is the only work in which his personal involvement as author is evident. The 'Apology' prefacing the scores themselves explains that he saw no need to take his work beyond 1791 because of the 'regular annual publication, by Mr. Britcher, the Scorer to the Mary-le-bone Club, which, of course, obviates the necessity'. Whereas Britcher's scorebooks were annual publications covering the seasons 1790-1805 as they occured, Epps covered the 20-year period antecedent to Britcher in one volume. To throw an accurate light on this earlier period, he faced the difficult challenge of having to consult and copy scattered historical records, among which were the manuscripts of the Duke of Dorset, the Earls of Tankerville and Winchilsea, Sir Horatio Mann and Squire Paulet. His work eventually became the basis of volume I of Arthur Haygarth's monumental Scores and Biographies (1862-63). But its original readership must have been small. The contemporary reader of this copy, who has used the flyleaf to list the scores which most impressed him, must have been one of the 'amateurs in the game' or 'eminent players' whom Epps hoped would esteem his book as 'a choice treasure'. So few copies survive today that his work has become a treasure in an unintended financial sense. The £50 given for J.W. Goldman's copy in his 1966 sale must have been his greatest disappointment, even though it was a large sum at the time. John Arlott witheld his copy from the sale of his collection to Tony Winder, keeping it until his death. The Eagar copy sold in these rooms in 2005 for £90,000 (with premium). There is no copy in the British Library, and ESTC shows no holdings in the British Isles or North America. THE BLACK TULIP OF CRICKET COLLECTING. Allen 10; Padwick 877.

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