Lot # 64: Extraordinary 1834 The Book of Sports by Robin Carver - Earliest American Publication of Baseball Rules

Starting Bid: $500.00

Bids: 36 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
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Item was in Auction "Fall, 2022 - 10th Anniversary Auction",
which ran from 11/6/2022 12:00 PM to
11/26/2022 9:00 PM

Presented here is one of the most rare and extraordinary of all baseball books: The Book of Sports by Robin Carver (Lilly, Wait, Colman and Holden, 1834).  The 164-page book contains rules and explanations of a variety of children's sports, but it is Chapter 3 that is most significant, for that is the section that, for the first time in an American publication, describes baseball.  The Book of Sports is the first American book to explain the rules of baseball, referring to it by name, and is also the first book to include a diagram of a baseball diamond.  Among the book's many woodcut illustrations is the first publication of the well-known image of boys playing baseball on the Boston Common, the earliest published image of an actual baseball game in progress.  One of the more important of all baseball books, it surely debunks the Doubleday myth by predating the alleged 1839 invention of the game by five years.

The game is described as follows:

Base, or Goal Ball

This game is known under a variety of names.  It is sometimes called 'round ball,' but I believe that 'base,' or 'goal ball' are the names generally adopted in our country.  The players divide into two equal parties, and chance decides which shall have first innings.  Four stones or stakes are placed from twelve to twenty yards asunder, as a, b, c, d, in the margin; another is put at e.  One of the party, who is out, places himself at e.  He tosses the ball gently toward a, on the right of which one of the in-party places himself, and strikes the ball, if possible, with his bat.  If he miss three times, or if the ball, when struck, be caught by any of the players of the opposite side, who are scattered about the field, and another takes his place...

The book is bound in blue-green cloth with its paste-on title with woodcut image completely intact.  The cover appears in good condition with some surface wear and waviness to the cloth, along with some age-related staining.  The spine is strong and the binding tight, though the book appears to be lacking a front free endpaper, with separation of the paper at both the front and rear hinge. The text block is intact, with visible toning and foxing throughout.  The pages exhibit no notes or markings, a few are dog-eared at the top corners from long-ago folding, and several pages in the rear of the book appear to be loosening from the string binding slightly, but remain attached.  

This is an impossibly rare book, with fewer than ten examples thought to exist.  One of the most important of all baseball books, containing the earliest rules and field diagram published in an American volume, the first to refer to baseball by its name, and the earliest publication of the Boston Commons baseball illustration.  Note: the dimensions of the book are approximately 5" x 5 7/8". 

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