Wisdens 1880-1899

1880 – 1889

Test Cricket was introduced in the 1880 issue with coverage of Lord Harris’s team, which toured the Antipodes in 1878-79. The four tours that preceded it received sparse treatment from Wisden with little more than the recording of the names of the players who made up the parties. This decade changes all that. Harris’s tour took up 13 pages including letters from his lordship and the N.S.W. Cricket Association relating to the fracas, which occurred when the two teams met in Sydney.

They are a ‘must read’ for any cricket buff. During this tour the third test between England & Australia was played in Melbourne. Throughout the decade tours, between the two countries took place almost every year with both countries visiting each other’s shores. Twenty-seven tests were played in ten separate series. The most significant being the Hon. Ivo Bligh’s team tour in 1882-83, it induced the fabled Ashes. Another interesting test was the first on English soil. Played at the Oval in 1880 approximately forty thousand people turned up on the first two days play of a match won by the home side and three members of the Grace family took part in the match. Test Cricket, Wisden’s reporting of it and the Ashes were all well and truly established on this decade.

The counties, however, were Wisden’s prime focus, consuming somewhere between 40-50% of its pages. ‘The Big Nine’ Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Kent, Lancashire, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Surrey, Sussex and Yorkshire were there all the time. Others, including Essex, Hampshire, Leicestershire, Somerset, Warwickshire and Chester floated in and out during the course of the decade, rather like ships in the night, but things were changing and by the end of the decade the minor counties had been established and six of them were shortly to become full championship members.

In the middle of this decade the little wonder, john Wisden passed on, his death is covered in the 1885 issue and shortly after this Wisden began acknowledging its editor with Charles F. Pardon’s name appearing on the cover fro the first time in the 1887 issue. Almost immediately there was an increase in the statistical information, proper batting and bowling averages appear for the first time. Although it is interesting to note amateurs averages are shown separately to professionals. 59% of the batsmen were amateurs and 70% of the bowlers were professionals. It is obviously a game for affluent men who were not keen to bowl but enjoyed their batting opportunities in the 1880’s.

The 1887 Wisden is unique in another respect; the book was split into two sections. The first twenty pages deal primarily with off field issues and are numbered using roman numerals. The second section dealing predominantly with previous seasons play is numbered normally. This practice continued until 1908 when the Roman numerals disappeared and the book was split into two distinct sections.

Big changes occur in the 1888 issue. Wisden moved from being a mere recorder of the game’s statistics, matches and events to actually generating discourse on the issues of the day such as the need to review the lbw law, actions needed to overcome dubious bowling, the formation od the County Cricket Council and players qualifications.

The 1889 Wisden embraces all the changes introduced since Charles Pardon had become editor and in this issue he introduced a revolutionary new element with photographs of the 6 great bowlers of the year. This initiative was the for-runner to the very popular 5 cricketers of the year we know today. Throughout the decade the poor umpires continued to have Wisden telling the world at large details of their accommodation, public houses were still a favoured contact point.

There is much happening in the 1880’s, it is all but impossible to pin down a favourite Wisden year. If we sweep aside history and emotion, the Charles pardon issues are progressive and superior in editorship and content. Thus I would go for the 1888. It will not be cheap. A good original will set up back £1500, but willows have come to the party again, you should be able to pick up their 1888 facsimile issue for no more than £90.

1890 – 1899 is the third full decade of Wisden and it takes as to the eve of the twentieth century. You should note that this Wisden synopsis is not exhaustive. It provides a flavour of what the almanacks were about and how they were and constantly evolving. Plenty of interesting reading has been left for your future pleasure. In April 1890 Mr Charles F. Pardon, Wisden’s first official editor, passed away and was succeeded by his brother Sydney H. Pardon. A man who was to become – arguably – Wisden’s greatest editor. It was a seamless succession. The 1891 almanack continued with absolutely no changes in format.

It is not until 1898 that all the current first-class counties appear in Wisden. Fourteen of them have first class status and the other four are trudging their way towards it in the section devoted to the minor counties.

Test cricket is developing. Australia played regular matches against England both home and away. England, however, are moving the great game into the new territories. The first tour by England to South Africa is covered in the 1890 Wisden, with two Test matches, both won by England, being played, and in 1891 the first England tour of India was undertaken with one test match included. The 1890 Wisden includes nine great batsmen, all professionals, and in 1891, five great wicket-keepers. The 1892 has five great bowlers and the 1893 five great batsmen. We are getting there! The 1894 has five all-round cricketers and the 1895 five young batsmen. W.G. Grace takes the entire stage alone in the 1896 issue and then in 1897 the format we are now so familiar with at last emerges with the five great cricketers of the year.

George Lohmann takes a high profile in the Wisdens of 1890’s, not only through reports of his amazing bowling for both England and Surrey but through the agency of his pen he contributes interesting articles on bowling in the 1890s issue and “Hints on fielding” in the 1893. Ironically he used his 1890 Wisden to challenge the Surrey Club on the shortcomings of their bonus payments to him. The 1890 Wisden also covers the introduction of the 5 ball over in 1889. Mr Robert Thoms, a retired Middlesex wicket-keeper has begun a regular article in the Wisden entitled t “More Jottings” his contribution approves of the 5 ball over the speculates that a 6 ball over would be more acceptable. Other contributions to the almanack make similar points. Mr Thoms also claims to be the person who gave John Wisden his nickname of “The Little Wonder”. Sydney Pardon as editor is beginning to encourage more dialogue on the game. A number of interesting articles are starting to emerge. In 1892 the hon R. H. Lyttelton writes on the “Development of cricket”, and in 1893 there is a contribution entitled “From the Pressbox”. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow!

Lord Sheffield to the team to Australia in 1891-92 and this was also well covered in Wisden 1893 issue. It is astonishing to learn that his Lordship underwrote the entire tour. The three Test tour was won by Australia 3-1. A further point of great significance with his Lordship’s presentation of the trophy the Australian domestic competition. A trophy which still exists today and is venerated by both Australian players and public alike. The Sheffield Shield is arguably the strongest domestic cricket competition undertaken by any country today. Make no mistake, it seeds stem from Lord Sheffield’s generosity and deep love of the game.

Up until 1895 Wisden was only produced in a paperback cover. In 1896 we see the first hardback initiative to the present day. Those early hardbacks are collectors’ gems, but definitely beyond the means of paupers, for they cost a kings ransom. If you want a hardback and cannot afford a mere £37,000 for it then The Willows Publishing Company is your target with their excellent facsimile reproduction at somewhere between £65 and £90. Alternatively original hardbacks are available from somewhere between £150-£600. Happy hunting.

Which Wisden of the 1890’s do I recommend as an absolute must? Undoubtedly the 1896. This was the tribute to the excellence paid by Wisden to W.G. Grace. People today laugh and ridicule the great doctor unjustly and through ignorance. In his era he was amazing. We have seen nothing close to his dominance since. Bradman was a wonderful batsman on good pitches but he did take over 5000 wickets in his first-class cricket career? The doctor was truly the colossus of the game in the 19th century and nobody has come close to challenging him since.

 

1890 – 1899

This is the third full decade of Wisden and it takes as to the eve of the twentieth century. You should note that the Wisden synopsis is not exhaustive. It provides a flavour of what the almanacks were about and how they were and constantly evolving. Plenty of interesting reading has been left for your future pleasure. In April 1890 Mr Charles F. Pardon, Wisden’s first official editor, passed away and was succeeded by his brother Sydney H. Pardon. A man who was to become – arguably – Wisden’s greatest editor. It was a seamless succession. The 1891 almanack continued with absolutely no changes in format.

It is not until 1898 that all the current first-class counties appear in Wisden. Fourteen of them have first class status and the other four are trudging their way towards it in the section devoted to the minor counties.

Test cricket is developing. Australia played regular matches against England both home and away. England, however, are moving the great game into the new territories. The first tour by England to South Africa is covered in the 1890 Wisden, with two Test matches, both won by England, being played, and in 1891 the first England tour of India was undertaken with one test match included.

The 1890 Wisden includes nine great batsmen, all professionals, and in 1891, five great wicket-keepers. The 1892 has five great bowlers and the 1893 five great batsmen. We are getting there! The 1894 has five all-round cricketers and the 1895 five young batsmen. W.G. Grace takes the entire stage alone in the 1896 issue and then in 1897 the format we are now so familiar with at last emerges with the five great cricketers of the year.

George Lohmann takes a high profile in the Wisdens of 1890’s, not only through reports of his amazing bowling for both England and Surrey but through the agency of his pen he contributes interesting articles on bowling in the 1890s issue and “Hints on fielding” in the 1893. Ironically he used his 1890 Wisden to challenge the Surrey Club on the shortcomings of their bonus payments to him.

The 1890 Wisden also covers the introduction of the 5 ball over in 1889. Mr Robert Thoms, a retired Middlesex wicket-keeper has begun a regular article in the Wisden entitled t “More Jottings” his contribution approves of the 5 ball over the speculates that a 6 ball over would be more acceptable. Other contributions to the almanack make similar points. Mr Thoms also claims to be the person who gave John Wisden his nickname of “The Little Wonder”. Sydney Pardon as editor is beginning to encourage more dialogue on the game. A number of interesting articles are starting to emerge. In 1892 the hon R. H. Lyttelton writes on the “Development of cricket”, and in 1893 there is a contribution entitled “From the Pressbox”. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow!

Lord Sheffield to the team to Australia in 1891-92 and this was also well covered in Wisden 1893 issue. It is astonishing to learn that his Lordship underwrote the entire tour. The three Test tour was won by Australia 3-1. A further point of great significance with his Lordship’s presentation of the trophy the Australian domestic competition. A trophy which still exists today and is venerated by both Australian players and public alike. The Sheffield Shield is arguably the strongest domestic cricket competition undertaken by any country today. Make no mistake, it seeds stem from Lord Sheffield’s generosity and deep love of the game.

Up until 1895 Wisden was only produced in a paperback cover. In 1896 we see the first hardback initiative to the present day. Those early hardbacks are collectors’ gems, but definitely beyond the means of paupers, for they cost a kings ransom. If you want a hardback and cannot afford a mere £37,000 for it then The Willows Publishing Company is your target with their excellent facsimile reproduction at somewhere between £65 and £90. Alternatively original hardbacks are available from somewhere between £150-£600. Happy hunting.

Which Wisden of the 1890’s do I recommend as an absolute must? Undoubtedly the 1896. This was the tribute to the excellence paid by Wisden to W.G. Grace. People today laugh and ridicule the great doctor unjustly and through ignorance. In his era he was amazing. We have seen nothing close to his dominance since. Bradman was a wonderful batsman on good pitches but he did take over 5000 wickets in his first-class cricket career? The doctor was truly the colossus of the game in the 19th century and nobody has come close to challenging him since.