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Part of the mix for the Wisden collector is the underlying debate and intrigue as to just how many Wisdens were published in any particular year. The apparent lack of any detailed information from the publisher has over the years merely encouraged more debate and speculation
Questions to tantalise the collectors such as whether 500 or 250 1864s were issued or the exact number of 1941 hardbacks produced or did 1875 have a third run, abound.
For many collectors part of the fascination for Wisden has included a desire to learn more about the print runs. This has led to many a library visit, many a conversation and hours upon hours of delving through records and historical documents to answer some of these questions. A true labour of love and one that the WCC and others will hopefully, continue to pursue.
Print run information from the 1890’s, 1900’s and more is available here
Throughout the history of Wisden it is accepted that presentation copies have been given, whether to the Cricketers of the Year, to the MCC or other notable dignitaries. For instance in 2010 both the Australia and Pakistan players were given commemorative editions to mark the Lords Test match between the two countries. The touring teams up until the late 1980s were also presented with a Wisden, not a leather-bound copy or housed in a presentation slipcase, but on its own.
Rumours have been rife that from the 1915 edition (up to & including 1963) Wisden distributed over 1,000 editions each year free of charge to amongst others….
There is a very interesting article in the 1963 edition by L.E.S.Gutteridge, entitled “A History of Wisden”. It sheds hardly any light on the early print runs but does contain a lot of interesting information.
It has been suggested that Mr Gutteridge was paid for the article and for other work he undertook for the publishers from 1962 -1964 with a complete run of Wisdens, valued at around £275. A vast amount! Mr Gutteridge also owned a book shop and it could be argued that it was in his interests not to divulge (if known) print runs from the early years. Modern day cynics and the abundance of “information” real or not available to the latter day researcher have fuelled this opinion.
In reality paying a writers fee with a full set of Wisdens would have been unusual and as there is no record of any other contributor being paid in this way then it is fair to say that this assumption may well be incorrect.
Mr Gutteridge may have been told that no records of early print runs were available and indeed his employers may well have believed that to be the case. In the article the following are given as print runs for the years either side of WW2.
Much has been spoken about how many Wisdens are published each year and Wisden hold this information close to its yellow chest. There doesn’t seem to be any particular reson for not releasing this information, so this is what we know and we feel, we are fairly accurate in our numbers.
In 2013 Wisdenworld paid to have a bat bookmark placed in every Wisden and when asked how many bookmarks were needed by the printers a figure of 39,000 was given by Wisden. This included wastage so it is quite easy to summise that between 38,000 and 39,000 Wisdens were printed in 2013. The Wisdenworld bookmark was placed in all editions and it is known that Wisden print 2,000 softback editions and as many as 500 Large Format editions. so, on that basis it is reasonable to assume that between 35,500 and 36,500 hardback editions were printed in 2013, the 150th edition. When an enquiry was made on how many bookmarks would be required for the 2014, the same figures were given.