Cues n Views
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Old Books

Billiards by Drayson


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 Century Old Books

I don’t know about you but a hundred years seems a long time to get your head around.

I recently looked again at my book collection and realised that many of my books are over a hundred years old.

I have a John Roberts senior, "Roberts on Billiards" from 1868. This book was, I understand, one of the first books ever to contain colour diagrams and certainly one of the first Billiard books to do so.

The book is quite a stout little volume and is beginning to show signs of wear, we all would, I suppose, if we were over a hundred and twenty years old. The publisher of this book was Stanley Rivers and Son of London.

My next oldest book is the one by William Dufton published in 1873 by Routledge. This book was on the shelves just after the first World Billiards Championships took place in 1870.

The picture of Mr Dufton that can be found just inside the book shows someone looking like a character from a Charles Dickens novel or perhaps a likeness of Abraham Lincoln. This book would not stand up to a high wind such is its frailty now, however the outer cover is original and looks a little like Leather.

Joseph Bennett wrote a book on Billiards in the 1880’s; the version that I have is from 1884 and is the fourth edition published by De La Rue of London. The book is surprisingly heavy in a physical sense as it seems far weightier than other books of a similar size and shape. It is quite a technical book and has many diagrams.

One thing that makes this book impressive is the way that the publishers have commissioned an illustrator to capture Mr Bennett in play; the drawings are quite detailed and are to a very high standard. The cover is lined with gold leaf lettering and gives the appearance of an old style marking board.

I also have a little pocket book by Major General Drayson from 1892. This book has just had it’s one hundred and tenth birthday and is pleasing because it has a short chapter towards the end of the book about the game that is, at the time of writing, clearly growing in popularity, you’ve guessed it, Snooker. This book has a bright red cover and is a nice little book to own and can be bought for as little as £30 today.

I have a "Billiards Simplified" published by Burroughes and Watts in 1889, this book is interesting because it contains match reports concerning leading players of the day, including; names that appear on the badges of many old cues, such as Peall, Dawson, Roberts and Bennett.

Another book from the same year is the book by William Cook, this book was also commissioned by Burroughes and Watts and reads throughout like an advertisement for their products, in fact the last quarter of the book is a reproduction of their product catalogue. The individually drawn product illustrations are very technically done but are also quite artistic.

The cover of the book is quite attractive, with its gold leaf lettering and the illustration of two gentlemen playing billiards. This book too is packed with history and is well worth getting hold of if the opportunity arises.

A book that will be a hundred in two years time is the excellent "Practical Billiards" by Charles Dawson, this book was self-published in 1904 and is packed with photographs and information about the players of the era around the turn of the century. 19th to 20th century that is.

This book is signed by the author and is one of my most pleasing acquisitions of recent years. Like the Cook book mentioned above, this book too has a pleasant illustration on the cover in gold leaf.

I have other books by John Roberts and Tom Reece, but these that I have described to you above are the oldest that I currently own. The reason for this piece is to give those of you who have not yet come across these books an idea of their contents and appearance. This should help you to recognise them, should you come across them when you are out hunting for a bargain on some warm afternoon delving through the contents of an antiquarian booksellers dust covered shelves looking for buried treasure.

David Smith


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