Wisden Cricketers' Almanack (often referred to simply as Wisden or colloquially as "the Bible of Cricket") is a cricket reference book published annually in the United Kingdom. It is considered the world's most famous sports reference book.
Wisden was founded in 1864 by the English cricketer John Wisden (1826–84) as a competitor to Fred Lilly white's The Guide to Cricketers. Its annual publication has continued uninterrupted to the present day, making it the longest running sports annual in history. The sixth edition was the first published under its current title; the first five were published as The Cricketer's Almanack, with the apostrophe before the "s".
Charles Pardon, with George Kelly King, founded the Cricket Reporting Agency (CRA) in 1880. From Pardon's becoming editor of Wisden in 1887, the editor was nearly always a CRA partner and the CRA was responsible for the editorial production of the Almanack, until in 1965 it merged with the Press Association (PA).
Wisden was acquired and published by Robert Maxwell's publishing conglomerate, Macdonald, in the 1970s. Sir Paul Getty bought the company, John Wisden & Co, in 1993. And in December 2008, it was sold to A&C Black, which is owned by Bloomsbury. The company presented the Wisden Trophy, for Test matches between England and West Indies in 1963, to celebrate its 100th edition.
Wisden is a small-paged but very thick book (over 1,500 pages in modern editions) with a distinctive bright yellow cover that it has carried since the 75th edition in 1938. Prior to that, covers varied between yellow, buff and salmon pink. That edition was also the first to display the famous woodcut of two cricketers, by Eric Ravilious, on its cover. It is published each April, just before the start of the English domestic cricket season. Since 2003 the woodcut has been replaced as the main feature of the front cover by a photograph of a current cricketer, but still appears albeit in a much reduced size.
It is produced in both hardcover and softcover. Since 2006, a larger format edition has been published on an experimental basis. This is said to be in response to requests from readers who find the print size of the standard edition hard to read. It is around twice the traditional size and was published in a limited edition of 5,000. It is not a large print book as such, as the print will still be of a size found in many standard books.
The format has changed markedly over the years. The first edition had only 112 pages yet found space to cover the dates of battles in the English Civil War, the winners of The Oaks and the rules of quoiting.
The contents of a contemporary edition include the following sections:
Around a hundred pages of articles on cricketing topics, including the introductory "Notes by the Editor", which address often controversial cricket issues and always provoke discussion in the cricketing world.
The traditional Wisden Cricketers of the Year awards, which date back to 1889, and the Wisden Leading Cricketer of the World award, started in 2004.
Traditionally the main source for key statistics about the game, although it has never attempted to be comprehensive. Nowadays the records section is intended to be complementary to the much more detailed data available online at Wisden's associated website Cricinfo.
By far the largest section of the book. Hugely detailed coverage, including scorecards of every First class game played in the previous English summer, and summaries of minor counties, second eleven, university, school and premier club cricket.
Full coverage of all international cricket and brief coverage of domestic first class cricket outside England.
This short section, 80 pages in the 2010 edition, has information about and addresses of official cricket bodies as well as the full laws of cricket, together with appendices. There are also details of meetings held by official bodies, including their major decisions. There are also articles about the Duckworth-Lewis Method and Powerplays.
This section includes the Chronicle (noteworthy events from the previous year), reviews of other cricket books published in the year, noteworthy retirements and the highly regarded obituaries section among others.
This section contains fixtures for the forthcoming international and English domestic season, the international schedule for the upcoming seven years and the Index of Unusual Occurrences featuring quirky cricketing stories. A selection from recent years includes: Rabbit burns down pavilion; Hot-air balloons stop play; Cricketers arrested for dancing naked; Fine leg arrives by parachute; Fried calamari stopped play; Umpire locked in ground overnight.
Remarkably, Wisden has had only 16 editors in over 140 years of publication.
It has been announced that Lawrence Booth will take over as editor for the 2012 edition. His deputy, promoted to the role of co-editor, will be Hugh Chevallier.
As would be expected from a publication of such size and longevity, Wisden has had a large number of contributors. The majority involve match reports for the various fixtures recorded each year, but also biographies, reviews and opinion. Practically all the great cricket writers have written for Wisden, along with many great cricketers. Neville Cardus contributed many notable essays and for many years John Arlott was responsible for the book reviews.
Since 1902 (with the occasional exception) Wisden has honoured five cricketers for their outstanding achievements over the previous year. Further details. with a full list of recipients of the award, can be found at Wisden Cricketers of the Year.
At least two indices to Wisden have been published:
A number of anthologies of articles from Wisden have been published. These include:
Collecting Wisdens is a popular activity among cricket followers, and early editions command high prices. The first edition, only 112 pages long, sold for one shilling, but copies such as a rebind without covers usually sells for around £12000; original (not rebound) paperbacks rarely turn up so a recent price is only the talk of dealers. The editions published during the two World Wars are also very rare, as a result of wartime paper restrictions a 1916 Hardback is worth circa £6000 and a 1941 around £1500. In recent times, facsimiles of many of the early editions have been published; an example of a collection can be seen here.
This page was last modified on April 6, 2011 at 12:26 AM EST