Few vital changes can be noticed in outward appearance. Wisdens have always been the same size, bar a slimming down throughout both world wars and a variation in page numbers. In 1896 the first notable hard back book bound in brown cloth was produced alongside the original paper wrappers, and in 1964 the first iconic yellow dustcover appeared on a hardback. This means that this year is particularly hard to find with a dustcover due to the fact that gentlemen had a row of matching original brown cloth hardbacks and disliked the way it stood out, meaning the cover was often discarded in order of a matching set! The first issue was published for one shilling and was available "post free for 13 stamps" whereas today a copy will cost around £35.00.
The first advertisement appeared in 1867 where on the last page appears an illustration of John Wisden and Co.'s Patent Catapulta. The first advertisement within text appears in 1882 and is on the verso of the title page. Gradually the amount of advertisements increased and took prime position on the front few pages in order to keep the price down as low as possible. A key contributor to Wisdens continuing success was the founding in 1880 of the Cricket Reporting Agency. Begun by Charles Pardon who undertook the editorship of Wisden 7 years after its foundation, since then the editorial work has been carried through by the Cricket Reporting Agency and Wisdens editor has generally been a partner in the firm. In 1888 in a stroke of genius Charles F. Pardon decided that in order to signalise the extraordinary success of bowlers in that year he would give new portraits of six of the most skilful and prominent of their number. This proved extremely popular and so became a regular feature 'Five Cricketers of the Year'.
Wisden has only seen 16 different editors since its inception in 1864. The longest serving editor was Sydney Pardon. The running list is as follows: 1864-1879 - W. H. Knight, 1880-1886 - George H. West, 1887-1890 - Charles F. Pardon, 1891-1925 - Sydney H. Pardon, 1926-1933 - C. Stewart Caine, 1934-1935 - Sydney J. Southerton, 1936-1939 - Wilfrid H. Brookes, 1940-1943 - Haddon Whitaker, 1944-1951 - Hubert Preston, 1952-1980 - Norman Preston, 1981-1986 - John Woodcock, 1987-1992 - Graeme Wright, 1993-2000 Matthew Engel, 2001-2002 - Graeme Wright, 2003 - Tim de Lisle, 2004-2007 -Matthew Engel, 2008-2011 - Scyld Berry, 2012-Lawrence Booth.
The beginning of the important obituary section started in 1872 when 15 cricketers were listed to have died the year previously. The laws of cricket have appeared in every edition, despite a few changes in running order. Women's cricket got its first mention in 1938, with the variety of cricket covered progressing from there to include public school cricket for example. Whilst Wisdens were their own publishers until 1937, sales began to fall alarming so it was at this point that the most significant changes occurred. With the professional help of J. Whitaker & Sons the traditional division of two parts was discarded, a new cover was designed, a complete index provided, the Counties set out in alphabetical order rather than the County Championship table order and more illustrations were provided. It did the job intended and sales immediately saw an increase. In the 1944 edition the publisher changed to Sporting Handbooks and in 2008 John Wisden and Co. was bought by the Bloomsbury Publishing Group.
Some Frequently Asked Wisden Questions:
(Click on the links below to find our more)
An Introduction to Wisdens?
What are Wisdens?
Who Was John Wisden?
Types of Wisden Available
Ten Interesting Facts for the Dedicated Wisden Collector!