The Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack – often labelled the “Bible of cricket” – is an annual publication founded in 1864.
John Wisden – a.k.a. “the Little Wonder” – was a prominent cricketer of the mid-nineteenth century. In 1850, he took ten wickets in an innings – all bowled – in a North vs South encounter at Lord’s. It remains a record in first-class cricket.
John Wisden sold sports equipment from his London shop before branching out into publishing, producing the inaugural Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack in 1864. It comprised just 112 pages – there are now regularly more than 1,500 – and contained a list of St Leger winners, the rules of quoits, the dates of the Crusades and an account of the trial of Charles I as filler. A copy of this first edition in reasonable condition can fetch around £25,000.
In the early part of the twentieth century, Wisden was probably the leading multi-sports equipment brand in England; the original Wisden shop sign is still visible in Cranbourn Street, London, today.
The sporting goods business declined in the Second World War but the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack continued to flourish, establishing itself throughout the twentieth century as the most authoritative record of cricket in the world – a little wonder in its own right.
Two World Wars couldn’t stop the almanack; it has been published every year of its existence – 154 editions and counting. The name Wisden is synonymous with cricket itself: it is arguably the most famous and respected sports publication in the world.
The Five Cricketers of the Year, a feature since 1889, form the game’s hall of fame, and the almanack has named the Leading Cricketer in the World for the previous calendar year since 2004.
The influential Notes by the Editor have been the game’s annual sermon for over a century. Sydney Pardon, perhaps the almanack’s most famous editor, introduced the regular feature in 1901, described by Tim Rice as “permanently anxious, happy, innovative, conservative, serious, flippant, morose and triumphant”.
The Wisden almanack adopted its famous yellow cover along with its woodcut image of two Victorian gentlemen playing cricket in top hats for its 75th edition in 1938, and Michael Vaughan became the first cricketer to appear on the front cover in 2003.
Throughout its 154 editions, Wisden has always been independent of any cricket administration. Wisden.com and the reborn Wisden Cricket Monthly will continue to offer cricket enthusiasts an independent voice, embracing the values of the famous yellow book.