A book that once sat in the library of the man many consider to be one of the founding fathers of the game of baseball has been consigned to Robert Edward Auctions. "The Club", an 18th century book by James Puckle, bears Cartwright's bold and only known full-name signature, along with the notations "New York" and "1839", on the inside. The book is also intriguing, according to REA, because of the cover design, which looks similar to a baseball diamond. It's believed to be the only known copy of the book carrying that particular design. A few years after signing it, Cartwright would begin forming the Knickerbocker Baseball Club. The book itself reference characters who formed a club.
The edition was printed in 1834 and Cartwright apparently carried it with him on a journey that eventually led him to Hawaii, before eventually passing it down to family members. Another notation inside references another hand off, this one in 1966.
According to REA, the autograph "may also represent not only the earliest known example for Alexander Cartwright, but also the earliest signature example for any member of the Baseball Hall of Fame." The signature carries a letter of authenticity from JSA.
Cartwright was 19 when he signed the book and considering the subject matter, the auction house says it "may have been the epiphany for the formation of the New York Knickerbockers and the origin of the baseball diamond."
Baseball scholars generally agree that it was Cartwright who formulated most of the rules embraced by the early Knickerbocker clubs, especially the use of a "diamond-shaped" field.
"It's possible that this book was the inspiration for Alexander Cartwright's contributions to the game, and as such is one of the most important items in existence relating to the true origins of baseball as we know it today," the auction company will state in its catalog, slated for distribution in April.
"While no one will ever know if this little book is to be credited with giving rise of our national pastime, its content, unique cover design, and the fact that it was one of the few items deemed important enough by Cartwright to take with him when he left New York, suggest that it was more than merely reading material. Also significant is that as late as 1966, it was still being handing down among family members, suggesting that its value and significance were much greater than simply that of an old book once owned by Cartwright."