Older Books



Older Books

I have many of the older books including William Duffton’s book “Practical billiards” from 1868 and John Roberts’s book, Roberts on billiards from 1873.

Roberts’ book is an interesting one if for no other reason that the table diagrams are in colour. These are of course not photographed but printed in green and red for the red ball, they look quite attractive it has to be said.

I have William Cook’s book, which contains a full catalogue of billiards items for sale in the latter part of the book; some of the drawings of marker boards and other accessories are beautifully done and contain great detail indeed. The Dufton is practically falling to pieces.

It is nice to have these books but something of a minor risk to read them as they may begin to fall apart with normal use, as they are quite fragile.

Joseph Bennett’s book is a strangely heavy tome, perhaps due to the type of paper used, the text in this book has a different style to most other books of the era and is well worth getting hold of should a chance present itself.

One of the books that gives an insight into matches of the late 19th century is Modern Billiards by Roberts, the copy that I have is very nice but is a later edition, not first edition. I have had an earlier copy but thought it was quite a weak book that would eventually fall apart in time so when this one came along, I traded it in. Not the act of a serious book collector but I know what I like.

Another book that I feel gives a flavour of this era is Riso Levi’s “billiards in Lighter Vein”. This book is full of little anecdotes from Riso Levi’s experiences of coaching and playing billiards in the early part of the 20th century. Some of the humour in the book is almost too subtle to pick up on when compared to modern styles but if you look for it, you can just about make it out? The book mentions people that are remembered today such as Cecil Harverson, so if you want to know what a Harverson billiard shot is? Buy this book.

There are a number of book lists in circulation that claim to be thorough records of what has been printed and published, however sadly these lists give no clue as to whether the book is worth reading or simply a must for serious collectors only.

About fifteen years ago the late Norman Clare wrote a series of excellent articles about the best players in the history of the game of English billiards for the magazine Cue World. These articles were quite short but gave a lot of useful information about these players’ achievements and matches and occasionally refer to the books that provided much of this information. If you see these magazines for sale, I recommend that you snap them up for reference.

Many instructional books follow the same pattern and become hard to read after a while. The exercise then seems to become one of buying this book or that, more because of who wrote it and whether it is a first edition, rather than trying to learn how to become an excellent billiard player.

This is why I also purchased the books by Reece, George Gray, Willie Smith, Melbourne Inman, Tom Newman, Walter and Horace Lindrum, and Joe Davis’ early work “Improve your Snooker”.

Of all these other books, the one that fuelled my interest the most was Melbourne Inman’s, you see in the back of the book there is a chapter that talks about other early players. At the time that I got this book, I had no idea, who they were so it really peaked my interest. The value of a particular book may not reflect the place that it holds in your personal collection, as this story may indicate. The title of this little book is “Billiards how to play and win”.

Another book that is useful as a reference book is Joe Davis’ autobiography “The breaks came my way”. Joe talks about his life and career of course but the pleasure in reading this book comes from knowing that he actually took part in the events that he chronicled and didn’t just observe.

One of the books that I would like to get hold of is Charles Dawson’s, this book is full of interesting information about the early billiard players and of course, he was from my home town. Another, book that I have yet to read is the book by H W Stevenson, Maybe one day I will get lucky.

Some books are almost bland in my opinion like “Fun on the billiard table by Stancliffe” or the books by W G Clifford, however particularly in the case of Clifford; he is considered one of the better writers on the subject.

I suppose, like so many things it comes down to taste, you yourself may well be reading this and thinking, what a load of boring gibberish?

I also have a curious paperback by S A Musabini, this gentleman surprised me by appearing in the film Chariots of fire although he had passed away many years before. S A Musabini was a keen observer of a variety of sports and became known for his analytical perceptiveness and coaching ability. This book is also quite fragile but remains one of my favourites.

It would, I think be nice to record for posterity the billiard skills of the current crop of players, Mike Russell, Roxton Chapman and Geet Sethi perhaps on video as a kind of time capsule for future generations. This would be an educational tool and should billiards decline further, it would allow subsequent followers of the game to revive it once more.

David Smith