I have many of the older books including William
Dufftons book "Practical billiards" from 1868 and John Robertss
book, Roberts on billiards from 1873.
Robertss 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 Cooks 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
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 Bennetts 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 Levis "billiards in Lighter Vein". This book is full of
little anecdotes from Riso Levis 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
This is why I also purchased the books by Reece,
George Gray, Willie Smith, Melbourne Inman, Tom Newman, Walter and Horace
Lindrum, and Joe Daviss early work "Improve your Snooker".
Of all these other books, the one that fuelled
my interest the most was Melbourne Inmans, 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 Daviss 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
didnt just observe.
One of the books that I would like to get hold
of is Charles Dawsons, 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
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
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
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