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Having a self-imposed spending ‘limit’ at a Rare Book Fair is a discipline few of us can master, especially for collectors like me who still thrill to the hunt, 50-plus years since an indulgent uncle passed on a copy of Charlie Macartney’s My Cricketing Days.

But in an Ashes year with extra travel expenses, extravagant purchases as my wife reminded me, were simply not on.

Melbourne is just one of the major cities which holds an annual Rare Book Week, the highlight being the Friday night opening featuring more than 35 dealers, some international.

My agreed ‘limit’ was $200. My daughter and I were among the first to enter, did an initial circuit and then really started to delve.

An autographed print of Don Bradman, captioned ‘Don Bradman, a quick single’ was a good start, especially as the quick single happened to be the run which took him to his 100th 100, in Sydney in 1947-48. The autograph was nice and flouncy and the print mounted; already it has been added to the bookcase.

A modest booklet ‘Bowling’ by RJA Massie issued by the NSW Cricket Association in 1926 was also soon unearthed. It hadn’t been on display but was produced from a bottom draw after I’d asked another dealer of he had ‘anything older… on cricket?’ Jack Massie had been a promising left-arm bowler with NSW before WWI, averaging six wickets a match before being severely wounded at Gallipoli. His father, Hugh, had opened for Australia in the famous birth-of-the-Ashes Test at The Oval in 1882.  I’d never seen it before. It includes a foreword by Tom Garrett who played in the very first Test in 1876-77.

At the very next stand was an array of old nice condition Sporting GlobeCricket Books, dating back to 1924-25 and next to them another brochure I’d never seen, produced by the Natal Cricket Association for the 1935-36 Australian tour of South Africa, the one made famous by Stan McCabe’s lightning near double-century at Johannesburg when he hit the ball so hard opposing captain Herbie Wade appealed against the light as he feared for the safety of his fielders.

It was well worn, but complete.

It included official team pictures of both sides, statistics from South Africa’s 1935 tour to England and a lovely cameo of the much-loved Jock Cameron I’d never seen before.

My limit had been stretched and we bypassed a copy of Bradman by Johnnie Moyes, inscribed to ‘Tom; and signed twice inside by the Don. At $A535, we felt it was guaranteed not to sell.

Some old Arthur Mailey cartoon books also appealed, but limits are limits and I was already just over my $200 limit. Jessie and I left for a pizza and a glass of red ned. It had been a great night.

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