Clapcott, Charles B.: Some Comments on the Articles and Laws in Playing The Golf
Lot 26
Sold for £ 1,560 (US$ 2,072) inc. premium

Sporting Memorabilia

16 Jun 2010, 10:00 BST


Lot Details
The following 6 lots are the Property of, and are Offered for Sale upon the Instructions of, the Captain, Officers and Council of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, at Muirfield.
The following 6 lots are the Property of, and are Offered for Sale upon the Instructions of, the Captain, Officers and Council of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, at Muirfield.

The six books on offer were compiled and published by the late Charles B. Clapcott, O.B.E., (1867 - 1955) who, mostly in later life, became a respected researcher and author on the subject of golf history. His other notable titles include: The History of Handicapping (c.1924) and The Rules of the Ten Oldest Golf Clubs from 1754 - 1848; together with the rules of The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews for the years 1858;1877;1888 (Edinburgh : Golf Monthly, 1935).

It is understood that Mr. Clapcott spent a considerable amount of time at the Honourable Company's Clubhouse, examining all its available records - which the Club was pleased to put at his disposal - so this, together with a keen mind and his long legal and public service experience, would account for the thoroughness with which he obviously approached the tasks before him. The end product was the production of what is thought to be only a few copies of each book, of which, apart from himself, the Club would more than likely be the first to receive one. These facts alone not only strengthen provenance, but highlight their rarity.

Furthermore, only two copies out of the four 'histories' are known to have been sold at auction hitherto.
The subjects of all six books six, which are essentially Research Papers, are thoroughly researched, described, and commented upon, by Mr. Alistair J. Johnston in his book : The Clapcott Papers (Edinburgh; Privately Printed; 1985); in which each has been allocated a chapter. From the dates on the books, all would appear to be 'First Editions', as we understand that Mr. Clapcott was in the habit of carrying out 'Corrections and Additions' as new information came to light, sometimes distributing fresh copies so marked under cover of a letter requesting the first one to be destroyed. Although some of the books being offered do contain such corrections etc. in various forms, details of which are given in lot descriptions, they are all nevertheless original publications.

Essentially, four of the books comprise a chronological history of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers - considered by many to be the 'Oldest Golf Club in the World' - from its formal institution at Leith in 1744; through to 1891, the year it moved from Musselburgh to its present Clubhouse and Course at Muirfield. Although the last of these four 'histories' relates to a period some fifty years before Mr. Clapcott carried out his research, he explains that the reason he decided there was no need for the ensuing period to be addressed was because he was satisfied there would be sufficient Members of that number of years standing who would be able to support documentary evidence with their own recollections, if and when the need arose.

Of the remaining two books, Mr. Clapcott discusses the seemingly perennial question as to which is 'The Oldest Club'; concluding by posing yet another question in which he suggests what might be the order of seniority (of the five oldest Clubs, which he identifies). The remaining title ('Some Comments on the Articles & Laws in Playing the Golf...') could, it has been suggested, be regarded as the direct successor to the author's book, 'Rules of The Ten Oldest Clubs'. The same appraisal can be applied to these two 'Papers' as has been given to the foregoing four 'histories'. The usual catalogue descriptions, and condition reports, together with a brief, more detailed, outline of each item's subject matter is given within each lot entry.

Charles Blackstone Clapcott was born in 1867, the son of Major Charles Clapcott of Devon, England. Educated at Newton Abbot School, he then went up to Jesus College, Cambridge where he graduated in Law in 1889; following which, in 1892, he was called to the Bar by Lincoln's Inn. This scholarly background is clearly manifested by the meticulous manner in which he carried out the tasks he set for himself, in both researching and publishing his various golfing papers and commentaries; which, it should be mentioned, took place at a time in his life when he had retired from a long career in public service. Just where, when, and how Clapcott came to be interested in golf is unclear, but his boyhood years in the South-West were certainly spent at a time when the game in England was in its infancy. Royal North Devon had been founded just three years before he was born, and new Clubs were being established in this 'English Riviera' of popular holiday resorts, in increasing numbers, as the 19th/early 20th centuries progressed, and the railways were extended. Clubs then were largely made up of retired military officers, the professions and gentlemen, and ladies, of leisure; so, although there is no evidence, his father could well have had an influence. Perhaps it was when he was at Cambridge that the 'Oxbridge' 'Varsity matches aroused his interest; or, maybe, when he arrived at Lincoln's Inn, that the London Clubs, Royal Blackheath and Royal Wimbledon, beckoned him to a sport which befitted the demands and status of his profession. Or could it have been the discovery that Sir Walter G. Simpson, Bart., also a (Caius College) Cambridge graduate, had similarly been admitted to Lincoln's Inn some years earlier (in 1873), and had become not only a respected golfing author but, also, Captain of The Honourable Company..., (in 1886/7). Surely, Sir Walter's book 'The Art of Golf' (1887) would be one of the first titles to find a place in Clapcott's extensive collection of golfing literature. Was it this which inspired him to, similarly, apply his skills in ways other than simply playing the game, as soon as the opportunity arose? Such speculation may be wildly unfounded, yet something motivated him not only to become a proficient player himself, but to 'launch a second career', as a golfing author, for it was when he retired from professional and public life, at age 67, that 'Golf Monthly' published two of his articles, in 1934 and 1935. This experience, no doubt, spurred him on to greater things for he subsequently went right to the heart of the Royal & Ancient game when, in 1938, he set about the momentous task of researching, and publishing, the history of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. For his services, the Club elected him to Honorary Membership. What is known about Clapcott's life is that, in 1904, at age 37, he is reported in 'Golf Illustrated' as having played in Amateur golf competitions; whilst, in 1910, he participated in a tournament at Cruden Bay, the year in fact when that Club's Professional, J. McAndrew, published his handsome book 'Golfing : Step by Step'. This must have been at a time when Clapcott was on leave from his Judicial post in Egypt, prior to taking up a more senior appointment of Judge of the Native Court of Appeal in Cairo. In 1920, Clapcott was honoured with an O.B.E. before retiring from his Court position in 1923 and returning to England, where he was admitted to membership of Royal Wimbledon Golf Club and took up residence in Chelsea, for which Borough Council he became an Alderman in 1924 and in 1929, Mayor. Some four years later he was appointed a Justice of the Peace for the County of London. The year was then 1938 when, at age 67, he chose to substitute his official duties for ones of an honorary nature so that he could fulfill his long held desire to pursue his golfing research. For the next five years, this he did; the result being, inter alia, the books which comprise the six Lots offered for sale herewith. In 1940, his Chelsea home was bombed, so it was necessary to put his valuable book collection into storage. Nevertheless, Clapcott helped the war effort by returning to the Civil Service and offering his much-needed knowledge in the organisation of local government housing. Following the end of hostilities (when he was approaching 80 years old) he was spending the summer months at Muirfield although, not surprisingly, the time had come for him to relinquish his home for a residential hotel in Kensington. Clapcott died on May 12th, 1955.

Bonhams are grateful to Mr. Alistair J. Johnston for the information contained in his book 'The Clapcott Papers' (Privately Published, Edinburgh, 1985). Also to Mr. Norman Fox for the thorough way in which he helped to research and describe these books.
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Clapcott, Charles B.: Some Comments on the Articles and Laws in Playing The Golf
Being The First Set of Rules of The Honourable Company of date 1744
C.B.C. September 1945. 37 pages plus Title page, typewritten recto side only, on ivory paper, green string tied within cream folded card covers with black printed title. Slightly soiled, the edges partially creased, else clean and sound internally. Generally a very good copy. Very rare.

This volume is, in effect, an enlargement upon the chapter in 'The Early Days' paper (published by Clapcott in April 1938), in which he gave a basic description of the 'First Rules', of 1744, and how he came to discover them. This later, in 1945 commentary interprets the Rules in detail, their adoption by other Clubs, including St. Andrews, and modifications later , as and when new instructions arose. By quoting examples Clapcott gives an insight into his obvious knowledge about the history of the game itself, as well as its artefacts.
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