05 Jan 2010

Baily’s Goes Electronic

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My oldest copy is the 1905-1906 8th edition

Queen Victoria was celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, Edmund Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac was playing to packed houses in Paris, and the adventurersome (including Jack London) were heading to the Klondike in search of gold in 1897, the year in which Baily’s Monthly Magazine of Sports and Pastimes, founded in 1860, began issuing its annual Directory of Hunting, listing organized fox hunts in Britain. The listings were later extended to beagles, bassets, otter and mink hounds, and its coverage made world-wide.

Charles Moore reported recently, in the Telegraph that, despite Labour’s tyrannical hunt ban, Baily’s is not only continuing publication, but is this year, for the first time, available on-line by electronic subscription.

Since the 19th century, the facts of hunting have been compiled annually by Baily’s Hunting Directory. Like Jane Austen’s Sir Walter Elliot in relation to the Baronetage, I find Baily’s my “occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one”. Between its red covers is contained a mass of information about almost every known and recognised pack of hounds in the world. According to the count for 2009, there are now 761 of them. You learn something new, interesting and satisfyingly obscure every time you read it. You also feel a thrill because of the adversity which hunting has so successfully resisted. As Lt Gen Barney White-Spunner says in his spirited introduction to the latest edition, the loss of liberty always “stirs something deep in the British soul”.

I mention the red covers, but in fact the cover turned black in recent editions, in mourning at the ban. This year, for the first time, Baily’s goes online . The publishers say that they still want to produce the book version as well – and I hope they succeed – but a web version undoubtedly offers certain advantages over a book. One is that new photographs can be posted at any time, so the site already carries first-class pictures of the current season. Another is that any subscriber (annual price £12) can contribute his own report of his hunt.

I have happily subscribed.

The print version costs £44.95/US$107 and may be ordered here.


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