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Another Conversation With Nauman Niaz

Having scratched the surface of the stunning personal museum of Nauman Niaz in my previous post, a further visit was long overdue. But this time there will be little mention of cricket . The bibliography of our great game is something I know a good deal about, and although my knowledge of other aspects of cricketana is more rudimentary it is still a subject I understand.

Nauman’s museum contains around 7,000 cricket books, so he and I could talk for hours on end without the need to stray outside my comfort zone, but that won’t alter the fact that in total his library extends to around 19,000 items, so there is a great deal more to learn.

But first an insight or two into Nauman. His academic achievements alone are remarkable. He began his education at St Mary’s Academy in Rawalpindi before moving on to the famous Aitchison College in Lahore. 

From there Nauman did his first degree, back in Rawalpindi at the Rawalpindi Medical College, before he spread his wings and undertook further degrees at the Royal College of Physicians in London, Edinburgh, Ireland and Glasgow, a PhD from the University of Western Australia and a Post Doctorate from Oxford University. Combining as he has his stellar careers in medicine and journalism/broadcasting I was not surprised to learn that Nauman is a man who exists on three hours sleep a night!

The demands his professions place on him notwithstanding Nauman has still had plenty of time to engage with his passion for cricket and his overarching desire to connect with the past, particularly 18th and 19th century Britain.

Nauman also acknowledges a considerable debt to his lineage. His late father was Lieutenant General Hamid Niaz of the Pakistan Army, so there is warrior blood in him. Whilst Nauman’s father was not a collector as such, he still passed on to Nauman a number of items that form part of his collection today, not least amongst those being two signed cabinet cards of Abraham Lincoln that were presented to Hamid on a trip to the US.

So what are Nauman’s non-cricketing bibliographical passions? Many and varied is the short answer to that one, and both fiction and non-fiction are well represented in his collection.

Charles Dickens is one of the most famous names in English literature and published 15 novels. Nauman’s collection contains copies of them all, nine second second editions and six first and, amongst those, a copy of Oliver Twist signed by Dickens.

A more recent area of fertile ground for collectors are what are referred to in general terms as ‘modern firsts’. Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels are as collectable as any. There are 13 of them all together and Nauman has signed copies of all of them complete, of course, with their original dust jackets.

Moving on to non fiction Nauman is a great aficionado of Winston Churchill, and his collection houses a copy of each of Churchill’s 72 published works, all first editions and around half of them signed. Not necessarily the most valuable, but perhaps the most desirable are his signed set of the seminal six volume History of the Second World War.

One particularly interesting item in the Niaz collection is a copy of Gandhi’s eight volume collection of his own writings. Naturally it is a first edition (1953), and one on the volumes is signed. Special enough but there was also a limited edition published in South Africa that was bound in cloth taken from Gandhi’s dhoti, a traditional item of attire for male Hindus, and Nauman’s copies come from that edition.

As a ten year old I recall vividly sitting with my father whilst he watched a news programme on the television about the death of Bertrand Russell, and my father explained me to me that Russell was a man with a mighty intellect, primarily a philosopher and mathematician, who had just died at the age of 97.

Later in life I grew up to understand more about Russell, whose bibliography is immense. His most famous work is A History of Western Philosophy, first published in 1945. Nauman has a signed first edition of that one in its original dust jacket, and the same applies to many of Russell’s other books. But his prized possessions in that part of his museum are the three volumes of Principia Mathematica, published between 1910 and 1913 and, of course, author signed.

But what is the one thing that Nauman doesn’t have but would like to own above all others? The answer to that one is the signature of William Shakespeare. That the Bard’s autograph would be an expensive one does not surprise, but until Nauman wistfully explained the situation to me I hadn’t realised that only six examples are known. Five of those are owned by British institutions, and the solitary example in private hands last changed hands in 2006, for the small matter of $4,600,000. 

So the acquisition of a Shakespeare may prove problematic, so in my opinion Nauman would be well advised to stick to a couple of alternative ambitions, the comparatively easy one of a full set of Wisden in original condition, or the greater challenge of adding the other fourteen editions to his currently somewhat lonely copy of Britcher’s Scores, but that brings us back to cricket, and a subject for another day, but for now a further selection of images from the collection ……

Martin has had the pleasure of speaking to Nauman Niaz again, and for once there wasn’t too much cricket talk

#Conversation #Nauman #Niaz

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