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This example in rosewood with an ivory block tip which appeared at Sotheby’s on July 9 was a deluxe example of its type from the late 18th century but of particular interest because of a name stamped to the shaft, John Snooke.

The naming of this mace (presumably relating to the original owner) raises a number of interesting possibilities about the origins and naming of the more modern game of snooker. It is a long standing debate. The first documented games of snooker appear in India of the 1870s and 1880s – the games between Compton Mackenzie and Colonel Neville Chamberlain – but was the owner of this mace the man who developed the modern game or was he at least the man after whom the game was eventually named?

Sotheby’s expert in charge Edward Playfair (a man destined to be an auctioneer of sporting memorabilia if ever there was one) failed to turn up any answers but the matter is no doubt worthy of further research.

The estimate was a rather broad £5000-10,000 but it was purchased by a US dealer on behalf of a collector for a more modest £4000.