The Sheffield FC football rulebook, 1859 – £45,000 at Sotheby’s.

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Bound within a Victorian scrapbook, the 16-page Rules, Regulations, & Laws of the Sheffield Foot-Ball Club, a list of members, &c, published in Sheffield by Pawson and Brailsford, 1859, took £45,000 (or £56,700 with premium) against a guide of £50,000-70,000.

Sheffield FC was established in 1857, predating the founding of the Football Association by six years. The club committee held a series of meetings in October 1858 in which the laws of the game were drafted, and it was agreed that these laws be printed and a copy given to every member of the club.

This copy is signed in pencil William Baker, Sandon Place, Broomhall and includes revisions on a printed slip and annotations for three of the laws.


The 'Laws' section of the Sheffield FC football rulebook sold at Sotheby's showing some of the amendments to the regulations added in.

Baker was the committee member who signed off the original draft rules in the club minutes on October 21, 1858.

He was also one of the club’s best players and took part, for example, in a match against a Football Association side in March 1866 at Battersea Park.

Prior to the discovery of this copy – part of a scrapbook compiled by a local clergyman, the Rev Greville John Chester (1830-92) – the only known example of the Sheffield FC rulebook was one that formed part of the historic archive of the club itself which sold, also at Sotheby’s, in July 2011, for a premium-inclusive £881,000, to a private collector.

The club said it sold that archive “during the last financial crises to secure our home stadium from the bank”.

The game of football was incubated at public schools and universities. A unique copy of a printed pamphlet giving The Laws of the [Cambridge] University Foot Ball Club held at Shrewsbury School was probably printed in 1856 and is the only printed set of rules to predate the current item.