This 21 page book is the first on fishing printed in America, and the second about American Sport in general. Penned under the name “Fluviatulis Piscator,” it is a transcription of a sermon that was delivered by the author, Reverend Joseph Seccombe (1706-1760) at Amoskeag Falls in 1739. The printed text prefaces Seccombe’s sermon with a line from scripture, John 21:3: “Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing.”
Seccombe notes that the disciples were themselves fishermen and emphasized the following two points: 1) “In the general, that the common Enterprises of Life are not inconsistent with Piety towards God: But that infinite Holiness may be pleased with them.” And that, 2) “Fishing is innocent as Business or Diversion.” Today we might associate fishing and leisure in general with secular values, but Seccombe’s example, shows us that fishing can also be regarded as service to God and even a sacred duty.
The Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle: reprinted from The Boke of Saint Alban's by Dame Juliana Berners (1827). London: William Pickering. The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
This is William Pickering's first edition of the first known English work on fishing. Reprinted from The Boke of St. Albans, the famed sporting book originally published by Wynkyn de Worde in 1496, this essay on angling is generally attributed to Dame Juliana Berners (flourished 1460), a prioress of Sopwell nunnery circa 1450. If that attribution is correct, it is not only the earliest printed English work on fishing, but also one of the earliest published English works by a female author. Regardless of its source, it seems to have served as an inspiration both to Izaak Walton and to William Pickering.
The volume is an overall guide to fishing providing would-be anglers with information on where to fish, how to build rods, and the use of both natural and artificial baits. It describes what is known today as "matching the hatch." The fisherman uses artificial flies that mimic the live insects active at the specific time of the season, making it more likely that a fish will fall for the deception and bite on the artificial fly and its hidden hook. One of the most striking things about Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle is its discussion of the importance of conservation and also the etiquette of angling both between anglers and between the fisherman and the stream-side landowners. These concepts would not become mainstream in the fishing community for hundreds of years.
This edition preserves the original 15th century language and spelling, and is illustrated with a woodcut frontispiece of a fisherman taken from de Worde's 1518 edition that is cited as the earliest known depiction of an angler fishing with a rod.
Fly Case, Containing Flies for the Season, and Extracts from The Fly-Fisher’s Entomology by Alfred Ronalds (1844)
Published in 1844 in conjunction with the publication of the third edition of Alfred Ronalds' The Fly-Fisher's Entomology, this fly case contains 24 pages of text printed on vellum, with full descriptions of 47 flies. There are 72 actual specimens of flies mounted on 15 felt pages with blanket stitch borders.
The first edition of The Fly-Fisher’s Entomology was published in 1836. It was the first comprehensive work related to the entomology associated with fly-fishing. Ronalds (1802-1860) conducted extensive research on trout behavior and his initial chapters deal with these observations. He discusses how to determine where trout are most likely be found in a stream, and he was able to observe and describe the way that trout see the world both above and below the water. This is known today as the "window of vision." Trout are visual predators so understanding how they see their prey is critical to success as a fisherman.
The bulk of the book is about the aquatic insects that trout feed upon and the development of artificial flies which might entice a fish to strike. Organized by the month of their appearance, Ronalds methodically describes the insects and their stages of development. Next he identifies the corresponding artificial fly and outlines its construction. This pairing of a fly pattern with an actual insect is innovative and begins the standardization of angler's names for artificial flies. Here's a example from the 1849 edition:
- No. 28. Green Drake [Plate XIII]. This fly, proceeding from a water nympha, lives three or four days as shown; then the female changes to the Grey Drake (No. 29.), and the male to the Black Drake (see p. 89.). The Green Drake cannot be said to be in season quite three weeks on an average. Its season depends greatly upon the state of the weather; and it will be found earlier upon the slowly running parts of the stream (such as mill dams) than on the rapid places. Imitation: Body - The middle part is of pale straw coloured floss silk, ribbed with silver twist. The extremities are of a brown peacock's herl, tied with light brown silk thread. Tail -- Three rabbit's whiskers. Wings and Legs -- Made buzz from a mottled feather of the mallard, stained olive. (See Dyes, Chap. II. p. 35. article 4.) To make it with wings in their state of rest, part of a feather similarly stained must be used, and a pale brown Bittern's hackle, or in case of need, a partridge feather must be wrapped round the same body under the wings.
Although The Fly-Fisher's Entomology was Ronalds' only book, its utility quickly became apparent. It was published in 11 editions between 1836 and 1913 and has been extensively reprinted over the last 100 years.
The American Anglers Guide: being a compilation from the works of popular English authors from Walton to the present time; together with the opinions and practices of the best American anglers by An American [John J. Brown] (1845). New York: Burgess, Stringer & Co. The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
The Anglers' Club Bulletin was a monthly newsletter published by the Anglers' Club of New York. The club, formed in 1905, was conceived by Edward Cave and Perry Fraser, both members of the editorial staff at Field and Stream magazine. On November 21, 1905, the first meeting was held at the editorial offices of Field and Stream located on West 21st Street in New York City.
It is a social club which sponsors outings, dinners, and demonstrations for its members. Eugene V. Connett, who would go on to publishing and writing fame with his Derrydale Press, founded The Anglers' Club Bulletin in May, 1920. In addition to functioning as an information organ for the Club, it is also a literary magazine featuring prose, poetry, and articles by and about the Club's members.
The NSLM holds issues of The Anglers' Club Bulletin from 1920-1984 in the Library's periodicals collection as well as a number of books published by the Anglers' Club of New York for its members.
Baigent (1862-1935), known for his long-hackled dry flies which were later sold commercially through Hardy’s, thought that the text was secondary to the hackles themselves: “Descriptions are of little avail; the actual hackle itself must be placed before the eye of the reader for scrutiny or close inspection, and for other reasons too numerous to mention here.”
The Way of a Man with a Trout by G.E.M. Skues, edited by T. Donald Overfield, flies tied by Jim Nice (1977). London: Ernest Benn. The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
In 2011, George Thomas Chapman Jr. (1919-2016) donated his fly-fishing library to the National Sporting Library & Museum. The Chapman Collection comprises 2,000 titles on fly-fishing and fly-tying, the majority printed in the 20th century. Included in this donation was an impressive array of framed flies tied by authors, instructors, and prominent fishers from across the United States. Many of the flies are signed by the fly-tiers and dedicated to Chapman. Additional flies from this collection may be viewed in the Library’s Main Reading Room.
Photos submitted by friends of the National Sporting Library & Museum showing their best catches.