The Compleat Angler (1693) By Izaak Walton
The Complete Angler or the Contemplative Man’s Recreation
Any list of collectible fishing books will start with The Complete Angler or the Contemplative Man’s Recreation, first published in London by T. Maxey for Rich. Marriot in 1653. One of The English Language’s most reprinted books after the Bible, The Compleat Angler, was reprinted five times during the author’s lifetime, then fell out of print until it was discovered again in 1750. Since then, it has been continuously in print, with ten editions printed in the 18th century and 117 during the 19th.
The Art of Angling, Rock, and Sea-Fishing (1740) by Richard Brookes
Richard Brookes was an English physician and author. He published multiple works, The Art of Angling being his second. The original included 133 woodcut illustrations.
In 1793 Brookes named the first dinosaur from a found bone. Although the bone came from what we call today a Megalosaurus, the original name given to the dinosaur by Brookes was Scrotum humanum.
The Young Angler’s Pocket Companion (1795) by Ralph Cole
The Young Angler’s Pocket Companion, or a New and Complete Treatise on the Art of Angling, as may be Practised with Success in Every River in England; during both the Winter and Summer Seasons, was first published in London, England in 1795. An early guide for young fishermen, it included bait and fly fishing techniques, and the first edition included methods for trolling.
Days and Nights of Salmon Fishing in the Tweed (1843) by William Scrope
Days and Nights of Salmon Fishing in the Tweed: With an Account of the Natural History and Habits of the Salmon, Instructions to Sportsmen, Anecdotes, etc., describes all manner of tips for fishing English’s ‘great salmon river.’ William Scrope was an English sportsman, artist, and writer. Scrope published just two books: The Art of Deerstalking (1838) and Days and Nights of Salmon Fishing in the Tweed (1843). They were illustrated with plates by the well-known artists Edwin Landseer, Charles Landseer, David Wilkie, and William Simson, among others.
A History of British Fishes (1836) by William Yarrell
William Yarrell was an English zoologist and naturalist known for his written works, including A History of British Fishes, a 2-volume set published in 1836. His A History of British Birds, published in 1843, was considered a landmark work both scientifically and artistically in ornithology and used for decades as a touchstone reference for birding.
The Practical Fly-Fisher (1854) by John Jackson
This vintage work, The Practical Fly-Fisher by John Jackson, contains information on fly-making and the use of different flies throughout the seasons. Although, as the subtitle explains, it focuses “More Particularly for Grayling or Umber,” the first edition contains Ten hand-colored plates representing 64 flies, making it a beautiful edition to add to a fishing collection.
Pleasures of Angling with Rod and Reel for Trout and Salmon (1876) by George Dawson
Author George Dawson was the editor of the Albany Evening Journal and a noted angling Author. Pleasures of Angling with Rod and Reel for Trout and Salmon, published in 1876, was the first American book devoted to fly fishing.
Tales of Freshwater Fishing (1928) by Zane Grey
Zane Grey was a famous author of over 90 books. While celebrated for his Westerns, Grey also wrote eight fishing books, including Tales of Freshwater Fishing, Tales of Swordfish and Tuna (1927), and Tales of Fishing Virgin Seas (1925). One of America’s first millionaire writers, he spent much of the fortune he made on fishing trips.
Rod and Line (1929) Arthur Ransome
Arthur Ransome was an English author best known for his Swallows and Amazons Series of children’s books published beginning in 1930. Rod and Line is a notable book on fishing that is a collection of fifty columns he contributed to the Manchester Guardian from 1924 to 1928. In 1994 author Jeremy Swift published a work encompassing all of Ransome’s fishing articles and exploits, Arthur Ransome on Fishing. The Flyfisher’s Classic Library released a limited edition of the title, just 250 copies, bound in full green leather and signed by the Swift.
The Fly and the Fish (1951) by John Atherton
John Atherton was an internationally renowned artist and avid fly fisherman. A classic and sought-after fishing book, there are multiple beautiful editions of The Fly and the Fish, including a limited edition by The Anglers’ Club of New York released in 1951 and an illustrated edition by Freshet Press released in 1971. His wife, Maxine Atherton, was also an expert fly fisherwoman and published a memoir recounting their experiences fishing, The Fly Fisher and the River, published in 2016.
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Amy C. Manikowski is a writer living in Asheville, NC.