This set of nifty films was posted up on Moldy Chum - nice find fellas! But watching and reading a few things have me thinking about his legacy. Actually, I have pondered them for some time, I am only now feeling motivated to jot some of them down.
It is nice to see someone put a number to the total reprints of Walton over the years. While I was at the National Sporting Library, they had 80 editions on hand. I was never sure of the actual count and I have never embarked on tracking it down myself. Though it is worth noting some interesting points on this claim:
- I believe it is the 5th edition, the one with Cotton, the fly fishing edition, that is actually then reprinted in new editions with such frequency.
- We, fly fishers, that is have been making proud claims about Walton's reprinting for some time. The first example that I have found comes from John Waller Hills, A History of Fly Fishing For Trout (1921). Of course, of all the works on fly fishing, Hills is one of the more influential early 20th century texts to review that literature in any attempt at an exhaustive approach. He writes of Walton: Possible no single volume except the Bible is so widely known by name, and few are more widely esteemed."
- This statement then is repeated in various forms. According to Joe Brooks, Trout Fishing (1972), "So successful was their joint effort [Walton and Cotton] that at one period the fifth edition was touted as the third best seller in the English language, surpassed only by the Bible and Pilgrim's Progress (John Bunyan)."
This point is especially intriguing to me because, A) it signals the importance of the fifth edition of Walton with Cotton's part added in as crucial, and B) notes not Shakespeare but John Bunyan. This statement by Brooks gets repeated ad naseum in fly fishing literature, including most recently by Howell Raines in his introduction to The Compleat Angler and the Contemplative Man's Recreation. However, in recent citations, the point of Brooks that "at one point" has been dropped and this has become gospel.
I guess it might be worth sitting down and trying to count all of the editions, but suffice it to say, there are a lot of them. Certainly over 500 in various forms and fashions, and all have their own wonderful bindings, art work, and particulars that make them special and show the deep fascination the sport has for good old Izaak Walton.
These are a few thoughts of a bigger conversation going in my head and various notes from research over the years, I will hopefully take some time and keep diving into it all perhaps with commentary on each segment of this video on Walton.