The 'Hall of Fame'

The Treatyse of Fysshynge...


The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle - Dame Juliana Bernes (?)

Nearly every angler has heard of Izaak Walton's, The Compleat Angler and it is often said that it is the second most published book in the English language (first is The Bible). I suspect, however that few modern fisher folk have actually read it. Predating it by nearly 2 centuries is a work which sadly few anglers have even heard of and yet which Izaak himself - a great plagiarist - borrowed heavily from for his book. The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle was the first printed work on angling in England and continued to be hugely influential for generations after its initial publication.

The Treatise appeared as part of the second edition of the Boke of St Albans - a book on hunting - in 1496. Earlier manuscript editions predate this by some 50 years - but the printed edition is more complete - and includes descriptions on how to tie a dozen flies - which are not in the manuscript versions. The book was printed by Wynkyn de Worde - an apprentice and successor to William Caxton - England's first printer.

One Dame Juliana Bernes (or Barnes) is the usually given credited for authorship of The Treatise - yet the evidence for this is pretty scant - in fact her actual existence is hard to verify! There is a single reference to her authorship in the 1486 edition of the Boke of St Albans and the name changes from Barnes to Bernes in the 1496 edition.

Regardless of the authorship this was the DEFINITIVE reference source on angling for the educated Englishman of the early Renaissance. It was enormously popular in its day - running to many editions and had a great impact in placing angling along-side hunting as a 'sport.'

The book itself even today is very readable (translated into modern English that is!). In a day before tackle-shops the book covers how to make your own rod, line and terminal tackle. It then moves on to tactics, species and baits to use - and modern anglers may be mildly surprised to see a cheese paste recipe being recommended for Barbel. Further to that I can connect a recipe for a tench bait "take the black blood in the heart of a sheep and flour and honey." with my own best ever tench - a 7lb 10oz fish caught on a piece of black pudding - a bait I thought of trying as a direct result of reading this interesting little tome. And if that alone isn't a good enough reason for a HoF entry I don't know what is!

I can say that I have read The Compleat Angler and whilst much of it IS excellent, truth be told, I get a little annoyed with all that Venator/Piscator nonsense (sorry dialogue). This treatise, by and large 'cuts to the chase' and gives you what you need to know without the flowery language!! It is available to read (in modern English) on-line here:

(Folks that know of my various on-line guises will realise that I've nicked the woodcut on the front cover as my Avatar)


Inducted on 15/02/2009

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