(1593 - 1683)
 “As no man is born an artist, so no man is born an angler”

 Izaak Walton lived during a turbulent time in England’s history when the country was troubled by religious and political strife, culminating in the English civil war.  It was perhaps his desire to retreat from the difficulties of his age that lead him to take up fishing. Born in Stafford he moved to London as an apprentice linen draper, and over the years prospered in the trade.  He was a verger at his local church, St Dunstans, where he became friends and fishing companion to its vicar, John Donne.  After Donne’s death Walton wrote a biography of his friend in the first of his Lives , entitled The Life and Death of Dr. Donne, which was published in 1640.  The second of his biographies, The Life of Sir Henry Wotton (provost of Eton), appeared in 1651. Two years later the work that made Walton immortal, The Compleat Angler, or, the Contemplative Man’s Recreation, was published. However Walton was always a perfectionist and he was continually revising and enlarging his work, which meant that The Angler was published in five different editions between 1653 and 1676.  The final edition to be published in his own lifetime included a section on fly fishing written by his great friend Charles Cotton.  His series of biographies went on to include those of the bishops Richard Hooker and Robert Sanderson and the poet George Herbert.  Upon the Restoration, one of Walton’s Royalist friends, George Morley, was made bishop of Winchester and offered Walton residence in the bishop’s palace, where he stayed for the rest of his life, spending his time reading, writing and editing, fishing, and visiting among the eminent clergymen who were his friends. 

Walton is often considered to be a pioneer of modern biography, but it is his pastoral treatise on the joys and tactics of fishing for which he is best remembered, and over the years The Compleat Angler has become one of the most frequently reprinted books in English literature, later editions attracting the illustrative talents of artists such as Arthur Rackham and James Thorpe.

 Please scroll down to view our current stock of Walton first editions.

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Books by this author

The Compleat Angler



Get Secretly Behind the Tree