Sacred Texts

Recently, I visited the National Sporting Library in Middleburg Virginia.  I went there at the suggestion of Sam Snyder, Ph.D., who held a fellowship at the library this spring.

The Library holds an amazing collection of fly fishing related books.  Among these are the first (1653) and fifth (1676) editions of The Compleat Angler: or, The Contemplative Man’s Recreation, by Isaac Walton.  The fifth edition was the first to include the section authored by Charles Cotton, at Walton’s invitation, dealing specifically with fly fishing.  This text is now often cited as the third most published book in the English language, after the King James Bible and The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. 

Like the aforementioned two books, The Compleat Angler is filled with religious themes.  Walton’s original text argues that fishing, by requiring the angler to visit those places least affected by culture and its distractions, allows the individual better to contemplate the presence of his or her creator in the world.

It was a thrill to examine these two important editions of The Compleat Angler and many other fly fishing texts as well.    Anyone interested in fly fishing or other field sport should consider a visit to the National Sporting Library.  Their web address is

One Response to “Sacred Texts”

  1. History: A Closer Look at The Compleat Angler - Orvis News Says:

    […] Written by: Phil Monahan The first edition of Walton’s The Compleat Angler contained a brief discussion of fly fishing by Thomas Barker. Photo via The Literary Fly Fisher […]


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