There is a long tradition of illustrating books on angling and fly-fishing with specimens of actual flies, and the results of this practice often form the core of an angling collection. Copies of early editions of Blacker’s Art of Angling (1842) or Catechism of Fly-Making (1843) were issued with a selection of flies on leaders wafered to the pages. This is the first title in a long series that continues to the present day. This column looks at two fine examples in the tradition, one from the nineteenth century and one from the twentieth century:
235653 ALDAM, W.H. A Quaint Treatise on “Flees, and the Art a Artyfichall Flee Making,” By an Old Man Well Known on the Derbyshire Streams as a First-Class Fly-Fisher a Century Ago. Printed from an Old Ms. Never Before Published, the Original Spelling and Language Being Retained, with Editorial Notes and Patterns of Flies, and Samples of the Materials for Making Each Fly. 2 chromolithographic plates from a watercolor by James Poole. 22 sunken mounts with specimens of flies and fly tying material. 4to, London: John B. Day, 1875. First edition. Original green cloth stamped in gilt and black, a.e.g. Some rubbing at head. Provenance: James Poole (presentation inscription from the editor); J. Bedford (gift inscription); Lindley Eberstadt (letter and his sporting bookplate loosely inserted). Custom morocco backed clamshell box. Westwood & Satchell, p.3; Heckscher 18; Lindley Eberstadt sporting sale (Sotheby’s, 1981), lot 127. $15,000
The very rare 1875 imprint; almost all copies bear an 1876 imprint. With numerous specimens of flies and fly-making materials in 22 sunken mounts.
Presentation copy belonging to the artist. Inscribed on the title page: “James Poole Esq. / with the Editors kind regards & most sincere thanks.” There is an additional gift inscription adjacent to this from Poole to J. Bedford, dated 1888. The present is one of the minority of copies with the title page dated 1875 rather than 1876 (as the spine reads). Contains actual samples of feathers, fishing line, thread, miniature hooks, etc., used in the creation of hand-tied flies. Provenance: James Poole (presentation inscription); J. Bedford (gift inscription); Lindley Eberstadt (letter, loosely inserted).
233456 OELGART, Isaac J. (designer). A Book of Small Flies. [With essays] by Rene Harrop, Poul Jorgensen, Eric Leiser, John Merwin, S.A. Neff, Jr., and Ernest Schwiebert. Illustrated with decorations by Elisabeth Hyder, with an original frontispiece etching by Al Barker. Vol. I is text; Vol.II displays 8 mounted flies tied by Schwiebert, Harrop, Jorgensen, and Neff. 2 vols. 64mo (2-7/8 x 2-1/4 inches), Arlington, Vermont: Isaac Oelgart, 1983. First edition, one of a total edition of 60 copies, only 47 available for sale. Original full brown morocco, gilt, by Gray Parrot. Fine in original cloth slipcase. Litchfield 128. $6,500
A splendid little item, printed in brown and black, with a hand-colored plate by Al Barker as frontispiece to the text volume. The flies, all on size 20 hooks, are ”Rusty Spinner” & “Olive Spinner” tied by Schwiebert, “Baetis Nymph” & “Microcaddis Pupa” tied by Jorgensen, “Slate/Tan No Hackle” & “Quill Gordon” tied by Harrop, “Ant” & “Beetle” tied by Neff. Uncommon and beautiful.