Izaak Walton


Keynes (1929)

The Compleat Walton, ed. Geoffrey Keynes (London, 1929).


The Complete Angler, ed. Sir Harris Nicolas, 2 vols (London, 1836).

Waltoniana (1878)

Waltoniana: Inedited Remains in Verse and Prose of Izaak Walton, ed. Richard Herne Shepherd (London, 1878), [unpaginated].


Izaak Walton — author of one of the most frequently reprinted books in the English language and a writer unusually beloved of his contemporaries — has left many examples of his handwriting, although no original manuscripts of his published works. The nearest thing to any surviving literary autograph manuscripts by him is a few draft notes for an unfinished life of John Hales planned by William Fulman (*WtI 6, *WtI 7). Otherwise, Walton is represented here by a handful of letters, by some legal and miscellaneous documents written or signed by him, and by a significant number of printed books bearing his autograph signatures, inscriptions, corrections or annotations.

Letters and Documents

A total of five autograph letters by Walton are known to have survived and are given entries below (*WtI 9-13).

Some two dozen other documents, including Walton's will, can currently be recorded as bearing a signature or other example of Walton's handwriting (see WtI 14-38 passim). Like most of the letters, a number of these documents were listed by I.A. Shapiro in correspondence in The Library, 6th Ser. 4 (1982), 332-3. The largest collection of Walton's documents, in the custody of Stafford Borough Council, was originally left with Messrs John Mottram Ltd, and a typescript calendar prepared in 1936 by Miss Garbett is in the William Salt Library, Stafford. This was recorded in Jonquil Bevan, Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler: The Art of Recreation (Brighton, 1988), p. 32, n. 48.

Printed Exempla of Works by Walton with his Autograph Presentation Inscriptions or Corrections

Walton was evidently inclined to give inscribed presentation exempla of his various printed works to a wide circle of family and friends and a considerable number of these, together with his own annotated exempla, have been recorded (*WtI 39-128).

This list would be greatly extended if all printed exempla of Walton's writings bearing his autograph corrections were recorded. There are, for instance, other alleged annotated exempla of the second edition of his The Compleat Angler (London, 1655). One or more exempla allegedly annotated by Walton were offered, for instance, at Sotheby's, 27 January 1873 (Joseph Lilly sale, 6th day), lot 2050, to Hazlitt, and 30 March 1882 (Frederic Ouvry sale), lot 1459, to ‘Ellis & W.’

An exemplum of The Life of Mr. Richard Hooker (London, 1665) in the library of Walton's friend Dr Richard Allstree (Christ Church, Oxford, Allestree P. 4. 5) bears a contemporary inscription ‘ffor Dor: Alestrye’, but, unlike Allstree's exempla of the Lives and Sanderson recorded below (*WtI 46, *WtI 77), it bears no trace of Walton's own hand. Yet other exempla of this edition allegedly ‘with I. Walton's autograph corrections’ were sold at Sotheby's, 19 June 1871 (Joseph Lilly sale, 17th day), lot 4940, to Pickering, and lot 4941 (‘with autograph of “Thomas Tomlins 1683”’), to Smith. What was alleged to be ‘Walton's copy with two full pages and two half pages of amendments to the text of this first edition, afterwards incorporated in other editions’ was sold at Sotheby's on 30 November 1898, lot 580, and at Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 3 May 1939 (John A. Spoor sale), lot 1113 (with facsimile example in the sale catalogue), and is now in the Robert H. Taylor Collection at Princeton. However, these notes are not in Walton's hand and there is no evidence of his ownership of the volume.

In addition to the numerous exempla of Walton's Lives (1670) bearing his presentation inscriptions (*WtI 75-103), various other exempla have been recorded as bearing Walton's signature or corrections. They include (possibly to be identified with certain of those already recorded here) exempla offered at various times by Sotheby's, Quaritch, Francis Edwards and Blackwell. These include those sold at Sotheby's, 7 September 1848 (Rev. H .S. Cotton sale), lot 52, to Smith; 18 July 1916, lot 339, to Spencer; and 18 December 1985, lot 48, to Burden; one sold by the American Art Association, New York, 15 March 1920 (H. Buxton Forman sale), lot 923; another sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 7 May 1945, ot 501; and yet another, with an unspecified autograph presentation inscription, sold at Sotheby's, 14 February 1917 (Col. W. F. Prideaux sale, 12th day), lot 3682, to Tregaskis.

There are various exempla of The Life of Dr. Sanderson, late Bishop of Lincoln (London, 1678), without presentation inscriptions but containing Walton's autograph corrections or other annotations. They include exempla sold at Christie's, 21 October 1992 (John Sparrow sale), lot 289, to Rota; at Sotheby's, 20 December 1838 (Rev. H. S. Cotton sale), lot 186, to Nattali (perhaps the Cotton volume ‘with a four-word autograph inscription, signed “J. W.”’ sold at the Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 15 October 1946, lot 532); at Sotheby's, 8 July 1897, lot 561, to Pearson, and on 12 May 1947 (Shirley sale), lot 550, to Edwards; at the Anderson Galleries, New York, 15 March 1920 (H. Buxton Forman sale), lot 924; and one in A.R. Heath's sale catalogue No. 47 (1982), item 403.

While several inscribed exempla of Reliquiae Wottonianae, which was edited by Walton, are recorded in the entries below (*WtI 212-217), there is also an exemplum of the third edition (London, 1672) bearing the inscription ‘Susanna Hopton her Book given by her unknown generous freind Mr. Isaac Walton’: i.e. by Canon Isaac Walton, not his father. This volume was sold at Sotheby's, 12 August 1854 (William Pickering sale, 12th day), lot 3731, to Skeffington.

Books from Walton's Library

During his long life Walton evidently possessed an extensive library, some volumes from which he seems to have presented to other people at various times, but at least part of which he bequeathed to his son, Canon Isaac Walton (1651-1719) and his daughter (Mrs Anne Hawkins) in 1683 ‘(…I also give to her all my bookes at Winchester and Droxford…And…Docr. Halls Works which be now at Farnham. To my son Izaak I give all my books, (not yet given) at Farnham Castell…’). Canon Isaac Walton subsequently presented his books to Salisbury Cathedral, and an entry in the Salisbury Communars' Accounts for October 1716 to October 1719 shows that this was done in the year before his death. Among over a hundred of the younger Isaac Walton's books now in Salisbury Cathedral, some three dozen bear inscriptions or annotations denoting the previous ownership of his father: see Jonquil Bevan's account in Izaak Walton and Salisbury Cathedral Library (Salisbury, 1983). Clearly the books that remain at Salisbury represent only a very small portion of Walton's original library, which has been very widely scattered and volumes from which will no doubt continue to come to light in the saleroom and elsewhere.

Like his exempla of his own works, Walton's miscellaneous books can usually be identified by the presence of his signature (usually ‘Iz: Wa:’, occasionally, in his earlier years, ‘Izaak Walton’), and sometimes from his autograph annotations or even presentation inscriptions.

Lists of books allegedly bearing Walton's handwriting been printed in, notably, ‘Walton's “Lives”: Matthew Kenrick’ by P. T. Dale, N&Q, 147 (16 August 1924), 120; ibid by W. Courthope Forman, N&Q, 147 (30 August 1924), 157; ibid by H .J. B. Clements, N&Q, 147 (30 August 1924), 157-8; (13 September 1924), 200; (27 September 1924), 230-1; in Jonquil Bevan, ‘Izaak Walton and his Publisher’, The Library, 5th Ser. 32 (1977), 344-59; in Jonquil Bevan, ‘Some Books from Izaak Walton's Library’, The Library, 6th Ser. 2 (September 1980) 259-63; in I. A. Shapiro, ‘Donne and Walton items Forgeries’, The Library, 6th Ser. 3 (1981), 232; in Jonquil Bevan and I. A. Shapiro, ‘Donne and the Walton Forgeries: A Correspondence’, The Library, 6th Ser. 4 (1982), 329-39; and see also Henry H. Gibbs, ‘Izaak Walton’, N&Q, 4th Ser. 12 (15 November 1873), 382-4.

Those examples given entries below (WtI 129-214), including many volumes whose present whereabouts is unknown, reflect current information about volumes alleged to have been owned or used by Walton. Since it is not possible to verify all attributions these entries must remain provisional. By the same token, it is likely that other books inscribed or annotated by Walton will come to light in due course.

In the correspondence between Jonquil Bevan and I. A. Shapiro noted above, Shapiro warned about the existence of forged signatures and inscriptions, made in the nineteenth century at a time when Waltoniana was profitably in demand (his suspicions not altogether excluding even the nucleus of Walton's books at Salisbury in view of the fact that the Cathedral continued to acquire books of Walton association long after the death of Canon Isaac Walton). While the inscribed books at Salisbury prove to be genuine, Shapiro's caution about forgeries is salutary. The following books, in various locations, for instance, bear inscriptions that are undoubtedly forgeries or misidentified:

(i) Bacon, Francis. Historia naturalis et experimentalis (London, 1622). (Pierpont Morgan Library, 37224). The forged inscription (‘Iz: W: 1622’) reproduced in G. Walter Steeves, Francis Bacon (London, 1910), p. 65.

(ii) Gregory I (Pope). De cura pastorali…editus a Ieremia Stephano (London, 1629) [STC 12348]. With forged ‘signatures’ of ‘J: Donne’ and ‘Izaak Walton’. Bound with Lancelot Addison, A Modest Plea of the Clergy (London, 1677) (William Salt Library, Stafford, Strongroom Box 1). Facsimiles of the inscribed title-page in Geoffrey Keynes, A Bibliography of John Donne, 2nd edition (Cambridge, 1932), facing p. 176, and in Jonquil Bevan, ‘Some Books from Izaak Walton's Library’, The Library, 6th Ser. 2 (1980), 259-63 (Plate I).

(iii) Justa Edouardo King naufrago [including Milton's Lycidas] (Cambridge, 1638) (Yale, EC 133 Lycidas 1638). Facsimile of the title-page in Stephen Parks, The Elizabethan Club of Yale University and its Library (New Haven & London, 1986), p. 164, from which it is evident that the signature ‘I Walton’ is that of Canon Isaac Walton rather than the author.

(iv) Montagu, Richard. A Gagg for the New Goose (London, 1624). Forged inscription in the printer's ornament at the head of ‘To the Reader’, ‘Izaak Walton given mee by docr Don, 1625’. (Formerly in the library of Robert S. Pirie. Christie's, 23 June 1993, lot 132).


Walton's name is found in various other contemporary documents without his actual signature appearing. For instance, he is mentioned several times between 26 February 1639/40 and 7 February 1643/4 in the Vestry minute books among the parish records of St Dunstan in the West (London Metropolitan Archives, P69/DUN2/B/001/MS03016/001, formerly Guildhall Library, MS 3016/1, pp. 208-9, 211-14, 216, 218-19, 221, 224-5, 228, 230-1, 237), and he is mentioned in a deed of settlement (citing a deed of 1645 with Walton's name) made on the marriage of Thomas Austen and Arabella Forsett on 23 September 1673 (London Metropolitan Archives, CLC/521/MS 01883MS 1883, formerly Guildhall Library, MS 1883). These and other records relating to Walton's life are mentioned in publications (cited above) by Jonquil Bevan, who also opines that the best current biography of Walton is A M. Coon's unpublished dissertation The Life of Izaak Walton (Cornell University, 1938). Walton's son, Canon Isaac Walton, is similarly mentioned in records on occasions. A few books bearing his signature between 1710 and 1716 were sold at Sotheby's, 19 July 1869 (Sir Henry Ellis sale), lot 1550, to Heseltine.

An interesting document not mentioned by Bevan, now in the National Archives, Kew (PROB 4/8265), is the postmortem inventory of Walton's goods and chattels (those evidently left in his ‘little Chamber in Farnham Castle’), dated 6 December 1684. The brief vellum scroll (measuring nearly 2 feet by 5 inches) mentions Walton's ‘Books at Winchester, Farnham & Draxford’ (valued at £20) and his ‘Fishing Tackle and other Lumber’ (at 10s), as well as assorted ‘Apparrell’, cabinet, trunk, hangings, chairs, stools, fireshovel, tong, andirons, bellows, tables, chests, shelves, two watches, a seal, a ‘Nagge’, clothes and money, besides the lease of Norrington Farm, Hampshire, of part of a house in Paternoster Row, and of property in Chancery Lane, London, the total amounting to £2,2206 12s 6d.

In her edition of The Compleat Angler 1653-1676 (Oxford, 1983), p. 20, Jonquil Bevan refers to ‘the innumerable scrawls noting recipes and baits that are to be found in the waste leaves of many early copies of the book’ and also to two manuscript ‘digests’ of the work. Otherwise, apart from a ‘Facsimile Copy, in Manuscript, of the First Edition’ of The Compleat Angler (WtI 5) there is little to suggest that much of Walton's work was ever copied in manuscript.

An unspecified autograph quotation from Walton, ‘A good name is better then a pretius oyntment Iz: Wa’, is reproduced in facsimile in Nicolas, I, frontispiece.

Editorial Papers

Sixteen pages of notes by Sir John Hawkins (1719-89) for his edition of The Compleat Angler, c.1760, are at Harvard (MS Eng 924). Collections of Sir Henry Ellis for his edition of the work, c.1770-1855, are in the British Library (Add. MS 41313, ff. 1-73). Charles Lamb's exemplum of the 1772 edition is in the Rosenbach Museum and Library. Page proofs and a sheaf of notes for the second edition of Thomas Zouch's edition of Walton's Lives (York, 1807) are at Yale (Osb MSS File 16598). The manuscript, written on 68 quarto leaves, of an apparently unpublished play by Charles Dance called Izaak Walton, which was performed several times in 1839, was sold at Sotheby's, 17 July 1933 (Alfred Denison sale), lot 232, to Sexton. And an album of Waltoniana, containing notes, press cuttings and other related nineteenth-century material about Walton, is at Yale (Osborn Collection, MS Vault Shelves Walton). In her edition of The Compleat Angler (1983, p. vi), Jonquil Bevan also cites Professor John Butt's ‘profusely annotated copy of Zouch's edition of Walton's Lives’ [1796].


Izaak Walton has also been the subject of a hunt for surviving ‘relics’. Among these are the seal apparently given to him by John Donne, as well as Walton's watch (made by Daniel Quare, together with one made by Thomas Tompion owned by Thomas, Bishop Ken), items which descended through Walton's collateral descendants, the Merewether family, and which are now in Salisbury Cathedral; his supposed marriage chest with an inscription, recorded in Keynes (1929), p. 575, as being at Warwick Castle; and the leather fishing creel supposedly presented by Walton to J. D. Anderson in 1646 [curiously recalling the Walton collector J. L. Anderdon of the 1840s], recorded in Ernest G. Marriott, Izaak Walton 1593-1683 (London, 1987), p. 12, as belonging to the Flyfishers' Club in London. Like the ‘personal relics’ of John Bunyan, such objects are likely to bear witness perhaps more to a fashionable pursuit in the nineteenth century than to the life of Walton himself.

Peter Beal