Friday - 24 October 2014

The Reverend’s Erne and massed Scandinavians are among the best catches

24 August 2004Written by ATG Reporter

OFFERED as part of a large sports sale held by Lyon & Turnbull of Edinburgh on July 12 was the angling and sporting library of Major Barton William-Powlett (1871-1953) of Cadhay in Devon.

Principally a salmon fisherman who devised many of his own flies and tackle, notably the Powlett and the Angel - the latter so-named because the idea came to him whilst (half?) listening to a sermon - Barton William-Powlett assembled a collection of over 1100 works on angling that while it was not one of the very finest, was certainly substantial and quite strong on early works.

Major Barton William-Powlett's own manuscript catalogue of works acquired in the years 1923-50 and the prices he paid, seldom more than ten shillings, would bring tears to the eyes of today's collectors, but multiple lots were very much the order of the day and my selection is thus small.

One of those for which he paid rather more, a 1682 first of Robert Nobbes' Compleat Troller... in a morocco gilt binding by the angling binding specialist Gosden on which he had splashed out £13.10s, was sold on this occasion for a low-estimate £800. Among the many Walton Compleat Anglers were two copies of the 1822 Hawkins edition in Gosden bindings, one of which, reflecting the tastes of the times, had cost him a thumping £24. These sold for £550 and £350 and, incidentally, reversed the saleroom's predictions of their relative attractions.

A 1795 first of Ralph Cole's Young Angler's Pocket Companion..., in later calf, made £480; an 1838, Derby first of Robert Huish's The Improved British Angler..., in original decorative cloth board and with a coloured engraved frontispiece of a well dressed angler framed by specimen flies, as well as woodcut vignettes throughout the text, sold at £2000 and an 1854 first of John Jackson's The Practical Fly-Fisher, in publisher's cloth and containing 10 colour plates of flies, made £550.

A little weak at the lower hinge but with the attractive green and gilt decorative cloth covers still bright and complete with all artificial flies in sunken mounts, one 1876 first of W.H. Aldam's A Quaint Treatise on "Flees, and the Art a Artyfychall Fee Making" sold a little under estimate at £1800 in a Bloomsbury Auctions sale of June 24, but for the copy offered as part of the William-Powlett library in Edinburgh, a copy acquired for £4, the bidding reached £2100.

(The appearance in 1999 of the manuscript on which Aldam based this famous work identified the original author of the Quaint Treatise as one Robert Whitehead, but nothing else is known about him. The manuscript made £8200 at Phillips.)

Though the contents were coming loose from the perished gutta percha binding, Thomas Evan Pritt's Yorkshire Trout Flies with its dozen, mostly coloured plates was issued in an edition of just 200 copies in 1885, and the William-Powlett copy sold at £600 in the Lyon & Turnbull sale.

Copies of the well known Augustus Grimble books on The Salmon Rivers... of ...England and Wales (two vols. 1904), ...Ireland (two vols. 1903) and ...Scotland (four vols., 1899-1900), first edition sets all in the publisher's quarter vellum and boards, were sold at £380, £550 and £820 respectively.

By and large I have steered clear of the job lots, but I have included one that brought together an 1851 first in slightly faded, spotted original cloth, cracking at the joints, of the Rev. Henry Newland's The Erne; its Legends and Fly Fishing, and firsts of Wanderings by Lochs and Streams of 1855 by J.Hicks and Malcolm Fergusson's Fishing Incidents and Adventures, with a Descriptive Sketch of all the Principal Lochs of Perthshire, to produce a double estimate bid of £1500, and there certainly is no ignoring a job lot of books of Scandinavian angling interest that made a ten times estimate £8,000!

In the 2002 BBA sale of the Jeffery Norton angling library, a copy of the Newlands book on the Erne, bound in modern half calf, alone made £2400, and while I am not minded to conduct a detailed post mortem on that 18-piece Scandinavian lot, the first mentioned item, Fraser Sandeman's Angling Travels in Norway of 1895, would itself have justified much of the saleroom's £600-800 estimate and other titles by Bilton, Barnard, Burton, Hall, Kennedy, Milford, Newland and William - let alone the seven works not described in the catalogue - suggest that this was a significant lot.

In a Dominic Winter sale of July 21, one of 25 vellum copies of the 1903 Ashendene edition of Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle..., the morocco gilt binding by Florence Paget faded at the spine, was sold for £2800.

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