‘The Compleat Angler’ Is One of the Most Reprinted English Books Ever
The obscure fishing book is more a meditation manual than an angler's how-to.
An obscure fishing manual has reeled in a surprising honor.
The Compleat Angler, penned by Izaak Walton, is one the most reprinted books written in English. Despite being relatively unknown today, it was so much of a smash hit when released in 1676 that it’s only outdone by the Bible and Shakespearean works, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
With somewhat of a specious title, The Compleat Angler isn’t about fishing, or not exclusively anyway. Walton’s book is more a poetic exploration of the pastoral pleasures in life. For the author, enjoying the outdoors with friends and partaking in activities like fishing is as much spiritual exercise as it is a social one, Smithsonian Magazine reports.
Echoing a similar philosophy as the Transcendentalists, The Compleat Angler is almost like the 17th-century American predecessor to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Unlike Thoreau, Walton found success upon release with an audience eager to indulge in his escapism.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, The Compleat Angler was first published in the aftermath of a brutal civil war that left England in ruins. Instead of philosophically wallowing in its brutality like Thomas Hobbes, Walton and his readers found relief in nature.