The Compleat Angler

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First edition

The Compleat Angler (the spelling is sometimes modernised to The Complete Angler) is a book by Izaak Walton. It was first published in 1653 by Richard Marriot of St Dunstan-in-the-West, London. Walton continued to add to it for a quarter of a century, it is a celebration of the art and spirit of fishing in prose and verse.[1]

The River Lea at Amwell, Hertfordshire, where Izaak Walton would fish

It was illustrated by Arthur Rackham in 1931.


Walton was born in Stafford and moved to London when he was in his teens, the book was dedicated to John Offley of Madeley, Staffordshire, and there are references in the book to fishing in the English Midlands. However, the work begins with Londoners making a fishing trip to the Lea Valley in Hertfordshire.

The first edition featured dialogue between veteran angler "Piscator" and student "Viator", while later editions change Viator to hunter Venator and added falconer Auceps. Walton drew on an earlier work. 6 verses were quoted from John Dennys's 1613 work The Secrets of Angling.


There were a number of editions during the author's lifetime. There was a second edition in 1655, a third in 1661 (identical with that of 1664), a fourth in 1668, and a fifth in 1676; in this last edition, the thirteen chapters of the original had grown to twenty-one, and a second part was added by his friend and brother angler Charles Cotton, who took up Venator, where Walton had left him and completed his instruction in fly fishing and the making of flies.[2]


Starting with the first edition, which had anonymous illustrations, the work has inspired artists, for example Arthur Rackham (1931).


  1. ^ Walton, Izaak; Cotton, Charles (1897). The Compleat Angler. London and New York: John Lane: The Bodley Head. 
  2. ^ Chisholm, 1911.


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Walton, Izaak". Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.