Illustrations Art Gallery

Arthur Rackham – Illustrations for The Compleat Angler 1931

Arthur Rackham (1867 – 1939) was an English book illustrator. Arthur Rackham is widely regarded as one of the leading illustrators from the ‘Golden Age’ of British book illustration which encompassed the years from 1900 until the start of the First World War. During that period, there was a strong market for high quality illustrated books which typically were given as Christmas gifts.

Many of Rackham’s books were produced in a deluxe limited edition, often vellum bound and sometimes signed, as well as a larger, less ornately bound quarto ‘trade’ edition. This was often followed by a more modestly presented octavo edition in subsequent years for particularly popular books. He was one of the most prolific and most loved illustrator of children’s book. Many of his work are still in print today.

The Compleat Angler (the spelling is sometimes modernised to The Complete Angler, though this spelling also occurs in first editions) is a book by Izaak Walton. It was first published in 1653 by Richard Marriot in 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.

The Compleat Angler was published by the bookseller Richard Marriot whose business was based in Fleet Street near where Walton had a shop. Walton was a friend of Marriot’s father John, who had started the business, but was in retirement by the time the book appeared. The first edition featured dialogue between veteran angler Piscator and student Viator, while later editions change Viator to hunter Venator and added falconer Auceps.

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.

Presenting the illustrations from the Compleat Angler by Izakk Walton. First edition, published by George G. Harrap & Co., 1931 with 12 full-page illustrations by Arthur Rackham.

Art Gallery: Arthur Rackham – The Compleat Angler 1931

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