Skip to main content

The Compleat Angler: And Other Meditations on the Art and Philosophy of Fishing, 15th Century to the Present: Juliana Berners

The exhibit is located in the Reading Room at Archives & Special Collections, 363 Hillman Library, Spring - Fall 2017.

Juliana Berners Banner

Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle

Juliana Berners Title Page

Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle, Juliana Berners, 1496

The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle is one of the earliest works on angling written in the English language.  Wynkyn de Worde first published it in his edition of The Book of St. Albans in 1496, in which the Treatyse states that angling:

"…shall cause hym to be holy and to the heele of his body, For it shall cause him to be hole.  Also to the increase of his goodys.  For it shall make hym ryche.  As the olde englysshe prouerbe sayth in this wyse. who soo woll ryse erly shall be holy helthy and zely.  Thus have I prouyd in myn entent that the dysporte and game of anglynge is the very meane and cause that enducith a man in to a mery spyryte…"

Berners, Juliana, (1388?-), attributed author.
Haselwood, Joseph, (1769-1833) contributor.

The Book of St. Albans.
As printed at Westminster, by Wynkyn the Worde in 1496 with the literary researches of the Joseph Haslewood edition of 1810.

Facsimile of the 1496 & 1810 editions.

New York: Abercrombie & Fitch, 1966. 

University Library System - q Z241 .B75 1966

Women in Angling

There are notable examples of women anglers that have made significant contributions to the literature and sport of angling.   The women included in this exhibit are listed below.

Juliana Berners

Portrait of Juliana Berners

Illustration from "Annals of Sporting" Vol. VIII, 1825. Engraved by Percy Roberts "Drawn from an Antique by Brooke." (By courtesy of Messrs. J. Rimell and Son.)

Dame Juliana Berners, (flourished 1460), English prioress and author of A Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle (1496), the earliest known volume on sport fishing. Berners’s work predates Englishman Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler (1653), the best-known example of early angling literature, by approximately 150 years.

Berners was a noblewoman and prioress of the Sopwell Nunnery near St. Albans, England, during the late 15th century, but little is known or recorded about her life other than her writing and publication of the Treatyse. Various accounts of the history of fishing literature describe her as a woman of keen intellect and an accomplished practitioner and avid devotee of outdoor sports, including angling and hunting.

Despite its antiquity, the Treatyse remains a remarkable work for its detail and vision. A comprehensive guide for the anglers of its time, the book contains substantial information on fishing destinations, rod and line construction, and selection of natural baits and preferred artificial fly dressings categorized by the season of their optimum utility. Perhaps most remarkable are the essays on the virtues of conservation, respecting the rights of streamside landowners, and angler’s etiquette. These concepts would not come to be commonly accepted and advocated in the angling world until 400 years after the publication of the Treatyse, yet today they embody the ethical bedrock of sport fishing.

Numerous women’s fly-fishing clubs and associations in the United States and Europe are named for Berners in tribute to her legacy as the first author of either gender to chronicle the fine points of the sport of angling.

-Biography from the Encyclopedia Britannica

Black Letter Script

Black Letter Text

Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle, Juliana Berners, 1496

"Black letter, also called Gothic script or Old English script, in calligraphy, a style of alphabet that was used for manuscript books and documents throughout Europe—especially in German-speaking countries—from the end of the 12th century to the 20th century. It is distinguished by a uniform treatment of vertical strokes that end on the baseline (e.g., in b or l), the use of angular lines instead of smooth curves and circles (e.g., for b, d, o, or p), and the fusion of convex forms when they occur together (e.g., as bo, pa, and the like).

"When printing by movable type was invented, typefaces were based on the book manuscript styles of the time. Black letter and revised Carolingian roman were the two dominant letter shapes of medieval typography. Black-letter type was used in the only extant work known to have been printed by Johannes Gutenberg, the 42-line Bible. Eventually, roman type, which was considered more legible by humanists, superseded black letter throughout Europe, except in Germany; there it persisted until 1941, when the Nazi government forbade its use. Black-letter typography persists in the 21st century mainly in the Old English calligraphy or type used for diplomas, certificates, liturgical printing, and newspaper mastheads."

-Definition from the Encyclopedia Britannica

Bottom Banner