Isaak Walton

From Book Owners Online

Isaak/Izaak WALTON 1593-1683

Biographical Note

Born in Stafford, son of Gervase Walton, innkeeper. Educated at the local grammar school before being apprenticed to a London linen draper in 1611. Freeman of the Ironmongers' Company 1618, by which time he was trading in cloth and garments in Chancery lane. He became friendly with John Donne, who was Walton's parish priest from 1624, and through him with a wider literary circle including Sir Henry Wotton and Henry King. Walton wrote a biography of Donne prefaced to the posthumous LXXX sermons (1640), the first of a number of biographies whose publication established Walton's literary reputation (life of Sir Henry Wotton, 1651, of Richard Hooker, 1665, of George Herbert 1670, of Robert Sanderson 1678). A royalist during the Civil War, he spent most of the 1640s and 50s in London; in 1653, his celebrated fishing manual, The compleat angler, was published. In 1661 he moved to Winchester as steward to George Morley, who had been made Bishop there; he died in Winchester though in his later years he lived with his daughter at Droxford, where his son in law was rector.


It is clear from Walton's writings that he read extensively. In 1980 a list of 65 traced books from his personal library was published, and it is likely that his total collection was appreciably larger than this. It was noted then that the great majority of the books he is known to have owned were in English, with a high proportion of devotional works alongside some history and literature. In his will, he made some specific bequests of books: Donne's sermons to his son in law William Hawkins, Richard Sibbes's Soules conflict to his son and his Bruised reed to his daughter, "desiring them to read them so as to be well acquainted with them". A copy of Joseph Hall's Works was also to be given to his daughter. All the rest of his books, which were in various locations, were divided between his son Izaak and daughter Anne, the former receiving all his books at Farnham Castle (the Bishop of Winchester's residence), and the latter receiving those at Droxford and Winchester. Examples: Bodleian Antiq.f.E.1648/1, Christ Church Oxford e.7.21, NLS H.S.1, Salisbury Cathedral (where there are many of his books) T.3.33, T.4.6.

Characteristic Markings

Walton's books were typically in plain and simple bindings with minimal decoration, though a few examples are noted with I W stamped on the boards. He usually inscribed his books in the top right hand corner of the titlepage, "Izaak: Walton" (the punctuation varies), and often added details of price or donation. He regularly annotated his books in various ways, through the text or on the endleaves.