The Sport of the Book: The Greville Haslam Sporting Book Collection

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SPORT of the



written by Walton bears his signature; over 250 years later poet and playwright John Drinkwater signed his name to the same volume, adding it to his library.


he creation of one man, the culmination of a lifetime of collecting, the Greville Haslam Sporting Book Collection of over 2,000 volumes offers students, scholars and members of the public the rare opportunity to view and consult works of some of the most celebrated writers, explorers, collectors and book artists of their time.

The Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library at the College of Charleston is home to one of the finest sporting and angling book collections ever assembled in this country.

The second strength of the collection centers on its 17th, 18th and 19th century titles. Included are those works most prized by hunters, anglers and bibliophiles, such as a 1655 edition of Hungers Prevention: Or the Whole Art of Fowling by Water or Land and two copies of the extremely rare Guide to Norway (1848), sought for its stunning color plates of lures. Samples of yarn and bird feathers are bound into some volumes, demonstrating the materials used in constructing flies; others contain the actual finished artifacts.

The books tell the story of men and women in pursuit of not just prey, but contentment and joy.

Centered on hunting and angling, as well as exploration and enjoyment of the natural world, the books’ texts tell the story of men and women in pursuit of not just prey, but contentment and joy. As objects, the volumes illustrate the glories of the bookmaker’s art.

Enriching the volumes are their associations. Some bear the bookplates of Dean Sage, Thomas Westwood, John G. Heckscher and other leading collectors. There are signed and limited editions, as well as copies considered unique, due to their added illustrations and elegant bindings from the hands of such artists as Zaehnsdorf and Riviere and Sons. A stellar part of the collection, invaluable for reference, includes over 400 copies of a single title – the most celebrated angling book of all time – Isaac Walton’s The Compleat Angler, first published in 1653. Another book in the collection

Greville Haslam’s wide interests and acquaintanceships are reflected in letters and inscriptions from writers as diverse as Zane Gray; polar explorer Ernest Shackleton; Eugene Connett, publisher of the much sought-after Derrydale sporting books; and Lee Wulff, one of the 20th century’s best known anglers, and godfather of catch and release. Certain to intrigue lovers of sport and books for years to come, the unrivaled collection of sumptuous, rare, and prized titles was donated to the College of Charleston by Mary and Howard Phipps, Jr. in tribute to the man who collected them, Dr. Greville Haslam.



ccording to Greville Haslam’s beloved Compleat Angler, there are two sides to a man’s life – contemplation and action – which the collector himself epitomized. Born in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in 1891, Haslam moved to the United States as a teenager and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1915. For the next three years he taught in the Baguio School for boys in the Philippines and traveled extensively

that anchors a man of action. He demonstrated similar skills, alternating patience with strong decisive acts, in stalking and bringing home the perfect rarity as a trophy for his library. The notes left in his books reveal that hunting for books and angling for fish were just parts of the same passion. Some of the books Dr. Haslam pursued and purchased were prized not just for their beauty and design, but for their contents, maybe disclosing a closelyheld angling secret or an ancient fishing spot. Similarly, the volumes on lures and flies he tracked down were not merely contemplated. He used them as textbooks to tie the flies and lures himself.

There are two sides to a man’s life – contemplation and action – which the collector himself epitomized. in Mindanao, British Borneo and the South Sea Islands. He saw service in World War I in the Canadian Engineer Corps, and became Headmaster of Episcopal Academy in Merion, Penn. in 1921, eventually transforming the school before retiring in 1957. A master of the English language, husband and father of three sons, he was also the master of other disciplines, dedicating his life to students, other institutions, and his community. A Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, he travelled the globe, from the Far East to the Arctic, lingering in remote areas of Canada and the United States to hunt and fish, finding that inner stillness

It was in contemplating his book collection – and in his active use of it – that the disparate sides of Greville Haslam met. When Dr. Haslam died in 1967, he left not just a library, but a legacy.


The volumes don’t just document fishing and 300 years of printing and social history; they also testify to one man’s passion and our larger quest for the perfect specimen, completeness, and the whole.


ver 350 years ago, in the midst of England’s tumultuous Civil War, a very peaceful book made its humble debut. The date was 1653, and the book was Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler. Since then, this gem, subtitled The Contemplative Man’s Recreation, has been in the center of a publishing and collecting furor that shows no sign of abating, making it among the most reprinted books in the English language. “Doubtless a better anglingbook there might have been,” one Walton expert has written, “but such, doubtless, there never has been yet…” In his first version, Walton described a conversation between Piscator (the angler) and Viator (the wanderer) setting out to fish one fine May morning. In his second edition (1655), Walton expanded the outing to include a falconer

and there were five editions, with more chapters added by Walton and his friend and admirer Charles Cotton before the author’s death in 1683. A century after its first appearance, The Compleat Angler was reprinted in a “corrected” edition in 1750. Since then, every age has rediscovered Walton and made his book its own, reproduced in various languages and editions, common and rare. The Greville Haslam collection, one of the most comprehensive, contains the famous second edition, the fifth edition, small pocket editions to be carried along by fishermen, as well as lavish collector’s special printings, such as an 1808 three-volume set with over 300 extra illustrations, including seven original watercolors. Almost all the desired editions are present, including anniversary numbers, a musical version and even a burlesque, The Incomplete Angler, with handwritten notes by its

“Doubtless a better angling-book there might have been, but such, doubtless, there never has been yet…” (Auceps), a hunter (Venator), and the original angler. Piscator proves that his sport is the best of all. For isn’t water a divine element? (The spirit of God moved on the water on the first days of creation.) Aren’t fish one of God’s most gifted creatures? (God chose a fish-like whale to deliver a message to Jonah.) And isn’t it a fact that angling unites the two extremes – contemplation and action – of existence? The book, whimsical and practical, proved popular,

comic author. The 400-plus volumes don’t just document fishing and 300 years of printing and social history; they also testify to one man’s passion and our larger quest for the perfect specimen, completeness, and the whole. They are part and parcel of the search for the good life – the greatest sport of all, one at which both Izaak Walton and Greville Haslam excelled.

The volumes don’t just document fishing and 300 years of printing and social history; they also testify to one man’s passion and our larger quest for the perfect specimen, completeness, and the whole.




any of the volumes that Greville Haslam acquired contained jottings (some as early as the 1600s) of owners who had turned the pages (and commented on their content) before him. In a way, he kept up the conversation, adding his own thoughts, pointing out beauties, condemning a few authors, indicating rarity and value, and indulging in a good sporting tale by recording the acquisition of a particular title that had been eluding him. In so doing, he managed to break the silence of time to share his wit and wisdom with those encountering his collection after him. DISMISSING AN AUTHOR “A lot of longwinded yarns… The author likes to hear himself talk –“ Greville Haslam’s comments on I Go A-Fishing by W. C. Prime (1915).

rising in spirited defense to Haslam’s genial accusation that the author is just an “armchair angler.” THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY When a rare book dealer wrote to Dr. Haslam in 1957 informing him of a first edition of The Compleat Angler available for $2,500, he held onto the letter for a month before declining. “Regretted,” he noted in the corner. And when another “first” edition was offered at a low price, he quipped that the dealer “has difficulty selling it. He got it cheap. There’s some reason.” He passed on that copy, too. ONE OF HIS TREASURES Regarding his signed Walton, later owned by poet John Drinkwater, he

“From the standpoint of numbers of editions and diversity of bindings, my collection would seem to be the most comprehensive in this country…” HIS COMPLEAT ANGLER COLLECTION “From the standpoints of numbers of editions and diversity of bindings, my collection would seem to be the most comprehensive in this country… G. H.,” as he signed himself, in his copy of A New Chronicle of The Compleat Angler by Peter Oliver (1936). Haslam’s copy is inscribed by the author’s wife and is filled with his annotations regarding which volumes in the bibliography he owns. There are also letters from Oliver,

made several comments over the years. “Many of the leaves have their deckle edges,” he wrote, proving that the book had not been trimmed, “and there are splendid impressions of the portraits. Charming.” Later, seeing a similar copy for sale in a catalogue, he added that “this present copy is in finer condition… the fact that this (present) copy also belonged to John Drinkwater makes it a double association piece.”



ean Sage, the pre-eminent collector of Walton and angling titles, in his copy of Wanny Blossoms, wrote on a pasted-in broadside ballad presented by a poet: “This was sent me in London in April 1896, on the occasion of my buying a dog … which was mortally ill from mange ...” Cynically, he called the fellow who sold him the dog an “Honest Angler!!” The book’s next owner editorialized, “he should not have bought a dog sight unseen.” And when Haslam acquired it, he joined the “conversation,” adding, “Sage was somewhat disillusioned!”

POINTING OUT “POINTS” Dr. Haslam pored over his volumes page by page taking notice of the various “points” that determine a particular printing. In an 1808 edition of The Complete Angler printed for Samuel Bagster, Haslam saw a variation not reported in standard bibliographies. The address of the publisher was given as one place in the front and as another at the back. “The two addresses… imply that he moved during printing of book. Which was the 1st address?” he asked. “Any other differences?” The question, which he knew others would take up after him, still stands.

In a tiny pocket-sized 1825 Complete Angler, a previous owner, A. W., jotted down why he believed the woodcuts in it were by famous artist Thomas Bewick. Haslam spotted some changes inked over in the text, summarizing, “A.W.’s statements are contradictory.” Although the spine is stamped with “Bewick,” Haslam remained unconvinced.

“The two addresses…imply that he moved during printing of book. which was the 1st address?”



ven before the College of Charleston received its charter in 1785, books had been designated for its library through a bequest of Goose Creek planter and attorney John Mackenzie in 1771. Over the years, the Library’s holdings have grown through the generosity of countless donors and have continued to thrive and survive throughout war, earthquake and other disasters. Natural history and book arts materials include the John Henry Dick library of 18th and 19th century illustrated ornithological works of Mark Catesby, Alexander Wilson, George Edwards, John Gould and John James Audubon; Juliette Staats’ collection of the works of renowned papermaker Dard Hunter; and Robert Scott Small’s Derrydale Press sporting classics. With the Friends of the Library’s Rare Book Collection, encompassing some of the most important first and early editions

of the touchstones of civilization, its hundreds of manuscript collections on local and national history, and its Jewish Heritage and Women’s materials, Special Collections functions as the center of intellectual and research activity in the Carolina lowcountry. Serving students, scholars and the public, Special Collections at Addlestone Library is proud to be the new home of the Greville Haslam Sporting Book Collection. Visit us at 205 Calhoun Street, Charleston, SC, 29424; or, call 843.953.8016.

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