Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rrevisiting the Treatyse with Leonard Mascall in 1590

“A Booke of fishing with Hooke & Line, and of all other instruments thereunto belonging.  Another of sundrie Engines and Trapps to take Polecats, Buzards, Rrattes, Mice and all other Kindes of Vermine and Beasts whatsoever, most profitable for all Warriners, and such as delight in this kinde of sport and pastime.” 
by Leonard Mascall, 1590

            I read with great pleasure this quaint little volume, though in truth, the edition I had before me was not a first edition, but in fact was the 1884 reprint with the preface and glossary added by Thomas Satchell of W. Satchell and Co.  and lucky was I that this was so.  It was this preface that enabled me to put the book into proper context and see it for what it was, rather than just dismissing it as yet another plagiarized bastard version of the Treatyse.  Because, though Mascall did borrow almost all of the Treatyse and bits of several other texts for this book, he included much of his own material interspersed among the pages, and they reveal him to be that rare thing for his time... an ardent conservationist as well as an angler and sportsman.  However, rather than try to rewrite what is already perfectly well stated, I shall simply bow to the custom of Mascall's time and borrow Satchell's preface as written, for he states much better than I could the value of Mascall and this little book. 

            “The little black-letter volume here reprinted is very rare.  Most of the copies which remain are now preserved in great libraries, and I am not aware that any example has been offered for sale for many years past. 
            The full title is as follows:  “A Booke of fishing with Hooke & Line, and of all other instruments thereunto belonging.  Another of sundrie Engines and Trapps to take Polecats, Buzards, Rrattes, Mice and all other Kindes of Vermine and Beasts whatsoever, most profitable for all Warriners, and such as delight in this kinde of sport and pastime.  Made by L.M. (Woodcut.)  London Printed by John Wolfe, and are to be sold by Edwarde White dwelling at the little North doore of Paules at the sign of the Gunne.  1590”    The first part ends with page 50.  The second part has a fresh title-page with a repetition of the woodcut.  The pagination is continuous throughout.  There are editions dated 1596, 1600 and 1606, but I have not had the opportunity of examining them.  This Booke of fishing with Hooke and Line is a compilation made by a practical angler from “The Treatyse of fyshynge wythe an angle,” from “L'agriculture et maison rustique” of Charles Estienne and other sources.  The compiler, generally believed to be Leonard Mascall, has omitted the introductory portion of the “Treatyse,” and some other paragraphs, but, with the exception of some corrections and additions, he has left the instructions as he left them.”

            Satchell goes on to describe the book and its’ eighty-seven chapter divisions and headings, which are very similar to those used in the Treatyse.  It is from the chapter headings that one can get an idea of the diverse contents of the book.  Throughout the preface, Satchell continually, and correctly in my opinion, refers to Mascall as a compiler rather than as an author.  The preface continues, describing the differences in layout between the original Treatyse and Mascalls’ work, much of this, though interesting to myself and others interested in historical writings, would be of little interest to modern readers in search of historical fly patterns and so I will omit further discussion of it here. 
            There is an interesting bit about the introduction of carp into England.  That several times in the text it is asserted to have been a recent introduction, and in one instance, Mascall himself is credited with the introduction in 1514, is blatantly incorrect.  The fact that the Treatyse devotes a chapter to them shows that they were present at the time of publication, if not before.  Since the Ttreatyse was written before 1496, this would put the introduction date at least 1496, and considering that the Treatyse may have actually been written as early as 1540, the carp would have to have been in England at least that long.  Mascall may have brought carp into England, but he is not the first to introduce them. 
Now, if it it is only for the fly patterns that you have come here, I am going to have to disappoint you.  As with so much of this book, Mascall copied them exactly from the Treatyse, with no difference what so ever.  The flies are illustrated in a previous blog article, (Izaak Walton and the Dame’s dozen), and the patterns given there-in also, so I will not repeat them here. (go here for the patterns.
            Readers of this book will find Mascall very different from most other authors of his time, and even later, in his strong conservation ethics.  In the chapter on Anglers and Fishers, (pg. 19) he talks at length about how he wished that the months of March, April and May would be left to the fish, as it being their chief spawning time, they need to be left undisturbed to increase the stock. He complains about how there are so many people who would kill the fish in whatever way they could at any time, with this lack of regard making “fresh fish so dear, and so scant in rivers and running waters.”  My edition is missing page 30 and 31, but page 32 continues a serious criticism of those using nets, the size of the nets and how destructive they are, as well as ideas for regulating net sizes and usage on rivers, especially in placed where the land-owners lease the stretches with no regard for the fish what-so-ever. He also urges that those who own the rivers should do much more towards maintaining the stocks of fish there-in and offers as a profitable fish, the Poult.  This fish, apparently introduced from Holland into the Fens near Peterborough is so plentiful in its home waters that the locals feed their pigs with them.  Prolific and pleasant tasting as well as good sport, he sees it as a way to keep an abundant supply of fish, which would be “good for the Common wealth.” 
            Mascall also compares the rules in England with those in other countries of Europe, citing France as an example where, night fishing and the damaging of streamside bushes and reeds during spawning season are punishable offenses and are banned.  The selling of fish and shellfish that are out of season in markets is banned as is the taking and eating privately of said fish also banned and punishable by forfeiture of their fishing tackle.  Using nest with mesh sizes less than four inches is also banned, to protect the smaller fish  He goes on to say “I would to God it were so here with us in England, and to have more preservers, and less spoilers of fish out of season and in season: then we should have more plenty through this Realm.” 
            Mascall has a lot more to say on the conservation of fish, both complaining about the abuses and advising on stocking techniques.  He is ardent in his defending fish against all “devourers” animal and human alike.  Unlike many fishermen and writers that would follow, he differs in that instead of espousing the “save the fish by killing all the fish eating birds and animals” philosophy, he instead argues that along with the killing of the fish eating birds and animals, human activities, being so much more destructive, need to be regulated severely, for the good of all the people, not just landlords and fishermen.  This sets him apart and in my opinion makes him one of the earliest conservationists I know of.  A link to this most excellent book and its compiler can be found here. 

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