Language scholars and fishermen have a new run of information to explore in the Palouse, thanks to a Spokane couple. Washington State University has netted an historic collection of classic angling literature valued at $1.8 million.
Among treasures in the unusually fine collection are a complete set of 19 first editions of Henry Abbot’s privately printed birch books, Oswald Crawfurd’s personal, annotated copy of “The Compleatest Angling Booke,” and a first edition (1653) of Izaak Walton’s “The Compleat Angler.”
“The Compleat Angler” is, along with the Bible, “one of the most popular books ever published in English,” said Trevor James Bond, head of the WSU Libraries’ department of Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections.
Joan and Vernon Gallup of Spokane donated the fine catch of more than 15,000 rare books related to angling, natural history and outdoor sports.
The Gallups declined to be interviewed, but Bond confirmed they both have a love for fishing.
“Vern especially is an angler and enjoys it very much,” Bond said. “They’re very passionate about both fishing and the literature of fishing.”
The books are distinguished by their diversity, he said.
Many of the books are clearly about fishing, but others have more subtle contents related to fishing.
“A beautiful book on the River Thames might be of secondary interest to anglers, but it reflects the Gallups’ passion in collecting as they’ve dug deeply and broadly into all of the literature that could be brought into such a collection.”
Assembled over decades from American and British dealers, the collection is three times the size of well-known angling collections at Princeton University and the University of New Hampshire, WSU officials say.
Standout volumes include “The Fresh Water Fishes of Great Britain,” by Sarah Bowdich, who ground fish scales and mixed them in paints to vividly illustrate her book.
Roughly half of the collection refers to Europe while the other half documents the emergence of a distinct voice of outdoor writing in American literature by the mid-20th Century.
“You can see the writers pulling away from the British style,” Bond said.
Roderick Haig-Brown is well-represented in the collection with 159 books, including scores of first and rare editions such as a limited 1974 edition of “The Salmon” in a full leather slip case and the first signed U.S. edition (1954) of the “Fisherman’s Winter.”
The Gallup collection is the largest single gift of rare books in the MASC’s 120-year history, putting WSU at the forefront of such collections internationally, Bond said.