Monday, July 30, 2018


Abbreviated and edited from the journal I edit:
Last May [several years ago now], I received an e-mail from R.H., a medieval scholar. He had been asked to assess a text in a mid-fifteenth-century codex—a text that turned out to include the earliest recorded collection of fly-tying patterns known to exist. The Haslinger Breviary, currently owned by [—], is a devotional book; the fishing text is added to pages originally left blank.

H. was writing a piece about the breviary that included not only a description and history of the book, but also a transcription and translation of the fishing texts and fly patterns. Would we be interested in publishing this?

Our reply lies in your hands.

[It]  is presented here in three parts. In the first, H. and codicologist P.K. describe the codex and review its provenance, beginning with Leonhard Haslinger in the fifteenth century. Part II presents a transcription of the text alongside H.’s English translation. In Part III, H. places the breviary’s fishing notes in historical context.

In October, with this issue already in production, I made a long overdue trip to London. Before leaving, I contacted J.R. of [—] to see if I could make an appointment to see the breviary. He graciously agreed, and my husband and I got to see the book, complete with a personal tour of its pages and history.* It was a highlight of our stay.
*We paged through the book carefully without gloves, being told that gloves would make our fingertips less sensitive and we’d be more likely to tear pages if wearing them. This must be the oldest book I’ve ever touched.


  1. Wow. Were you afraid you might damage it?

  2. How wonderful! That makes complete sense about the gloves. Though having watched too many episodes of "Who Do You Think You Are?" I always worry when I see people looking at old documents bare-fingered.