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Why a Derby man spent 20 years collecting HUNDREDS of versions of the same book

Posted on 20/02/2019 in Press Coverage

If you love fishing you may own a copy of The Complete (or Compleat) Angler which boasts a rich Derbyshire connection. But do you have 350 copies?

Trevor Johnson, a proud Rams fan who originates from Chellaston, does. He’s selling 350 copies of The Complete Angler in our April 1 Library Auction – and has another 200 copies at home!

He admits his hobby of ‘collecting a book’ – just the one - has been ‘a bit of an obsession’ for the last 20 years.

The famous book by Izaak Walton, first published in 1653 by Richard Marriot in London, celebrates the art and spirit of fishing in prose and verse. Happily, it puts Derbyshire’s fishing pedigree on the map referencing the county and fishing in the River Dove.

Hansons’ books expert Jim Spencer has been grappling with Trevor’s remarkable collection. Every single copy, from different centuries and publishers, has had to be painstakingly catalogued.

It’s dominated his thoughts to such a degree, he confesses he’s even dreamed about the book -a lot! A keen angler himself, he was first introduced to it by his grandmother when he was a boy.

There have been countless editions since 1653 and Trevor, 71, a former director of Reckitt & Coleman, has done his very best to collect them all.

His earliest is a fourth edition from 1668 which has a guide price of £2,500. A first edition has been out of his reach as they sell for in excess of £100,000.

Another valuable book in Trevor’s collection is a limited edition illustrated copy from 1931, signed by the artist Arthur Rackham. It has an estimate of £500.

There’s a Swedish version, German version and one bought from James Cummins Book Store in New York, a mixture of original editions and reprints. One copy that’s caused amusement amid the vast collection is an Oxford-Thumb miniature, dating back to 1900 and measuring just 5.5cm in height. It has a guide price of £150.

Trevor tells me his wife, Mave, started his obsession with the book 20 years ago. He asked for a copy one Christmas and she bought him three different editions. The die was cast.

For the next two decades the couple visited countless book shops the length and breadth of the country searching for different editions. Trevor also sourced copies from other collectors, auctions, the internet and book shops in countries he visited on holiday or through work.

So is Trevor, who went to Derby’s Bemrose Grammar School, the biggest collector of this book in the world? Apparently not. He tells me he corresponded with an American who had 700 copies of The Complete Angler. It’s one of the Top 10 most collected books in the world and hugely popular in the States. It’s good to know Derbyshire’s fishing pedigree is known the world over.

If you have any antiquarian books gathering dust, entries are invited until March 8 for our Spring Library Auction. Email [email protected]. If you’re an angler, fishing-related collectables are welcome for our May 21 Country Pursuits Auction. Email [email protected]. Enjoy free valuations at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, every Wednesday, 5-7pm; Fridays, 9am-5pm and Saturdays, 9am-noon.