Recently I came across a number of catalog reprints of some great fishing tackle firms, including both Hardy and William Mills & Son. Fascinated, I contacted Ross Bolton, who was listed as the editor of these works, to learn more. Ross was kind enough to forward me a review copy of the 1927 WIlliam Mills catalog book, as well as CD-Rom containing a .PDF of the catalog and also a .PDF of a rare fishing book.
Mr. Bolton is not a fisherman, but as he wittily quipped "I would persuaded if someone would let me borrow their boat." He's also not a tackle collector, but he is a collector of catalogs and dedicated to both preserving them and making them more widely available. He got his start, believe it or not, when he saw how hot old books on scroll saws had become on eBay, so he started "searching for more fields that had frustrated collectors."
His first foray into tackle catalogs was to reprint some rare early Hardy Bros. Angler's Guides. From there it was a logical leap to other tackle catalogs, concentrating on William Mills. The copy he sent me was a complete reprint of a 1927 Mills catalog (160 pages, $9.99 list price, 6" x 9" trade paperback, Perfect Bound, B&W illustrations, color cover). My first impression was I could not get it photocopied for cheaper than the list price. I was impressed with the overall quality of the printing--although a little dark in places it was definitely much better than a photocopy and clear enough to be read everywhere. Much detail could be found in the items and text that would otherwise have been missing in poor quality xeroxes of this particular catalog that have floated around in collector's hands for years. It has a very strong binding. Definitely worth the price.
But Bolton also decided to offer it via a high-resolution .pdf download. He sent the same catalog in digital format on a CD-Rom and I have to say, I really enjoyed being able to blow up pages and look at minute details on Leonard rods, for example. A very neat option, and a money saving one as well. In fact, you can get seven full Mills catalogs for around $20.00.
Ross also sent a digital .pdf copy of John Harrington Keene's Fishing Tackle: Its Material and Manufacture (1886). Readers of this blog will recall Keene as being a subject of interest for me, and I've even been approached about publishing an edited and annotated version of the complete works of J.H. Keene by a British author. Fishing Tackle: Its Material and Manufacture is one of my favorite books and I am fortunate enough to own a first edition which is on my desk as I write this. The digital copy is a nice reproduction for those who don't have it, and a reprint (like the Mills catalog) is available as well for $9.99.
All in all Ross' endeavour is a neat idea. I've been a big fan of Abby Moat over at Cornell Publications and own a couple dozen of her catalog reprints. I've often wondered why more tackle-related catalogs aren't reprinted, and so we can thank Ross Bolton for giving us a dozen or so hard to find examples. As he wrote me, "I am in the market for saving valuable history. So much has vanished into the hands of collectors, but with today's technology I thought I could stop that."
It's definitely a labor of love as the amount of time necessary to scan a catalog at high resolution, remaster them for print, and then PDF the entire file is prohibitive (take it from someone who's done it more than a few times). But fortunately Ross has a sense of humor; when asked to relate a bit of his personal life, he said "I spent a lot of time testing it out, it is important to note that fish taco's do taste better over cabbage with lime and a touch of spicy thousand island."
I couldn't agree more.
Ross Bolton's books are available on eBay or Amazon.com.
-- Dr. Todd