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436 LEITERS IN CANADA 1997 read them? It is evident that they share the intention to assail the minds and hearts that characterizes much preaching prose, but they are, we m.ust assume, devised for dissemination to individuals. Parker's diligence has rescued a most interesting text from obscurity and done it well. The nature of 1ts place in its own time is a topic that should now be explored further. (GLORIA CIGMAN) Richard C. Hoffmann. Fishers' Craft and Lettered Art: Tracts on Fishing from tl1e End ofthe Middle Ages University of Toronto Press. xv, 403. $6o.oo cloth, $24.95 paper This book is the result of an enthusiasm: a Jove of history and a love of fishing. Richard C. Hoffmann aims to provide texts and translations pertaining to the recorded history of fishing in the early modem period. VVhile people have always fished, written accounts of the activity are rare; and simply because they are written accow1ts, they are at some distance from the essentially non-literate skill they aim to illuminate. Hoffmann is interested in this intersection of a highly technical, unwritten craft activity and the learned, literate world of written manuscripts and printed books. He attempts to disinter from the written text the underlying body of oral tradition and thinking, and to make plain the increasing cultural mobility of such material in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Oral fishing traditions that found their way into a text, and then into print, could eventually end up in a learned encyclopedia, or they could be copied by hand again and find their way down to those making a living fishing streams and lakes in other, and very different, regions. Hoffmann chooses three texts: the German 'How to Catch Fish' tract, which appeared in print in various European cities in the first half of the sixteenth century; the 'Tegemsec Fishing Advice' written in a manuscript in Tegemsee Abbey around 1500; and the Spanish 'Dialogue between a Hunter and a Fisher' by Fernando Basurto, printed in Zaragoza in 1539ยท Each text is given in the original language with a modem English facingpage translation, and each is provided with an exhaustive introduction and notes characterizing the nature, production, circulation, and circwnstances of the work. The history of fishing has its own share of myths and misconceptions , and Hoffmann see.ms determined that no facet of these texts should ever achieve the factoid status of, say, the sporty Dame Juliana Bemers. His examination of the printing history of the German tract- he argues convincingly for a lost first edition by Jacob Kobel in Heidelberg in 1493 -is thorough and illuminating; it provides a perfect example of the curious cross-over in the late fifteenth century of knowledge popular and learned, Latin and vernacular, handwritten and printed, private and public, suddenly facilitated by a shift in literacy, ideas, and technology. Fifteenth- HUMANITIES 4J7 century manuscripts are full of works similar in status to the fishing tracts: medical, herbat astrologicat alchemical, scientific, all with concrete, practical applications, and all rarely explored today for what they can tell us about the culture and mentality of the time. In this respect, Hoffmann's meticulous examination of one group of such texts is both welcome and exemplary. It must be confessed, however, that the texts themselves are something of a let-down. Hoffmann, in h1s enthusiasm for the subject, describes them as 'three large works of instruction on how to catch fish,' and his introduction is so full of fascinating information on both the interpretation of texts and the history of fish that the reader is full of eager anticipation for the works themselves. But the 'How to Catch Fish' tract in twenty-seven chapters is in fact six pages of frequently rather revolting recipes for making bait; the 'Tegernsee Fishing Advice' consists of nineteen pages mostly on constructing flies (incomprehensible to the non-fisher); and only Basurto's 'Dialogue' seems to hold any intrinsic interest. (It is a nice example of humanist rhetoric, and a contribution to the ~debate between classes' theme: the aristocratic hunter is put down by the poor~ but contented fisherman.) Hoffmann's account of the kind of thing these texts can teach...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 436-437
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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