Old Anglo Indian Books

For bibliophiles mainly.

Conversations with Walter Hingley prompted me to bring out my favorite old fishing book: a copy of Thomas’s The Rod in India that I got from fishing writer Datus Proper, with its gold embossed figure of an Indian angler and a mahseer on the cover.* (Click all to enlarge).

The mahseer was sometimes called “The salmon of the Raj” but it is more like a tarpon (though known for strength more than aerial acrobatics). Walter found the photo; the other from Thomas.

I wrote to Walter, who had told me of another book with “Circumventing the mahseer” in the title: “My copy of Rod In India is pretty remarkable — I haven’t looked at it in a long time. It apparently belonged to someone named Woods who was a member of the Rangers in Meerut and signed the flyleaf in March 1899; he also has some tackle opinions with which he has annotated the text. The illustrations are fabulous and there is a chapter on fishing with otters which compares, perhaps, with the one on cormorant training in Salvin’s falconry book of the same era. The chapter “Circumventing the mahseer” seems to be his own writing; perhaps it was an irresistible phrase.”

They also have a version of my favorite, if never chic, fish, the monster cat.

Today they still fish for several species of the mahseer, these days mostly catch & release. I am piscivorous, but the magnificent and threatened (and allegedly inedible) mahseer needs help…

Books like this transcend fishing and evoke a lost world. They sit on my shelves with contemporaries & friends like Kipling & his father and “EHA”‘s whimsical natural history (last a gift from David Zincavage).

* Notice BTW the swastika- like pattern on the Navajo rug in the background, a common motif in both American Indian and Indian design– both Kiplings used it– before the Nazis perverted it.

9 thoughts on “Old Anglo Indian Books”

  1. Thomas's The Rod in India is online for free as an ebook dload as well as other formats, like flip books.



  2. The trophy of the masheer was the pharyngeal jaws, mounted on a small hardwood plaque. The van Ingen brothers of Mysore, who had the government contract for taxidermy, had a tremendous collection of colonial trophies, including many mahseer jaws. I got a set from the kitchen of a forest bungalow in Kerala back in the 90s, and kept it in my office. When visitors would ask what they were I'd tell them they were a set of homemade dentures from a mahout. BTW, Circumventing the masheer was first published (I believe) as a 3 part serial in the Bombay Natural History Society Journal.

  3. I'll be writing about Wade.

    Codger– ever catch one yourself? It is the one fish I dream of, more even than tarpon, because of the surroundings & history. Do you have the big anthology volume of the Bombay society, which also has falconry, dogs, much more?

  4. I don't know whether your thread about fishing in India is still "live" but, if it is, thanks for pointing out "Circumventing the Mahseer" as a chapter heading in Thomas's book; I hadn't noticed before. MacDonald wrote eleven articles under that title for the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society between 1942 and 1946. They were then published as a single book. Fascinating stuff; all names and places.
    Poor old Thomas spent £400 on colour plates for his second edition of The Rod in India – and never got his money back! All these books on fishing in India during the "days of the Raj" are fascinating – highly personal and usually "amateur" writing by men a long way from home.

  5. I don't know if this thread is still " live" but, if it is, thanks for pointing out the chapter heading "Circumventing the Mahseer" in Thomas's book. MacDonald wrote eleven articles for the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society under that title betwee 1942 and 1946. They were then published as a single book under that name. Fascinating stuff! – like all the Journal's articles, written by enthusiastic, mainly "amateur" men, a long way from home.
    Poor old Thomas spent £400 on colour plates for his second edition of Rod in India – but never got his money back!


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