The Generous Sportsman, c. 1725

We have many things in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, including many beautifully-decorated books. Often, though, fascinating things don’t have gilt, engravings, or woodblock prints. A tiny (five inches by three inches), leather-bound tome came to hand last week, and it turned into today’s highlight.

The Generous Sportsman, or, a Brief Discourse of Setting Doggs by A Lover of the Setting Sport. Ca. 1725, bound in early sheep skin, book stamped “Riders 1666” on verso. National Sporting Library & Museum, acquired 1994, the gift of John H. Daniels. F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

The book is in the manuscripts collection, and is entirely hand written. As the title page indicates, it is a very early (estimated early 18th Century) work on setters, including a general overview of the breed, and discusses training and traits desired for hunting.

“Shooting Scene,” from Presentation Copy to William Edkins by Samuel Howitt (c. 1756-1822). National Sporting Library & Museum, acquired 2014.

The author discusses best practices for hunting with dogs, whether allowing them more freedom to roam the field or less is more useful for catching scent. The book also claims that dogs with mottled or black coats are desirable, as they are more visible in the evening hours when bird hunting occurred.

The bookseller’s slips that accompany the book indicate that this is the earliest known book in the English language about a particular breed of dog. It also contains the first known mention of the pointer breed by name. The book was purchased as a Christmas gift for John H. Daniels by his wife Martha in 1993.

Reportedly the earliest known written reference to the pointer. “Should theze omitt mentioning another kind of Doggs much in Vogue with some by ye term of Naturall Pointer, by some called Spanish Trotter.”

The work is clearly legible, with a little patience. There are many abbreviations to save space in the little notebook, and the non-standardized spelling of the day also challenges the modern reader. However, the handwriting is surprisingly clear once you adjust to it.

What book has surprised you with great content in a humble cover? Do you find reading our highlight images to be difficult? Let us know in the comments below or send us an e-mail!

Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

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