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This 17th-century guide to trolling is totally real

Robert Nobbes’s book The Compleat Troller was published in London in 1682.


Cooper Fleishman

Internet Culture

Posted on Mar 23, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 2:29 pm CDT

Trolling has been around long before Internet bullies made an 11-year-old girl cry, and here’s proof. 


Robert Nobbes’s book The Compleat Troller, published in London in 1682, is a seminal work, a poetic tribute to the art, history, and science of trolling, from antiquity to the present day. It has a 24-page introduction, written partly in iambic verse, containing frequent allusions to Roman mythology.


It’s also got plenty of cool illustrations of angling gear, because this is a book about fishing.

Surely you know that trolling doesn’t only mean pushing people’s buttons online. It’s also when you trail a line behind your boat and hope to catch a pike or two.

John Overholt, a curator at Harvard’s Houghton Library, first spotted the text and tweeted it as “Reddit: The Missing Manual.”

All the internets, everywhere. v @john_overholt @burritojustice

— gilly youner (@gillyarcht) March 22, 2014

It looks too good to be real, but it is! Thanks to the Internet Archive’s cache of a University of New Hampshire Library page, you can read The Compleat Troller here, or download it here. You can also find reproductions on Amazon.

The biggest troll move of all: getting the Internet to gush over your poems about fishing, 350 years later.

Photo via Moyan Brenn/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Mar 23, 2014, 3:03 pm CDT