The Master of Game: The Oldest English Book on Hunting

The Master of Game: The Oldest English Book on Hunting
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Edward of Norwich. The Master of Game: The Oldest English Book on Hunting

INTRODUCTION

FOREWORD. TO THE FIRST EDITION

CHAPTER I. THE PROLOGUE

CHAPTER II. OF THE HARE AND OF HER NATURE

CHAPTER III. OF THE HART AND HIS NATURE

CHAPTER IV. OF THE BUCK AND OF HIS NATURE

CHAPTER V. OF THE ROE AND OF HIS NATURE

CHAPTER VI. OF THE WILD BOAR AND OF HIS NATURE

CHAPTER VII. OF THE WOLF AND OF HIS NATURE

CHAPTER VIII. OF THE FOX AND OF HIS NATURE

CHAPTER IX. OF THE GREY (BADGER) AND OF HIS NATURE

CHAPTER X. OF THE (WILD) CAT AND ITS NATURE

CHAPTER XI. THE OTTER AND HIS NATURE

CHAPTER XII. OF THE MANNER AND HABITS AND CONDITIONS OF HOUNDS

CHAPTER XIII. OF SICKNESSES OF HOUNDS AND OF THEIR CORRUPTIONS

CHAPTER XIV. OF RUNNING HOUNDS AND OF THEIR NATURE

CHAPTER XV. OF GREYHOUNDS AND OF THEIR NATURE

CHAPTER XVI. OF ALAUNTES AND OF THEIR NATURE

CHAPTER XVII. OF SPANIELS AND OF THEIR NATURE

CHAPTER XVIII. OF THE MASTIFF AND OF HIS NATURE

CHAPTER XIX. WHAT MANNER AND CONDITION A GOOD HUNTER SHOULD HAVE

CHAPTER XX. HOW THE KENNEL FOR THE HOUNDS AND THE COUPLES FOR THE RACHES AND THE ROPES FOR THE LYMER SHOULD BE MADE

CHAPTER XXI. HOW THE HOUNDS SHOULD BE LED OUT TO SCOMBRE

CHAPTER XXII. HOW A HUNTER'S HORN SHOULD BE DRIVEN

CHAPTER XXIII. HOW A MAN SHOULD LEAD HIS GROOM IN QUEST FOR TO KNOW A HART BY HIS TRACE

CHAPTER XXIV. HOW A MAN SHOULD KNOW A GREAT HART BY THE FUMES177

CHAPTER XXV. HOW A MAN SHOULD KNOW A GREAT HART BY THE PLACE WHERE HE HATH FRAYED HIS HEAD

CHAPTER XXVI. HOW THE ORDINANCE SHOULD BE MADE FOR THE HART HUNTING BY STRENGTH AND HOW THE HART SHOULD BE HARBOURED

CHAPTER XXVII. HOW A HUNTER SHOULD GO IN QUEST BY THE SIGHT

CHAPTER XXVIII. HOW AN HUNTER SHOULD GO IN QUEST BETWEEN THE PLAINS AND THE WOOD

CHAPTER XXIX. HOW A HUNTER SHOULD GO IN QUEST IN THE COPPICE AND THE YOUNG WOOD

CHAPTER XXX. HOW AN HUNTER SHOULD GO IN QUEST IN GREAT COVERTS AND STRENGTHS

CHAPTER XXXI. HOW A HUNTER SHOULD QUEST IN CLEAR SPIRES AND HIGH WOOD198

CHAPTER XXXII. HOW A GOOD HUNTER SHALL GO IN QUEST TO HEAR THE HARTS BELLOW

CHAPTER XXXIII. HOW THE ASSEMBLY THAT MEN CALL GATHERING SHOULD BE MADE BOTH WINTER AND SUMMER AFTER THE GUISE OF BEYOND THE SEA

CHAPTER XXXIV. HOW THE HART SHOULD BE MOVED WITH THE LYMER AND RUN TO AND SLAIN WITH STRENGTH

CHAPTER XXXV. HOW AN HUNTER SHOULD SEEK AND FIND THE HARE WITH RUNNING HOUNDS AND SLAY HER WITH STRENGTH

CHAPTER XXXVI. OF THE ORDINANCE AND THE MANNER OF HUNTING WHEN THE KING WILL HUNT IN FORESTS OR IN PARKS FOR THE HART WITH BOWS AND GREYHOUNDS AND STABLE

APPENDIX

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During the century that has just closed Englishmen have stood foremost in all branches of sport, at least so far as the chase has been carried on by those who have not followed it as a profession. Here and there in the world whole populations have remained hunters, to whom the chase was part of their regular work – delightful and adventurous, but still work. Such were the American backwoodsmen and their successors of the great plains and the Rocky Mountains; such were the South African Boers; and the mountaineers of Tyrol, if not coming exactly within this class, yet treated the chase both as a sport and a profession. But disregarding these wild and virile populations, and considering only the hunter who hunts for the sake of the hunting, it must be said of the Englishman that he stood pre-eminent throughout the nineteenth century as a sportsman for sport's sake. Not only was fox-hunting a national pastime, but in every quarter of the globe Englishmen predominated among the adventurous spirits who combined the chase of big game with bold exploration of the unknown. The icy polar seas, the steaming equatorial forests, the waterless tropical deserts, the vast plains of wind-rippled grass, the wooded northern wilderness, the stupendous mountain masses of the Andes and the Himalayas – in short, all regions, however frowning and desolate, were penetrated by the restless English in their eager quest for big game. Not content with the sport afforded by the rifle, whether ahorse or afoot, the English in India developed the use of the spear and in Ceylon the use of the knife as the legitimate weapons with which to assail the dangerous quarry of the jungle and the plain. There were hunters of other nationalities, of course – Americans, Germans, Frenchmen; but the English were the most numerous of those whose exploits were best worth recounting, and there was among them a larger proportion of men gifted with the power of narration. Naturally under such circumstances a library of nineteenth century hunting must be mainly one of English authors.

All this was widely different in the preceding centuries. From the Middle Ages to the period of the French Revolution hunting was carried on with keener zest in continental Europe than in England; and the literature of the chase was far richer in the French, and even in the German, tongues than in the English.

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Gaston's book is better known as Gaston Phœbus, the nickname of the author which Froissart has handed down. He treats not only of the animals of France, but of the ibex, the chamois, and the reindeer, which he hunted in foreign lands. "The Master of Game" is the oldest book on hunting in the English language. The original chapters are particularly interesting because of the light they throw upon English hunting customs in the time of the Plantagenets. The book has never hitherto been published. Nineteen ancient manuscript copies are known; of the three best extant two are on the shelves of the Bloomsbury treasure house, the other in the Bodleian Library. Like others of the famous old authors on venery, both the Count of Foix and the Duke of York show an astonishing familiarity with the habits, nature, and chase of their quarry. Both men, like others of their kind among their contemporaries, made of the chase not only an absorbing sport but almost the sole occupation of their leisure hours. They passed their days in the forest and were masters of woodcraft. Game abounded, and not only the chase but the killing of the quarry was a matter of intense excitement and an exacting test of personal prowess, for the boar, or the bear, or hart at bay was slain at close quarters with the spear or long knife.

"The Master of Game" is not only of interest to the sportsman, but also to the naturalist, because of its quaint accounts of the "nature" of the various animals; to the philologist because of the old English hunting terms and the excellent translations of the chapters taken from the French; and to the lover of art because of the beautiful illustrations, with all their detail of costume, of hunting accoutrements, and of ceremonies of "la grande venerie" – which are here reproduced in facsimile from one of the best extant French manuscripts of the early fifteenth century. The translator has left out the chapters on trapping and snaring of wild beasts which were contained in the original, the hunting with running hounds being the typical and most esteemed form of the sport. Gaston Phœbus's La Chasse was written just over a century before the discovery of America; "The Master of Game" some fifteen or twenty years later. The former has been reprinted many times. Mr. Baillie-Grohman in reproducing (for the first time) the latter in such beautiful form has rendered a real service to all lovers of sport, of nature, and of books – and no one can get the highest enjoyment out of sport unless he can live over again in the library the keen pleasure he experienced in the wilderness.

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