The Master of Game is the oldest and most important
work on the chase in the English language. Based primarily on
Gaston de Foix's Livre de chasse, originally composed in
1387, The Master of Game was written by Edward of Norwich
at his leisure between 1406 and 1413, mostly while being held
prisoner for having treasonous designs against his cousin, Henry
IV. While much of the book is almost an exact translation of de
Foix, Edward added five chapters of his own to form the major
source for our knowledge of the medieval hunt.
The book begins with a description of the nature of popular quarry,
such as the hare, deer, and badger, including their behavior,
characteristics, and even smells, and then moves to a discussion of
various hunting dog breeds and how to train them. The medieval
chase was a ritual event, so the book continues with an explanation
of the various rules and techniques for a successful hunt,
including how food was to be distributed among the hunters, the
support persons, and the dogs. Weapons and traps of choice are also
described, as well as the different horn calls used for
communication. The Master of Game is a unique text for
naturalists, hunters, and persons interested in social history.
Although hunting is nowadays far removed from most people's
experience, it was of major interest in the time of Edward of
Norwich for ritual, sport, and, of course, food. Some knowledge of
the chase was essential for all persons of medieval times.
This edition, the first paperback ever of the original version
edited in 1909, includes a hearty foreword by Theodore Roosevelt,
who adds some important contextual information about the chase and
draws on his own vast hunting experience. A delight to read, even
for those who are not keen on the sport, The Master of
Game has, as one review exclaimed," all Chaucer's freshness,
love of the open sky and fragrant woodland."
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