The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Heraldry

S. Seld. d.17 fol. g3v


In addition to finishing up its Hebrew manuscripts, the Bodleian has recently been working on digitizing a final few incunabula for the Polonsky Project. Among the most recent batch of incunabula is S. Seld. d.17, a sammelband containing three texts: the Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Heraldry, and two editions of the Chronicles of England, one of which is attributed to William Caxton. According to the Bodleian's incunable catalogue, the book came to the Bodleian by 1674 from the library of John Selden. There are also several clues to its earlier ownership. A marginal inscription on fol. E8r reads, "I do beseche you whosoeuer yt be yt shall haue this booke whether it be man or woman or chylde to praye for the soule of good h Master Kenne(?) for he was the ryght he[ ]r of yt". Fol. a1r of the first item contains a cancelled inscription with the name of Robert Vowell (Hooker), and a woodcut coat of arms has been pasted onto fol. i4v, containing the arms of Vowell and Hooker.


The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Heraldry is a reprint of a 1486 text known as the Book of Saint Albans, which was printed by the St Albans press and attributed to Dame Juliana Barnes or Berners (an inscription on fol. a1r of S. Seld. d.17 notes this attribution, correcting an earlier inscription attributing the work to Nicholas Upton). The copy contained in S. Seld. d.17 was printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1496. In addition to the texts included in the first edition—the sections on hawking, hunting and heraldry—the 1496 edition contains a section on angling.

The Book of Hawking

Beginning with the assertion that "gentylmen and honeste persones haue grete delyte in hawkynge," this work instructs the reader on how to "take" hawks (the two weeks surrounding St Margaret's Day are apparently the best time to catch a young hawk, or "brauncher"), what illnesses afflict hawks and how to treat them, and a number of hawk-related vocabulary terms. 


S. Seld. d.17, fol. a6v detail

For example, rather sensibly, "The feders vpon the backe halfe ben called the Backe feders" (fol. a6v).


The section on ailments and treatments is particularly interesting. For example, "A medycyne for an hawke that hath loste her courage" (fol. b3r) is as follows: "Take oyle of Spayne and tempre it with clere wyne & with the yolke of an egge: and put therin beyf. And therof yeue to your hawke fyue morcelles. And thenne sette her in the sonne| And at euen fede her with an olde hote coluer. And if ye fede her thus thre tymes: that hawke was heuer soo lusty nor so Joyly byfore as she woll be after" (fol. b3v). Another treatment, for "Artetyk", instructs the reader to "let the hawk's blood 'in the orygynall veyne: and after that gyue her a frogge for to ete. and she shall be hole" (fol. c1r). The book also instructs that the hawk's bells "be not too heuy ouer her power to were", that they "ben sonowre and well soundynge", and that one bell should be a semitone lower than the other (fol. c5r). Finally, the book ends with a list of which hawks are appropriate to which ranks of the nobility: for an earl a "fawken peregryne", for a lady a "merlyon", etc. (fol. c5v).

The Book of Hunting

This section includes a poem about the various aspects of hunting different animals, in which learn that the hare is "the merueylloust beest that is in ony londe", and that hounds that have caught a hare should be rewarded "wyth the heed. / Wyth the sholders & the sydes and wyth the bowelles all" (fol. d1v). Later on, we learn that a greyhound "sholde be heeded lyke a snake: and neckyd lyke a drake: foted lyke a catte| tayllyd lyke a ratte" (fol. e2v).


S. Seld. d.17 fol. e3v

Perhaps the most interesting part of the Book of Hunting is the list of "The Companyes of bestys & foules" (ff. e3v-e4v), an early model for modern lists of collective nouns. Like many later variations, this list is at least partly intended to be humorous. In addition to "a Pryde of Lyons" and "a Claterynge of choughes", we have: 


"a Dylygence of messengers"
"a Prudence of vycaryes"
"a Malepertnesse of pedlers"
"a Blaste of hunters"
"a Fyghtynge of beggers"
"a Superflyte of nonnys"
"a Noonpacyens of wyues"


The Book of Hunting also contains several pages on armory, and concludes with "a treatyse of fysshynge wyth an Angle". This section attributes "a good spyryte" to partaking in "good dysportes & honest games", such as hunting, hawking, fishing and fowling (fol. g3v). To accompany the technical instruction on how to fashion a fishing rod, lines and hooks, there are a number of woodcuts, some of which seem more helpful than others:


S. Seld. d.17 fol. h3v
fol. h3v

S. Seld. d.17 fol. h4r
fol. h4r

S. Seld. d.17 fol. i3v
fol. i3v

The Book of Heraldry

Finally, we have this section on "the blasynge of armes" (fol. a1r), starting with "a crosse of an equall lengthe on euery parte" and progressing to more complicated designs, each illustrated in red and black ink and purple and yellow paint.


S. Seld. d.17 fol. 2a6r
fol. 2a6r

S. Seld. d.17 fol. 2b2r
fol. 2b2r