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Christian Works : [Book of hawking, hunting, and heraldry]

Berners, Juliana 1388?-

Christian Works

<p style='text-align: justify;'>The <i>Book of hawking, hunting and heraldry</i>, also known as the <i>Book of St Albans</i>, by the mysterious Schoolmaster Printer is unique: the first English book on sport, the first English printed armorial, the first English book with popular rhymes, and the first book with colour-printed woodcut illustrations in England, in red, blue, and occasionally gold. During the Middle Ages St Albans had a flourishing monastery, with a scriptorium where chroniclers had been at work since the thirteenth century. Subsequently, some of St Albans’ monks – probably after studying the art of printing under Caxton at Westminster – founded a print shop, active from 1480 to 1486, producing eight books, of which the <i>Book of hawking, hunting and heraldry</i> was the last and most ambitious.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The text was based on various sources and served as a manual for gentlemen seeking information on a variety of subjects. The essay on hawking was not intended as a full practical guide, but to introduce technical terms, and to describe the feeding of birds of prey and their illnesses. The treatise on hunting is attributed to Dame Juliana Berners (born 1388), the Prioress of Sopwell Priory near St Albans. It contains a list of special collective nouns for animals, a tradition still used in modern English. ‘A superfluity of nuns’, however, may have been coined as a joke, and had already appeared in a unique copy of John Lydgate’s <i>The horse, the sheep and the goose</i>, printed ten years before by Caxton.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The treatise on heraldry, with coloured representations of coats of arms, is admirably arranged. It contains a section on the use of heraldic terms, recounting contemporary discussions on the relationship between gentility and heraldic practice. The Cambridge copy, imperfect like most, was formerly owned by William Burton (1575–1645) and Bishop John Moore (1646–1714). Burton was an antiquary, famous for The description of Leicestershire (1622); one of the annotations in his hand on folio 4 recto cites John Leland and John Bale.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The <i>Book of St Albans</i> proved popular: Wynkyn de Worde reprinted it in 1496 with the addition of an essay on fishing, and again with omissions in 1518; later editions by other printers followed. There is a manuscript copy of the treatise on heraldry based on de Worde’s edition of 1496 in the Takamiya Collection, Tokyo (MS 86), now on deposit at Yale University’s Beinecke Library.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Professor Toshiyuki Takamiya</p>

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