Boke of Saint Albans (Book of Saint Albans or Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms)

Boke of Saint Albans (Book of Saint Albans or Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms)

by Dame Juliana Berners

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The Book of Saint Albans (or Boke of Seynt Albans) is the common title of an 1486 book, a compilation of matters relating to the interests of the time of a gentleman. It was the last of eight books printed by the St Albans Press in England. It is also known by titles that are more accurate, such as "The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms". The printer is sometimes called the Schoolmaster Printer.

It contains three essays, on hawking, hunting, and heraldry. It became popular, and went through many editions, quickly acquiring an additional essay on angling. Scholarship on the sources of the Book indicates that little in it was original.

The hawking treatise is considered to be adapted from the Booke of Hawkyng after Prince Edwarde Kyng of Englande, a manuscript of the reign of Edward IV of England. The work is not intended as a full practical treatise, but to introduce the technical language, and to describe feeding and illnesses, for an owner who needs to take an interest.

The work provides this hierarchy of raptors and the social ranks for which each bird was supposedly appropriate.

Emperor: The Eagle, Vulture, and Merloun
King: The Ger Falcon and the Tercel of the Ger Falcon
Prince: The Falcon Gentle and the Tercel Gentle
Duke: The Falcon of the Loch
Earl: The Falcon Peregrine
Baron: The Bustard
Knight: The Sacre and the Sacret
Esquire: The Lanere and the Laneret
Lady: The Marlyon
Young Man: The Hobby
Yeoman: The Goshawk
Poor Man: The Tercel
Priest: The Sparrowhawk
Holy Water Clerk: The Musket
Knave or Servant: The Kestrel

This list, however, was mistaken in several respects. The Falcon/Tercel Gentle, Falcon of the Loch and Falcon Peregrine are usually said to be different names for the Peregrine Falcon. But there is an opinion that renders Falcon of the Loch as "rock falcon", or a peregrine from remote rocky areas, which would be bigger and stronger than other peregrines. This could also refer to the Scottish Peregrine.

The bustard is not a bird of prey, but a game species that was commonly hunted by falconers. This entry may have been a mistake for buzzard or for busard which is French for "harrier", but any of these would be inappropriate for barons. Some treat this entry as "bastard hawk", possibly meaning a hawk of unknown lineage, or a hawk that couldn't be identified.

Sakers were imported from abroad and were very expensive, and ordinary knights and squires would be unlikely to have them. There are contemporary records of lanners native to England.

Hobbies and kestrels are historically considered to be of little use for serious falconry, however King Edward I of England sent a falconer to catch hobbies for his use. The French name for the Hobby is faucon hobereau, hobereau meaning "local/country squire", which may be the source of the confusion. Kestrels are coming into their own as worthy hunting birds, as modern falconers dedicate more time to their specific style of hunting. While not suitable for catching game for the falconer's table, kestrels are certainly capable of catching enough quarry that they can be fed on surplus kills through the molt.

There is an opinion that, since the goshawk comes just before, the poor man's entry ("Ther is a Tercell. And that is for the powere man.") means a male goshawk and that here "poor man" means not a labourer or beggar, but someone at the bottom end of the scale of landowners.

The essay on hunting, in particular, is attributed to Dame Juliana Berners (or Barnes or Bernes) who was believed to have been the prioress of Sopwell Priory near St Albans. It is in fact a metrical form of much older matter, going back to the reign of Edward II of England, and written in French.

The virtues of the gentleman, according to the Book, were skewed towards those useful in military terms. It contained a section on the law of heraldic arms, the Liber Armorum, reporting on the contemporary discussion on the relationship between gentility, and the heraldic practice.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940015629699
Publisher: Balefire Publishing
Publication date: 09/22/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 210
File size: 12 MB
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