The books of hunt

We often refer to “the huntbooks” when we write our texts. These are books about hunting written in the middle ages. In the 14:th Century there is mainly three books that concern us, they are also the most well known of all the medieval huntbooks. There are other prominent huntbooks from other centuries, the most important here being The Art of Venery,1327, by the Anglo-French Master of game, Twiti (Twici). Many of the later books draws on this and it is probably the basis of the ones we use the most. Sadly it has yet been unobtainable for us.

The books we use the most are instead;

Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio (1354–1376), attributed to Henri de Ferrières

Livre de Chasse (1387–1389), Gaston III (Phėbus) Phoebus, Count of Foix. Various copies with excellent illustrations. Also known as Book of The Hunt

The Master of Game, Edward, Duke of York

Lets take a closer look at them and how they relate to each other….

 Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio

Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio (1354–1376)

Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio (1354–1376)

Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio or, the book of king method and Queen Theory.  This book is attributed to Henri de Ferrieres and it is said that after the big plague in the 50:ies people where concerned that so many had died that knowledge would have died with them. Therefore they set the art of the hunt to text. The second part of the book also contains ‘the dream of the pestilence’. It is written as an allegory where King Modus or Queen Ratio answers questions posed to them. There is also a fair amount of moral and musings about the religious thinking concerning the hunt.

Henri de Ferrieres

The probable author of  Les livres du roi Modus

Henri Ferrieres sleeping on a strawmat in the woods

Henri Ferrieres sleeping on a strawmat in the woods

et de la reine Ratio is Henri de Ferrieres. There are some possible persons this might be. The most probable was born in the first decades of the 14:th century. in 1347 there is a note about a Henri de Ferrieres being a captive of the English. In 1369 a Henri de Ferrieres is reported as being commander of the fortress Pont de l’ Arche.  The Ferrieres owned the Breteuil forest north of Paris, a forest mentioned in the book. The author also say he saw  Charles IV hunt as a child. So it seems he was a man that was an active part of the hundred years war. A thing that is verified in some parts of the book (the dream of pestilence is insightful and refers to tactical situations in 1374)

 

King of pratice

This book is one of our favourites since it is very good at explaining things. There are several copies (21 copies is known) ranging from 1380 to 1486. This means that the book was popular and recopied for a long time. The copies we use is mostly Paris 1 for pictures, the oldest existing copy. We also use the  Copenhagen ex as this is translated into Swedish and interpreted by Gunnar Tilliander, considered one of the best in Medieval French of his time. It has very nice illuminations showing a wide range of hunting.

 

Livre de chasse

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Musée national du Moyen Âge, Musée de Cluny copy 1407-10

Livre de chasse is possibly the most well known of all huntbooks. No small part of this is that some of the copies sports beautiful, detailed, illuminations (illustrations). It is written in 1387-89 and exists in 46 known copies. The most well known and used are the copy in Musée national du Moyen Âge, Musée de Cluny from 1407-10 (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris Ms. fr. 616) and the Morgan library copy, also from 1407.

Gaston Phoebus

Livre de chasse is written by Gaston III/X of Foix-Béarn. He is more known as Gaston ‘Phoebus’, Phoebus being another name for the Greek god Apollon, and Gaston being known for being a very handsome

Gaston 'phoebus'

Gaston ‘phoebus’

man which earned him this nickname. He recorded the three “special delights” of his life as “arms, love and hunting”. Jean Froissart, the author of “Chronicles de France” visited his Court in Pau and was impressed with its splendour. Gaston was born 30 of April in 1331 and died while washing his hands after a bearhunt in 1391.  He had a son, but he stabbed him to death in a quarrel after the son had tried to poison him. Another of his sons, illegitimate, was one of the poor souls that died in the infamous Bal des ardent

Gaston was widely acclaimed to be a great hunter and

a reindeer

A reindeer from livre de chasse

even travelled to the far Sweden to hunt reindeers, possibly in connection to when he was fighting pagans in Prussia. He also fought in the Hundred years war, so it is quite possible he met Henri de Ferriers in person.

 

 

 

Book of the hunt

Livre de chasse is an excellent book, but hard to get hold of a copy as it only exists in French and that is a language I am regrettably bad in. The pictures are very good though and very informative. As the Livre de chasse follows King modus in its layout many of the pictures can get explained in other versions. Also, the Morgan library has some nice  informative text abstracts. We use the Morgan library and the French one mostly.

The master of game

The master of game is a English translation of Livre de chasse made in between 1406 and 1413 of Edward of Norwich. He also added some new chapters of his own and edited it for English hunters (for example he skipped Gastons descriptions of reindeers as he did not think it had any relevance for an English audience)

Edward of Norwich

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Edward Langely of Norwich, Duke of York

Edward of Norwich was born 1373 and is also known as Edward of Langley. He was the second Duke of York. He took a prominent part in the hundred years war and served there under both king Henry IV and Henry V. He also took part in some important emissaries to the French Court, amongst one in negotiating the wedding between Henry V and Catherine of Valois. When he was there Gaston Phoebus was already dead, so the chance that they met might have been slim. Edward was only 18 when Gaston kicked the bucket (presumably, as he was washing his hands at the time of his demise). Edward partook at the siege of Harfleur and commanded the right wing at the Battle of Azincourt. At Azincourt he became the highest ranking casualty when he met his fate on St. Crispins day.

Has also was, and this is more to our point, the master of harthounds for Henry IV.

The book

The master of game is a good book, but it is abit more amateurish in appearance then Livre de Chasse and King modus. It is written in a straightforward and matter of factly way. Even if there is some passages that are somewhat rambling in nature. Some parts (the ones Edward was not interested in) is put forward to others (he directs the hunting of otters to the kings otterhunter). For example he does not go into the disembowling of the animal as he say this is more of a woodsmans discipline then a hunters. It has some translation errors from Gastons original, but I think it deserves to be judged as a book of its own. It is after all written by a master of harthounds and therefore an experienced hunter. He would not put anything in there that he did not agree with (indeed there is some alterations to fit English hunters). There is a edition of this book with a foreword by Ted Roosevelt from 1909 that holds a high class. The appendix in the book is a very good read to get started with the medieval hunt. It exists in a on-line version here. I have not seen any pictures from this book.

The books amongst themselves

As we can see the Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio is the first and the one that sets the trend in what a huntbook should contain. Gastons book follow the same pattern, but is more direct in its tone and the Master of hunt is, of course, like Livre de chasse. But all books are written by active and highly valued hunters. We can be fairly sure that what they write is things they agree with and condole the practise of. Edward writes in some places about how things are done, and that he does not think it is good. This shows that he knows what he is talking about (or at least thinks so). Many medieval books are written by clerics that do not always have the practical experience of what they are writing about and therefore might not show a correct description of the actual practise used in the middle ages.

Books of the middle ages where copied by hand. This meant that errors was made. When a copy was copied the error was duplicated, and more errors might occur. This results in that often the book closest to the original is the most accurate. It is good to know what copy it is you are working from, and preferable to know how far removed from the original it is.

How we use manuscript sources.

WE use the manuscripts both as written sources detailing how they where thinking about the hunt and how it was conducted.
We also use the illuminations (pictures) as a source for equipment. These hands on books are very good in a interpretation viewpoint. We don’t have to guess what the pictures show and if it is allegorical or not. The text is explaining the pictures (and the pictures the texts). When you do not have the text available, you can often use the text from another book. As they deal with mostly the same you can identify the stages of the hunt as long as you know the other texts. Correlation between the texts can be done to see changes in the hunting equipment. It is harder to see changes in tactics as you do not know if these show individual preferences or a common overall change. Pictures can be used right as they are, to ensure you get an outfit of a hunter consisting of clothes that was actually worn together. Not to easy to know for modern people and could result in what would be in modern day someone wearing shorts and tuxedo. 1797515_10152160197582765_4688588845508775182_n-e1405598589505

In conclusion

The huntbooks are very fun to read. They are hands on and often rather funny. If one is interested in the hunt it is often a revelation to read them. Getting explanations to odd looking  pictures one have gleaned on the wide interwebz. With such good books, and easily obtained, on a subject I would say that it is very hard to try and reenact the hunt without reading at least the master of game or looking at the excellent illuminations of the Morgans copy of Livre de chasse. If you read those you might even be able to base a whole blog on them….

/Johan

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The Manuscript Challenge: A boar hunters outfit.

This post is about the making of my new outfit, my answer to The Manuscript Challenge. I’ve done an interpretation of the dog-handler in a boar hunting scene from “Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio”, the King Modus manuscript from ca 1370.

I admit that this outfit is well within my comfort zone and not very different from what I already have in terms of gear. But I like how it looks, it fills a gap in my wardrobe and I thought that it could be fun to interpret something exactly from a picture in my favourite medieval hunting book. In this way I can be sure that what I’m wearing are things that are meant to go together and hopefully well suitable for the activity depicted.

1797515_10152160197582765_4688588845508775182_nAs you can see, this hunter is wearing a tight liripipe hood (the making of it is described in detail here) and matching hoses with fashionably pointy toes. Like many hunters on foot during this period, he is not wearing any shoes. That might lead us to suspect the hoses being soled with leather. Tiny stripes on the horn suggest that it could be carved decoratively and the thin baldric is crossed below the waist. He is also wearing a thin black belt.

The hunters blue kirtle is very well fitted and buttons down the front, probably also on the sleeves. It has a generous cut over the chest to achieve the masculine Gothic ideal, a muscular “dove-chest” contrasting the narrow waist and straight fit over the hips. The kirtle on my manuscript picture reaches to mid thigh where it ends with a softly dagged edge.

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To short and to tight!

I made the pattern myself, fitting my toille in front of the mirror. Being a bit to eager to get started, I made two stupid mistakes. Firstly, I didn’t take any pictures of this step of the making. Secondly, when I had stitched the kirtle together and dagged the bottom edge, all by hand, I realised that I had cut it to short and a bit to tight to begin with. I looked stupid with my breeches (linnen underwear) showing to much and it would be hard to do any hunting with dignity in such a tight kirtle. (Admittedly, I have no ambitions of really doing any real hunting or anything requiring dignity at all. But I’d prefer if it didn’t show to much. 😉 )

I had to insert a gore in the middle back to expand the fit over the hips. The first dagged edge was sacrificed. I cut it off so that I could add an extra piece of fabric, following the lines of the pattern and lengthening the whole garment about 25 cm. When that was done, I had to re-do the dagged edge, now wider. All this was about three extra days of work, re-doing things I knew I should have done from the start. In the end I had a kirtle that was a slight bit longer than I had planned in the first place, but it looked very much like my original picture.IMAG2278IMAG2279It is bitter and tedious work, mending up a mess you’ve made yourself. But once I got the length right, I celebrated my victory by turning my attention to things I actually enjoy doing: details like buttons, buttonholes and pretty edges. The thin woad blue twill was a dream to work with and I hand stitched everything with silk or waxed linnen thread.

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Curvy cut over the chest and a pretty tablet woven edge in silk.

A strip of linnen lining the inside and a tablet woven edge on the outside strengthens the buttonhole edges. I used silk yarn in the same woad-blue for the weft and ended up with 63 buttonholes all in all. 10 in each sleeve and 43 down the front. The buttons themselves look like little blueberries…

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Slowly getting there, still a few more buttons to go…

The kirtle is deliberately cut with a light curve over the chest and has medium size “grand assiette”-sleeves with a gore inserted over the shoulder in the back. This allows for maximum freedom of movement in arms and shoulders but still gives a nice tight fit. I also added a small standing collar because I like how it looks. It doesn’t show on my manuscript-picture because of the hood, but low collars like this one are seen on other pictures in King Modus.

Egen1I finished the whole kit just in time for an event this past weekend. I’m so happy with how it turned out, but also surprised by the princely 10479940_10152625157110708_7587428764304000842_olook it gives me. The kirtle look so much more glamorous than I expected! But as I’ve worn and torn it during this weekends adventures, it starts to feel more like me.

Johan carved the horn that I carried with the rest of the outfit. I love how it is decorated with winding bands of wine leafs, happy hares and playful greyhounds. It has got a characteristic smell of tar, beeswax and gunpowder that I wouldn’t mind having as a personal signature scent.

I made a simple thin baldric for my horn but have already started to work on a larger and wider one to be more elaborately decorated, in the style of Livre de Chasse. (More on hunting horns is hopefully coming in a later post.)

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Photo: Annie Rosén

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Photo: Annie Rosén

So this is it for my first manuscript challenge. It was fun and intense to make the outfit, all hand stitched and with extreme attention to every detail. Slightly challenging to correct my mistakes by enlarging the pattern for the kirtle at such a late stage and lots of extra work, but not very difficult.

I find it stimulating to work towards a tight deadline with a very clear picture of where you are going, so the manuscript challenge suits me very well. But now when I’m done with it, I think I’ll want to start over again with a new picture of a hunter in another manuscript and go for something harder for my next attempt…

Rather close, don’t you think? If you like my work, please let me know. If you like the dog or her chain-mail collar more, do tell Johan who let me pose with her, and not me. 😉

1797515_10152160197582765_4688588845508775182_n20140827_163242_Richtone(HDR)/ Emil

  • Estimated time to make this hand sewn kirtle: + 80 h
  • Material needed: Blue twill wool, ca 1,70 meters, plus scraps of unbleached linnen. Sewing thread in silk and linnen, beeswax. The 63 buttons was made of leftover cloth. I had all the material at home when I started.
  • Total cost to make: ca 400 sek / 40 eur

“Can I wear this?”

I and other reenactors often get questions about how we find information, period pictures for inspiration and if there are evidence in the archaeological material for this or that. This is a huge topic, I’m learning still and I cannot possibly cover it with a single post. But I’d like to share some of my thoughts on it, in order to help you answer the recurring question “Can I wear this?” yourself.

Reenactment is about recreating things as close as we can get to the real thing. I believe it is really important to do your best to achieve that. For me this ambition is what makes it challenging but also fun and rewarding. To get as close to the real thing as possible with your medieval gear, you’ll need to start in the right end. Even if an attempt to research may feel intimidating for beginners, it is much easier to first look for proof among period pictures, in historical sources, contemporary art and archaeological material rather than the other way around.

If you first decide what you want, make it or buy it and afterwards try to find proof that things were actually done that way – you are bound to be disappointed. Working that way is an anachronism based on how you decide what you next fashion item will be in your modern everyday wardrobe. Especially as a beginner at reenactment you need to free yourself of this mindset or you risk finding yourself in lack of evidence and thus have to abandon your project or re-do it.

"Can I wear this?" This illumination from Les livres du roi Modus is my main source of inspiration for my next outfit.

“Can I wear this?” This illumination from Les livres du roi Modus is my main source of inspiration for my next outfit.

However, finding information and evaluating it is a craft in it self. You have to have some feel for period art expression, knowledge about the geography, religious life, economy, politics and social strata of the society you are studying just to formulate a question. It helps a lot if you have some understanding for medieval crafts and materials, their value and production.

As I hope you understand, it is not possible for anyone to be an expert on all of this at once. That is why we have professional historians, archaeologists and art specialists. I’ve read my share of history and archaeology but it is in no way sufficient to make me an expert. That is why we need our friends, other blogs, museums and a living network of historical enthusiasts. On the left here in our blog you’ll find a list of links to some of the resources we use for inspiration and information.

The best tool for learning is a healthy combination of curiosity and scepticism. In time, you’ll build up a bank of experience and a reference material among period texts and pictures, it does not come over night. So start to nose around, ask others, visit museums, look at pictures and read, but keep up a sound sceptical approach. Never stop questioning what others say, what you see and what you think you know. Anyone can be mistaken, misinterpretations of old are still around and new ones are discovered all the time.

But then how are you ever to know if a source is reliable, if something is appropriate to recreate and right for you? I’ll give you an example of the process of trying to finding out. Let’s say that I’d like to make a new bag for my hunting outfit. I’ve been looking around for a picture to base my bag on and I’ve finally found one. This white little purse, doesn’t it seem excellent for carrying my phone while I’m out hunting? And it appears in a handbook on hunting, Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio from late 14th century. Perfect!

Hunters and falconers fighting.

Or is it? What is actually happening on the picture…? They are fighting! Some of you will recognize the scene from Johans post about the conflict that seems to have been between hunters and falconers. There was bad blood between falconers and hunters about which was the noblest and most true kind of hunt – that with birds of prey or that with dogs. The bird-like thingy on the whipping piece of string is a decoy for training falcons, a tool for falconers. Here the hunters are portrayed with horns and the falconers are the ones wearing the little white bags.

What I want to say is this – you’ll need an idea of what you are reenacting, who you are in the medieval world and society in order to know what equipment you’ll need. Are you a hunter or a falconer, or in other words – a dogturd or fleapicker? If there is a conflict between hunters and falconers during the time you are reenacting and you want to be a hunter – don’t wear a falconers bag.

You’ll want to be sure to use the right attributes signalling who you are. You should aim for everything to go together in your ensemble of gear. Ask yourself – are you reenacting a man or a woman, poor or rich? When and where? What are your privileges in society and how do you express them? Where do you imagine that the person you are portraying live? What tools or characteristics are typical for your trade?

As I lift my eyes from the first picture of the purse I soon find that the little white bag perhaps could be attributed to falconers to set them apart from hunters. In Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio only falconers seem to wear them. Why is this? Interesting!

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Could it be that his type of bag is signalling the falconer’s trade in illustrations or has some sort of special use for a falconer? Such a hypothesis calls for further investigation. If I’m right, it makes this bag inappropriate for me to wear as a hunter. But in order to start calling this a falconers bag, I’d have to have stronger proof. I’d like to see the connection in other manuscripts as well or have some other attribution of the little white bag to this specific use. But once you start looking, you’ll see little white bags everywhere…

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The fact that not only falconers are wearing little white bags does not contravene the hypothesis that falconers maybe did as a mark of their trade. What I need is proof from other manuscripts or sources that show falconers carrying the same type of bag. The more pictures or historical evidence, the stronger the connection is.

Here is one from Codex Manesse, early 14th century. 721_10151593492456161_1601862695_nI’d prefer to have support from at the least three different manuscripts or other sources roughly from the same period of time before I conclude anything or decide to make something new. As I only have pictures from two sources and because Les livres du roi Modus is late 14th century and Codex Manesse is early, I’ll either have to keep looking or accept that my hypothesis is invalid.

When I started looking around in other sources, I got curious about what the falconers use the bag for. Knowing that could help me find more information and puzzle the pieces together. The little I know about falconering makes me wonder if it could be a easy-access-bag with meaty treats for the falcons? Little purses are commonly pictured in period illuminations and plenty of them are preserved, but they are rarely white. Why is this bag always white? Could it be a bag of linnen? I know that flax is hard to dye with period methods but very suitable to proof with wax and as such for storage of fresh food.

Mind you, it is not always possible to tell what material it is supposed to be just by looking at a picture. Also, don’t settle with a single picture of a funny looking bag found in just one manuscript before you decide to make one just like it, unless you are in to recreating that single scene exactly as it is. Ask yourself what the context tells you – the text that your picture illuminates, if you can read it or have it translated – what is it about? Does this type of bag occur anywhere else? Release your curiosity, start to ask and look around!

lovesmenotHere for instance is a picture of another bag or purse. It is not of the same type as the one I’m looking for but it is a good example of problems you’ll run into as a reenactor. Can I consider a bag like this one for my medieval hunters outfit?

Notice how big it is, almost like a modern backpack. From this period of time, mid- to late 14th century I know not of any others like it in size. Why is that? I haven’t seen everything, so I had to ask others who are more experienced. When I did, I was told that the text that this illumination belongs to is about the trouble that meets a man courting ungrateful and greedy women. Then I notice that the lady has a grumpy frown upon her face. I see the rejecting hand gesture and her very fancy dresses. I guess that she is not happy with her lovers gift, it is not good enough for her. How ever large and valuable, it is not what she wants from him.

From other texts and pictures as well as from interpreting the motifs on purses from the 14th century, aumônières, or alms purses seems to have been common gifts between lovers. I conclude that it is possible that the purse above is pictured as a large one in order to emphasize its importance, illustrating the great generosity of this man courting his ungrateful lady. Enlarging the most important thing in a picture is a common technique in contemporary art during this time but it can be misleading for us who look at the pictures some 650 years later…

To sum things up – as I am reenacting a 14th century hunter, none of the bags in my examples so far seems to be entirely appropriate. I’m still looking for something suitable, but I hope that sharing my searching strategy can be of help for others.

You will not always find what you are looking for and that is my last tip to you, don’t be to sure that you will. Don’t jump to conclusions to soon, look around, compare pictures from different sources and read the texts that go with the illuminations. Question what you think you know and try to see the bigger picture. As you do, you’ll get more skilled at analysing period art and you’ll learn more about the medieval world.

Good luck!

/ Emil