England and the Animal World
Manuscripts were not only used in academic contexts: they also offer clues as to how people would relax, pass the time, and enjoy themselves in the great outdoors. Hunting manuals detail proper protocols for the hunt, that most important of aristocratic practices. To learn about the animals on the hunt, one might turn to a bestiary, a genre of compendium that developed during the classical period. Bestiaries give short introductions to various animals and often include information about the animal’s symbolic connotations.
Takamiya MS 16 contains a copy of the oldest hunting treatise in English, The Master of Game, which was translated from the French Livre de Chasse by Edward Plantagenet, Second Duke of York, before his death in 1415. The material in this book was not limited to hunting tactics, however; this opening provides strategies for training a dog to relieve itself of solid waste outside.
Beinecke MS 189 is a copy of Hugo de Folieto’s Moralitates de avibus. This bestiary-cum-lapidary describes the properties of birds, fish, and -- something altogether more stationary -- stones. It also contains color drawings of several birds, many of which were touched up by a later artist, suggesting the ongoing importance of the book to its owners.