Thursday, 25 October 2012

De Arte Venandi Cum Avibus

Sometimes you see something interesting that leads you down a path of research that you didn't intend.  This totally happened today and I ended up googling De Arte Venandi Cum Avibus (On The Art of Hunting with Birds), a medieval treatise on ornithology and falconry.  Written in the 1240s by Frederick II of Sicily, it now exists in two forms as the original was lost in 1248 during the siege of Parma.  One form is a six-book version, the other is a two book version, which is an illuminated manuscript.

And it is gorgeous:

Sure, that's not necessarily one of the more spectacular illuminations in terms of medieval bling, but what I'm taken by is the sheer simplicity as well as the really nice layout.  That is a work of talent.  It also shows some of the hawking pouches that I make, which is nice too.

The book itself contains around 500 illustrations of about 80 different species of bird, some in flight:

Some being attended by falconers:

Some in the middle of eating the ears off a rabbit:

(Thank you, Wikipedia!)

Frederick wrote this book with the intention of sharing some of his scientific knowledge in terms of breeding and handling.  He did experimentation with eggs and how they hatched.  He also wrote "Whoever wants to learn the art of hunting with birds to be able to feed them, keep them, tame them, take them, teach them to hunt other birds sent them to hunt and, if necessary, treat, must unite, the quality which will be indicated, science (the theoretical and practical knowledge) contained in this work."  He was a big believer in doing things right.

I've not been able to find any single place online that holds all the illustrations, nor anywhere that holds a translation, sadly.  However, there is a Latin copy of just the text here:, although my basic High School Latin fails after a sentence and a half, sadly.  Still, if anyone would like to spend out on a translated copy, there's one available on Amazon with the original pictures too.  It's 768 pages long and quite some money:

I know it's expensive, but I'm still not convinced that it's not worth it.  I should probably go have a word with myself about that...  
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