These two paperbacks, of Geoffroi de Charny's A Knight's Own Book of Chivalry and Edward, Duke of York's The Master of Game, make accessible two texts that are of exceptional interest for the light they shed on the ethos, style and tastes of the secular aristocracy of the later Middle Ages. Charny's book offers an exploration and explanation of the values and proper manner of life for Christian knights and men at arms by someone who was a knight himself. The Master of Game is also a translation, but from the 15th not the 21st century. It is Edward, Duke of York's English rendering of the most famous of the many hunting treatises of the Middle Ages, the Livre de chasse of Gaston Phoebus, Count of Foix (d. 1391). Edward omitted some of Gaston's chapters (on the ibex, for instance, and the reindeer, not very relevant quarry for medieval Englishmen), but added five of his own on specifically English hunting ways. The new paperback is a straight reprint of the Baillie-Grohmans edition of 1909, which discreetly modernised the English of the original, and carries the same series of charming black and white reproductions of illuminations from the magnificent Bibliothèque Nationale manuscript of the Livre. It also carries the enthusiastic foreword to the 1904 edition by the then president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, which has an interest for itself.
LRB 15 December 2005 | PDF Download