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Twiti, William, d. 1328

The craft of venery.

Worcester, England, circa 1450.
Physical Description:
1 v. (7 p.) ; 23 cm.
Rare Books and Manuscripts
SK25 .T85 1450
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
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Archives & Manuscripts
William Twiti was huntsman for King Edward II (1284-1327). Twiti's L'Art de vénerie (or the The art of hunting), originally composed in Anglo-Norman French, is considered the first work on hunting to be written in England and an important source for later writers on hunting (parts of it appear in The boke of St. Albans of 1486). Like Henri de Ferrières's Le livre du Roy Modus et de la Royne Racio, Twiti's treatise takes the form of a dialogue in which the huntsman answers questions put to him by his apprentice. The short work includes sections on the qualities of commonly hunted beasts (such as the hare, hart, boar, and fox), the classification of such animals, the horn calls and cries used in different hunts, the rewarding of hunting hounds, and the flaying of the catch.
The craft of venery is a mid-15th century reworking, considerably amplified and reordered, of Twiti's L'Art de vénerie. David Scott-Macnab argues that the textual variation of The craft of venery is great enough that it should be treated as an independent work.. It survives in two manuscripts, including the present manuscript and British Library MS Lansdowne 285, the latter being a direct (and inferior) copy of the YCBA manuscript.
The Twiti treatise is the second text in a volume of manuscripts copied by John Porter, of Worcester, England (fl. 1445-1485). For more information on John Porter and the manuscript volume as a whole, click on the link to the John Porter manuscript provided herewith. The contents of the volume are as follows: Tractatus de armis, a treatise on heraldry, in Latin, by Johannes de Bado Aureo (p. 1r-36v) -- The craft of venery, a treatise on hunting, in English (p. 37r-40r) -- Annotations by Sir William Dethick, in Latin and English (p. 41r) -- Blank (41v-43v) -- Miscellaneous items in several 15th century hands, including tables for assessing quantities of wine, menus, recipes, and historical and Biblical treatises (p. 44r-55v) -- Forty chess problems, in English and Latin (p. 56r-60v) -- A chronicle of English history from 1066 to 1477, in Latin (p. 61r-68r) -- Miscellaneous texts (p. 68r-70v) -- A treatise on the plague, in English, ascribed to John of Bordeaux (p.71r-72r).
Provenance: John Porter; Thomas Mellynton; Anthony Reston; Thomas Hodgett; Sir William Dethick; Sir Edward Coke; Thomas Percy (Bishop of Dromore); George Baker; Sir Thomas Phillipps (MS 12086); Lionel and Philip Robinson (booksellers); Sotheby's, 28 Nov. 1967 (no. 107); Paul Mellon.
Binding: Bound in brown half morocco and purple cloth, by Bretherton, 1848.
A complete transcription of the manuscript, together with photo-reproductions of all 7 pages, is available in: Podeschi, John B. Books on the horse and horsemanship: riding, hunting, breeding & racing, 1400-1941. London: Tate Gallery for the Yale Center for British Art, 1981. Another transcription is available in: The Middle English text of The Art of Hunting by William Twiti ; edited from an uncatalogued manuscript in a private collection, Ashton-under-Lyne, with a parallel text of The Anglo-Norman L'Art de venerie by William Twiti edited from Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College, MS 424/448, by David Scott-Macnab. Heidelberg: Winter, 2009.
Selected exhibitions: "Paul Mellon's Legacy: A Passion for British Art" (Yale Center for British Art, 18 April-29 July, 2007); "'The Compleat Horseman': Sporting Books from the Bequest of Paul Mellon" (Yale Center for British Art, 17 February-29 April, 2001).
Scott-Macnab, D., editor. The Middle English text of The art of hunting, 2009.
Danielsson, B., editor. The art of hunting, 1977.
Podeschi, J.B. Books on the horse and horsemanship, 3
Sotheby's (Firm). Bibliotheca Phillippica, Medieval manuscripts: new series: third part. 1967 Nov. 28, 107
Manuscript copy of William Twiti's The craft of venery, a treatise on hunting derived from Twiti's L'Art de vénerie. The text was copied circa 1450 by John Porter, M.P. of Worcester, England. According to Scott-Macnab, the manuscript is "a considerably modified redaction of Twiti's original treatise [L'Art de vénerie] with additions from three other sources. The primary Middle English text deriving from LAV [L'Art de vénerie] appears to be based on an independent translation (Epsilon) ... This has been abridged, reordered and interspersed with the majority of the Giffard-additions found in C [British Library, MS Cotton Vespasian B XII] ... and then supplemented with further information found nowhere else ...". Additions to the present manuscript found in no other contemporary manuscripts include passages on blowing the "prise", an account of fox-hunting, and a section on hunting with bow and stably (in which deer are driven past ready bowmen).
The manuscript is written in pen and dark brown ink, in Porter's hand throughout, without rubrication or decoration. According to Scott-Macnab, "The writing is generally carefully executed, with sensible and useful punctuation, and occasional corrections ... Other evidence indicates that Porter was copying from an English source, rather than translating ..."
Subject Terms:
Baker, George, 1781-1851 -- Ownership.
Bowhunting -- England -- Early works to 1800.
British Library. Manuscript. Lansdowne 285.
Coke, Edward, Sir, 1552-1634 -- Ownership.
Deer hunting -- England -- Early works to 1800.
Dethick, William, 1543-1612 -- Ownership.
Fox hunting -- England -- Early works to 1800.
Hides and skins -- England -- Early works to 1800.
Hodgett, Thomas -- Ownership.
Horn (Musical instrument) -- England -- Early works to 1800.
Hunting -- England -- Early works to 1800.
Hunting customs -- England -- Early works to 1800.
Hunting dogs -- England -- Early works to 1800.
Mellynton, Thomas -- Ownership.
Percy, Thomas, 1729-1811 -- Ownership.
Phillipps, Thomas, Sir, 1792-1872 -- Ownership.
Porter, John, fl. 1445-1485.
Reston, Anthony -- Ownership.
Twiti, William, d. 1328. Art de venerie. English (Middle English) & (Anglo-Norman)
Porter, John, fl. 1445-1485.

Paul Mellon's Legacy : A Passion for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

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