Gaston Phoebus

The Master of Game

Gaston III, count of Foix and Béarn in the south of France, wrote his “Livre de chasse”, or Master of Game, in the years 1387–1389. This work not only represents the most famous record of medieval hunting, but may also be considered as one of the most interesting testimonies to the cultural history of its time.

Gaston de Foix, describes in his four-part hunting book not only the then common forms of hunting, but also presents an impressive natural history, which – long before the times of the empiric sciences – was based on the extensive observation of different species and used as a text book well into the 19th century.

Right from the beginning, the Master of Game was a great success. The courts of France and Burgundy saw in it more than a study of nature; instead it was rather considered a work of art that inspired painters and writers for many generations. The most outstanding quality was reached by the Masters of the Bedford workshop, to whom we owe this painted manuscript. Scholars claim that it is among “the finest manuscripts ever made in the Middle Ages”. This hitherto little known, but magnificently painted hand-written copy of the lost original text of the Master of Game was commissioned by Duke Philip the Bold, brother of the bibliophile Duc de Berry.

The most celebrated hunting book of medieval times

Its 128 folios in the impressive format of 385 x 286 mm contain 87 extraordinary miniatures. Images reminiscent of princely castles on the sumptuous, partly finely chiselled gold grounds present a surprising painting technique of a sensitive and subtle aesthetics: The elaborate studies of animals and nature, the realistic figural scenes are just as impressive as the sensitive treatment of colour. The rendering of three-dimensionality in the painting was revolutionary for the time. All this is proof of the high level of craftsmanship reached by the French artists.

The binding of the Fine Art Facsimile edition is modelled on a blue silk binding from the library of King Louis XII. The fine silk was especially woven fur this purpose and embroidered with golden lilies, the emblem of the French royal dynasty. Last but not least, the noble impression of the volume is perfected by the use of fine parchment with which the bookbinder covers the spine.