Monday, August 6, 2007

Arte venandi cum avibus

The art of falconry, one of the oldest sports, consists in the use of birds of prey trained to hunt birds of a larger size like cranes, bustards, geese, and other species they wouldn't normally hunt. These hunting techniques arrived in Europe around the 5th century and were introduced by the Germanic invaders. The mosaics of the Halconero Villa in Argos, Greece, showed for the first time what this art is. After its introduction in Europe falconry rapidly spread there, becoming the favorite sport of kings and princes. During the Renaissance when firearms were perfected, falconry declined and almost disappeared.
Falconry gave rise to a very abundant literature; the first work in Europe is a 10th c.tract by the "Anonymous de Vercelli". Frederick II von Hohenstaufen, a passionate hunter and especially interested in falconry and the natural sciences spent more than 30 years gathering information and experiences to write the master work of the Western art of falconry: De Arte Venandi cum avibus (The Art of Falconry).
This erudite emperor considered all previous literature in this area poor and insufficient. Frederick's work is transmitted in Codex ms. pal. lat. 1071, preserved in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. This 2-column 111 folio parchment manuscript is the most famous and best known of all the works of Frederick II because of its incredibly beautiful illustrations. The marginalia has 170 human figures, more than 900 species of birds, 12 horses and 36 other animals plus all the paraphenalia needed for falconry.

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