Gaston Phoebus – The Master of Game

Gaston Phoebus – The Master of Game Facsimile Edition

Paris (France) — Ca. 1407

On hunting techniques and the keeping of animals: the standard work on medieval hunting, magnificently illuminated by the famous Bedford master

  1. An authoritative hunting text was written by the Count of Foix, Gaston "Phoebus" III (1331–91) between 1387 to 1389

  2. It was reworked in 1407 by the studio of the Bedford Master at the behest of Philip the Bold (1342–1404)

  3. The perspectival, three-dimensional nature of the 87 miniatures was revolutionary for medieval art

Gaston Phoebus – The Master of Game

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  2. Detail Picture
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  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Gaston Phoebus – The Master of Game

Le livre de la chasse was written by Gaston Phoebus between 1387 and 1389 and was reworked in 1407 at the French court at the behest of Philip the Bold. The new edition of the book is furnished with unbelievably beautiful miniatures from the studio of the Bedford Master. Today, the splendid manuscript is found in New York City’s Morgan Library.

Gaston Phoebus: The Master of Game

In the years 1387 to 1389 the Count of Foix and Viscount of Béarn, named Gaston Pheobus, composed an extensive book concerning the hunt and dedicated it to his hunting companion, Philip the Bold. Le livre de la chasse, its original title in French, has been transmitted into a total of 44 copies. The specimen in the Morgan Library in New York City is considered to be one of the most outstanding reproductions of this manuscript. The hunting book is an interesting cultural testimony and possessed such a great relevance to natural science that it was used as a textbook up until the 19th century. The informative manuscript is incomprehensibly richly adorned with a total of 87 vivid miniatures opulently furnished with gold leaf and brushed gold. In addition to the large-format miniatures, the work is illustrated with 126 great, imaginative initials in a splendid variety of colors.

The Study of Nature in the Middle Ages

The enthusiastic hunter Gaston Phoebus describes the hunt and related activities in his manuscript with great detail. Nonetheless, the work is not merely concerned with the most common forms of hunting. Through his distinct observations of various types of animals, Gaston managed to create a significant masterpiece of medieval natural science long before the age of empirical science. Le livre de la chasse quickly became one of the most popular and widely-read books of the Gothic period. At the French and Burgundian courts, it was not only considered to be a study of nature and a textbook, but also a work of art. Numerous artists sought to translate the legendarily precise descriptions of the book into high-quality miniatures. The masters of the Bedford workshop thereby attained the highest level of refinement. Their illuminated manuscripts are considered by researchers to be among the the most beautiful manuscripts of the Middle Ages.

The Masterwork from the Bedford Studio

Duke Philip the Bold, to whom the original manuscript was dedicated, commissioned the gifted artists for the revision of his book. The artists of the studio of the famous and highly-regarded Bedford Master, created miniatures of surprising and fresh liveliness. Characteristic for their style in particular is a unique handling of plastic forms and faces as well as a soft fall of folds. 87 exceptional miniatures illustrate the manuscript. The exciting pictures in luminous, fresh colors against splendid, variously arranged gold backgrounds enchant each and every beholder. Tender studies of animals and nature and realistic-looking figurative scenes are as persuasive as the sensible treatment of color. The skilled execution of depth and plasticity in the pictures is especially astonishing. Such perspectival, three-dimensional painting was revolutionary for the art of the Middle Ages. No other edition of the hunting book can measure up to this high standard.


Alternative Titles
Gaston Phoebus - Das Buch der Jagd
Size / Format
156 pages / 38.5 × 28.6 cm
Ca. 1407
87 vivid miniatures, richly ornate with gold leaf and brush gold, 126 large imaginative initials
The book has four parts:
On Gentle and Wild Beasts
On the Nature and Care of Dogs
On Instructions for Hunting with Dogs
On Hunting with Traps, Snares, and Crossbow
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Louis I, Duke of Orléans (1372–1407)
Francis II, Duke of Brittany (1433 –88)
Queen Isabella I of Castile (1451–1504)
King Ferdinand II of Aragon (1452–1516)

Available facsimile editions:
Gaston Phoebus – The Master of Game – M.1044 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA) Facsimile Edition
Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2005
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

Gaston Phoebus – The Master of Game

A Trap for Wolves

The great unsung struggle of the Middle Ages was the war against wolves – the forests of medieval Europe were overrun with vicious packs of wolves that preyed upon farm animals and people alike. Enclosed within a wattle fence in the middle, we see either a lamb or sheep along with the severed haunch of an animal – perhaps a deer – as bait. One wolf has been drawn into the outer wattle fence and is now trapped between the concentric circles as his comrade looks on helplessly.

Gaston Phoebus - Das Buch der Jagd
Single Page

Gaston Phoebus – The Master of Game

Boar Hunting

Wild boar are some of the most dangerous of all game animals, not only willing to attack humans, but known to still be perilous even when fatally wounded. Even with the assistance of fierce dogs, facing off with a boar, spear in hand, was about as close to combat as a knight could get in times of peace.

Despite the violence of the scene, this miniature is truly gorgeous. Dynamic movements, fresh colors, and an elegantly patterned red background combine for a truly masterful composition. A hunter with yellow boots, a curved hunting sword, green tunic, and grey hose and hat stabs a boar in the foreground while a grey dog with a black collar goes in for the kill. Meanwhile, a pack of hunting dogs emerges from the woods, keeping the other boars at bay.

Gaston Phoebus - Das Buch der Jagd
Facsimile Editions

#1 Gaston Phoebus - Das Buch der Jagd

Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2005

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2005
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: The model for the facsimile volume is a blue silk binding from the library of King Louis XII. The specially rewoven fine silk is embroidered with golden fleurs-de-lys, the emblem of the French royal family. The noble impression of the volume is completed by the use of the finest parchment, with which the bookbinder covers the spine. Facsimile and commentary volume are supplied in a protective acrylic slipcase.
Commentary: 2 volumes by Yves Christe, Antoine d’Escayrac-Lauture, William Voelkle, and François Avril
Languages: German, French
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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