Thirteenth-century monarchs were not expected to be accomplished writers, much less scientists, so it is fairly extraordinary that Frederick the Great himself wrote the book that is regarded as the first work of modern zoology: Of the Art of Hunting With Birds. It was the standard work on the art of falconry until the eighteenth-century, and the cult of falconers apparently still consult it.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
—From “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats
The book is based on a lifetime study of all kinds of birds, from sparrows to hawks. Their anatomy and plumage, their feeding, mating and nesting habits, their times and routes of migration; all are so intently observed and well recorded that ornithologists can read the book today with perfect respect.
About nine hundred illustrations were done for the book, probably under Frederick’s direction, some possibly by the emperor himself. Of the twelve existing manuscripts, the finest is probably the one in the Vatican Library.
Frederick II, emperor and German king, king of Sicily, was Norman and G
n in ancestry, but essentially a Sicilian; he underwent influences from Byzantine and Moslem culture. He was a poet, a patron of Provencal troubadours and German minnesingers, and also of architecture, philosophy and science. Falconry was one of his main preoccupations; he brought together the best falconers from the four corners of the world, and provided optimum facilities. De arte is his own master-work.
Today we are keenly interested in “clicker-training” captive dolphins through positive reinforcement; we note that the captive dolphin is free to go away to the other end of the tank. Similarly, the captive falcon is entirely free in the sky as soon as she leaves the wrist; therefore her training is analgous to training dolphins in the open ocean (as has been done). From the falcon’s perspective, the falconer is perceived as a hunting partner–and his dog–and his horse. Lucidity in “positive reinforcement” training is essential, and to admire this quality, if no other, modern dog trainers will enjoy Frederick’s book.Read More:http://www.poodlehistory.org/PFANDH.HTM