Le Venery - The Broket Archive

Le Venery and The Maistre of Game

These two hunting manuals show that the word brocket was originally Northernnot ContinentalFrench.

Their earliest surviving versions in Middle English are in the Cotton Vespasian B 12 manuscript in the British Library—the source used here:

  1. Le Venery—i.e. ‘Hunting’—copied about 1425 but written a century earlier by William Twyty, chief huntsman of Edward II (1307-27); transcribed by Wright and Halliwell1 and Tilander.2
  2. The Maistre of Game copied about 1410, not long after being written by Edward III’s grandson; more accessible in Baillie-Grohman’s 1909 edition: The Master of Game by Edward, Second Duke of York (c 1373-1415).

Both were translations into English:

  1. the first of an Anglo-Norman original written in England at the beginning of the 14th C
  2. the second of a French original written in Continental France at the end of the 14th C.

The word brocket occurred once or twice in the English translations; did it also occur in these originals?

1. The Anglo-Norman original

Yes, it did occur in the Anglo-Norman original of Le Venery. The earliest surviving Anglo-Norman copies are in 2 manuscripts—Phillipps ms 8336 now British Library ms Add 46919 in London3 and Gonville and Caius College ms 424/48 p 92 ll 4ff in Cambridge.4 Both are in English hands of the first half of the 14th C.5 Sahlender mistakenly said ms 424/48 was 15th C.6 There is also a 1910 Paris edition, incorrectly called a French translation of the English.7 The beginning of the section on the hart shows these 3 versions:

London ms c 1350 Cambridge ms c 1350?8 1910 Paris edition
Ore alom al cerf e parlom de ly en ses degrés. fet a sauoyr qe le premer an si est il veel. le secund an broket. le ters an espeyard. le quart an sour. le quint an grant sour. le sime an cerf de la premere teste Ore aloms a cerf / parloms de luy en ses degrés. ffeat assauoir qe le premer an est veal. le second an est breket [sic]. le tierce an esparard le quarte an sour. le quinte an grant sour. le vj mo an cerf de la premer teste Ore alom al cerf, e parlom de ly en ses degrés. Fet a savoyr que le premer an si [est] il veel; le secund an, brocket, le ters an espeyard, le quart an sour, le quint an graunt sour, le sinc an cerf de premere teste
In Modern English: Let’s now talk of the hart and his stages. Know that the first year he is called a calf, the second year a brocket, the third year a spayer, the fourth year a soar, the fifth year a great soar and the sixth a hart of the first head.

This is the sole instance of the word brocket in Le Venery.

2. The French original

No, the word brocket appeared nowhere in Gaston Phoebus, written 1387-9, the Continental French original of the Maistre of Game. Most of the Maistre of Game was ‘a careful and almost literal translation of … the most famous hunting book of all times, i.e. Count Gaston de Foix’s Livre de Chasse, often called, Gaston Phoebus’.9 Following are the 2 instances of brocket in the English, plus the instance of brokes, compared with the relevant passages in the earlier French:

1. Maistre of Game f 25v 22 – 26r 3 Gaston Phoebus f 17v col 1 31-37
And the first yere that thei bene calfed thei bene called a Calf. the secounde yeere a bulloke and that yere and so forth go to Rutte the .iij. yere a broket the .iiij. yere a staggard the .v. yeere a stag the vj. yere an hert of .x and than at arst is he schaceable Et au premier an quilz naissent portent les boces. et au secont an gettent leurs testes et froyent. et deslors peuent engendrer. Cest bonne chasce que du cerf…
In Modern English: The first year that [harts] are calved they are called a calf, the second year a bullock, and in that year they join the rut, the third year a brocket, the fourth year a staggard, the fifth year a stag and the sixth year a hart of ten and only then can he be hunted.10 And in the first year after they are born they carry knobs. And in the second year they discard and rub their antlers. Thereafter they can breed. The hunting of stags is a wonderful thing to do…
This was in a chapter describing the hart and his nature, and the names of the stages are clear English additions—with similarities to the Anglo-Norman Le Venery. The word brocket was not in the French original.
2. Maistre of Game f 74r 14-19 Gaston Phoebus f 57r col 1 29-33
& therbi he may avise hym to know the difference of the hertis feet. & ther shal wel fynde that there nys no dere so yong 3if he be from a broket vpward that is taloun nys more large & bettire & more greet Argus thane hathe an hynde & comonly lenger traces. & trouuera quil nest nul cerf si iosne sil porte .vj. cors ou plus qui nayt le talon plus large & meilleur et plus gros os que na vne bische.
In Modern English: [By obtaining various harts’ feet and impressing them into different types of earth] he may observe and realise the differences in harts’ feet. He will soon find that all male deer from brockets upward have larger and better defined heels and larger ergots (dew claws) than hinds, and usually longer footprints.11 In Modern English: And he will find that there is no stag so young, if he carries six or more pointed antlers, who does not have a broader and better heel and bigger bones than a hind has (i.e. all young stags, with six or more pointed antlers, are bigger in these areas than hinds).
This was in a section describing the difference between the footprints of the hart and hind: it is not difficult to distinguish between those of a hind and a brocket. This shows again that the word brocket was not in the French, which described the young deer according to the tines on his antlers. The English author of the Maistre of Game had a word meaning a deer with antlers with up to 6 tines—brocket. The French one apparently did not.
3. Maistre of Game f 33v 12-15 Gaston Phoebus f 24r col 2 11-16
and as an hynde calf of the first yere bygynnethe to put out his heued. In the same wise he putteth out his smale brokes or he be .xij. monythe old et ainsi que les cerfs mettent leurs boces au premier an. ilz portent ia les fuisiaux et broches aincoys quilz ayent leur an.
In Modern English: The head of a hind’s calf begins to protrude in its first year and before he is a full year he has small spikes.12 In Modern English: And just like the stags they grow knobs in the first year. They already carry ?dags andspikes before they are a year old.
This was in a chapter describing the roe and his nature. The English author did not simply borrow the Continental French word.

Page Last Updated: April 7, 2020


For full bibliographical details please see the sections Publications or Glossary.


[1] 1845 esp p 151

[2] 1956 esp pp 45, 53

[3] Meyer 1884 pp 530-1; Busby 1984 p 33

[4] James 1907 pp 495-6

[5] Meyer 1907 p 522; Tilander 1956 p 7; Busby 1984 p 33

[6] 1894 p 7

[7] Tilander 1932 pp 14, 93

[8] William Twyty's name was mistakenly copied as Twici and Twich—a result of a century of written transmission. breket for broket and esparard for espeyard are similar examples.

[9] Baillie-Grohman 1909 p xi

[10] cf Baillie-Grohman 1909 p 29

[11] cf Baillie-Grohman 1909 p 130

[12] cf Baillie-Grohman 1909 p 45

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