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The Boke of St. Albans, as it was originally known, was written by Juliana Berners, the prioress of Sopwell Priory near St. Albans (we think; she may actually have only written the part on hunting). It was published in 1486, and within the next 50 years it became the second most popular book in print (the Bible was number one, of course). It covered matters of falconry, hunting, and heraldry, written to aid the upper class in navigating their favorite hobbies. It is unknown how much of the book was invented by Juliana Berners and how much was a collection of previous works. We do know that she borrowed heavily from previous works, both English and French, and included a good dose of folk wisdom besides. Some of her terms of heraldry and zoology have not been found in previously published works, but there weren't very many previously published works back then.

The book was published on a small, little known press, one that used the worn-out type discarded by William Caxton (the owner of the first printing press in England). We don't know who the publisher was, but he is known to us as the 'The Scholemaster Printer', due to Wynkyn de Worde crediting him as such in a reprint of the only other book published in English on the St. Albans press, The Chronicles of England (four other books also came off of that press, those written in French).

Wynkyn de Worde was also responsible for the first reprinting of The Boke of St. Albans; within a year of its original publication he had picked it up and added a section on angling entitled Treatyse on Fysshynge with an Angle. Various publishers and authors continued to reprint and borrow from the Boke in the following centuries.

Being one of the first books published in England, many English words are first recorded in The Boke; the OED lists two hundred words as first occurring there, although many of these are now obsolete or variations on older words. Some words that we still use today include blackbird, puppy, bowstring, countenance, jutty, leisurely, retriever, and, of course, pizzle. The 1496 edition introduced the names for bleak and chub (types of fish), and the verb 'taper'. The Boke also introduced dozens of words that were only used in the fields of heraldry and falconry: gerately (coat of arms with a powdered field), gritty (a field composed equally of a metal and a color), pattee (a cross with splayed ends), torteau (small red circle representing a loaf of bread); filander (a type of intestinal worm in hawks), note (The uropygial gland of a bird), and toll (to lure).

Random memes that first appear in the Book of St. Albans include the The Laws of Ownership in Falconry and numerous poetic collective nouns for animals, such as an exaltation of larks and an unkindness of ravens (these appear to have invented out of whole cloth, and many of these terms were never in actual use). Both absolutely useless, but both still circulating through reference books, and the internet, today.

The Oxford English Dictionary
The Mysteries of the Book of St. Albans
World Wide Words: On the history of collective nouns
Google Books: The Boke of St. Albans: A modern rendition of a medieval treatise on heraldry
Wikipedia: Book of St. Albans
Wikipedia: Juliana Barnes

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