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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Juliana Berners (b. 1388?)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
ABOUT the year 1475 one William Caxton, a prosperous English wool merchant of good standing and repute, began printing books. The art which he introduced into his native country was quickly taken up by others; first, it seems, by certain monks at St. Albans, and shortly afterward by Wynkyn de Worde, who had been an apprentice to Caxton. In 1486 the press at St. Albans issued two books printed in English, of which one was entitled ‘The Boke of St. Albans.’ Of this volume only three perfect copies are known to exist. It is a compilation of treatises on hawking, on hunting, and on heraldry, and contained but little evidence as to their authorship. Ten years later Wynkyn de Worde reprinted the work with additions, under the following elaborate title, in the fashion of the time:—‘Treatyse perteynynge to Hawkynge, Huntynge, and Fysshynge with an Angle; also a right noble Treatyse on the Lynage of Coote Armeris; ending with a Treatyse which specyfyeth of Blasyng of Armys.’  1
  The authorship of this volume, one of the earliest books printed in the English language, has generally been ascribed to a certain (or uncertain) Juliana Berners, Bernes, or Barnes, who is reputed to have been prioress of the Nunnery of Sopwell,—long since in ruins,—near St. Albans, and close to the little river Ver, which still conceals in its quiet pools the speckled trout. If this attribution be correct, Dame Berners was the first woman to write a book in English. Although the question of the authorship is by no means settled, yet it is clear that the printer believed the treatise on hunting to have been written by this lady, and the critics now generally assign a portion at least of the volume to her. In the sixteenth century the book became very popular, and was reprinted many times.  2
  Of the several treatises it contains, that on fishing has the greatest interest, an interest increased by the fact that it probably suggested ‘The Compleat Angler’ of Izaak Walton, which appeared one hundred and sixty years later.  3
 
 
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