December 2022 Book Survey Part 1


Welcome to the December 2022 book survey, part one. I decided to break this month's survey into three posts. This is the first part.


In December 2022, I (Richard) continued my reading plan. The major theme for this month is Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA). Some of my favorite books appear in this collection of posts. 

Alta Armatur und Ringkunst [Old Armament and Art of Fight] (Ms. Thott 290 2°), Hans Tolhoffer, Michael Chidester, 2019/1459

My copy of Alta Armatur und Ringkunst is a facsimile produced by Michael Chidester and his HEMA Bookshelf. I did not really know what to expect from this project, but I supported it on Indiegogo. The original text is known as Royal Danish Library MS Thott.290.2º. Some also call it the "Copenhagen Talhoffer." It dates to 1459 and is attributed to Hans Talhoffer (fl. 1433-67). ("fl." is shorthand for "flourished," meaning the dates when the author was most active. Otherwise, we have no estimates for his birth or death years.)

The book aims to be a reasonably faithful reproduction of the original manuscript. It measures 8 1/2 inches by 11 3/4 inches, with a hard cover and 300 color pages. It's a really beautiful book. I highly recommend pairing it with the companion volume which I surveyed in March 2022. Pages 9-46 of that title provide a transcription of the middle German and translation into English.

The text mainly covers martial issues, fencing, and wrestling. Thanks to Wiktenauer you can see high quality scans online. Here is an example of the European version of judo's tomoe nage:

This book is a work of art worthy of collectors.

Fior di Battaglia [The Flower of Battle] ("The Getty", Ms. Ludwig XV 13), Fiore dei Liberi, Michael Chidester, 2020/1409

This copy of Fior di Battaglia is another facsimile produced by Michael Chidester and his HEMA Bookshelf. I also supported it on Indiegogo. The original text is known as MS Ludwig XV 13 or "The Getty." Scholars date it to somewhere between 1404 and 1409 and attribute it to Fiore dei Liberi (fl. 1381-1409). 

This is another faithful reproduction of the original. It measures 8 3/8 inches by 11 1/2 inches and offers 98 color pages between hard covers. Although the page count is low, it is quite hefty. The content is mostly smaller monochrome drawings, so it is visually less impressive than the previous title.

Mr. Chidester did not release a companion, as there are multiple weighty "companion volumes" produced by other publishers. Two appear in a future post. 

You can also see free online scans courtesy of Wiktenauer. Here is a grappling sample:

I also consider this book a work of art, especially when paired with the Flowers of Battle volumes surveyed in a future post.

A Treatise on the Science of Arms, with a Philosophical Dialogue: An Annotated Translation, Camillo Agrippa, Wm. Jherek Swanger, 2017

My copy of A Treatise on the Science of Arms, with a Philosophical Dialogue is a Lulu-produced 2nd edition hardcover measuring 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches, with 157 black and white pages. The original title is Trattato di Scientia d'Arme, con vn Dialogo di Filosofia, by Camillo Agrippa (1510s-1595). It was published in 1553 (15 March 1553, according to the text itself) and reprinted in 1568 and 1604.

This book offers an introduction on pages 3-44, and an annotated translation (but not transcription) on pages 45-144. I really liked the "time lapse" depiction of action between opponents. Here is an example from Wiktenauer, with the privates blurred:

I liked this quote: "The science of arms is composed first, of justice; second, of understanding; and third, of use."

This title offers superb presentation and content, including a bibliography, glossary, and appendices.

The Duel, or the Flower of Arms for Single Combat, Both Offensive and Defensive, Achille Morozzo, Wm. Jherek Swanger, 2019

My copy of The Duel, or the Flower of Arms for Single Combat is another Lulu-produced 3rd edition hardcover measuring 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches, with 354 black and white pages. The original book, published by Achille Marozzo in Italian in 1531 or 1536, is traditionally titled Opera Nova, which just means "New Work." This can be confusing, as there is another famous book titled Opera Nova by Antonio Manciolino. Translator and commentator Wm. Jherek Swanger decided to extract the new title, The Duel, or the Flower of Arms for Single Combat, from the first sentence of the translation.

This is a book about Bolognese swordsmanship, authored by Marozzo (b. c. 1484 - d. "after 1531" - c. 1553). There is a nice distillation of technique in text form in the introduction. The appendices depict guard positions with single and double handed sword. The introduction appears on pages 1-72 and the translation (only) occupies pages 73-338.

Although the Wiktenauer page shows some beautiful color illustrations, this book features only black and white versions, like the following from Wiktenauer:

Note this book does not translate or present the material on dueling laws and "points of honor" found in the original text. This is another nice addition to your HEMA library.

Peter Von Danzig, Harry R. [Harrison Ridgeway], 2019

I bought my copy of Peter Von Danzig from Blurb in 2020. This edition lists "Harry R." as the author, although I determined his full name his Harrison Ridgeway, a HEMA instructor in Melbourne, Australia. My copy is a 5 inches by 8 inches paperback with 224 black and white pages.

The source material is Cod.44.A.8, also known as the Starhemberg Fechtbuch, dating to 1452. Ridgeway calls this a "so-called Peter von Danzig manuscript," as the original includes material from five different authors, only one of whom was von Danzig (b. unknown - d. c. 1452-1470). Ridgeway notes that this book is "one of the most notable manuscripts containing the teachings of Johannes Lichtenauer." 

The book addresses unarmored fencing, mounted fencing, and armored dueling. It offers only a few simple drawings. Here is a color example from Wiktenauer:

I bought this book because it offers a translation of Lichtenauer's Zedel/Zettel/recital/schedule/charter, and von Danzig' gloss or commentary and explanation of the recital. In addition to material from authors like Jud[e] Lew and Sigmund Ringeck, the book provides a 19 page glossary. 

This is a great book for those seeking a practical English depiction of Lichtenauer's philosophy, "something written plainly, as close as possible to everyday language, in what I believed was a convincing fencing instructor's voice," according to Ridgeway.

In a future survey I will take a look a newer analysis of this material, thanks to a 2021 publication, The Peter Von Danzig Fight Book: The Complete 15th Century Manuscript, which I purchased in PDF form. Practitioners might prefer the Ridgeway edition, while researchers may like the newer volume by Dierk Hagedorn and Christian Henry Tobler.

Codex Amberger, Dierk Hagedorn, J. Christoph Amberger, 2020

I bought my copy of Codex Amberger in late 2020 because it looked like a cool book. My copy is a hardcover measuring 11 7/8 inches by 7 5/8 inches, with 144 color pages. The source is possibly an excerpt from a longer document, but the available material only numbers 16 pages, 15 of which are hand-illustrated. The author is unknown but dating the paper and other methods suggest an origination date between 1555 and 1570.

The book is named for the gentleman, J. Christoph Amberger, who bought it from a rare book seller in 2005 in New York City. The introduction notes that "fight books [generally] describe single combat or dueling situations and were not intended as military training material" (p 25). The commentary relates the Amberger information to nine other works, with lots of attention paid to Paulus Hector Mair (1517-1579). 

This book reproduces the Codex in its original size, which I thought was a great innovation. It features illustrations like the following, courtesy of Wiktenauer:

The source contains 8 pages of grappling, 6 of dagger and sword, and 1 pole. 

The concordance was my favorite part of the book. It compares Amberger material with images and text from 9 other books, when available.

I really liked this book and suggest you check it out.

Nicolaes Petter’s Clear Instructions in the Excellent Art of Grappling, Nicolaes Petter, Reinier van Noort, 2019

Nicolaes Petter’s Clear Instructions in the Excellent Art of Grappling is another Lulu publication. My copy is a hardcover measuring 6 3/16 inches by 9 1/4 inches, with 116 black and white pages. The author, Nicolaes Petter (1623/4 - 1672), died before his student Robert Cors published this book, originally titled Klare Onderrichtinge der Voortreffelijke Worstel-Konst, in 1674. 

Petter commissioned the famous Dutch artist Romeyn de Hooge (1645-1708) to illustrate the book, resulting in stunning depictions like the following, courtesy of Wiktenauer:

Romeyn de Hooge's involvement has resulted in some translators assuming he is the author. Amazon is constantly spamming my Kindle with ads for a book titled Ye Olde Ruff & Tumble, a translation erroneously attributed to Romeyn de Hooge.

In early 2020 I did some research into this book and found the following. The source is Simon Schama's 1987 work The Embarrassment of Riches: 

This book begins with a well-documented biography of Nicolaes Petter, who was a grappling instructor. After his death, his student Robert Cors added an introduction and published the book. The techniques include self defense versus unarmed and knife-armed opponents. The presentation involves a reformatting of the original 1674 edition text, followed by plate illustrations. It ends with a bibliography.

I really like this edition and suggest you check it out, especially if you are a fan of grappling. This late 17th century book is roughly coterminous with martial arts manuals by Chinese general Qi Jiguang, for example.


You really can't go wrong with any of these titles. Being partial to grappling, I would personally recommend the Nicolaes Petter book translated by Reinier van Noort.

In the next post we continue our survey of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) titles.

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