December 2022 Book Survey Part 2

Welcome to the December 2022 book survey, part two. I decided to break this month's survey into three posts. Here 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. 

Medieval Combat in Colour: Hans Talhoffer's Illustrated Manual of Swordfighting and Close-Quarter Combat from 1467, Hans Talhoffer, Dierk Hagedorn, 2018

My copy of Medieval Combat in Colour: Hans Talhoffer's Illustrated Manual of Swordfighting and Close-Quarter Combat from 1467 is different from the one shown on, although I bought my copy there in 2020. Mine is 9 1/4 inches by 6 1/8 inches as shown above, while the one currently depicted at Amazon is taller than it is wide. My format makes more sense, as the reproduction of the art matches the orientation of the pages. My copy is a paperback with 320 color pages. 

The source is Cod.icon.394a, also known as the Talhoffer Fechtbuch; it dates to 1467, as implied in the title. In the last post we mentioned MS Thott.290.2º which dates to 1459. The content covers long sword, dueling shield, wrestling, and more. There is only a translation in English. Here is a sample of the original content courtesy of Wiktenauer:

The context provided in this book is superb. It mentions that at the time of writing (2018), scholars know of 78 German fight books. 

Some of the most interesting content in this book is shown in the section on a judicial duel between a man and a woman. The man has to stand in a pit. In this sample from Wiktenauer, the woman is choking out the man via strangle.

There is also a Kindle edition of this book available for the incredibly low price of $2.99. 

Gladiatoria Medieval Armoured Combat: The 1450 Fencing Manuscript from New Haven, Dierk Hagedorn, Bartlomiej Walczak, 2018

My copy of Gladiatoria Medieval Armoured Combat: The 1450 Fencing Manuscript from New Haven is a 6 1/8 inches by 9 1/4 inches paperback with 272 color pages. It's the same size as the previous title, just in portrait instead of landscape orientation. 

The source is MS U860.F46 1450, part of the "Gladiatoria" group of 15th century German fight books. (Others include books from Cracow/Kraków and Vienna.) Wiktenauer assesses this book as being written in the 1430s, not 1450. The author is unknown.

This book features a foreword by Sydney Anglo, whose amazing book appears in the February 2022 survey.

The content is presented in English and an old German transcription. The art is stunning. Here is an example of a knight in side mount using a dagger, courtesy of Wiktenauer:

There is also a Kindle edition of this book, but it's way more expensive than the previous title. There was apparently a 2015 edition as well that included German content in addition to this version's English.

Jude Lew: Das Fechtbuch, Dierk Hagedorn, 2017

I bought my copy of Jude Lew: Das Fechtbuch from Purpleheart Armoury in 2020. My copy is a hardcover measuring 5 5/8 inches by 9 1/2 inches with 432 black and white pages with red section markings. The book is a transcription and a translation into modern German and English. 

The source is Codex Ⅰ.6.4º.3 or Codex Lew, dating to the 1450s-1460s. Wiktenauer notes "This manuscript is commonly attributed to Lew, though in fact the text only cites him as author of a few of its sections (mostly erroneously). The rest of the manuscript is an anonymous compilation text consisting of treatises on a variety of martial topics by several different masters who stood in the tradition of Johannes Liechtenauer."

The book offers a lengthy introduction (pp 1-86), followed by a transcription and dual translation (pp 87-360), and concludes with appendices (pp 361-432). This book claims almost 90 German fight books in existence as of 2017, which is slightly at odds with the previous title.

The largest section contains advice on longsword and fencing on horseback. There is also a textual comparison of eight parts of the manuscript with sections from other books. As it begins with "young knight," we can guess the desired audience.

The source does not offer any art. This is a solid reference for researchers and specialists.

The Art of Combat: A German Martial Arts Treatise of 1570, Joachim Meyer, Jeffrey L. Forgeng, 2006/2015/2020

My copy of The Art of Combat: A German Martial Arts Treatise of 1570 is a black and white hardcover measuring 8 inches by 10 1/8 inches with 316 black and white pages. Mine is a 2020 reprint which was originally published in 2006. The hardcover may no longer be available.

The source is Gründtliche Beschreibung der… Kunst des Fechtens ("A Thorough Description of… the Art of Fencing"), printed in 1570. (The text itself says 24 February 1570.) The author is Joachim Meyer (b. c. 1537 - 1571.)

The book is divided into a introduction on pages 1-34, the text of the original on pages 35-282, and a glossary and bibliography at the end. 

Mr. Forgeng notes that this is the "only major original text in this corpus [of martial arts texts by medieval German masters] to be disseminated in print." There is a reproduction in black and white of the plates from the original.

The original color editions are striking. Here is an example courtesy of Wiktenauer:

Michael Chidester published a companion volume in 2020 that looks interesting, titled The Illustrated Meyer: A Visual Reference for the 1570 Treatise of Joachim Meyer. That is a resource that publishes the color plates in print.

This is a great book to add to your library, and I hope to buy a copy of the Chidester volume as well.

The Art of Sword Combat: A 1568 German Treatise on Swordmanship, Joachim Meyer, Jeffrey L. Forgeng, 2016

While working on this survey, I learned of a related book -- The Art of Sword Combat: A 1568 German Treatise on Swordmanship. As it was available for $2.99 via Kindle, I bought a copy. The source is MS A.4º.2, or the "Lund Manuscript," probably published in 1568. This book has "substantially different content of more than half of the manuscript" when compared to the previous title.

Here is an example page from the Kindle edition:

This is a nice complement to the previous book, and is well worth only $2.99.

The Medieval Art of Swordsmanship: Royal Armouries MS I. 33, Jeffrey L. Forgeng, 2018

Now we come to the big one. This is The Medieval Art of Swordsmanship: Royal Armouries MS I.33. My copy of this book is a work of art from the Royal Armouries, keeper of the original treatise. The book measures 9 3/8 inches by 12 1/8 inches, with 160 pages. The hardcover is unique in that it has a "cut-through" dust jacket as shown in the images above. Handle it with care! I wrapped another piece of paper around this book to protect the fragile cross-shaped cut-out.

 This is the oldest martial arts treatise in the European tradition, dating to c. 1320. 

I'm aware of partial evidence like the 2nd century AD fragment Oxyrhynchus Papyrus MS P.Oxy.III.466, which appears to contain less than 150 words when translated from Greek to English. 

I'm also aware of depictions of combat on pottery, in paintings, and other art like the Bayeux Tapestry.

The Schola Artis Gladii et Armorum database is a fun resource for pointers on these sources.

At the end of the day, however, MS I.33, also known as the Walpurgis Fechtbuch or FECHT 1, is the oldest extant European martial arts treatise.

There are theories concerning the author of the MS I.33, but nothing conclusive. The idea presented in this copy of the work is that it was likely created by a community of secular clerics associated with a cathedral school. One author, two scribes, and several artists likely collaborated to create the original.

The book is a German fight book, although the author wrote in Latin and used some German technical fighting terms. As stated by Mr. Forgeng, it "appears to be the oldest surviving example from Europe of a technical treatise on combat arts" (p 7). Mr. Forgeng writes that "there is little to connect I.33 with the next oldest Fechtbuch, the so-called 'Dobringer' manuscript [Pol Hausbuch (MS 3227a) c. 1389-1400s]" (p 13). 

Mr. Forgeng also notes that "apart from I.33, the earliest illustrated Fechtbuch appears to be the Gladiatoria, dating to around the second quarter of the 1400s" (p 14) and mentioned above.

MS I.33 depicts a sword and buckler system, showing a Priest and a Student throughout. The only exception appears at the end of the book, where a woman named "Walpurgis" replaces the Student, hence the nickname Walpurgis Fechtbuch. Thanks to Wiktenauer, we can see her in action:

The presentation in this book is just wonderful. There are two page spreads with a transcription and translation on one side, and a reproduction on the other. Here is an example from the Amazon preview:

The book also features extensive foot and end notes, and a bibliography.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in researching martial arts history.

Codex Wallerstein: A Medieval Fighting Book from the Fifteenth Century on the Longsword, Falchion, Dagger, and Wrestling, Grzegorz Zabinski, Bartlomiej Walczak, 2002

My copy of Codex Wallerstein is a massive Paladin Press hardcover measuring 8 5/8 inches by 10 3/8 inches, with 386 black and white pages. The seller protected the book in plastic wrap, making it good for preservation but difficult for photography. The book offers a transcription of the old German and a translation into modern German and English.

The source is Cod.I.6.4º.2, also known as the Bauman Fechtbuch, dating to c. 1420s/1470s. It was originally 221 pages, assembled from two manuscripts, one of which was likely much older. The copy used as the source for this book was owned by the famous collector Paulus Hector Mair (1517-1579) in 1556. The author remains unknown.

There is a ton of wrestling in this book. Here is an example courtesy of Wiktenauer:

Unfortunately the plates in this copy are black and white.

Michael Chidester published a facsimile and companion volume for this book. If he publishes an electronic edition, I will definitely buy it.


If you're a bibliophile, I would spend the money and get a copy of The Medieval Art of Swordsmanship: Royal Armouries MS I.33.

Next month we finish our look at Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) titles.

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