Johannes Liechtenauer (above), author of "der zedel des langen swertz" (the recital of the longsword)

Hans Talhoffer [MS Chart.A.558 folio 055v]

Sigmund ain Ringeck [Glasgow MS E.1939.65.341 folio 015r]

Hans Medel [Cod.I.6.2º .5 25v]

Fiore dei Liberi [Pisani-Dossi MS folio 21b-d]

A Look into Manuscripts of the Past

What did a fencing manuscript contain? Most manuscripts are 'household books' and contains precious little information about fighting. Most books from this era will contain recipes for various ailments, blacksmithing advice, alchemical recipes, and many more bits of information.

Dedicated fencing manuscripts do exist, however, and they are typically pieced together from various authors, some of whom are known, and some who are not. Despite this most manuscripts are attributed to a single author, sometimes erroneously - the author is anonymous or unknown but a name is still used to describe the manuscript.

Nearly all manuscripts with written glosses are from the 15th century or later. Though some masters presumably lived during the 14th century, there are few surviving folio from the 14th century. Some later manuscripts are printed rather than copied by hand.

Philippo Vadi [Cod.1324 folio 16v]

Johannes Leküchner [Cgm 582 folio 007r]

Joachim Meyer [MS Var.82 Dussack A]

Gladiatoria [MS U860.F46 1450 folio 01r]

Martial Traditions

Fencing masters follow a lineage of martial tradition. The Walpurgis manuscript (MS I.33) is written in an earlier form of German, and Latin, and some of the fighting terminology present in the manuscript is etymologically related to the terminology used in later German manuscripts. This suggests that the fighting present in both was passed down. Further evidence exists in manuscripts written over 100 years after Fiore Dei Liberi's death, as the contents of his dagger plays are copied in their entirety in 15th and 16th century manuscripts. Martial traditions were handed down from one generation of fighters to the next.

Weapons would also evolve drastically, and the usage of the longsword is quite short in comparison to other weapons present in the era. Armor, too, could have short lived lives, and many styles came and went as quickly as the wars throughout the continent. One thing is certain: a man at arms, a knight, and even the occasional hobbyist, could receive training on how to fight. The first fencing guild would be established in the 1570s in Nuremberg, quite late in comparison to the fechtbuchs - fighting manuals - initial dates of production. Fencing was a growing sport throughout the 15th century.

Walpurgis [MS I.33 folio 15r]

Salvator Fabris [Scienza d'Arme p.99]

Albrecht Durer [Fechtbuch : Libr. pict. A 83, 1500 (1512)]

Achille Marozzo [Opera Nova p.2]