Visualizing the Fight Book Tradition: Collected Martial Knowledge in the Thun-Hohenstein Album, by Chassica Kirchhoff - APD6/1(2018)

pp. 3-45


The Thun-Hohenstein album, long-known as the Thun’sche Skizzenbuch, is a bound collection of 112 drawings that visualize armoured figures at rest and in combat, as well as empty armours arrayed in pieces. The collection gathers drawings that span the period from the 1470s to around 1590. While most of the images were executed in Augsburg during the 1540s, the album’s three oldest drawings date to the late-fifteenth century. Two of these works, which form a codicological interlude between the first and second quires, find parallels in the illustrations of contemporaneous martial treatises. This article traces the pictorial lineages of these atextual images through comparative analyses of fight books produced in the German-speaking lands, and considers how the representational strategies deployed in martial treatises inflected the ways that book painters and their audiences visualized the armoured body. This exploration situates a manuscript from which one of the drawings derives, Peter Falkner’s Art of Knightly Defense, now in Vienna, within the Augsburg book painters’ workshops that would later give rise to the Thun album. Finally, this study considers how the transmission and representation of martial knowledge in late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Augsburg contributed to the later depictions of armoured bodies that populate the album.


Thun-Hohenstein album; fight books; Fechtbuch; codicology; manuscript studies; book painting; comparative analysis; image and memory; collecting

The art of fighting under glass: Review of museum exhibitions displaying fight books, 1968-2017, by Daniel Jaquet - APD6/1(2018)

pp. 47-62


A growing body of research on fight books and historical European martial arts has appeared in academic circles over the last fifteen years. It has also broken through the doors of patrimonial institutions. From curiosities in exhibitions about knighthood, to dedicated temporary exhibitions about historical European martial arts, the fight books have received more and more attention from museum professionals. This article attempts to present an exhaustive list of fight books displayed in museum exhibitions over the last fifty years. It then proposes a critical view about how and why they were displayed from the perspective of the curators, based on a review of the exhibition catalogues.


Museum; fight book; exhibition; fencing

Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages, by Jürg Gassmann - APD6/1(2018)

pp. 63-98


The cavalry horse, tactics and training in Western Europe – the Euro-pean provinces of the Roman Empire of the West and the Frankish Empire – du-ring the Early Middle Ages (c. 500-1000) are still subject to many myths in both popular media and academic literature. Source material is admittedly thin, yet it is specific enough to allow us to correct many of these misconceptions and outright errors.

The article initially summarises the current state of knowledge on the war horse of the period, by reference to the archaeological record. It then reviews the cavalry’s battlefield tactics, derives the skill level required to execute the manoeuvres described in the sources, and analyses where and how this training could have been provided.

The information gleaned provides an insight into the skills and expertise neces-sary to achieve the requisite sophisticated level of horsemanship. We shall argue that these imply a considerable investment in organisational infrastructure, per-sonnel and institutional memory, which has so far not received much academic attention, and has wider implications for our view of the era.


Cavalry; horses; horsemanship; tactics; military; training; Franks

On the Art of Fighting: A Humanist Translation of Fiore dei Liberi’s Flower of Battle Owned by Leonello D’Este, by Ken Mondschein - APD6/1(2018)

pp. 99-135


The author presents a study of Bibliothèque National de France MS Latin 11269, a manuscript that he argues was associated with the court of Leonello d’Este and which represents an attempt to “fix” or “canonize” a vernacular work on a practical subject in erudite Latin poetry. The author reviews the life of Fiore dei Liberi and Leonello d’Este and discusses the author’s intentions in writing, how the manuscript shows clear signs of Estense associations, and examines the manuscript both in light of its codicological context and in light of humanist activity at the Estense court. He also presents the evidence for the book having been in the Estense library. Finally, he examines the place of the manuscript in the context of the later Italian tradition of fencing books. A complete concordance is presented in the appendix.


Leonello d’Este; humanism; Fiore dei Liberi; Latin literature; Renaissance humanism; translation

Additional Transmissions of Hundsfeld and Lignitzer Dagger Teachings, by Bartlomiej Walczak and Bartosz Starko - APD6/1(2018)

pp. 137-149


Additional witnesses containing fragments of Martin Hundsfeld and Andre Lignitzer’s dagger teachings were located. These teachings were part of other anonymous dagger texts. Five of Lignitzer’s plays and three Hundsfeld’s can be found in the works of Gregor Erhart (MS E.1939.65.354), Lienhart Sollinger (Cgm 3712) and Paulus Hector Mair (C.94, Codex 10825). A synoptic comparison of these witnesses with other representatives points to the existence of at least two other manuscripts – one that was base for Erhart and Sollinger, and the other being the base for Paulus Hector Mair’s works. Additionally, the analysis seems to suggest that the Proto-Erhart was based on the original proto-manuscript, not transmitted through other known sources. Interestingly, Erhart seems to be a faithful copy of its progenitor, even though it contains a very disorganized text, where dagger techniques are mixed with other weapons. The article contains transcriptions as well as updated stemmae codicum for these traditions.


Andre Lignitzer; Martin Hundsfeld; Dagger; Gregor Erhart; Paulus Hector Mair; Lienhart Sollinger

Constriction – Construction, a short history of specialised wearing apparel for athletic activities (S. Anthore-Baptiste and N. Baptiste) - APD5/2(2017)

pp. 73-95


During the twentieth century, clothing permits a real freedom of bodily movement. However, when examining past athletic activity, we must take into account the period approach to the body: liberty of movement is at the same time controlled by morality, gestures and clothing. The French term “tenue” initially referred to behaviour, but since the end of the eighteenth century concerns the manner of dressing, and later by extension, the “dignity of conduct”. In the past times concerned with “sporting” activities such as the HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts), physical appearance is affected by rules of etiquette imposed by morality and civility. From the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, each period offers a different overview of the dress standards in relation to the different approaches to corporal identity, and the constriction first necessary for military activities becomes indivisible from the moral and physical construction. As a practitioner of the 21st century, the question raises about our relationship, not only with our bodies but also with past cultures. As demonstrated by some concrete examples, if it is desired to fully approach the ancient practices, it is therefore necessary to also adopt the garment, in the same way as the accessories.


constraint; construction; clothing; morality; body; dance; fencing; arming clothes

Fighting in women’s clothes The pictorial evidence of Walpurgis in Ms. I.33 (Julia Gräf) - APD5/2(2017)

pp. 47-71


Ms. I.33 is not only the oldest of the known fencing treatises in European context, it is also the only one showing a woman fighting equally with contemporary men. The author presents her research about the garments this female fencer wears, including her shirt, dress and overdress, hairstyle and footwear. Special consideration is given to the questions whether Walpurgis wears a belt, the length and hem circumference of her garments as well as the methods of draping them in the way depicted. The results of the analysis are compared with contemporary pictorial and archaeological sources of the early 14th century. Some personal insights gathered by the author while fighting in this kind of clothes shed light on the possibilities of moving without being disturbed by them. The clothes and hairstyle worn by Walpurgis, give clues about her social status and thus help to understand the context and dating of the whole manuscript.


Ms. I.33; Sword and Buckler; 13th and 14th century dress; female fencer

Arming shoes of the fifteenth century (Marquita Volken) - APD5/2(2017)

pp. 25-45


Military footwear for the fifteenth century includes arming shoes worn under sabatons. Written sources suggest arming shoes and footwear used for fighting were ordinary shoes adapted for the purpose. Archaeological footwear was examined for signs of such modifications. Medieval shoe technology is presented, showing the range of footwear and its uses and gait biomechanics. Based on experiences from re-enactors wearing armours, medieval shoe styles are discussed for appropriateness as arming shoes. The question of why medieval military footwear shows no purposed development is addressed.


Arming shoes; fifteenth century shoe fashion; footwear technology; turn-shoes; pattens; repair soles; gait biomechanics

The armour of the common soldier in the late middle ages. Harnischrödel as sources for the history of urban martial culture (Regula Schmid) - APD5/2(2017)

pp. 7-24


The designation Harnischrödel (rolls of armour) lumps together different kinds of urban inventories. They list the names of citizens and inhabitants together with the armour they owned, were compelled to acquire within their civic obligations, or were obliged to lend to able-bodied men. This contribution systematically introduces Harnischrödel of the 14th and 15th c. as important sources for the history of urban martial culture. On the basis of lists preserved in the archives of Swiss towns, it concentrates on information pertaining to the type and quality of an average urban soldier’s gear. Although the results of this analysis are only preliminary – at this point, it is not possible to produce methodologically sound statistics –, the value of the lists as sources is readily evident, as only a smattering of the once massive quantity of actual objects has survived down to the present time.


armour; common soldier; source; methodology; urban martial culture; town; middle ages

East meets West: Mounted Encounters in Early and High Mediaeval Europe (Jürg Gassmann) - APD5/1(2017)

Published Online: 2017-04-26 | DOI:


By the Late Middle Ages, mounted troops - cavalry in the form of knights - are established as the dominant battlefield arm in North-Western Europe. This paper considers the development of cavalry after the Germanic Barbarian Successor Kingdoms such as the Visigoths in Spain or the Carolingian Franks emerged from Roman Late Antiquity and their encounters with Islam, as with the Moors in Iberia or the Saracens (Arabs and Turks) during the Crusades, since an important part of literature ascribes advances in European horse breeding and horsemanship to Arab influence. Special attention is paid to information about horse types or breeds, conformation, tactics - fighting with lance and bow - and training. Genetic studies and the archaeological record are incorporated to test the literary tradition.

Keywords: Knights; cavalry; Moors; Crusades; Saracens; Islam; Byzantium; Visigoths; Normans; Arabs; Iberia; horses

An analysis and comparison of two German thrust-fencing manuscripts (R. van Noort and J. Schäfer) - APD5/1(2017)

Published Online: 2017-04-26 | DOI:


In this contribution, we will discuss two German fencing manuscripts - Mscr.Dresd.C.13 (SLUB Dresden) and Add MS 17533 (BL London). Both manuscripts present texts on thrust-fencing based on the teachings of Salvator Fabris. The dedication of manuscript C13 was signed by the famous fencing author Johann Georg Pascha. The author of one of the texts contained in the 17533 manuscript is named H.A.V..

A textual analysis has been performed on these two books, and then the contents of the works have been compared. This comparison shows that C13 presents a largely identical text to the main treatises contained in 17533, the most significant difference being certain additions in C13, which Pascha also discusses in his dedication. Based on our analysis, both C13 and 17533 appear to present copies of an original text. We further hypothesize that H.A.V., the author of this original text, was Heinrich von und zum Velde, the fencing master of Johann Joachim Hynitzsch.

Keywords: Pascha; Fabris; Rapier; German; Fencing treatises

Le Jeu de la Hache: A Critical edition and dating discussion (O. Dupuis and V. Deluz) - APD 5/1 (2017)

Published Online: 2017-04-26 | DOI:


Twenty-six years after the first edition and translation by Sydney Anglo in 1991 of the anonymous manuscript Le Jeu de la hache , many elements can still be significantly improved. This paper offers a completely new critical edition of the text, and a major revision of the translation. This article includes a detailed glossary as well as notes to discuss the many ambiguous passages in the original text. Finally, the studies of the language, the vocabulary, the dialect, the writing style and the physical document make it possible to refine the dating of the manuscript to the third quarter of the fifteenth century, between 1460 and 1485, and its origin, probably Flanders or Wallonia in the entourage of the dukes of Burgundy.

Keywords: fight book; critical edition; translation; codicology; paleography

The Future of Historical European Martial Arts Studies. A discussion (Daniel Jaquet) - APD4/2 (2016)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 91–97, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, DOI:, December 2016


The two panels of the conference were concluded by a round-table aiming at discussing the future of HEMA studies, by crossing the views of the speakers on three levels: personal involvement, major contribution needed for the field, strategies to make it happen. This article will focus on (1) reviewing the most important matters discussed and to balance them with the latest published desiderata for further research, (2) situating them in the latest developments in, on the one hand, martial arts studies, and on the other, Practice as Research (PaR) in other fields of research, and finally (3) comparing them with the developments of a similar fields of study over the last 60 years, notably dance studies.

Keywords: Historical European Martial Arts studies; Dance studies; Musicology; communities of practitioners

Prologues, Poetry, Prose and Portrayals: The Purposes of Fifteenth Century Fight Books According to the Diplomatic Evidence (Jacob Henry Deacon) - APD4/2 (2016)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 69–90, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, DOI:, December 2016


Although by far the most popular use of fifteenth century Fight Books in recent years has been their application to the study of Historical European Martial Arts and interpretations of medieval combat, this manner of learning from them was rarely what their creators had in mind. The following paper, relying primarily on the materials produced by Fiore dei Liberi, Filippo Vadi, Hans Talhoffer, and the anonymous author of Le Jeu de la Hache, will address modern practice and its connection to the source material via a study of the diplomatics of fifteenth century Fight Books, that is to say common tropes that are definitive of the genre. This has been done through analysing the roles of three of these; the purposes of introductions, of the use of language relating to the employment of either a prose or poetic structure, and the importance of the relationships between texts and illustrations. Through this application of diplomatics to Fight Books, the paper shall demonstrate how modern claims regarding authenticity are often overstated and in need of moderation.

Keywords: Diplomatics; Fifteenth Century; Fight Books; Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA); Palaeography & Manuscript Studies

“Your Kung Fu is very good, Master Fiore!” Asian and European fight books in comparison (Sixt Wetzler) - APD4/2 (2016)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 47–67, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, DOI:, December 2016


The phenomenon of the fight book is not restricted to the European tradition. Similar artefacts, usually combining text and image to describe the techniques of close quarter combat with and without weapons, exist also in various Asian cultures, in China, Japan, Korea, and India. In the article, the question shall be raised in how far and to which end fight books of different cultures can be taken into one perspective, and be compared. To do so, similarities and dissimilarities between European and early Chinese fight books will be pointed out, and preliminary areas for comparison will be introduced. The aim of the article is to raise awareness for the topic, and to lay the ground for further discussion between specialists on the respective European and Chinese fields.

Keywords: fight books; martial arts studies; Chinese martial arts; comparative approach; Qi Jiguang

A Look Behind the Scenes: Danish Renaissance Martial Arts during the Reign of Christian IV (Claus Frederik Sørensen) - APD4/2(2016)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 31–45, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, DOI:, December 2016


From the 4th – 7th of July 2016, the annual International Medieval Congress was held in Leeds, England. Among the many different sessions two specifically addressed historical European martial arts. The first session discussed and commented upon modern practices and interpretations of historical European martial arts, each paper being based on good practice and the proper criteria for academic research. The second session, in which this paper was presented, went more “behind the scenes”, discussing the importance of thorough analysis of the historical context which remains essential to forming a foundation for solid hypotheses and interpretations.

This article discusses and sheds light upon Danish historical martial art during the reign of the Danish King Christian IV (r.1588 to 1648). At this point in time Europe consisted of many small principalities in addition to a few larger states and kingdoms. Thoughts and ideas could spread as quickly as ripples in water but also be bound by political and religious alliances or enmities, plague, famine and not to mention the role also played by topographical and cultural differences. Thus, at times, vast cultural differences could be seen from region to region.

To this should be added a wide range of social factors, such as the role of relationships and mentalities, and the obeying of unspoken norms and codes which can also affect modern researchers’ interpretations of what is shown or described. Therefore, the aim of this article is to provide a series of “behind the scenes” examples which all have the potential to affect hypotheses, interpretations, and overall understandings of the context of historical European martial arts.

Keywords: Denmark; Soro Academy; Christian IV; Historical European Martial Arts; Martial arts; History; Renaissance

Limits of Understanding in the Study of Lost Martial Arts (Eric Burkart) - APD4/2 2016

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 5–30, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, DOI:, December 2016


The paper is organised around the notion of embodied technique. The recent attempts to formulate scientific methodologies for the reconstruction of medieval fighting techniques based on a study of premodern fight books raise questions about the epistemological status of these (re)constructed techniques developed by modern practitioners of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA).

Approaching the subject from a perspective of cultural history and martial arts studies, the following questions are discussed: What is technique and how is it related to practice? How is technique acquired and transmitted? How can technique be recorded? And finally, how can historical records of technique be understood, interpreted and converted into practice?

Following Ben Spatz, technique is defined as the knowledge content of specific practices and the semiotic references between practice, technique, and symbols referring to embodied technique are discussed. By looking at the intersubjective communication of subjective fighting skills and relying on the work of Michael Polanyi, the possibility to record the “tacit knowing” of these skills as explicit knowledge is questioned. Given the low knowledge content of the fight books in regard to the execution of the referenced techniques, modern HEMA techniques therefore are to be addressed as purely modern constructions based on modern fighting practices instead of as reconstructions of medieval technique. The discourses in HEMA are also compared to a similar debate in musicology, where the status and the “authenticity” of attempts to recreate the sound of medieval music based on interpretations of early musical notation systems was vividly discussed until the early 2000s.

Fighting techniques are furthermore addressed as elements of complex fighting systems that only exist within a given historical culture of fighting and are transformed when transferred to another societal context.

Keywords: martial arts studies; cultural history; cultures of fighting; martial arts; fighting system; embodied knowledge; embodiment; technique; Ben Spatz; tacit knowing; Michael Polanyi; mediality; hermeneutics of movement

Pole-weapons in the Sagas of Icelanders: a comparison of literary and archaeological sources (Jan H. Orkisz) - APD4/1(2016)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 177–212, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, DOI:, May 2016


The Icelandic sagas are a major source of information on the Vikings and their fighting prowess. In these stories, several mysterious pole-weapons appear, which are often called “halberds”, for lack of a better word. In order to better identify what these weapons could have been, and to provide a better understanding of how the sagas relate to the Viking-age events they describe, we confront textual and archaeological evidence for several of these weapons (the höggspjót, the atgeirr, the kesja, the krókspjót, the bryntroll and the fleinn), keeping in mind the contextualisation of their appearances in sagas. The description of the use of each weapon allows to pick several candidates likely to correspond to the studied word. Without a perfect knowledge of what context the authors of the sagas wanted to describe, it appears to be impossible to give a final answer. However, we show that some specific types of spears are good candidates for some of the studied weapons.

Income and working time of a Fencing Master in Bologna in the 15th and early 16th century (Alessandro Battistini / Niki Corradetti) - APD4/1(2016)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 153–176, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, DOI:, May 2016


Since ancient times, the master-at-arms profession has always been considered essential for the education of the nobility and the common citizenship, especially in the Middle Ages. Yet, we know nothing about the real standard of living of these characters. The recent discovery of documents, which report the sums earned by fencing masters to teach combat disciplines, has brought us the possibility to estimate how highly this profession was regarded, and what its actual economic value was in the Italian late Middle Ages. They also give us also a material view into the modes of operation of a sala d’arme in those times.

Using different comparative methods based on the quoted currencies, primary goods and the cost of living, it was possible to analyze prices and duration of various military teachings offered by the fencing Masters in the late Middle Ages and equivalent viable activities of the time. We use three ways to calculate equivalent income levels in euros: from the silver content of the coins (bolognini, equivalent to the soldo); from purchasing power in relation to bread prices; and from equivalent wages. As a result we were able to define more accurately both the accessibility of these services for citizens and the relative value to other professions.

This cursory research study also aims to estimate approximately the current equivalent wages of a fencing master operating in the Italian peninsula in the 15th and early 16th century, confirming that this job was comparable to a modern, highly specialized, profession.