The Master of Arms, or the Exercise of the Sword, Alone in Its Perfection


The first attempts to codify the art of fencing were writings by Renaissance Italians, which then influenced later French works. These included the 1573 Traicté contenant les secrets du premier livre sur l’espée seule (Treatise containing the secrets of the first book on the sword alone) by the Provençal Henri de Saint-Didier and the 1628 L'Académie de l’épée (The school of the sword) by Girard Thibault of Antwerp. Le Maistre d'armes, ou l'Exercice de l'épée seule, dans sa perfection (The master of arms, or the exercise of the sword, alone in its perfection) follows in this tradition. André Wernesson, Sieur de Liancour (died 1732), published his book in 1686, and it remained the standard treatise on the smallsword for most of the next century. The plates of the work highlight the main fencing techniques and poses in different settings, some of which are bucolic and others more somber. They depict, for example, fortresses under siege, naval battles, and burned villages that served as reminders that Europe was at war and that the handling of the sword was a skill not reserved for duels alone.

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Daniel de la Feuille, Paris and Amsterdam


Title in Original Language

Le Maistre d'armes, ou l'Exercice de l'épée seule, dans sa perfection


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47 pages

Last updated: November 8, 2011