Fencing Book


This early-16th-century book about fencing consists almost entirely of illustrations, with a minimal amount of text appearing as captions. It consists of 258 drawings on 130 pages, most of which show a pair of fighters using the different cut and thrust weapons that were common at that time: the long sword, the short sword, and the dagger. The work is anonymous, but it owes much to the written and pictorial work of Hans Talhoffer (circa 1420–circa 1490), a fencing instructor, famous sword fighter, and author of several Fechtbücher (fencing books). By displaying fighters in an arena, as seen in folio 6v (image 16), the book also shows fencing as a form of ordeal by battle, an armed duel between two combatants used as a final means to settle a dispute. Stylistically, the pictures closely resemble those of a fencing book of 1512 from the school of the great German artist, Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528).

Last updated: January 8, 2018