Last week, in the same spirit of information freedom that inspired Wiktenauer’s creation, I released a free ebook version of The Recital of the Chivalric Art of Fencing of the Grand Master Johannes Liechtenauer, one of the two books produced as part of the 2015 Wiktenauer Fundraising Drive. Today, I give you the second: The Flower of Battle of Master Fiore Friulano de’i Liberi.
As before, the translations have been updated with changes made by my translators since the book went to print, various typos and formatting errors have been corrected, and the images have been compressed to reduce the size of the file and make it more portable—you won’t notice that on your screen, but it does mean that the PDF won’t print out at nearly the same quality as the Wiktenauer books (though those are still available at present through the Indiegogo page for anyone who wants to make a late donation).
The following excerpt contains the preface and introduction from the ebook:
This book is the culmination of a project begun over nine years ago, in mid-2006, before Wiktenauer was even a twinkle in Ben Michels’ eye. I was a member of ARMA at the time, and had recently earned the rank of general Free Scholar and been told to choose a treatise to study and eventually bring back to the group. Since most members of my study group were focused on treatises in the Liechtenauer sphere and tended to quote the famous crank George Silver on the merits of Italian fencing whenever the subject came up, I decided I would try working through the writings of Fiore de’i Liberi.
I soon discovered, however, that the resources I expected to use in this endeavor simply didn’t exist. No one had produced a syncretic text laying out the three known versions side by side. Indeed, the only real publication in English at that point wasn’t even about Fiore, it was Greg Mele and Luca Porzio’s translation of Philippo di Vadi’s treatise. Somewhat demoralized, I realized I would have to build this book myself.
Then an opportunity to do just that presented itself, as I shattered my left arm in a parkouring accident in April 2006 and was left with my arm in a sling for the summer. (If you’re now thinking that extreme sports injuries are the impetus for most of my HEMA projects, well, you’re not wrong.) I decided to devote my summer to the study of Fiore’s sword in one hand, and quickly cobbled together a text combining some low-quality scans of Novati’s facsimile with the “Knights of the Wild Rose” translation of the Pisani Dossi version and Matt Easton and Eleonora Durban’s translations from the Getty version, and thus created my first text. Rob Hyatt was hard at work on his book on Henry de Sainct Didier‘s single sword at the time, so I had ample opportunity to play around with my first interpretations.
Within a year, this text would grow to fill a four-inch binder as I added more translations from the Exiles and others, laboriously scanned and corrected old reels of microfilm from the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Morgan Library, and integrated Greg’s edition of Vadi as the next best thing to a fourth version of Fiore. As the years passed, I kept this book updated with new translations and scans as they came online (the 2008 discovery of the Florius manuscript by Ken Mondschein, and subsequent public announcement by Fabrice Cognot, forced a complete rebuild of the whole book including kicking Vadi to the curb). Wiktenauer started up at the end of 2009, and in 2011 I finally found time to reduce this document to a Wiktenauer-usable format, building what became one of our largest and most popular articles. At that point, I considered the project more or less fulfilled.
I could never quite leave it alone, though, and frequently found myself making new tweaks and additions. In 2012, I took it upon myself to author a full translation of the Morgan version and the corresponding Pisani Dossi sections. Though its current incomplete state means it’s often neglected by students of Fiore, the Morgan has significant material that is not found in the Getty, and I find the writing to be far more accessible than the other versions as well. As multiple translations of the Getty were now on the market, including Tom Leoni’s popular entry, I was free to entertain my own translation preferences and try to capture the way in which Fiore expressed his ideas in the Italian, rather than worrying about making it as accessible as possible for English speakers. Going into 2013, I made what I consider one of my most significant contributions to HEMA research, identifying and correlating the group of German manuscripts I call “die Blume des Kampfes”. (These are outside the scope of the present volume, but in the future I plan to integrate them into a book on the larger tradition of which Fiore was one exponent.)
Fast forward four years to 2015, when Wiktenauer had gone from an impossible pipe dream to a legitimate source for HEMA research. Buoyed by our successful fundraiser in 2014, when we unexpectedly raised over $3,600, HEMA Alliance President Richard Marsden and I put our heads together and decided to plan out a real funding drive for this year and see if we couldn’t double that number with a little planning and organization. We plotted an ambitious (we thought) budget of $10,000 for 2015 and pulled together a few ideas for inexpensive perks for donors—shirts and patches from the HEMA Alliance shirt-and-patch guy, easily-downloadable packets of manuscript scans, and so on—but we felt like we should have a big-ticket item that would encourage people to spend bigger. Then I remembered the Liechtenauer and Fiore study guides I had once created—texts that still, several years later, had not been reproduced by any authors in the field—and I thought they might be the incentive people needed.
We all know how this story ends, of course: you, my Wiktenauer donors, scoffed at our goals and with contemptuous ease broke them over your collective knee. When the dust settled, the total stood at $22,710 (a number which has more than doubled in the intervening months). While this meant an enormous amount of work for me—and also for the ever-helpful John Harmston—it also meant the exciting prospect of finally seeing a proper treatment, in print, of these books.
In the intervening years, the quality of available Fiore resources had increased considerably. The Getty launched its Open Content Program, the National Library of France placed high-res scans of their beautiful manuscript online with a public domain license, and the Princeton Index of Christian Art created the first color scans of the Morgan. Colin Hatcher released his translations of parts of the Getty and the Pisani Dossi. Even more importantly, my local research group the Cambridge HEMA Society—and principally our Latinists Kendra Brown and Rebecca Garber—embarked in 2013 on a two-year slog through the Florius manuscript, ultimately producing rough drafts of a new transcription and translation. So, rather than printing the existing study document from years ago, I decided to exceed my campaign pledge—and perhaps the patience of my donors—by completely rebuilding this book from the ground up. Colin volunteered to translate the rest of the Getty, I polished up my Morgan translation, and in the end I also re-scanned Novati to bring the image quality up to the level of the others.
In the pages of this book you will find the latest translations by Colin, Kendra, Rebecca, and me. Accompanying this work are the best available color scans of all four manuscripts (as well as a few inserts from related manuscripts to illuminate key points). Also included are introductory sections, transcriptions of all four manuscripts, and the preface and introduction of Philippo di Vadi, which was translated by Guy Windsor in 2012 and donated to the community (of which he provided a revised version for this publication).
Though long delayed, this book represents the most complete picture possible of the writings of Fiore de’i Liberi. It’s the text I wanted when I was starting out in my Fiore studies, and I’m happy to finally offer it in print. I hope it serves in some small way to advance the study of the Friulian’s art.
23 December 2015
What’s in This Book
The pages ahead of you are packed with content—the intent is that this book be useful as a resource during active training, so wherever possible all material relevant to a specific play is loaded onto a single page or two-page spread. Navigating this may be a bit tricky, so here’s an outline of what you’ll find and where you’ll find it.
The first section contains introductory materials: an overview of what we know and what we don’t know about Fiore de’i Liberi, other members of his tradition, and their writings. Also included are brief profiles of each of the manuscripts containing Fiore’s work, and an article by Kendra Brown about the work our group CHEMAS has done on Florius. This section is adapted from the relevant Wiktenauer and Hroarr articles, which were revised and updated over the course of this project.
The second section contains the prefaces of the three Italian manuscripts (the Florius contains no preface, sadly). These are laid out in what I believe to be chronological order, with the Morgan on the left (translated by Michael Chidester), the Getty in the middle (translated by Colin Hatcher), and the Pisani Dossi on the right (also translated by Michael Chidester). While the Morgan and Getty have generally consistent text, the Pisani Dossi diverges significantly and has been reordered to match the others; the number next to each paragraph indicates the original order of appearance.
After this are the plays, which for most readers is the most important part. This includes grappling and all of Fiore’s weapons: baton, dagger, dagger vs. sword, sword in one hand, sword in two hands, sword in armor, ax, spear, mixed weapons, and mounted dueling. Each page uses exactly the same layout so that you’ll always know what you’re looking at. Since each manuscript contains a unique constellation of plays, some pages only include content from one or two of them (the quadrants for the rest remaining blank).
The top row contains the two manuscripts with only short verses, Pisani Dossi on the left and Florius on the right. This is mostly for layout purposes, to be sure there’s room for a title and for any other notes that need to be included. The PD is translated by Michael Chidester or Colin Hatcher (as indicated at the beginning of each section), while the Florius is translated by Kendra Brown and Rebecca Garber.
The bottom row contains the two manuscripts with long text, Getty on the left and Morgan on the right. The Getty translation is by Colin Hatcher, and the Morgan by Michael Chidester. Colin and I take somewhat opposite approaches to translation, which I think will be nicely complimentary. Colin is concerned primarily with producing the most readable text possible that still conveys Fiore’s meaning; the text that Fiore would have produced had he been writing in modern English, you might say. I am rather enamored with Romance languages and make an effort to capture as much of the Italian method of expression as English can easily support and preserve the original patterns and shapes of Fiore’s teachings; I want to help readers hear Fiore’s original language as they go.
Where a play from elsewhere in the text is referenced but not illustrated, the relevant illustration is inserted in black and white with a heavy frame (to remind you what it looks like). All versions of the illustration are included, even though only one or two will generally be accompanied by text.
Where a play is described but is not illustrated in any of Fiore’s known manuscripts, a heavy frame is still included in the illustration area to indicate the presence of text; it will either contain a note indicating the absence of any illustration and, where possible, an appropriate illustration from Vadi or the Cod. 5278 (from the “Blume des Kampfes” group) in the “Morgan” quadrant.
Finally, there are two appendixes. Appendix A contains the preface and introduction of Philippo di Vadi, transcribed and translated by Guy Windsor. Appendix B contains the transcriptions of all four manuscripts contained herein, ordered by the page number of their translation in this book.
Download the ebook here: