The following translation of the manuscript Cod. Guelf. 264.23 contains the notes of an unknown German speaking student about his fencing lessons at the knight academy at Sorø (Ritterakademie Sorø). It was most likely written over the period of several months to years, though all title pages are dated to the 10th of July 1657. This manuscript is of particular interest due to the perspective that it provides.

Most Fechtbücher were written by experienced teachers with the purpose of conveying their prowess. In contrast to this Cod. Guelf. 264.23 was only written for personal use. The author directly wrote down the lessons that he received on the fencing floor, using the diction and methods of his teacher, and brought in his own views and thoughts while doing so.

The concept of a student who is sitting at a table in his room at the knight academy in the evening, to once more reflect upon the fencing lessons of the day by the flickering light of a candle flame to make notes, which are then collected in his own notebook, is fascinating.

Description of the manuscript

Cod. Guelf. 264.23 Extrav. of the Herzog-August Library in Wolfenbüttel consists of 47 leaves of 20 x 16 cm and was created around 1657 at the knight academy in Sorø1. It was written in German in a cursive hand. However, certain technical terms were written in Latin letters. The page numbering first starts at the fencing rules.

Before the manuscript passed into the possession of the Herzog-August Library in Wolfenbüttel, it was part of the Library of Herzogin Elisabeth Sophie Marie von Braunschweig, and before that it was likely in the possession of Herzog Christian August von Schleswig-Holstein-Norburg (1639 - 1687)2.

The manuscript is divided into the following parts:

1r to 2v: Flag-waving lessons, 30 lessons, with a title page "1v Some Flag-waving lessons … In the year 1657, the 10th of July". Additionally, the title page contains Latin, French and Italian Mottos, written in another hand.3 These mottos are:

"Nil sinc Lumine, Nil sinc Numine."

"Un bon commencement c'est moite de l'ouvre."

"Cosiste nel mondo, Chi non sà natare, vaalfondo."

Title page of the fencing section of Cod. Guelf. 264.23 Extrav. (With the kind permission of the Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel).

Title page of the fencing section of Cod. Guelf. 264.23 Extrav. (With the kind permission of the Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel).

Pages 1-13: Fencing rules, 30 lessons, with a title page "Some Fencing lessons, as I have received on the floor from Hans Wilhelm, the fencing master, in Sorø during the time I was there. In the year 1657, on the 10th of July." Again, the page contains additional Latin, French and Italian mottos written in another hand.4 These mottos are:

"Il Principio et Il Fine Mio, s'ta nilli Mani di Dio."

"Au Coeur villard rien impossible."

"Hauddedecent Maiestatem Regiam Artis istae quae ingenium pariter et manum desiderantin."

Pages 14 to 26: empty pages.

Pages 27-53: "Follow the lessons against another", 78 Lessons for the Sword alone.

Pages 61-83: "Follow some lessons with dagger and rapier", 46 lessons for rapier and dagger.

Pages 85-86: "Funny and diverting question book questions" from the hand of Herzog Christian Augusts of Schleswig-Holstein-Norburg, Instructions to an Oracle game.5

We know nothing about the nameless author6 himself, but we do know a little about the school that he visited: the Ritterakademie (knight academy) Sorø.

History of the Ritterakademie Sorø

The creation of the Danish knight academy of Sorø on the island of Seeland was completed in two founding documents. First, the king united the Frederiksborg school with the monastery school in Sorø in 1586 to form the „kongelige frie Skole i Soer“ (royal free school in Sorø). The newly formed school was to house 60 students, half of whom would come from the aristocracy and the other half from burgher or other families7. However, since neither modern languages (such as Italian or French) nor knightly exercises (such as fencing and dancing) were taught, only few nobles enrolled to attend the school8. This was not to the liking of the king, as his intention also was that the noble youth of the land should be educated for their future service to the kingdom of Danmark at the knight academy of Sorø. In a second foundation act in 1623 the school was extended by Christian IV, and subjects that were attractive to the aristocracy such as language, fencing and dancing instruction were introduced. With that, the noble students finally came to the school in large numbers9. Unfortunately, the Ritterakademie did not have a long life, and it was closed again in 1665, not to be reopened until 1747.

Education

Since 1623, in addition to a broad basic education, noble subjects and exercises such as like modern languages, fencing and dancing were also taught in Sorø. Not all professors of the knight academy are known now, and neither were all chairs occupied at all times. Where known, the name and active period of all teachers are given in brackets10.

Reinholdt Thim (unknown – 1639) or Pieter Isaacsz (1569 – 1625): Rhetoric lesson at a knight academy. (Source: wikimedia commons, public domain.) From 1623, Thim was the teacher for drawing and painting at the knight academy of Sorø.

Reinholdt Thim (unknown – 1639) or Pieter Isaacsz (1569 – 1625): Rhetoric lesson at a knight academy. (Source: wikimedia commons, public domain.) From 1623, Thim was the teacher for drawing and painting at the knight academy of Sorø.

  • History (Johannes Meursius 1624 until his death in 1639, at the same time court historian)
  • Mathematics (Johannes Lauremberg 1624 until his death in 1658)
  • Italian and French (Daniel Matras 1624-1665)
  • Theology (Johan Cluver 1623-30, Christian Matthiae 1630-39, Niels Mortensen Skielderup 1639-40)
  • Logic (Niels Mortensen Skielderup until 1640, additionally Theology from 1639)
  • Medicin and natural sciences (Joachim Burser from 1625 until his death in 1639)
  • Latin und Rhetoric (Steffen Hansen Stephanius 1630 until his death in 1650, additionally History and court historian from 1630)
  • Law and politics (Henrik Ernst from 1640)
  • Music (an organist, additionally a violinist in the 1620s)
  • Drawing and painting (Rheinholdt Thim 1623-1629, after his death Abraham Wuchters)
  • Fencing (around 1657 Wilhelm Schöffer von Dietz, possibly already since 1623)
  • Riding
  • Dancing (often changing foreigners, the first dancing master Pierre Laproche already had to leave again in 1624, as he was suspected of being a Papist)
  • Drilling (Antonio Flores 1623 until 1628, after that open, probably only added again during the short period of the Swedish War)
  • a master for the ball game11

The basic education and the accommodation in the buildings of the academy were free for students. Fees were collected for riding, fencing and other exercises, and the students also had to pay for sustenance. However, the costs for sustenance were relatively low, as the academy owned farms from which it could supply itself12.

Compilation of yearly study costs13:

  • Provided education: free
  • Riding: 120 Reichstaler and a horse
  • Fencing: 24 Reichstaler
  • Dancing and ball play: unknown
  • Food: 52 Reichstaler
  • Lodgings: free
  • Heating cost, light, laundry: unknown

The fencing master Hans Wilhelm

On page 5 of the manuscript the anonymous author mentions the name „Hans Wilhelm“ as his fencing master. According to Joachim Hynitzsch, Johann Wilhelm Schöffer von Dietz was fencing master first in Marburg and later in Sorø14. Therefore, it is very probable that the mentioned „Hans Wilhelm“ is Johann Wilhelm Schöffer von Dietz. He was a student of Salvator Fabris and a Vorfechter in his fencing school15. It is perhaps not surprising that the king who took Salvator Fabris into his service, and financed his Opus Magnus16, would have one of his students as fencing master at the knight academy. The king had the fencing master paid well. He and the riding master received the highest payment of all teachers: 800 Reichstaler, 300 more than the highest pay of all others.17

Nothing is known about the precise development of fencing instruction in Sorø. Three locations of the fencing school can be localized on the site of the Academy. The fencing school was initially located in the old main residences within the old monastery, was moved to the ground floor of a building next to the school in 1636, and was accommodated in a new building in 165518.

The text

Some Fencing lessons, as I have received on the floor from Hans Wilhelm, the fencing master, in Sorø during the time I was there.

In the year 1657, on the 10th of July.

 

Some Fencing Rules

Some Fencing lessons, as I have received on the floor from Hans Wilhelm, the fencing master, in Sorø during the time I was there.In the year 1657, on the 10th of July.

Some Fencing lessons, as I have received on the floor from Hans Wilhelm, the fencing master, in Sorø during the time I was there.
In the year 1657, on the 10th of July.

1. You must hold the sword in the hand such that the pommel of the hilt lies under the thick flesh of the little finger. It shall also otherwise be held against the finger next to the thumb, and then the hand will be turned in Quarte half Tertie.

2. The point, the hand and the somewhat bent elbow shall always give a straight line.

3. The posture of the body consists of the following (1) With all lessons, bend your body. The smaller your body, the fewer openings, the safer you go. Turn your chest away as much as possible, to be safer from thrusts, and to have less opening. Bend the legs and the arms a little, hold the left arm approximately against the left eye.

4. The eyes of him who fights, must first and foremost be aimed at the blade, otherwise, if you want to look him in his face, you will find yourself betrayed horribly. The cause is this. All tempos for injuring are done with the blade. But now it is certain, that when I look at one place, I cannot have my eyes at the other place at the same time. If I do not see the blade, how will I notice what he wants to do. In this case you will make a large fault, if you do not look where you want to thrust.

5. When I thrust, the right foot must go forth bent, but the left must keep standing rigidly and firmly on the sole of the foot without bending. Otherwise if you let it drag, after having completed the thrust, you cannot retreat without great effort, or you must at least make one more tempo in retreating. The left arm must stretch backwards. The right follows its lesson, and direct the body to the right leg. In this way you have a long thrust, and in retreating position yourself in the posture as in No. 3.

6. When you disengage19 or otherwise similarly make a tempo with the hand, take care that you do not use the entire arm, but only the joint of the hand. Otherwise the lesson will turn out really too lengthy, and also too slow and graceless.

7. On the blade of the sword in itself four different parts can be observed

  1. The full weak with which you can only injure both with a thrust and with a cut.
  2. The half weak which then serves to go against the other’s full weak.
  3. The half strong, with which I go against the other’s half weak.
  4. The full strong is to engage20 the other’s half strong.

8. If you want to know why the fully turned blade (so that the pommel of the hilt comes up) from the Tertie is named the Prime, then draw the sword, then you must know. And therefore there are four thrusts, the Prime, the Secunde, the Tertie and the Quarte. Then follow the Passades, Voltas, feints, making a beat21, disengaging, parrying, and what more is pending.

9. The Tertie must be with the hilt somewhat low to hold the other’s blade constrained, and the point somewhat high.

10. In the Quarte the left shoulder and right hand must give a straight line on the inside, but not on the outside over the arm, otherwise it would immediately be thrust to. But if you want to thrust the Quarte only straight and do not turn a little from the body, you will have to fear a contra-Tempo thrust or [a thrust] on a Passade. Also observe this with it, that in this Quarte the fist is directed high, but the point low with caution.

11. It must be remembered that there are three different changes in Secunde, namely (1) high, (2.) middle, and (3) deep or low Secund. With the low Secund the bindings22 are done, with the other and first the thrust and the engaging.

Similarly, there are three different Terties, namely (1) the high and angled Tertie (serves for engaging or for keeping) (2) Middle Tertie (is for thrusting and engaging). (3) the low or hanging Tertie, for retreating etc.

In contrast there is only one Quarte. Whether it is hanging or high, for both then the lessons remain all the same way.

The Prime can likewise not be changed.

12. If someone goes with a straight point, you cannot thrust him a Secund, otherwise you yourself will be hit, but if he goes with the point high, you can certainly permit it to yourself, as you then gain his weak with your strong. After gaining the weak you are out of danger.

13. If you want to thrust and hit, you must inevitably first have gained the other’s blade, and after having completed the thrust immediately go on the blade again, otherwise you have to fear a counter-thrust or a confusion.23 Also remember this well hereby, when the other gives way from the thrust and you want to continue thrusting, you are out of measure. To reach him now give caution when he gives way, follow after first with the right foot, and then with the left, remaining on the blade with that. Likewise when you give way, step first with the left and after that with the right.

14. It is asked, when the other goes with a high point, why must you not thrust Tertie but Secund. Answer: If I thrust the Tertie, then my full weak comes onto his full strong. Now, to maintain my strength I have to thrust Secund, as then my full strong comes on his weak.

15. It would be a dangerous thing to thrust where there is no opening. This is also not right, to go from the side where I let someone engage, and to the other side, as through this the opponent is immediately given a Tempo to thrust. Also beware, when you engage on the outside24 you must also bind to the outside, if you engage on the inside, bind to the inside, to the outside with the Secund, to the inside with the Quarte. Take care, when you bind, either with the Quarte or the Secund, that in the binding you direct the point well against the other’s body, otherwise if you want to let your point go into the ground as it were, then the other is safe enough from you.

16. When you release yourself on the outside and retreat, then pull the arm with the sword back somewhat, though so that it remains in a straight line, and lower the blade on the inside, so that the point of the sword the shoulder and hand give a straight line.

17. The parry must not be done with Secund or with half turned hand (which is worse for the eyes than nothing). Particularly, when the opponent thrusts the Tertie over the arm, parry with the half edge25. If he thrusts Quarte parry with the full. Except when you want to seduce your opponent thereby to pass26 or otherwise. Further why the parry in Secund is not valid, the cause is this that when you parry with Secund or up high, he can immediately pass in under your blade. (2). You must use two Tempi when you want to thrust, but when you parry in Quarte the other walks it into his body himself in the Passade and your hand is already in Quarte.

18. All parries that I perform without disengagement, are done while setting the feet forwards. But those with disengagement are done without stepping to. Except when you want to pass, you must step to with only the right foot, so that you can pass forward with the left foot. Simple27 disengagements are also done while stepping to with both feet, just as the binding. Take heed that when you parry or otherwise perform a lesson, that the point of your blade is always turned to the man with whom you fence.

19. Take heed when you make feints, that before it you do move the foot or lift it as when you thrust, but do not set it forward, otherwise you come with the legs quite too far from each other, and so you cannot properly complete your thrust. Also the feints must be done in exactly the same way as if they were thrusts, as in Tertie, Quarte, Secund, and so that the point of the sword stretches for the man sharply, all to seduce the opponent all the more.

20. The stronger you thrust, the more I must parry. The more I parry the better you can pass. With passing belongs the following. When I thrust and want to pass, I must not pull back the arm (except when I want to hold the blade short) but leave it straight, without change in figure as it was before in the thrust otherwise you come out of measure. While you also pass below, pay attention that you do net let the left hand go in front sooner to grab the other’s hilt, as as much the left hand goes forward the right must certainly remain back, but as the same hand goes back with the blade, the thrust in the Passade becomes that much shorter, and cannot well hit without danger. If you want to make the Passade with the hand, you must just as in other Passades first let the left foot go forwards, otherwise if your parry with the hand fails you will be hit. Never should you pass when a feint is made, rather [you shall] thrust. Even much less reach for it if you do not want to seduce the opponent through it, because that is certain, while you are reaching for the other’s blade, you cannot again at the same time parry the thrust.

21. Making a Volta28 on a feint is against the foundation of fencing. Also you can scarcely make a Volta without thrust if you are not quite deep in the measure. Moreover when making a Volta you must not set the foot forwards, otherwise you lose time and have the danger to certainly be hit. Voltas can be done over the arm or under the arm, but must always be done in the high Quarte to constrain the other’s blade with that. The posture in the Voltas is in two ways, when I make a full Volta I must turn myself around completely, so that the hand indeed remains in Quarte, but the eyes and the breast are turned from the man, and the left foot turns itself around so that the heel of the left foot stays the same and the right hand gives a tight though straight line. But the half Volte is done no further than with only a turning around of both feet.

22. When you set the toes of the left foot a little outwards, you stand firm, and you are also more ready to retreat with the right foot.

23. In making a beat or parrying or alternatively other lessons, the blade must be held nicely in check, so that it does not pass to and from.

24. It is asked whether you can disengage in the measure without danger or not. In that there is this distinction. If you only want to take the disengaging simply by itself, then this does not go, as through this you give the opponent a Tempo. But if you make a feint in the measure, then when he reaches for that, you can disengage and thrust safely.

25. As it is impossible that two Tempi can be done at once, when he reaches for the feint, he cannot at the same time thrust, so that you are safe as previously mentioned.

26. Someone also brought up whether, when you make a beat or parry, you cannot first go from the blade again and thrust. To this I give this answer, that both in the parry or in making a beat you must remain at the blade and direct the afterwards following thrust at the blade as well to hold the other’s blade constrained.

27. It might be asked which thrust is held for the best and safest. I am of the opinion that, which is done with the disengagement. If someone wants to reproach you that the engaging and disengaging are of no use in fencing, but it will only require the judging, answer, when I do not know of what I will judge, and in what way I will understand the judgement of the blades, how can I then fence. Therefore I must first know the engaging and disengaging, as from this comes the judging of the blade , as previously said in No. 7 on the division of the blade as done in the engaging.

28. I really wanted to know what was held of it when you go in Tertie with high point, where it is not quite the angled Tertie, I reckon being not at all right in that. Firstly, I give the opponent more opening over the arm. Secondly, it will be more difficult for me to disengage and what occurrences can otherwise be done.

29. Furthermore to no. 3. where I mentioned that it is certain that I give less opening, when I go with half openings against full openings. Additionally I am more constrained when I go with full opening.

30. When you fight firm footed29 it is better to move the right foot first and to follow with the left. But in proceeding30 and the other similar lessons I can also first move the left, then the right, the left again and so on.

Follow the lessons against another

1. When you have been engaged on the inside make a feint on the outside. And if he reaches after it thrust Quarte on the inside. But if he does not reach, thrust Tertie on the outside over the arm. But if he parries the former Quarte, pass with Secund at the blade, do this likewise on the inside. When you have engaged the opponent on the outside, and if he parries the thrusted Tertie high, pass below in Secund.

2. Whenever you thrust Tertie and the other disengages while you thrust, complete your thrust anyway and turn your hand in Quarte.

3. Engage the opponent on the inside or the outside. If he disengages, disengage contra and thrust Quarte or Tertie after you have engaged.

4. If the other thrusts you, either on the out- or inside, parry as you have learned before (17) and either thrust forth similarly or with the disengagement, or in the disengagement.

5. Make a feint in front of you on the inside or the outside. If the other does not want to reach for that, immediately thrust forth. If he reaches, disengage and also thrust.

6. When you have been engaged, lift over, thrust Quarte, make a feint, thrust Tertie or engage, also, lift over and thrust Tertie, make a feint or engage.

7. If the opponent meets you with a low Tertie and gives you the opening on the outside, bind and thrust Tertie.

8. But if he disengages while you want to thrust the Tertie, and through the disengagement he takes the thrust from you, disengage and complete your thrust on the inside with the Quarte, but see to it that he does not touch your blade.

9. Engage the other on the outside. If he makes you the feint on the inside, immediately thrust Quarte in the feint. Likewise also when he makes you a feint on the outside, thrust Tertie. However both must be done very swiftly.

10. If you have been engaged on the inside, release yourself in this manner. Lower the point of your blade somewhat. If he reaches after that, thrust Tertie. If he thrusts without binding, I thrust contra-Quarte, but if he does not want to do anything against it, I engage on the outside and etc. as no. 4. Alternatively, if he does not attempt anything I can also make a feint below and thrust Tertie or make feints below and above and thrust Secund, or also make feints above and below and thrust Tertie.

Also perform all these lessons when you have been engaged on the outside.

11. Release yourself from engagement on the inside as well as the outside in another way and retreat as you have been taught fully in the previous rule no. 16, that you may then practice almost all the lessons that you have used in no. 10.

12. If the other goes in the angled Tertie I engage him on the outside with high Secund, make a feint on the inside and thrust Secund over the arm.

13. If he does not want to let himself be enaged, but goes from the angled to the low Tertie similarly engage him with low Secund, with steps of both feet and thrust Tertie.

14. If he makes a Volta, lower the hilt in Tertie or also thrust the hanging Quarte, which can be thrust as well with the left foot as with the right in front. Take heed well of this lesson with all Voltas.

15. Thrust Tertie. If the other parries make the parry with the hand and with a step forward of the left foot make the Passade in Quarte.

16. Immediately thrust Tertie again. If he parries, turn your hand in Quarte, and let him thrust in with a step forward of the left foot and take his sword.

17. When the other thrusts Quarte parry with a step forward of the right foot and then the left and also take his sword in that way, with this take heed well of what is reminded in R.F.31 No. 23.

18. When you engage the other on the inside and he disengages, parry with the half edge, turn the hand in Secund, and pass over the arm. Take heed of No. 18 R.F., if he lifts, pass below in Secund, as in 21. This Passade is held to be the safest.

19. Make a feint, when you have engaged the opponent on the outside, in the outside disengagement and thrust Quarte. Make a feint in the disengagement and thrust Tertie. Also engage on the outside, and when he disengages, make a feint before him etc. just as when you engage him on the inside.

20. When you make a feint on the outside and the other reaches upwards for it thrust Secund below. Remember rule No. 20.

21. If the opponent goes with a straight Quarte, also go in Quarte below his blade and engage him how you want, or make feints, or follow your previous lessons.

22. To seduce the other, go in the same Quarte, but if he goes under the blade, turn the hand in Secund, and engage him on the outside. Thrust both simply before him, or also with disengaging, according to where you see the opponent give occasion.

23. Engage on the outside, if he disengages, step forward and disengage along. If he thrusts, make a Volta. Likewise also on the inside engage, and after the other’s performed thrust make a Volta. Here belongs the Rule no. 21. When the other wants to pass you can also use the same Voltas.

24. Do you want to know how you go at him who goes in the hanging Quarte, do the following. Lift his blade with Quarte on both sides outside or inside, according to where he gives the openings, and thrust.

25. When the other lies in Secund and gives you the openings on the inside, engage him with the Tertie and thrust with the disengagement. If he gives the openings on the inside also engage and when he disengages thrust Tertie or pass in the disengagement in Secund under the blade. If you do not dare to pass so openly, then first parry his blade with the half edge with a step forward of the right foot in Secund upwards and straightway pass under the blade, or parry also, and if he disengages, disengage and thrust, or if he disengages make a Volta.

26. Go at the opponent as in Secund on the inside, though so that you do not engage him. Immediately make a feint before him, and thrust over the arm. Take heed well of the disengagement, contra-Tempo against the Voltas and more otherwise similar lessons with this. If he does not want to attempt anything, turn your hand in Quarte and thrust right in. If he does not attempt anything you can also fall from the Secund into the Tertie as in Le. 11 or make a feint on the inside and the outside and thrust Quarte.

27. When you notice that the other gives you a Tempo to seduce you, and he thus wants to parry with the hand, go at him on the inside and make a feint in Tertie, and when he reaches after that, lift over his hand and thrust Quarte. If he does not reach but only disengages simply thrust Quarte. Also parry first and thrust then.

28. When your opponent goes at you with swaying or changing32 blade, and does not want to let himself be engaged, go directly over his blade in the Tertie and when he disengages, thrust either Tertie or Quarte, according to the opening he gives you. If you do not dare this, bind him with Secund and thrust Tertie or if he anticipates you thrust Quarte as can be seen in No. 8. Or parry first and thrust Quarte. Also when he wants to thrust the Tertie over the arm, make a Volta under his blade. Alternatively, the Passade over the arm can likewise be done, as in L. 18 if he thrusts the Tertie.

29. Engage the other on the outside, if he disengages, step forward, disengage along until you foresee your tempo, and if he disengages, pass immediately on the inside in Secund at the blade, for greater safety, take the left hand as help. It is a deceptive Passade, that must however be done very swiftly.

30. Give the opponent a Tempo to pass, which is done when he thrusts on the inside, that you then reach after it somewhat within the parry to seduce him. If you then notice that he wants to pass, step back at the same time with the right foot bind him on the outside in Secund, step forward again make a contra-Tempo with the hand and thrust Secund.

31. You will often come to fight with some who even if they do not sway with the blade, as in 28, nevertheless do not want to let themselves be engaged. Go under their blade in half Secund, and if you have the measure thrust Quarte. Here you can do many more lessons, such as if you see the tempo for it make a Volta at the blade, make a Volta over the arm, make a feint on the inside and thrust Tertie, or make in the same Secund a feint on the outside and thrust Quarte or if you make a feint on the inside, and the other wants to thrust in the feint, thrust contra-Quarte, also make a feint on the outside and on the inside. With this take heed when you have been engaged on the inside, release yourself in this way, go as you have been taught to under his blade and do these lessons.

32. If the other goes at you in the posture the same as if he made you an invitation33, go in the Tertie under his blade, so that your full weak goes forth more or less halfway to his body under his blade. If he then wants to thrust Quarte, thrust contra. Also parry first and thrust then. Likewise give a feint under his blade in Tertie and thrust Tertie. Further do as can be seen in L. 26.

33. Many also when they do not want to let themselves be engaged, go quite low with their blade in Tertie. Them you must confront so. Go low with your point on the inside (just as when you retreat) over the strong of the other’s, and if he thrusts, parry and thrust Quarte. But if he does not want to attempt anything against that, lower your hilt somewhat, so that you have engaged his weak with your strong, bend down well, and if he disengages thrust, or parry first and make a Volta.

34. When the other goes at you with Secund, and gives you the opening on the outside engage him with the Tertie. If he disengages, disengage along, either thrust or let him first disengage once and after that thrust if he disengages once more.

35. If you thrust Tertie and your opponent parries such, step forward with the left foot, grasp his blade under your sword and break34 him.

36. Do not let yourself be disconcerted by those who you see go from the blade completely in the way of the circle-fencers. Go after them with the Quarte, first with the left then with the right foot, and when they disengage thrust Tertie or contra. Thus also when they go at you on the inside and give opening, go after them on the side first with the right then with the left, engage with the half edge, and if he disengages etc. Or also if he disengages, engage on the inside, step forwards, if he disengages once more, pass with Quarte over the arm which is named Stoccata Riversa. But take heed well what is set in No. 10, that you know to make a distinction between the Passade over the arm in Quarte and at the blade just as in the thrust.

37. If the opponent makes you a feint on the outside, reach and engage with the half edge, similarly to when you let yourself be seduced. If he disengages, disengage contra etc. again make the Volta as you can see in L. 14, namely with hanging Quarte or hanging Secund.

38. Take heed well, when you have bound the other on the outside, and you notice that you are sufficiently in measure, then stay on the blade, and pass forth below. Similarly you can also thrust. It is both deceptive.

39. With the Voltas you must also notice this. If someone makes a Volta at me, (this can also be done when he thrusts), thrust Quarte behind the arm.

40. When the other wants to thrust you the Tertie over the arm, disengage through under his blade, thrust forth in Secund and parry his blade with your hand over your sword, with the contra-Tempo.

41. Some will go at you in Secund, go under their blade with a straight Quarte and thrust Quarte over the arm. Again stand so, and if they bind you in Secund on the outside, disengage over their blade, and thrust high Quarte on the inside, or lower your cross, in this way you are not only free from their bind but you have also engaged on the inside. After that thrust Quarte. Again go under the other’s blade in Quarte, after that engage him on the inside, make a feint, thrust Tertie, engage also on the outside etc.

42. If you have been engaged on the inside, turn your hand in Secund, though so that you do not go from the other’s blade, with that also step forward on the inside with both feet. So you have engaged the other again on the outside, or much more bound. After that use your previous lesson. Do it similarly when you have been engaged on the outside, lift your hand higher in the Quarte and immediately thrust Quarte.

43. If the other goes at your with Tertie, though so that his point is somewhat turned across from you, then go in Tertie next to and almost under his blade until you are close enough in the measure. Thereupon turn your hand in Secund. Use the left hand for the parry, and pass directly forward on the inside or make a feint below in the Tertie and thrust Tertie.

44. If the other engages you on the outside, go from his blade in Quarte, just as if you would thrust the Quarte on the inside at the blade. If he pursues you, thrust Quarte or also if you have been engaged on the inside, go outwards as before and thrust, make a feint on the inside and thrust Tertie over the arm. If he thrusts, disengage and thrust contra, if he does not want to engage me in the guard, then I engage him on the outside with the half edge, make the Passade over the arm, or thrust otherwise as the openings will fall to you. As soon as you go at someone from free play you can also go at him in such a Quarte. If he engages you, immediately thrust Quarte at the blade or turn the hand in Secund and go on the inside with the Secund, after that do the lessons that you have been reminded of in L. 26.

45. If the opponent engages you on the outside, go from his blade on the inside in the Quarte. If the other pursues you, and wants to engage you again, disengage under and thrust Quarte over the arm. But if he thrusts Quarte while you go through, thrust contra at the blade. If he attempts nothing, make a feint on the outside and thrust Quarte on the inside. Likewise lift over, engage on the outside, if he disengages, pass in Quarte on the inside.

46. When you have been engaged on the inside go from the blade on the outside in Tertie, lift over, engage on the inside, and thrust Quarte. But when he disengages while you have engaged, make a Stoccata Riversa. Likewise if he disengages thrust high Secund to bring the other’s blade up high with that, and pass forward underneath. Such a lesson you can also do alone by itself. The Volta over the arm follows if he wants to thrust on the outside, or breaking.

47. Swiftly, in going at him, go with a low Quarte so that you are entirely open and without defensive, the closer you come to his blade, the higher you come with your blade onto his, engage him on the outside, if he disengages thrust Quarte, or disengage contra, also pass in Quarte at the blade. Use these lessons when you find the opening on the outside. But if he gives you the opening on the inside, go as before, engage him on the inside, and pursue the lessons of the contra, against this see in the following lesson.

48. If he goes at you in such a way in a hanging Quarte or […]35 guardia, go immediately in Tertie and while he wants to engage you, do not let your blade be touched, disengage and thrust Quarte on the inside, or also disengage and engage him on the inside, as mentioned do not let your blade be touched. But if it happens to you that he touches you, swiftly make a feint on the inside and thrust Tertie. If he wants to engage you on the inside, disengage and thrust Tertie, if he touches your blade, make a feint on the outside and thrust Quarte. If it happens that he engages you on the inside, lower your blade, engage on the outside, etc. If he disengages when you have engaged him, bind with a step forward of the right foot, pass as in the L. 38.

49. Go in low Secund, let your point stand somewhat downwards. If the other wants to thrust you over the arm, disengage and thrust Quarte. If he binds you on the outside, lower your hilt, so you have engaged him on the inside, thereon use the lessons belonging to this. If the other thrusts Tertie take heed of the Tempo, parry with the inward curved hand, and pass directly forwards. Secund is almost (except with the point) as an invitation. If he wants to do nothing, thrust a free Quarte. When he thrusts, break and grab his hilt in front or while stepping back cut to his head. If he wants to attempt nothing, engage him, remain standing still with that.

50. Make a feint on the inside and thrust Quarte over the arm. If he does not turn to the feint, step forwards, engage on the inside and thrust, or if he disengages, pass over the arm either in Tertie, Quarte, or Secund.

51. When the other goes in Quarte and gives you the opening on the outside, step somewhat to the right hand with both feet, so that you get to engage him, engage on the outside. If he disengages, disengage contra etc. If he gives you the opening on the inside, step somewhat to the left hand, engage him on the inside and do as before.

52. Go at the opponent with a very high point and bent or shortened arm, engage him on the inside, if he disengages, parry with the half edge, pass in Secund over the arm, engage him on the outside, if he disengages thrust contra. But if he thrusts the Quarte while you go at him, drop into the parry and thrust, be careful that you must not overreach in the parry. If it happens that he disengages, complete the thrust in Tertie. Also in going at him make a feint on the inside, if he reaches thrust Tertie over the arm.

53. When the other engages you on the inside, go from his blade on the outside though such that only the half full weak proceeds, if he thrusts Tertie, disengage and thrust contra-Quarte, or also if he thrusts Tertie thrust contra-Tertie, but with this the other’s weak must be taken well. If he does nothing, engage on the outside. Do this same when you have been engaged on the outside.

54. Whenever you have engaged your enemy on the outside, and he wants to disengage and thrust, immediately thrust Secund on the outside under the arm at his blade, and in retreating engage him outside with the Tertie. This is precisely the lesson which L. 38 has dictated you.

55. Go on the opponent’s blade on the inside though somewhat high to afterwards thrust more safely, and if the other engages hard, drop in a low Quarte and thrust under his arm, but step with the right foot somewhat to the outside on the left side out of measure. Also make a high feint on the inside and [thrust]36 him likewise. Engage him on the outside, make a high feint inside and do the previous.

56. Engage the other on the outside. When he retreats, bind him on the outside with a low Tertie. If he does not want to attempt anything, lower your hilt and thrust Tertie, but both must be done in one moment.

57. As you are reminded in L. 10, how you must release yourself from the engaging. Now do likewise to seduce the other, and go onto his half weak with your full. Use the above-named going lesson. If he wants to attempt nothing make an invitation, and if he thrusts, pass forth. If he does not want to heed the invitation, engage him on the outside etc. Go similarly on the outside etc. If he does nothing, engage him on the inside, stepping forward with that. If he stands still, pass forth in Quarte.

58. Whenever you thrust the Tertie, and he parries high, you can pass the Prime over the arm.

59. If the other goes at you in a low Tertie, engage him with the Prime, step forward gradually until you see that you have the measure, then pass forth in Secund under the blade.

60. When the opponent goes with a shortened arm, go in half Secund over his blade. If he wants to thrust Secund below, step forward, bind in Secund, and thrust Tertie. But if he disengages, thrust Tertie. If he wants to lift over and engage, disengage, and let your blade not be touched, and thrust Tertie, or also while he disengages, make a beat on his blade and thrust Quarte.

61. Make a feint on the outside step forward a little with the right foot as a half thrust, if he parries, make a Volta thereon.

62. If you have been engaged on the inside, release yourself. Go with shortened arm, when the other pursues you, thrust Tertie. If he wants to do nothing, make a feint under his blade and thrust Tertie when he reaches. If he does not heed a feint, make another below with that and thrust. This lesson also goes when you have been engaged on the outside.

63. When you have engaged your opponent on the outside, and he disengages and cuts you on the inside, disengage, thrust Tertie over the arm. If you have engaged him on the inside, and he cuts you on the outside, disengage and thust Quarte or the Prime below. It can occur when he cuts on the inside and is too deep in the measure, that you can safely thrust Quarte in that. Likewise, if he is too deep while cutting on the outside, you can thrust the Tertie.

64. If you thrust the Quarte or Tertie and the opponent parries then you can safely pass.

65. As he disengages and wants to cut, it may be outside or inside, [make] a feint and thrust.

66. If you engage on the outside and he cuts you on the inside to the leg, remain standing still, parry it with a hanging Quarte and thrust Quarte. Likewise with a low Secund and Tertie thrust if he cuts on the outside.

67. Engage him on the outside again. If he disengages and cuts you on the inside to the leg, set your right foot back somewhat behind the left until the cut has passed, then step again to swiftly complete your thrust in Tertie, likewise when you engage on the inside in the Quarte.

68. Provoke and cut the other on the inside. If he disengages, disengage swiftly and thrust Tertie. Provoke on the outside, thrust Quarte.

69. When the opponents cuts at you from below to the arm, lower your cross and thrust. This goes on both sides. You cut from below up to the arm on the inside with a hanging Quarte and thrust Tertie with the disengagement, on the outside, cut again, step forwards with both feet, engage and when he goes through, thrust Tertie.

70. Let [it] run off and cut on the outside to the blade. If he disengages and cuts or thrusts, disengage and thrust Secund. After that, if he parries up high, pass below in Secund. But if he disengages while you pass, pass forth anyway in Secund, and parry the blade aside with the hand.

71. When you engage the other on the inside, and he cuts you on the outside to the blade, disengage over and cut the Quarte with a step forwards of the right foot. If he displaces, immediately pass in Secund. Engage him on the outside, if he cuts on the inside cut to the head, and if he parries, pass below in Secund. Take heed of that in L. 70 at the end.

72. When you go with a straight point and the other wants to strike you to the head, take heed well while he strikes that you parry Secund, or disengage and thrust Tertie.

73. When the other goes at you with a straight point, step forward with the right foot, strike and slice in Secund to his head, remain standing still, also cut, and if you notice that he wants to pass, make a contra-Tempo while he passes with the hand and thrust Secund.

74. If the other has engaged you on the inside, push on his blade while stepping forward with both feet and thrust Quarte. Push, make the feint, and thrust Tertie. This is named the push-feint.

75. When you have been engaged from below on the inside, go from his blade in Quarte, at the same time step around to the left hand with the left foot. If he thrusts Quarte, thrust contra. If he attempts nothing, step in your posture again, engage him on the outside, etc.

76. When the other has engaged you on the inside, go from his blade, turn the hand in Secund. Likewise also when you have been engaged on the outside, disengage and turn the hand in Secund. In this case do the lesson which you have received in L. 26.

77. Engage the opponent on the outside push his blade so that your hilt comes high and the point low. If he disengages, disengage contra. Engage on the inside, do the same and disengage contra, or make a Volta.

78. Engage on the inside, if he disengages, step forward and engage with the half edge, if he then disengages thrust Quarte, or disengage and displace with high Secund and step forward of the right foot, after that pass. Etc.

Part 2

In the manuscript, the fencing lessons with the single rapier are followed by "Some lessons with dagger and rapier". A translation of this part of the text will be published soon in a future article here on HROARR.

For a German version of this article, including a transcription of the text, see <http://fechtgeschichte.blogspot.de/2013/12/das-fechtbuch-eines-studenten.html>

This article was edited on 10-01-2014 in order to make a small improvement to the translation (see footnote 35). Also note that a follow-up article, with new information regarding the Fencing master “Hans Wilhelm”, and including a translation of the second part of the manuscript is now available here: <http://hroarr.com/follow-some-lessons-with-dagger-and-rapier/>.

Footnotes

  1. Otte, Wolf-Dieter: Die neueren Handschriften der Gruppe Extravagantes.Teil 3: 220.1 Extrav. - 317 Extrav. - Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1993. - VIII, 379 p. (Kataloge der Herzog-August-Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel: N.R.; 19). []
  2. ibid. []
  3. ibid., the lessons on flag-waving are not part of this translation []
  4. ibid. []
  5. ibid., the game is not part of this translation []
  6. One possible author of the manuscript is Christian August, the son Friedrich von Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Norburg (1581 – 1658) and Juliane, the daughter of Franz II. of Sachsen-Lauenburg (1589–1630), who would have been about 18 in 1657 and had studied in Sorø. The bibliographical information of the manuscript, however, indicates that only the last pages are in his handwriting. []
  7. Conrad, Norbert: Ritterakademien der frühen Neuzeit: Bildung als Standesprivileg im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert. Göttingen 1982. p. 145 []
  8. ibid. p. 146 []
  9. ibid. []
  10. Brøndsted, Johannes: Academia Sorana. Kloster – Akademi – Skole. København: Gyldendal, 1962. pages 38-45. []
  11. This unspecified ball game might have been Jeu de paume, an ancient form of tennis. []
  12. Conrads: Ritterakademien p. 171 []
  13. Compilation from the year 1623, ibid. p. 172 []
  14. Hynitzsch, Joachim Joachim: Scienza E Pratica D'Arme = Herrn Salvator Fabris Obristen des RitterOrdens der sieben Herzten verteutschte Italiansche FechtKunst / Di Salvatore Fabris, Capo Dell'Ordine Dei Sette Cuori. Hynitzsch, Halberstadt und Vogt, Leipzig 1677, foreword []
  15. ibid. []
  16. Fabris, Salvator: De lo schermo overo scienza d’arme di Salvator Fabris Capo dell’ordine dei sette cori. []
  17. Conrads: Ritterakademien p. 172 []
  18. Brøndsted, Johannes: Academia Sorana. p. 45-46 []
  19. Throughout this text, the word "caviren", which is the Germanised form of Italian "cavare" has been translated as "to disengage". "Cavation" has likewise been translated as "disengagement". []
  20. Throughout this text, the word "stringiren" (Germanised from Italian "stringare") has been translated as "to engage". []
  21. "Batieren", another Germanised Italian word ("battere"), translated here as "to make a beat". []
  22. "Ligiren" (from Italian "Ligare") and the associated noun "Ligade" have been translated as "to bind" and "binding", respectively. Most likely, the "Ligade" is a blade action, whereby the opponent's blade is parried or engaged, and possibly transported with a movement of your own blade that goes along part of a circle. []
  23. In the original German, the word "confusion" is also used. We are not sure what the best translation is. []
  24. The original text read "einwendig" ("inside") which was then corrected by the author to "auswendig" ("outside"). []
  25. From the context in which the author uses "full edge" and "half edge" it appears that these most likely refer to what are more commonly known respectively as the "long edge" and the "short edge" of the blade. []
  26. "Passiren" was translated litterally as "to pass". In the context of 17th century German rapier treatises, it generally means "to make a Passade", i.e. an attack made with a passing step. []
  27. The German uses the term "blose" – here it appears to refer to a simple disengagement, i.e. a disengagement which is not combined with any other action, such as an attack or a parry (see Rule 24). []
  28. "Voltiren", from Italian "voltare" was translated as "to make a Volta". []
  29. "Pede firmo" []
  30. "Caminiren", from Italian "camminare" is translated here as "to proceed". It refers to an application of fencing theory, by which the fencer tries to approach and wound his opponent by walking continuously, without stopping. It was first introduced by Fabris in his "De lo schermo overo scienza d’arme" (1606). []
  31. Regulsz Fechtens – the Fencing Rules, i.e. the first part of the treatise. []
  32. "Mutiren" (literally
    "to mutate"), i.e. to change. In this context it means the opponent is constantly changing the line on which he holds his blade, for instance from inside to outside and back again. []
  33. "Chimade" ("chiamata") is translated here as "invitation", i.e. you give the opponent a deceptive opening. []
  34. Here, "to break" is used as a literal translation for "Rumpiren". The term "Rumpiren" (or "rompere") is encountered in various sources (cf.  Domingo Luis Godinho, "Do Arte de Esgrima” (1599); Jéann Daniel L’Ange, "Deutliche und gründliche Erklärung der Adelichen und Ritterlichen freyen Fecht-Kunst" (1664); Johannes Georgius Bruchius, "Grondige Beschryvinge der Edele ende Ridderlijcke Scherm- ofte Wapen-konste" (1671) ). Generally, a sideways swipe (for instance to parry or to shut out the opponent’s blade) with a high hilt and a low point is meant. A very similar application of "Rumpiren" to that described here is shown in Bruchius’s Lesson 206, where after an outwards parry by the opponent, his blade is shut out with a "Rumpiren"” (also outwards), to create an opening to grab his hilt for a disarm. This 35th lesson might be interpreted similarly. []
  35. “sensa la Guardia” or “without guard”. []
  36. The author seems to have omitted a word here; probably "thrust". []
Jan Schaefer
Reinier van Noort
Reinier van Noort is the main instructor and founder of the School for Historical Fencing Arts. He started modern (foil) fencing in 2003, but he in the summer of 2005 he was introduced to Medieval European Martial Arts, which changed his life forever. From 2005 until 2010, Reinier has trained in longsword and other Medieval European Martial Arts with groups in the Netherlands, and since 2007 he has been increasingly active as a trainer with one of these groups. From 2008 until 2011 Reinier has also trained Kadochnikov Systema with Maxim Pipotja in Amersfoort.
After making the first English translation of Bruchius' "Scherm- ofte Wapen-konste" (Fencing- or Weapon-Art") in October 2009, Reinier got very interested in rapier fencing, and since January 2010 he has been researching, training and teaching the Fencing Art described by Bruchius in practice.
In 2011, Reinier won the "best fighting technique" award in the HEMAC Dijon Rapier tournament.