Florius de Arte Luctandi is formally designated Ms. Latin 11269 by the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. Based on the content and style of the illustrations, the style of the handwriting, and its probable relation to better-known texts, it was likely created between 1410 and 1430.

Little of its history is known, although it was re-bound around 1635 and entered the Pontchartrain library in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century. Its acquisition by the Bibliothèque nationale de France was recorded on March 10, 1756.1

Florius alongside Fiore

The "Seven Swords" or segno page from Florius de Arte Luctandi

The “Seven Swords” or segno page from Florius de Arte Luctandi

Perhaps the most certain thing about Florius is that its material is a translation of an Italic mnemonic verse for learning personal combat, originally authored by a free knight named Fiore Furlano de’i Liberi of Premariacco. Much of the content is immediately recognizable to scholars of the Fiore tradition, quite literally from the very first page.

Fiore’s verses and instructions were recorded in a series of manuscripts, each (at one time) containing the complete system (i.e., including grappling and a full range of weapons from spear wielded on horseback in armor to dagger wielded on foot in plain clothes) and understood to be all created in the first quarter of the 1400s.

Until Florius was digitized, the available corpus for study was three Italian editions, all with similar titles, extensive illustrations, and substantial but not complete overlap in content. Novati’s 1902 facsimile of Flos Duellatorum, the Fiore manuscript in the collection of the Pisani Dossi family, was the first to be made available for study in the modern era;2 in the mid-1990s, two other copies (held by the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Morgan Library) were rediscovered and, thanks to collection digitizing projects, are now available for study, and several translations have been published.3,4

In addition to these three copies, Novati indicated that the library records of the D’Este family of Ferrara describe two Fior di Battaglia manuscripts unlike any known extant versions, but the last record mentioning these is dated 1508.5

Pisani Dossi "Seven Swords"

“Seven Swords” page from Novati’s facsimile of Flos Duellatorum

The verso of the first leaf of Florius shows a design known as the “segno” or “The Seven Swords,” which appears in two of the other three extant Fiore texts. In fact, one of those two is an extremely close match to the one in Florius: the segno in Novati’s facsimile shows a man in the same pose and same clothing, with artwork so similar the two might be watercolor and ink variations of the same piece.

Florius is most directly comparable to the Pisani Dossi manuscript (as we understand it via Novati’s facsimile), in that these two have only mnemonic verses for their text, where the manuscripts in the J. Paul Getty Museum and Morgan Library collections have more extensive descriptions. It is tempting to suggest that Florius may in fact be a translation of content from the Pisani Dossi manuscript, but as Florius includes additional stylistically similar combat techniques which does not appear in any other known copy, it seems most likely to have been based on an older work that is now lost.

The safest speculation would be that the Florius verses were based on the same original as Pisani Dossi, although scholarship has so far treated Pisani Dossi itself as an original. The illustrations of Florius are likewise similar to those of Pisani Dossi, although there are occasional differences or errors, and some postures are more substantially different.

It seems perhaps significant that the Latin version is most similar to the Italian copy which contains some Latin: in the prose introduction, the labels of the Seven Swords page, and one additional page: the Dagger Masters.

Florius Dagger Masters

The Masters of Dagger as seen in Florius

The dagger section in the Pisani Dossi and Getty copies begins with four verses offering broad principles of dagger fighting, with illustrations of men depicted with allegorical representations of these principles. The Morgan copy does not include dagger combat in its current state, but Florius has this page. In the Florius version, the figure who in the other copies holds a pair of disembodied arms here only holds up his own empty hand, and the man being trampled in the lower right register has not been colored.

But the most striking thing, when these pages are considered alongside each other, is that Florius and Pisani Dossi both enclose the verse captions in banners that curl up to the right of each figure (the Getty version is more consistent with the format of other pages), and that the text is nearly identical—both, in fact, are in Latin.

However, it doesn’t appear that one was copied from the other with minor differences introduced by scribal errors. The words are almost entirely the same and the transcriptions come out nearly identical, but the two versions are abbreviated in different places. This may suggest the two editions were copied from a common original: it’s a result that might come from two differently-trained scribes working from the same un-abbreviated text.

Novati Dagger Masters

The Dagger Masters page from Novati

Florius stands apart from the other three copies in an important and ultimately frustrating way: the Italian-language copies all feature prose introductions that offer hints about the text’s creation, design, patronage, and even the creator himself. Florius has no such introduction, no colophon, no frontispiece—in fact, the title we call it by does not appear anywhere within the parchment pages comprising the original material. “Florius de arte luctandi” is written on the recto side of the front flyleaf in a late 17th or early 18th century hand, and again in a post-fifteenth-century hand at the top of the recto of the first parchment leaf (which bears the Seven Swords on its verso), which has ample evidence not only of wear, age, and damage but many markings of ownership.

It is unknown whether the title was bestowed by the creator of the manuscript on a component now separated, or if it was added by these later readers or collectors to encapsulate the contents as a Latin version of Fior di Battaglia—although Flos Duellatorum, the Latin title used in the Pisani Dossi copy, is a more reasonable Latin rendering of the Italian title. Flos Duellatorum would be rendered in English as “The flower of duels,” where Florius de Arte Luctandi is more nearly “Florius on the Art of Fighting”; “Florius” is not a common noun in Latin, but the proper-noun version of flos (flower). It is interesting, although perhaps not significant, that each version of the title represents the combat knowledge contained within a little differently.

None of the three Italian manuscripts is exactly the same as any other, with each featuring a different selection of techniques, so it is no surprise that Florius doesn’t entirely match any of the three for content. Two of the Italian manuscripts, those now held in the J. Paul Getty Museum and in the Pisani Dossi collection, do share a similar order of sections (for the sections they have in common); the third, the Morgan Library copy, is in a roughly opposite order, and this is the one most similar to Florius in organization.

The Manuscript: Codicology

The manuscript itself seems physically unremarkable; it is written on parchment in dark brown ink, and the illustrations are drawn in finer lines of a similar color.  There are faint indications of ruling marks in a combination of pencil and drypoint. The verses all begin with the same symbol in red or blue, also seen in the Getty copy and the first few leaves of the Morgan, but this red and blue paragraph mark is a fairly common feature of medieval manuscripts in general. As the Novati facsimile was not reproduced in color or with ornamentation beyond the black-inked illustrations and the gold-leaf crowns and garters used in all the Fiore texts, it cannot be entirely certain the Pisani Dossi manuscript doesn’t have these markers as well.

Letter forms in Florius

Verses from the lower registers of 3r (top) and 36v (bottom), showing several unusual letter forms in the scribal hand.

The present binding is in brown leather with boards; a section of the spine is red, with the letters FLOR DE ARTE LUCT -MS- stamped in gold. A paper flyleaf was added before and after the 44 original parchment leaves; the front paste-down has a Pontchartrain bookplate, as well as a later plate with the LATIN 11269 designation. This plate also has a red smudge crossed through with a black X in the high-resolution images, the remains of a small red adhesive dot present when the manuscript was scanned previously.

The script, as it turns out, is fairly distinctive: Italian Semigothic, a transitional hand between the Gothic and Humanist styles which was in use from the late fourteenth to early fifteenth centuries, but most popular in the earlier part of this range.6 Being a transitional hand, one characteristic feature is that newer forms and conventions are used alongside older ones.

Some particular elements evident in Florius are regular use of both the standard lowercase r and the “2-r” in no particular pattern (traditionally, 2-r would come only after certain letters) and likewise rounded and Carolingian forms of lowercase s. A few instances of the vertically-backed d are made particularly confusing by the trend for letters frequently biting together (so that “cl” seems more likely than “d”, which is usually more slanted).

Latin before the modern period is frequently abbreviated, although in the case of Florius it’s unclear why the scribe so heavily condensed the text, which is not all that long and fits into the space available with plenty to spare. To make matters worse, the author makes heavy use of macrons—calligraphic strokes above words indicating some letters were left out7—but only some forms have retained earlier specific meanings; the one meaning “m or n” and the one meaning “any letter(s)” are used interchangeably here.

Verse from 31v top

The verse at the top of page 31v shows abbreviation markings, unknown characters, typical medieval punctuation, and unidentified damage in the second line.

The Semigothic style also included changes to spelling convention, some of which appear in Florius; the a is often left out of ae spellings (frequently also without adding a hook to the e to indicate the elision), and older spellings where one letter “strengthens” another such as michi and cunctis sometimes appear without the strengthening letter, becoming mihi (the classical form, although in Florius it is most often abbreviated) and cuntis. In my transcriptions, I have used brackets to indicate where I add letters to render a word with the spelling that would be used by a modern dictionary,8 although when these letters are part of an abbreviation I leave the brackets out.

Regarding the creation of the manuscript, we have only guesses. In some places, part of an illustration extends into the area occupied by the text; in these places, extra space is left between words to allow space for the projecting drawing, although at least one page does have the text continue right across the artwork. This would tend to point to the illustrations already being on the page when the text was written, which was not the typical order for manuscript creation. It seems noteworthy that similar examples of text “going around” illustration elements appear in Royal Armouries Ms. I.33, perhaps suggesting that a somewhat modified creation process might have been used for manuscripts where the illustrations were integral to the significance and usefulness of the text.

Florius title on flyleaf

The title we know it by does not appear within the original contents, but was beautifully inscribed on the flyleaf in the seventeenth or early eighteenth century.

It is also interesting that the illustrations in Florius match those in the Pisani Dossi copy so closely in style and content, while it can hardly be said that the text is an exact translation. We posit that perhaps, in recognition of the importance of precision in the images, the blank pages were taken to the location of the original and the illustrations were meticulously copied, and then the verses were memorized, summarized, or otherwise incompletely recorded, to be translated later.

There is little to hint at the scribe’s process, although a few pages show what might be the marks of a corrector fixing mistakes in the text. One page has me corrected to mea using a carat and a tiny letter a. Three pages have tiny alphabet letters written above words suggesting a reading order, which Clemens and Graham describe9 as being used by chancery correctors to show where the order of words in a copy differs from the order in the original. While we certainly believe Florius was created from another manuscript, we have generally assumed it to be a translation from an Italian work, not an exact copy of another Latin text.

Clemens and Graham add that a “more extensive” version of this reading aid was used by early medieval readers of Welsh, Anglo-Saxon, and Irish origin, although this seems an unlikely explanation for sequences of 2-4 letters clarifying a translation of an Italian text from the late medieval period which is not known to have traveled farther west than Pontchartrain. It is perhaps most likely that the annotation method used by correctors and Insular readers was employed, rather briefly, by a reader of this text who was neither—but without more information, and more research, nothing can be said with certainty.

Florius segno elephant and trimmed verse

The elephant at the bottom of the Florius segno has had his verse trimmed away, probably when the book was put into a new binding of a “standard” size.

The Florius manuscript’s current condition is far from pristine, although of course after 600 years of even occasional use and circulation, this is somewhat to be expected. Perhaps the most tragic damage is the least obvious; that the segno has suffered more than any other leaf can hardly be questioned, but it is the only page where original content has been rather deliberately destroyed. Fiore’s Seven Swords illustration includes four animals labeled as specific virtues, but where the Pisani Dossi manuscript includes six couplets, Florius contains only five; Florius’ elephant of strength has no accompanying verse, but it stands above the top line of a blue paragraph marker that runs into the lower margin, suggesting that the pages were cut down at some point in its history (most likely for the Pontchatrain rebinding), at which time achieving a standard size was deemed more important than ensuring the survival of all content.

It is immediately clear even glancing at thumbnails of the page images that not one of the parchment leaves lies flat; Kwakkel describes “buckling” as a common problem with parchment,10 and worst in books (like Florius) whose bindings do not include clasps to maintain pressure and flatten the pages. On closer examination, at least several pages also appear to have warping from water damage; many pages have stains, drips, and smears that more specifically suggest spills. In some cases, attempts to minimize damage from the spill actually made the situation much worse; the segno and at least one interior page have significantly reduced readability because water-soluble ink has smeared across the page in the act of wiping a spill away.

Damage, notes, and corrections on Florius pages

These verses from the top of page 2v (top), the top of page 12v (center), and the bottom of page 5v (bottom) show wear, spills, smears, notes, word-pairing dots, and annotations.  In the upper right, de la pointe has been written above mucrone in pencil, a French gloss for the Latin term.  At the left side of the center verse, volucrem has been glossed velocem (a more common Latin term meaning “speed”), and in the first line of the lower verse a more compact Latin note reads pro tui (“in front of you”) clarifying a grappling action; near the center of the lowest margin, a reader drew a “+.”

Some pages have other kinds of dirt and staining, minor or major rubbing damage, and other signs that this manuscript is not merely old, but has been well-used (and perhaps even well-loved) by many readers over the centuries. Wear and dirt are one sign of use, but much more charmingly, some readers have made notes while they worked. One set of annotations in a fine, brown secretarial hand are fairly obvious, but closer study has revealed at least two additional annotators as well as a small assortment of symbols that we have not linked to a particular reader or even period. Additional to these three or more readers, another person has gone through and attempted to remove annotations in French and in a Minuscule Latin hand (and mostly succeeded).

There is one more kind of wear evident in the manuscript, although it seems ordinary by comparison: some of the coloring inks and much of the gold leaf have failed to adhere to the page. A few pages show a more consistent and substantial fading, although most instances are individual pages rather than fading on two-page spreads that would indicate prolonged open display.

The Language: Paleography

Florius is, of course, in Latin, but most modern Latin classes focus heavily or exclusively on classical Latin and rarely discuss regional or temporal variations, and so students can get the idea that Latin is fairly monolithic. Many medievalists and paleographers, of course, can immediately set this mistake straight, but even so, it is one thing to know that later eras of Latin differ substantially from earlier ones, and another to be elbows-deep in an ugly mess of unlikely grammar. Prior translation projects involving European combat treatises in Latin have given us some expectation for technical vocabulary, and Florius is no exception,11 although context-specific meanings of “point” or “trident” proved to be the least of our concerns.

Because Latin is an inflected language, in which information about each word’s role in the sentence is encoded into the word itself, word order is not as important as in a language like modern English, where position and punctuation are critical. However, there are certainly conventions which most writers obey; in general, the subject of a sentence or clause comes at the beginning, and the main verb at the end, and words that modify each other tend to clump together in recognizable groups.

Not so in Florius. While the subject is often in the first half of a clause and the main verb generally in the second, there is little sense of consistency or pattern beyond that. This is perhaps best illustrated by example.

Here is the order of the Latin words in the lower verse on 44r, the final verse of the manuscript, followed by my English rendering. This is a reasonably straightforward example, as verses in this text go.The final verse of Florius de Arte Luctandi

Latin transcription:
Florius hunc librum quondam peritissimus au[c]tor
Edidit. est igitur sibi plurima laudis honestas
Contribuendo viro Furlana gente profecto.

Latin word order:
Florius this book previously most skilled authority
Brought forth. It is therefore to him greatest praise you are honoring
Will be contributing man Friulian people accomplished.

English translation:
Florius the most skilled authority previously brought forth
This book. It is therefore him[,] an accomplished[,]
Contributing man of the Friulian people[,] you are honoring.

While the Latin order is only sort of meaningful to the English reader, it has a kind of immediate sense about it, and the arrangement of subjects first and verbs last can be seen in the first two lines. However, the top verse from page 41v is more typical of the Florius text.

Verse and illustration from Florius 41vLatin transcription:
Taliter ipse <scilicet ego> tuos confringam poplite duro
Testiculos | quam nullae aderint in pectore vires.

Latin word order:
In this way self <i.e., I> your I would destroy knee hard
Testicles, how much none they would be near in breast strengths.

English translation:
In this way <I> myself would destroy your testicles with a hard
Knee, so that no strength will be present in the heart.

Here, the main verb of each clause comes in the middle, while the end of the clause has the subject or object of the verb. Case endings allow the reader to correctly match “your” with “testicles,” but it’s unclear why the writer has put them at essentially opposite ends of their clause. Poplite duro is in a standard Latin order, although this ablative phrase would usually be expected earlier in the clause.

Interestingly, a previous reader of the work also had trouble: the angled brackets are used, in transcription, to record marginal and interlineal notations appended to the text. The ambiguity being corrected or explained here is a common one throughout the work: the writer has used a form of ipse (him/her/itself) instead of a more precise pronoun, and the annotator has added scilicet ego, which roughly means “this is known to be ‘I’.”

The difficulty of Florius does not stop at word order; the grammar itself is far from straightforward, and often uses constructions which are not taught, or described as rare and unlikely, in most Latin courses. Many verses use future or perfect participles (which are sometimes also passive), often relying on them to convey the character of the central action alongside a much blander or less specific conjugated verb.

Misspelled gloss

A reader meant to gloss sonipes (steed) as equus (horse), but has spelled it incorrectly (eqqus).

The writer has an eerie knack for choosing words that look exactly like other, very different words—working on this project, we’ve discovered an entire heretofore unknown class of little-known adverb forms of more commons which are spelled just like certain pronouns, prepositions, and adjectives. Nor had we ever previously had cause to ponder the strange similarity of the first person subjunctive verb and the accusative noun (both forms end –am or –em), or the first person passive verb and the comparative adjective (both forms end –or).

Latin teachers will tell you that deponent verbs—which only have a passive form but should always be translated actively—are few in number, but working with late medieval combat manuals has shown that this set is at least three or four times the promised size, and includes some words where both deponent and standard forms are attested and so it is up to the reader to decide whether a passive reading is correct.

All these penchants for strange and unexpected grammar and haphazard word order lead to the text being unexpectedly difficult; even where the vocabulary is common enough a translator might expect to essentially sight-read the text, this is stymied by the need to examine what part of speech each word is and how the cases group the words.

Spine of Florius binding

Gold-stamped letters on the spine of the current binding off the Florius manuscript.

In the process of this work, we’ve learned several uses of grammar we’d never seen before. Ablative absolute—in which a participle and an adjective combine to become a pluperfect passive verb and its subject—is not so rare as to require additional research, although the average reader does not expect to encounter it every other page. More frustrating were the times when we had a few words that seemed to be in the wrong case, and so we had to go searching for very thorough Latin grammar lessons in order to discover whether there was an application of that case which fit the sentence at hand.

In this way, we discovered that Dative of Possession, used in German, can also be used in Latin, to describe something which not only belongs to someone but was made for them, cannot be separated from them, is a part or extension of their self, et c. This is interesting in the context of the weapon as an extension of the self, but confusing when the action concerns a seizure of the opponent’s weapon; to recognize the construction in such cases, we render the possessive as “very own” to recall a childish notion of special ownership.

We have also had to refresh ourselves on the relatively uncommon Ablative of Duration (“during”), after several unsuccessful attempts at using Ablative of Means (“using”) instead. Ablative constructions are a particular challenge, because those named here do not have associated prepositions, so all are equally valid readings of a particular ablative word until we can associate it with a verb or preposition.

To illustrate some of what these challenges look like, here is the upper verse from page 7r, which features an unusual density of strange forms and constructions:

Latin transcription:Illustration and verse from the upper register of page 7r
Sit brevior licet hasta michi / traiectus abibis
Tu tamen. et iacias modo si libet ante · nec inde
Effugito. lacrimosa manent te praemia mestum.

Although my very own spear is shortened, nevertheless you will
Go away pierced. And you would throw only if it pleased you before. Do not
Flee from that place. Tearful rewards would flow to gloomy you.

The verse begins with five small headaches in a row: a subjunctive form of “to be,” a word which looks like a common comparative (brevior, “shorter”) but which we had to read as a little-known passive verb in order for the clause to make sense, a special verb which does not typically take a subject and which had to be read idiomatically as “although” rather than “it is permitted,” one beautifully simple nominative noun, and a medieval-spelling dative pronoun standing as a possessive.

The exotic grammar is not quite so dense after that, but it is still far from ordinary. For instance, rather than saying something like “I will stab you,” or “you will go home injured,” the writer says “you will be away from here, pierced.” Modo is a common word, in Latin and in combat texts, usually meaning “in this way,” but on this page it’s the lesser-known adverbial form meaning “only if.” In rendering the last sentence we went through several variations, since the ideas—tears, gloom, rewards—make reasonable sense for the end of combat, but finding a way to fit all the cases together, and discovering that manent could mean “flow” (from manare) rather than “remain” (from manere), required multiple reexaminations.

Aside from every oddity of grammar, sight-reading is also impeded by frequent use of abbreviations which, in the Semigothic style, are only mostly used in the same way as in the earlier medieval period. It’s sometimes necessary to test several readings of a given mark in order to determine which version is a real word that’s appropriate for the context. Sometimes there simply isn’t one, and we’re left to wonder if it’s a word not in our dictionaries, or a misspelling of some similar word.

Top of page 6r

The top verse of page 6r incorporates legendary names, as well as notes in Latin (above the first line) and erasures of French notes (lines 2-4).  At the end of the second and fourth lines, the scribe has used punctuation with no direct modern equivalent.

The punctuation in this text is also medieval in character; periods are used in (as far as we can tell) roughly the same manner dictated by modern grammar, but there the similarity ends. Comma-like punctuation appears as extremely faint slashes, or sometimes slashes above or through periods; we have been simply rendering all of these as commas, but in researching the script used in the manuscript, we’ve discovered that the correct method is to transcribe them as they appear on the page and interpret the mark in its medieval meaning before attempting to assign a modern equivalent. Medieval punctuation, it seems, was not used like modern,6 but so far we don’t understand its actual depth.

The Florius text has an additional feature of medieval Latin: it is recognizable as dactylic hexameter, a popular meter for epic verse during the classical period which was used in the early medieval period for popular and literary verse as well as in didactic contexts to give structure to long compositions.12 Unfortunately, Florius does not closely conform to standard classical or medieval rules for dactylic hexameter; it is recognizable to scholars of medieval Latin, but prior to hearing this opinion we had generally considered it to be unstructured translations without rigid meter or intentional rhyme, the clear and tidy nature of the Italian verse having been literally lost in translation.

Illustration from the top of page 6r

The illustration from the top of 6r shows the Master with the forked beard facing off against the legendary heroes Roland and Pulicanus (and a third foe).

Re-examining it in the context of dactylic hexameter—which by the medieval period is a very nebulous form full of exceptions and special rules—we found that while it’s not as finely metered as The Aeneid (which is the flagship example of the classical form, and maintains a consistent 15-16 syllable count per line in the sample we examined for reference)13, there is a recognizable consistency. In 11 lines we diagrammed, lines had between 14 and 18 syllables (the dactylic hexameter form permits 12 to 18),12 albeit not in a recognizable pattern. To really assess the text as metered verse, we must understand the writer’s use of dactylic feet within word and concept units and divisions in each line, and in our attempt to understand the quality of the verse in Florius we have mostly learned that medieval verse structure contains untold and extremely obscure depths.

The armored stance of the True Cross from Novati

The armored stance of the True Cross from Novati

Without getting into the technical points of poetic analysis, though, the historical context for structured Latin verse in the early fifteenth century is rather interesting, and sheds some light on the confusing nature of this text in particular. Literary history sometimes refers to the fifteenth century in Italy as “the century without poetry,” and while this actually refers to the lack of imaginative literature written in Italian,14 twentieth-century critical discussions of Latin verse around the same time tend to range from negative to dismissive. Italians were writing Latin verse, but descriptions of the quality of the verse might best be summarized as “famously bad,” beginning with Petrarch’s Africa. By the late century, a precedent had grown up for instructional texts in Latin hexameter, but these come decades after all proposed dates for Florius.15

There are too many variables in play to make any kind of statement about whether Florius would have been considered bad verse in its day. However, some of the contemporary sentiments about the sorry state of Italian literature at this time were specifically about Italian study and literary development being neglected in favor of Latin, so the inexplicably convoluted nature of the language in Florius—which can’t be explained, as far as we can tell, by metrical necessity—is probably not typical of literature or scholarship of its day.


Leopard stance from Florius

Fiore’s “True Cross” stance appears in Florius without armor, and is called “Leopard.”

Studying Florius de Arte Luctandi has largely been an exercise in discovering how much must be learned in order to really understand and appreciate a historical manuscript. That we can’t even confidently say whether it’s an example of bad or average verse nicely summarizes the difficulty of stating conclusions, at this point in the project and maybe ever. It is hard even to say what Florius means for the study of Fiore’s combat, despite the obvious importance of adding a new source to the literature of the field.

Probably the most remarkable thing this project has uncovered is the ways that Florius is similar but not identical to the Pisani Dossi Fiore manuscript. These common features raise important questions about relationships within the family of texts that have been largely unexamined by other scholarship. Florius also provides similarly important-but-mysterious hints about the relationship of Philippo Vadi’s treatise to the Fiore manuscripts.

Leopard's Tail Over The Shoulder, from Vadi

The Vadi treatise calls this stance “Leopard’s Tail Over The Shoulder.”

For all the frustration of the text itself, Florius also has offered hints at insight into the process by which combat styles and manuals were propagated. That the verses often show signs of imperfect memorization, and that the language seems so often inexpertly rendered, are especially interesting alongside the much more consistently high-quality illustrations. The scribal hand is a reminder of the major cultural transitions surrounding the creation of the manuscript, which surely play an important role in the smaller culture of combat instruction but are infrequently examined in detail.

These are perhaps not the groundbreaking, field-shaking conclusions one hopes for when undertaking the study of a recently-uncovered manuscript in an established corpus. But—especially in a field where research is often done by autodidact scholars without support from institutions, departments, or advisors—these small connections and artifacts of the cultural and human processes inherent to the combat treatise tradition are important and exciting in their own way.


This article is based on a presentation given by Kendra Brown, based on work with Rebecca Garber supported by Michael Chidester, Don Kindsvatter, and Mark Millman, at the 2015 Historical Swordplay Symposium hosted by the Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies. All transcriptions and translations are our own original work, except where otherwise indicated. In the transcriptions below, italics indicate letters inferred from abbreviations, and angled brackets indicate insertions by earlier readers; square brackets indicate our own insertions.


  1. Mondschein, Ken. “Notes on Bibliothèque Nationale MS Lat. 11269, Florius de Arte Luctandi”. Arms & Armour 8 (2): 117-22, 2011.
  2. Novati, Francesco. 1902. Flos Duellatorum, Il Fior di Battaglia di Maestro Fiore dei Liberi da Premariacco. Bergamo: Instituto Italiano d’Arte Grafiche.
  3. Mondschein, Ken. 2011. The Knightly Art of Battle. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum.
  4. Leoni, Tom. 2012. Fiore de’ Liberi: Fior di Battaglia (Second English Edition). Alexandria, VA: Freelance Press.
  5. The Codex LXXXIV (or Ms. 84) consisted of 58 folia bound in leather with a clasp, and whose first page showed a white eagle and two helmets; the Codex CX (or Ms. 110) was a small, unbound volume consisting of only 15 folia. Both manuscripts are mentioned in the catalog of the dʼEste library as late as 1508, along with a third untitled fencing manuscript, but they disappeared some time after that and never resurfaced. See Novati, Francesco. Flos Duellatorum, Il Fior di Battaglia di Maestro Fiore dei Liberi da Premariacco. Bergamo: Instituto Italiano dʼArte Grafiche, 1902. pp 29-30. It is conceivable that one of the four extant versions is the Ms. 84, but no evidence in support of this proposition has yet surfaced.
  6. Clemens, Raymond, and Timothy Graham. Introduction to Manuscript Studies. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007. p 172.
  7. Cappelli, Adriano. 1928. Lexicon Abbreviaturarum. Leipzig: J. J. Weber.
  8. For this project, two dictionaries were used: Traupman, John C. 1995. The Bantam New College Latin & English Dictionary, Revised and Enlarged. New York: Bantam Books; Whitaker, William. 1993. Whitaker’s Words. University of Notre Dame Archives. http://archives.nd.edu/words.html.
  9. Clemens and Graham, 36.
  10. Kwakkel, Erik. 2014. “Hugging a Medieval Book.” October 3. Accessed May 2015. http://medievalbooks.nl/2014/10/03/hugging-a-medieval-book/.
  11. Berthaut, Charlélie. Florius, de Arte Luctandi – MS Latin 11269 – transcription & traduction. Paris: Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, 2013.
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