On this day, December 10, 433 years ago, Paul Hektor Mair was hung at the age of 62, convicted of embezzlement of the city of Augsburg’s funds.
He had spent the money on a lavish lifestyle, often throwing big parties with important people, likely in order to build good connections with the most influential people of the city.
To maintain this lifestyle, he abused his position as the City Treasurer of Augsburg to steal money from the city. He managed to uphold this for several decades and his abuse of his position was only discovered after a disgruntled assistant reported him in 1579. Sentence came quickly and he was summarily hanged, not allowed the more noble beheading.
However, about 30-40 years earlier he had initiated what can only be described as an amazing but slightly insane project. At a time where the book printing has been available for three generations and books could be made in large numbers of cheap copies with good return of investment, he decides to invest in a project where three hand written and lavishly painted manuscripts encompassing all known European martial arts are to be created. Consequently, he sets out to create the most magnificent work on European martial arts ever made.
For this purpose, and for his own passion of the Arts, he also invested in collecting older books on martial arts, like the books of Anton Rast, Hans Talhoffer, Jörg Wilhalm Hutter, Gregor Erhart, Fabian von Auerswald, Hans Medel and several anonymous fencing treatises, alongside treatises on various other “sports”.
He employed the famous Augsburg illustrator Jörg Breu d.J, to create the artwork and after at least four years of work, the results could be seen in the amazing Opus Amplissimum de Arte Athletica (“The Greatest Work on the Athletic Arts”).
Here follows a list of fencing manuals that Mair is known to have had in his collection some time during his life (Thank you Wiktenauer for providing this list):
- Codex I.6.2°.1 – A copy of one of Hans Talhoffer‘s fencing manuals.
- Codex I.6.2°.2 – A compilation of Jörg Wilhalm Hutter‘s longsword treatise and Lienhart Sollinger‘s manuscript reproduction of Ergrundung Ritterlicher Kunst der Fechterey.
- Codex I.6.2°.3 – A copy of Codex I.6.4°.5 with descriptive text by Hutter.
- Codex I.6.2°.4 – Jörg Breu‘s sketchbook for his work on Mair’s treatises.
- Codex I.6.2°.5 – A compilation of Hans Medel‘s revision of Sigmund Schining ein Ringeck‘s treatise, Medel’s own writings, fencing prints by Maarten van Heemskerck, and records of the Marxbrüder fencing guild.
- Codex I.6.4°.2 – A compilation of two treatises from the Nuremberg Group and a much older, uncaptioned series of fencing drawings known as pseudo-Gladiatoria.
- Codex I.6.4°.3 – A compilation of several treatises from the tradition of Johannes Liechtenauer, possibly compiled by Jud Lew. (Not verified as being in his collection.)
- Codex I.6.4°.5 – Jörg Wilhalm Hutter’s sketchbook.
- MS E.1939.65.354 – Gregor Erhart‘s fencing manual. (Formerly Codex I.6.4°.4.)
- Reichsstadt “Schätze” Nr. 82 – The expanded and finished version of Antonius Rast‘s fencing notes.
- Der Altenn Fechter anfengliche kunst, compiled by Christian Egenolff
- Ringer Kunst by Fabian von Auerswald
Mair’s own fighting treatise Opus Amplissimum de Arte Athletica was made in three different versions, all of them hand-written and magnificently illustrated.
His own treatises, although most likely no more than copies of older work, in my personal opinion are the most beautiful martial arts treatises ever made, with excruciating detail not least in the fabrics of the clothing, something which has drawn considerable attention even outside of the historical fencing circles, e.g. amongst those interested in historical clothing.
Mair, like Joachim Meyer, saw how the Arts were disappearing bit by bit, due to the increasing popularity of firearms, both for civilian and military purposes, and they both sought to preserve the Arts for the future, taking deep pride in it. The effects of Mair’s efforts is truly beyond measure.
His work in both creating these truly unique books and in collecting these old martial arts books is truly invaluable to us HEMA fencers today and we would like to commemorate his death for this reason. So raise your glasses and give thanks to one of the most important men for us modern HEMA fencers and researchers!