Swashbucklers & Fops

Sources · Swordplay · Rapier & Dagger · Dumas
Picture from The Title Page to Beaumont and Fletcher's "The Maides Tragedie" Primary references on period swordfighting are difficult to locate and even more difficult to purchase. Fortunately, a small band of enthusiasts is addressing the problem, by laboriously transferring these rare texts to the Web.

A Victorian Survey

Old Sword-Play by Captain Alfred Hutton is edited for the Web with commentary by Bryan J. Maloney, whose delightfully titled In Ferro Veritas is now part of Classical Fencing: the Martial Art of Incurable Romantics.

Maloney writes: "As a Victorian, Hutton partakes of all the limitations of his school. He completely discounts all swordsmanship before the 16th century. He takes a progressive view of swordsmanship, which presumes evolution towards greater and greater 'perfection'... He also is very prone to extending the techniques of his own time and school into the past, whether or not it was appropriate. However, taking these limitations into account, the following work is an adequate introduction to the techniques of swordplay of the 16th through 18th centuries." Particular lapses of period sensibility are annotated and corrected in the notes. [External links in this archive of the article are mostly out of date.] New URLs.

Elizabethan Texts

DiGrassi, His True Arte of Defence "showing how a man without other Teacher or Master may safelie handle all sortes of Weapons," "translated out of the Italyan language" of Giacomo di Grassi of Medena and published by Thomas Churchyard [1594], has been transcribed from a facsimile of the original text by Patrick Swanson (Elric Dracwin) and Tom Hudson (Giovan Donato Falconieri). A handful of chapters are incomplete.

The True Art of Defense, an online version in modern spelling by Ian Johnson. New !

Vincentio Saviolo his Practise, Booke 1 and Booke 2 [1595], dedicated "to the Right Honorable my singular good lord, Robert Earle of Essex and Ewe, Viscount Hereford, Lord Ferrers of Chartley, Bourghchier and Louain, Master of the Queenes Majseties horse, Knight of the most noble order of the Garter, and one of her Highnesse most honorable Privie Councell" are available from Tom Hudson and Dana Groff respectively.
Paradoxes of Defense by George Silver [1599] and its companion manuscript Brief Instructions Upon My Paradoxes of Defence, which was not published until 1898, have been transcribed by Greg Lindahl.

Other Resources

Inigo: You're using Bonetti's defense against me, ah?
Man in Black: I thought it fitting, considering the rocky terrain --
Inigo: Naturally, you must expect me to attack with Capo Ferro --
Man in Black: -- naturally -- but I find Thibault cancels out Capo Ferro, don't you?

-- William Goldman, The Princess Bride
William Wilson's pages feature brief biographies of the sixteenth century Masters (among them Rocco Bonetti, Ridolfo Capo Ferro, and Girard Thibault), an analysis of Sloane MS. 2530 (a collection of papers on the Masters of Defense of London between 1540 and 1590), and excerpts from Wilson's own The Arte of Defense: A Manual on the use of the Rapier [1993].
Some Period Fencing Terms, extracted from Methods and Practice of Elizabethan Swordplay. New !
Patri Pugliese collects, copies, and distributes historical manuals of swordsmanship.
Thanks to Bryan J. Maloney for assistance with early versions of this page

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28 February 2004 pkm