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Walpurgis Fechtbuch (MS I.33)

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Walpurgis Fechtbuch
MS I.33, Royal Armouries
Leeds, United Kingdom

MS I.33 31v.jpg
MS I.33 32r.jpg
ff 31v-32r, including St. Walpurga in her ward
WiktenauerLeng38.9.8
Wierschin9Hils30
Also known as
  • Liber de Arte Dimicatoria
  • "The Tower Fechtbuch"
  • No.14.E.iii; No.20
Type Fencing manual
Date ca. 1320s
Place of origin Franconia
Language(s) Medieval Latin
Scribe(s) Unknown (three hands)
Ascribed to Clerus Lutegerus
Illustrated by Unknown (up to 17 artists)
Material Parchment, in a modern
binding
Size 34 folia
Format Double-sided; two illustrations
per side with text above and
below
Script Bastarda
Previously kept MS Membr.I 115,
Schloß Friedenstein
Images
Other translations

The MS I.33 is a German fencing manual dating to the 1320s.[1] It currently rests in the holdings of the Royal Armouries at Leeds, United Kingdom. The I.33 is earliest extant treatise on Medieval martial arts, and it appears to have been devised by a secular priest, possibly the "Lutegerus" (or Liutger) mentioned in the text.[2] It was the work of three scribes and potentially as many as 17 illustrators.[3]

The treatise is fully illustrated, and consists of both mnemonic verses and longer explanations in a vernacular Medieval Latin. (The format of verse and gloss may indicate that the priest was explaining a much older tradition.) It treats unarmored fencing with sword and buckler; the intriguing fact that the fencers depicted are a priest and a student (and on the last two pages, a priest and a woman identified as St. Walpurga), seems to suggest that this was a middle class or priestly art rather than one of the knightly class. Repeatedly, the text makes mention of the pupils (scolaris/discipulus) of the priest, as well as youths (iuvenis) and clients (clientulum). It seems, therefore, to have been prepared for secular priests who were offering fencing lessons to young men.

The manuscript in its present form consists of five quires, of which all but the first are incomplete; at least eight leaves are believed to be missing (assuming it started with complete quires of four bifolia each).[3] The precise contents of these missing leaves are unknown, but it is possible that they were a source for the thirty uncaptioned sword and buckler plays which appear in the Libri Picture A 83, the Codex I.6.2º.4, and the Cgm 3712; alternatively, these may originate from another manuscript in the same tradition. The anonymous plays seem in turn to have been the primary source for Paulus Hector Mair's treatment of the side sword and buckler, which he captioned with his own interpretations.

Provenance

The known provenance of the MS I.33 is:

  • Written in the 1320s, possibly by a priest named Liutger; owned by Franconian monks until the 1500s.
  • 1400s – an additional couplet was inscribed at the top of folio 1r.
  • 1552-53 – looted from a monastery by Johannes Herbart von Würzburg during the Franconian campaigns of Albert-Archibald, Duke of Brandenburg-Kulmbach.[4][3] Würzburg was a belt-maker by trade and later served as fencing master to the dukes of Sachsen-Gotha; he inscribed his name on folio 7r.
  • before 1579 – possibly duplicated by Heinrich von Gunterrodt while compiling material for his book[4] (such a copy is currently unknown).
  • late 1500s-1945 – owned by the dukes of Sachsen-Gotha; listed in an 18th century library catalog as Cod.Membr.I.no.115.[citation needed] The second device on folio 26r was copied into the Codex Guelf 125.16 Extravagante in the 1600s by a scribe who couldn't decipher the Latin text.[5] The manuscript was further described on six leaves of paper (with short excerpts of the text) by Heinrich Niewöhner in 1910. (Lost during World War II.)
  • 1945-1950 – location unknown (sold London, Sotheby's, 27 March 1950). Sotheby's listed the manuscript as "a 14th-century manuscript of unknown provenance", and it was not identified as the lost Cod.Membr.I.no.115. until Krämer in 1975.[6]
  • 1950-1996 – held by the Royal Armouries and stored in the Tower of London; known variously as "Tower of London Ms. I.33" or "British Museum No. 14 E iii, No. 20, D. vi. I".
  • 1996 – moved to the newly-opened Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.

Contents

1r - 32v

Gallery

Identification and placement of missing leaves based on work by Dr. Jeffrey L. Forgeng[citation needed] and James Hester.[3] These scans are licensed under the terms of the Royal Armouries Non-Commercial Image Licence.

Front cover
[Cover]
Inside Cover
MS I.33 Cover 2.jpg
Ir
MS I.33 Ir.jpg
Iv
MS I.33 Iv.jpg
Folio 1r
MS I.33 01r.jpg
Folio 1v
MS I.33 01v.jpg
Folio 2r
MS I.33 02r.jpg
Folio 2v
MS I.33 02v.jpg
Folio 3r
MS I.33 03r.jpg
Folio 3v
MS I.33 03v.jpg
Folio 4r
MS I.33 04r.jpg
Folio 4v
MS I.33 04v.jpg
Folio 5r
MS I.33 05r.jpg
Folio 5v
MS I.33 05v.jpg
Folio 6r
MS I.33 06r.jpg
Folio 6v
MS I.33 06v.jpg
Folio 7r
MS I.33 07r.jpg
Folio 7v
MS I.33 07v.jpg
Folio 8r
MS I.33 08r.jpg
Folio 8v
MS I.33 08v.jpg
Missing folio
[Lost]
Missing folio
[Lost]
Folio 9r
MS I.33 09r.jpg
Folio 9v
MS I.33 09v.jpg
Folio 10r
MS I.33 10r.jpg
Folio 10v
MS I.33 10v.jpg
Folio 11r
MS I.33 11r.jpg
Folio 11v
MS I.33 11v.jpg
Folio 12r
MS I.33 12r.jpg
Folio 12v
MS I.33 12v.jpg
Folio 13r
MS I.33 13r.jpg
Folio 13v
MS I.33 13v.jpg
Folio 14r
MS I.33 14r.jpg
Folio 14v
MS I.33 14v.jpg
Missing folio
[Lost]
Missing folio
[Lost]
Folio 15r
MS I.33 15r.jpg
Folio 15v
MS I.33 15v.jpg
Folio 16r
MS I.33 16r.jpg
Folio 16v
MS I.33 16v.jpg
Missing folio
[Lost]
Missing folio
[Lost]
Missing folio
[Lost]
Missing folio
[Lost]
Missing folio
[Lost]
Missing folio
[Lost]
Missing folio
[Lost]
Missing folio
[Lost]
Folio 17r
MS I.33 17r.jpg
Folio 17v
MS I.33 17v.jpg
Folio 18r
MS I.33 18r.jpg
Folio 18v
MS I.33 18v.jpg
Folio 19r
MS I.33 19r.jpg
Folio 19v
MS I.33 19v.jpg
Folio 20r
MS I.33 20r.jpg
Folio 20v
MS I.33 20v.jpg
Folio 21r
MS I.33 21r.jpg
Folio 21v
MS I.33 21v.jpg
Folio 22r
MS I.33 22r.jpg
Folio 22v
MS I.33 22v.jpg
Folio 23r
MS I.33 23r.jpg
Folio 23v
MS I.33 23v.jpg
Folio 24r
MS I.33 24r.jpg
Folio 24v
MS I.33 24v.jpg
Folio 25r
MS I.33 25r.jpg
Folio 25v
MS I.33 25v.jpg
Missing folio
[Lost]
Missing folio
[Lost]
Folio 26r
MS I.33 26r.jpg
Folio 26v
MS I.33 26v.jpg
Folio 27r
MS I.33 27r.jpg
Folio 27v
MS I.33 27v.jpg
Folio 28r
MS I.33 28r.jpg
Folio 28v
MS I.33 28v.jpg
Folio 29r
MS I.33 29r.jpg
Folio 29v
MS I.33 29v.jpg
Folio 30r
MS I.33 30r.jpg
Folio 30v
MS I.33 30v.jpg
Folio 31r
MS I.33 31r.jpg
Folio 31v
MS I.33 31v.jpg
Folio 32r
MS I.33 32r.jpg
Folio 32v
MS I.33 32v.jpg
Missing folio
[Lost]
Missing folio
[Lost]
Inside cover
[Cover]
Back cover
[Cover]

Additional Resources

References

  1. The manuscript has received a wide variety of dates. Anglo (1988) dated it to "the very end of the 13th century" and Hils (1985) to the early 14th century; Cinato and Surprenant (2009) are even less precise, placing it at around the turn of the 14th century. Most recent analysis has suggested a slightly later date, with Leng (2008) dating it to 1320-1330 and Hester (2012) to "around 1320".
  2. See folio 1v.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Hester (2012).
  4. 4.0 4.1 von Gunterrodt, Heinrich. De Veris Principiis Artis Dimicatorie. Wittenberg, 1579. p C3rv
  5. See Codex Guelf 125.16.Extrav., f 45r.
  6. S. Krämer. "Verbleib unbekannt Angeblich verschollene und wiederaufgetauchte Handschriften." Zeitschrift für Deutsches Altertum und Deutsche Literatur, volume 104. 1975
  7. The introductory verse is added on the top margin of the page in a 15th-century hand. The distichon was apparently added in the 15th century, when the manuscript was still kept in a monastery library. It seems to express a disparaging view of “armed clerics” and clearly also refers to the depiction of a female fencer on the last folium. This verse is attested in print in the 16th century, and there attributed to Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II, 1405–64), as follows:
    • Andreas Gärtner, Proverbialia dicteria (1574): “Non audet Stygius Pluto tentare, quod audet Eff renis monachus plenaque fraudis anus” (cited after Wilhelm Binder, Novus Thesaurus Adagiorum Latinorum, 1861 who off ers the German paraphrase “Wo der Teufel nicht selbst hin will, schickt er entweder einen Pfaff en, oder ein altes Weib.”)
    • Holinshed's Chronicles (1577): “Æneas Sylvius (and before him many more driving upon the like argument) dooth saie in this distichon: Non audet Stygius Pluto tentare, quod audent / Eff rænis monachus, plenaque fraudis illa. Meaning Mulier, a woman.”
    A longer variant is given by Richard Gough, Human Nature Displayed in the History of Myddle (1824): “I remember what Eneas Sylvius said: Non audet Stygius Pluto tentare, quod audet / Eff renis monachus, plenaque fraudis anus. / Vix adfert Stygius Pluto tot damna quot audet / Credo bibax ebrius, plenaque fraudis anus. Not Stygian Pluto ever durst pursue, What a rogue monk, and treacherous hag can do. The Stygian fi end can scarce such mischief do man, as This drunken cobler and dissembling woman has.” I have not been able to locate the verse in Aeneas Sylvius' works directly; in any case, the presence of the verse (with dolis for fraudis) in a 15th-century hand in our manuscript (more or less conteporary with Aeneas Sylvius, and certainly predating any printed edition of his works) would seem to suggest that he is not its original author.
  8. Gunterrodt: Tres quae praecedunt, reliquae tantum fugientes.
  9. It is suggestive that the author (if we accept the instructor in the verses and in the manual as the same person) is called cler[ic]us “the cleric” (or “the clerk”) three times in these verses, but never in the text; conversely, the text consistently calls him sacerdos, and never clericus (Middle Latin use of clerus for clericus is noted in Du Cange's Glossarium). It is almost as if he had composed the verses as a mnenomic orally at an earlier time, before envisaging the project of creating this manual, when he was younger and not yet ordained as a priest. Latin clericus renders MHG pfaffe, which may could to either a priest, a deacon or a member of the minor orders. Note that it is not unusual to find the designation pfaffe associated with fencing masters of the late medieval tradition, so Hanko Döbringer (still in the 14th century) and Hans Lecküchner (in the later 15th century). The interpretation of the name Lutegerus in the verse on fol. 1v depends on the interpretation of the verse of which it forms a part. This verse is very difficult to interpret in a number of ways. In fact, nothing about it is entirely clear to me.
  10. Are we to understand that the seven guards are the same as the “seven parts”, and of these three “precede” (or “go forward” as antonym to fugiunt?) and the remaining (i.e. four) “flee” or “go backward” in some way? CS translate Il y en a trois qui avancent, tandis que les autres replient. But “reply” isn't really what a custodia does, the system has the separate term obsessio just for that, and there is nothing in the subsequent material that would somehow suggest that some of the guards have a function of replying or reacting to the others. It is also anyone's guess how the guards are to be grouped. One reasonable assumption would be the the first four, shown on 1r, as opposed to the final three, shown on 1v. There is, in fact, a conceptual difference between the groups, guards 1-4 as described in the manual initiate a strike, while 5 and 6 initiate a thrust, and 7 is a special case, inviting a bind instead of posing a direct threat. Now, the verse goes on to say “these seven (parts, guards) are done by the common fencers”, followed by “the cleric holds the opposite, and Luitger holds the middle”. This may be interpreted in a number of ways. It is important to note that neither medium nor oppositum is used in any technical sense anywhere in the manual outside of this verse. CS have Le clerc est a l'opposé et Luitger à mi-chemin “the cleric is opposite, and Luitger is at halfway”, i.e. they here treat “the cleric” as a different person from Luitger. In the reading of Ukert, Lutegerus is a reference by name to a notable “common fencer”, so that the cleric holding “the opposite” would presumably be preferable to the “common fencer” Luitger who holds merely “the middle”. It does seem more probable to me, however, that the entire line refers to a single person, clerus Lutegerus, who holds “both the opposite and the middle” and that this statement, as a whole, contrasts with the “common fencers” mentioned in the preceding line. Note that this would mean that the author here employs hyperbaton (the separation of the two associated nominatives), in apparent aspiration to a “poetic” mode of speech entirely absent from the rest of the “verses”. I am unsure whether the terms oppositum and medium should be interpreted in a figurative way, as it were “he is in possession of the counter and the means”, or in a strictly spatial sense, as it were “he holds against (his opponent)” and at the same time “he holds or occupies the center” between the fencers. This latter interpretation strikes me as a useful description of the “conflict of binder and bound” referenced throughout the manual, but it must be admitted that a discussion in the terms used in the verse is not repeated anywhere in the following text. It nevertheless remains my preferred reading, against both CS and Ukert, that “clerus Lutegerus” here refers to a single person, and most likely the manual's author himself (compare the discussion of de Alkersleiben below).
  11. Gunterrodt (1579) read this name as Albenslaiben recognising it as the name of the “ancient stem and most famous family” (vetustissima prosapia et clarissima familia) of Alvensleben. Ukert, on the other hand, reads Alkersleiben. Both Gunterrodt and Ukert recognised the word as a personal name (while a reading albersleiben is due to Forgeng, who identified the word as a fencing term, a “proto-Liechtenauerian” version of Alber). Alkersleiben is clearly more consistent with the manuscript, and Gunterrodt's reading should perhaps be considered an emendation, inserting the more familiar name of Alvensleben, a prominent noble family of Brandenburg in Gunterrodt's time (which also had held extensive possessions already in the 1300s). For Gunterrodt, it was obvious that the author of the manuscript must have been a nobleman who had retired to a monastery in his old age, and he took his reading as a confirmation of the association with nobility without positively identifying the name as referencing the manual's author. However, reading de Alkersleiben (with Ukert) we have a reference to the Thuringian village of Alkersleben (recorded in the 13th century as Alkesleibin), at the time of merely local importance as the site of a manor and a deanery. Alkersleben is some 200 km to the north of the parts of Franconia affected by the Second Margravian War, the presumed area of production of our manuscript. Ukert interprets both Lutegerus and de Alkersleiben as the names of “common fencers” (generales dimicatores, “gemeine Fechtmeister”). This depends entirely on the context we give to the occurrence of the names, in the case of de Alkersleiben: Non ducat aliquam plagam quod probat de Alkersleiben “He should not deliver any strike, as recommended by de Alkersleiben” – are we to understand that this is a counsel against the recommendation to “deliver a strike” attributed to a notable “common fencer” known as de Alkersleiben, or are we much rather to understand that the counsel not to deliver a strike is attributed to the highly profi cient fencer known by this name, which would amount to nothing less than yet another reference by the author to himself in the third person? If we are ready to interpret Lutegerus in this way, I see no obstacle to adopt the same position here, which would give us an author Clericus Lutegerus de Alkersleiben, or, in German, Pfaffe Luitger von Alkersleben. Incidentially, the term nucken happens to be more consistent with a Thuringian rather than a Franconian origin of whoever is responsible for coining it.
  12. CS praise this image as “one of the most beautiful aesthetic successes” of the codex. The postures are drawn very carefully, including an indication that each fencer has the right foot forward, a detail that will not be evident in later figures. The final (and let's face it, rather awkward) paragraph is in hand B and alludes to changed dynamics that arise if first guard is answered with first guard.
  13. This is written vertically on the right margin. The image is damaged, but it is the first of dozen identical images illustrating “overbind” (see §11). This image is also the first instance of a “change of perspective” (i.e. the position of fencers is inverted; this is done on purpose in order to show the hand position of the fencer).
  14. i.e. Showing the schiltslac.
  15. The verse is written between the two images on the left side (the side of the fencer performing the technique).
  16. The first three images of the second play are equivalent to the first play. This is made explicit in the text, the sword-change in the following image being shown as a counter to the overbind. But note the explicit depiction of step with the left foot forward for the overbind (based on the position of the rear foot), a detail absent from the equivalent situation as shown in 2v.
  17. The two paragraphs are arranged on the left and on the right, referring to the scholar and the priest, respectively. The image shows the situation after the sword-change (mutatio gladii); the scholar is instructed to counter this with a stich, but this isn't pursued further. This is presumably the action depicted in 10r, where it is, however, referred to as stichslac. The play here instead continues with the action of nucken performed by the priest immediately after the sword-change. The last part of the second paragraph is already in reference to the following image on the next page, i.e. the one depicting the priest's nucken. The word is written nucken in prose, but then nukcen in the verse: is this a simple error, or is the creation of an apparent rhyme with schutzen significant?
  18. The paragraph is centered on the page above the image, perhaps added as an afterthought as the scribe realised that the description intended for this image has already been given on the previous page. This image is unique in the book, and CS point out correctly a mistake on the part of the illustrator, who has given the priest two left hands.
  19. The second paragraph is written on the right margin. The krucke is introduced as an alternative reaction to first guard (other than halbschilt), and advertised as a speciality of the priest's system. This position at the same time covers the right side (threatened by first guard) and threatens a thrust to the opponent's sword side. CS interpret the image as reflecting the fencers maintaining eye contact under the shield. I do not think this is the case: Krucke should be performed with a step to the right, and eye-contact is maintained in a line passing left of the shield.
  20. The first occurrence of the ligans-ligati verse, written on the left margin; note that the verse is grammatically dubious, you would expect ligans ligatusque or something similar. The text is distracted from the play at hand to give general advice on the bind, but 5v below can be seen as immediately following the establishment of the bind here.
  21. prossus for prorsus or prosus “straight ahead, directly, truly”; even though the literal meaning of the adverb is “straight ahead”, the intended meaning is not necessarily spatial but rather temporal, i.e. the priest enters “straight away” as the scholar omits the bind, but not necessarily in a straight line.
  22. recipere plagam: to execute (not to receive) a blow. Probably intended as 'receive the opportunity to strike'.
  23. durchtritt: a step to the side seems intended; for the (preferable) action depicted, we would expect 'to the left', so dexteram may be taking the opponent's view.
  24. 24.0 24.1 dampnum for damnum
  25. vidilpoge = "fiddle-bow".
  26. fingitur for figitur; fuit vicium pictoris: Here is evidence that the author is not identical with the draftsman.
  27. Concerning the name of the woman fencer: The name walprgis as written directly above the word sac'dos (below which are five dots forming a line). It is not entirely clear, whether Walpurgis is meant to replace sacerdos or if it is an addition (in which case it would be genitive of Walpurga). But since in the picture, the woman is executing the schiltslac, and because the woman is said to have been ready first (parata), she must be called (in the nominative) Walpurgis.

Copyright and License Summary

For further information, including transcription and translation notes, see the discussion page.

Work Author(s) Source License
Images Royal Armouries Used under the Royal Armouries Non-Commercial Image Licence
Public Domain-permission.png
Translation Dieter Bachmann Kunst des Fechtens
Copyrighted.png
Transcription Dieter Bachmann Index:Walpurgis Fechtbuch (MS I.33)
Public Domain Contribution.png