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Welcome to the Wiktenauer!

The free library of Historical European Martial Arts books and manuscripts

Without books no one can be a good teacher nor even a good student of this art.
~ Master Fiore Furlano de’i Liberi, ca. 1405

Wiktenauer is an ongoing collaboration among researchers and practitioners from across the Western martial arts community, seeking to collect all of the primary and secondary source literature that makes up the text of historical European martial arts research and to organize and present it in a scholarly but accessible format. The Wiktenauer project started in 2009, later receiving sponsorship from the Historical European Martial Arts Alliance, and is named for Johannes Liechtenauer, grand master of the oldest known longsword fencing style; his tradition was also the best-documented of the early Modern era, the subject of many dozens of manuscripts and books over a period of more than three centuries. Here are a few basic categories of pages that are being constructed:

  • Master Pages host biographical information about each master, as well as the transcription and translation of his complete works. In cases of multiple copies of a master's work, the transcriptions are laid out side-by-side to facilitate the most accurate translation possible. To aid in interpretation, the writings will also be illustrated with images from the masters' work as available. A bibliography at the end of each page lists additional transcriptions, translations, and scans that are available in print. The exemplar for this category of pages is Fiore de'i Liberi. Ultimately, every master in all of the traditions of Western Martial Arts will have a dedicated page.
  • Treatise Pages host all relevant data on a book or manuscript, including description, provenance, table of contents (with links to the appropriate master pages), gallery of page scans, and bibliography of additional print resources. The exemplar for manuscripts is the Goliath Fechtbuch, while the exemplar for printed books is Ergrundung Ritterlicher Kunst der Fechterey. Ultimately, every text in the corpus of Historical European Martial Arts literature will have a dedicated page.
  • Technique Pages compile all of the relevant information from all of the relevant manuals on a particular technique, including transcriptions, translations, and images. There is also a section at the end of each page where groups may embed videos of their interpretations. The template for techniques is the Zornhaw. Ultimately, every technique mentioned in the manuals will have a dedicated page.
  • Weapon Pages provide information about how a specific weapon form is described and used in the treatises, data on surviving artifacts, an overview of archaeological research pertinent to a given weapon, and a comprehensive index of the treatises and writers that discuss each weapon.

The wiki also features pages for HEMA groups, pages for HEMA events, general information pages, and almost other topic of interest to the HEMA community you can think of. If you'd like to pitch in, simply request an account and consult How can I help?

Fundraiser announcement final.png

Where to begin. In 2014, we were blown away when we raised $3612, over seven times our initial goal. This year, Richard and I talked about it in December and we thought that we could probably double that total if we actually put in the time to plan and prepare properly. We set up a soft goal of $1500 (because setting a goal that you're not 100% sure you can achieve is a rookie crowdfunding mistake), but our real goal was the utterly ridiculous prospect of trebling last year's total, paired with the equally ridiculous prospect of paying for the hugely-expensive scans of the elusive Copenhagen Fabris manuscript (Ms. GKS 1868/r).

And then you, gentle readers, strolled up and with utter—even contemptuous—ease you shattered that goal over your collective knee.

Our fundraising total as of this afternoon is the truly remarkable sum of $22,710. This puts us in competition with the Pro-Gauntlet for being the second highest-grossing crowdfunding project in our little community's history (Guy Windsor's Audatia game being the untouchably high number one).

Needless to say, this sum far exceeds anything that I planned for or even hoped for. Even so, let me give you some idea of what will happen with it.

First, of course, $1500 will be set aside to cover our server costs. A reserve fund equal to one year's expenses will also be set aside for a rainy day.

Second, we'll be creating and distributing swag. That's approximately 325 patches, 150 t-shirts, 80 print books, and innumerable scans and e-books. I sort of forgot to include shipping costs in our calculations initially, but with this fundraising total I'm sure we can make it work. The anticipated time-frames were listed in the campaign pitch, and range across the next three months. The swag should come out to between a quarter and a third of the fundraising total (plus shipping).

Third, we'll begin purchasing the scans from our stretch goals. The Scott Library got back to me and said they wouldn't scan the Glasgow Fechtbuch for us, and I expect the same answer from the Morgan Library, so Unannounced Projects I & II default to Stretch Goal 9 changing from Choose Your Own Adventure to All of the Above. Here's our list:

At the beginning of the year, the scans worked out to cost about $6000. We'll try to get the scans from institutions in the eurozone purchased as soon as possible to take advantage of the weak Euro, and the others we'll get as soon as may be. It will, however, probably take me the better part of the year to prepare the scans for release online.

Fourth, the HEMA Alliance general council wants to use some of the funds to send me to events and spread the good word of manual research. There are lots of rules about what non-profits can and can't pay for, but they have a few ideas figured out. If you run an event and have or wish you had presentations about treatises, drop me a line this year—I have a several that are pretty polished at this point.

Fifth… I don't have a fifth yet. Really, this is more funding than we ever thought we'd have. I promise that none of it will go into the HEMAA Zeppelin fund, and we'll try to use it as wisely as possible to continue bringing the treatises to the masses. Doubtless new treatises will come to light over the next year and new scans will become available, and we'll be there to take full advantage when that happens.

Thank you very much for all your generosity in helping us keep the Wiktenauer going, and to keep it growing. Insquequo omnes gratuiti sint.

Michael Chidester (Contact)
Wiktenauer Director
HEMA Alliance, WMAC
17:26, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Featured article
Joachim Meÿer
Born ca. 1537
Basel, Germany
Died 24 February 1571 (aged 34)
Schwerin, Germany
Spouse(s) Appolonia Ruhlman
Citizenship Strasbourg
Movement Freifechter
Genres Fencing manual
Language Early New High German
Notable work(s) Gründtliche Beschreibung der
Kunst des Fechtens
First Printed
English Edition
Forgeng, 2006
Compilation by
Michael Chidester
Signature Joachim Meyer sig.jpg

Joachim Meÿer (ca. 1537 - 1571) was a 16th century German Freifechter and fencing master. He was the last great figure in the tradition of the German grand master Johannes Liechtenauer, and in the last years of his life he devised at least three distinct and quite extensive fencing manuals. Meÿer's writings incorporate both the traditional Germanic technical syllabus and contemporary systems that he encountered in his travels, including the Italian school of side sword fencing. In addition to his fencing practice, Meÿer was a Burgher and a master cutler.

Meÿer was born in Basel, where he presumably apprenticed as a cutler. He writes in his books that he traveled widely in his youth, most likely a reference to the traditional Walz that journeyman craftsmen were required to take before being eligible for mastery and membership in a guild. Journeymen were often sent to stand watch and participate in town and city militias (a responsibility that would have been amplified for the warlike cutlers' guild), and Meÿer learned a great deal about foreign fencing systems during his travels. It's been speculated by some fencing historians that he trained specifically in the Bolognese school of fencing, but this doesn't stand up to closer analysis.

Records show that by 4 June 1560 he had settled in Strasbourg, where he married Appolonia Ruhlman (Ruelman) and joined the Cutler's Guild. His interests had already moved beyond knife-smithing, however, and in 1561, Meÿer petitioned the City Council of Strasbourg for the right to hold a Fechtschule (fencing competition). He would repeat this in 1563, 1566, 1567 and 1568; the 1568 petition is the first extant record in which he identifies himself as a fencing master.

Meÿer wrote his first manuscript (MS A.4º.2) in either 1560 or 1568 for Otto Count von Sulms, Minzenberg, and Sonnenwaldt. Its contents seem to be a series of lessons on training with longsword, dussack, and side sword (rapier). His second manuscript (MS Var.82), written between 1563 and 1570 for Heinrich Graf von Eberst, is of a decidedly different nature. Like many fencing manuscripts from the previous century, it is an anthology of treatises by a number of prominent German masters including Sigmund Schining ain Ringeck, pseudo-Peter von Danzig, and Martin Syber, and also includes a brief outline by Meyer himself on a system of side sword fencing based on German Messer teachings. Finally, on 24 February 1570 Meÿer completed (and soon thereafter published) an enormous multiweapon treatise entitled Gründtliche Beschreibung der Kunst des Fechtens ("A Thorough Description of the Art of Combat"); it was dedicated to Johann Casimir, Count Palatine of the Rhine, and illustrated at the workshop of Tobias Stimmer.

Unfortunately, Meÿer's writing and publication efforts incurred significant debts (about 1300 crowns), which Meÿer pledged to repay by Christmas of 1571. Late in 1570, Meÿer accepted the position of Fechtmeister to Duke Johann Albrecht of Mecklenburg at his court in Schwerin. There Meÿer hoped to sell his book for a better price than was offered locally (30 florins). Meÿer sent his books ahead to Schwerin, and left from Strasbourg on 4 January 1571 after receiving his pay. He traveled the 500 miles to Schwerin in the middle of a harsh winter, arriving at the court on 10 February 1571. Two weeks later, on 24 February, Joachim Meÿer died. The cause of his death is unknown, possibly disease or pneumonia.

Antoni Rulman, Appolonia’s brother, became her legal guardian after Joachim’s death. On 15 May 1571, he had a letter written by the secretary of the Strasbourg city chamber and sent to the Duke of Mecklenburg stating that Antoni was now the widow Meÿer’s guardian; it politely reminded the Duke who Joachim Meÿer was, Meÿer’s publishing efforts and considerable debt, requested that the Duke send Meÿer’s personal affects and his books to Appolonia, and attempted to sell some (if not all) of the books to the Duke.

Appolonia remarried in April 1572 to another cutler named Hans Kuele, bestowing upon him the status of Burgher and Meÿer's substantial debts. Joachim Meÿer and Hans Kuele are both mentioned in the minutes of Cutlers' Guild archives; Kuele may have made an impression if we can judge that fact by the number of times he is mentioned. It is believed that Appolonia and either her husband or her brother were involved with the second printing of his book in 1600. According to other sources, it was reprinted yet again in 1610 and in 1660.

(Read more...)

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Wiktenauer parent organizations

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Historical European Martial Arts Alliance

An educational non-profit organization providing a range of programs and services for its members and affiliate schools and clubs, as well as serving the wider HEMA community.

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Western Martial Arts Coalition

A pan-American network of researchers and instructors dedicated to the study of traditional European, American, and related fighting arts and martial traditions.

Wiktenauer sponsors

Each year Wiktenauer holds a two-week fundraising drive to cover our server fees and fund new projects and acquisitions. The following are the key donors from the 2014 drive; a full list of donors can be viewed on the Contributors page.

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Bramble's Schoole of Defence
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Iron Gate Exhibition
Konstafler and Sword to Sword - Houston
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MARS - Vechtschool voor middeleeuwse krijgskunsten
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Melbourne Swordplay Guild
Pennsylvania Society for the Western Combative Arts
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Purpleheart Armoury
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Schola San Marco
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School of European Swordsmanship
Swiss Rossfechten-Association.png
Swiss Rossfechten-Association
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Virginia Academy of Fencing (Historical Swordsmanship Division)