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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

Dedicated to the memory of Dr. Patri Pugliese

Wiktenauer is an ongoing collaboration among researchers and practitioners from across the Western martial arts (WMA) community, seeking to collect all of the primary and secondary source literature that makes up the text of historical European martial arts (HEMA) research and to organize and present it in a scholarly but accessible format. The Wiktenauer project started in 2009, later receiving sponsorship from the HEMA Alliance, and is named for Johannes Liechtenauer, grand master of the best-documented tradition of the early Modern era, the subject of many dozens of manuscripts and books over a period of nearly three centuries.

Wiktenauer's data model is built on separating the contents of each master's teachings from the books and manuscripts that contain them. For this reason, there are three main types of pages:

Treatise Pages host all relevant data on an individual book or manuscript, including codicological description, provenance, table of contents (with links to the appropriate master pages), gallery of page scans, and bibliography of 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.

Master Pages host the actual transcription and translation of a given master's complete works, as well as bibliographical information when available. 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 are also illustrated with pictures from the masters' work (if 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.

(Anonymous texts are displayed on orphan treatise pages, which are structured like master pages but without the biography.)

If you'd like to pitch in, simply request an account and consult How can I help?


11th May 2022 would mark the 72nd birthday of Dr. Patri Pugliese, the most important person in the history of modern HEMA that you've never heard of. I will go so far as to say that there is no one in this world who contributed more to the spread and development of the HEMA movement, and especially of HEMA in America, than did Patri.

For himself, he was a passionate student of both historical combat (not just fencing, but also drill with pike and musket) and historical dance, and founded or participated in groups dedicated to those activities around New England. Most recognizably to readers today, he co-founded the Higgins Armory Sword Guild, which not only provided online resources and public classes and demonstrations for over a decade, but also supported his friend and fellow instructor Dr. Jeffrey Forgeng in his translation and interpretation efforts (leading to his publication of MS Ⅰ.33, Joachim Meyer, and others).

But Patri's more profound legacy is fencing manuals. Throughout the '90s and continuing until his death, he distributed a staggering catalog of fencing treatises. This was before (and while) the consumer computing revolution changed everything—he was physically mailing sheaves of paper, loose or stapled together. Some were fencing manuals that he photocopied at local research libraries, others were printed from microfilm ordered from museums. He was the first person in the community to do this, and he charged only the cost of printing and postage (or at most a slight premium to recoup the initial purchase).

Of this, he simply wrote "I regard myself as a student of the sword rather than a publisher, and am making these manuals available to support research in this area. It would, of course, be selfish and inconsistent with the honorable traditions associated with fencing to do otherwise."

I will include a partial list of Patri's catalog below. As the internet became more established, most of these were scanned and placed online (with his blessing—he was happy to increase their accessibility). If you ever accessed black and white scans of any of these texts from sites like Bill Wilson's homepage, the ARMA site, the Raymond J. Lord Collection, or the Higgins Sword Guild, then you have likely benefited from Patri's work. Wiktenauer itself could not have grown so quickly or easily without these scans, some of which we still use.

I often joke that Wiktenauer's patron saint is Paulus Hector Mair, the shady 16th century Augsburg patrician who embezzled public funds to cover the cost of collecting fencing manuals and throwing lavish parties.

It is Patri, however, who embodied our highest aspirations of disseminating knowledge and resources as widely and freely as possible, and thereby pushing the bounds of our understanding of historical fencing traditions.

Patri Pugliese died in 2007, fifteen years ago. One of my greatest HEMA regrets is that even though I spent considerable time in Massachusetts during the years between 2001, when I started, and his death, I never crossed paths with him.

Fifteen years is an eternity in the world of HEMA. It is enough time that his name is no longer familiar to most teachers and students of historical fencing, but if anyone of us deserves to be remembered, he does.

So raise a glass to Patri, my friends. He was a pioneer, not just of the study of fencing, but of the sharing of it. The edifice of knowledge that we have constructed in HEMA today was built on the materials he offered us, freely.

And then tell your students about this man to whom we all owe a great debt.

(Read more)

Michael Chidester (Contact)
Wiktenauer Director
11 May 2022

Featured article
Salvator Fabris
Born 1544
Padua, Italy
Died 11 Nov 1618 (aged 74)
Padua, Italy
Nationality Italian
Alma mater University of Padua (?)
  • Christianus Ⅳ of Denmark
  • Johan Frederik of Schleswig-Holstein-
Genres Fencing manual
Language Italian
Notable work(s) Scienza d’Arme (1601-06)

Salvator Fabris (Salvador Fabbri, Salvator Fabriz, Fabrice; 1544-1618) was a 16th – 17th century Italian knight and fencing master. He was born in or around Padua, Italy in 1544, and although little is known about his early years, he seems to have studied fencing from a young age and possibly attended the prestigious University of Padua. The French master Henry de Sainct Didier recounts a meeting with an Italian fencer named "Fabrice" during the course of preparing his treatise (completed in 1573) in which they debated fencing theory, potentially placing Fabris in France in the early 1570s. In the 1580s, Fabris corresponded with Christian Barnekow, a Danish nobleman with ties to the royal court as well as an alumnus of the university. It seems likely that Fabris traveled a great deal during the 1570s and 80s, spending time in France, Germany, Spain, and possibly other regions before returning to teach at his alma mater.

It is unclear if Fabris himself was of noble birth, but at some point he seems to have earned a knighthood. In fact, he is described in his treatise as Supremus Eques ("Supreme Knight") of the Order of the Seven Hearts. In Johann Joachim Hynitzsch's introduction to the 1676 edition, he identifies Fabris as a Colonel of the Order. It seems therefore that he was not only a knight of the Order of the Seven Hearts, but rose to a high rank and perhaps even overall leadership.

Fabris' whereabouts in the 1590s are uncertain, but there are rumors. In 1594, he may have been hired by King Sigismund of Poland to assassinate his uncle Karl, a Swedish duke and competitor for the Swedish crown. According to the story, Fabris participated in a sword dance (or possibly a dramatic play) with a sharp sword and was to slay Karl during the performance when the audience was distracted. (The duke was warned and avoided the event, saving his life.) In ca. 1599, Fabris may have been invited to England by noted playwright William Shakespeare to choreograph the fight scenes in his premier of Hamlet. He also presumably spent considerable time in the 1590s developing the fencing manual that would guarantee his lasting fame.

What is certain is that by 1598, Fabris had left his position at the University of Padua and was attached to the court of Johan Frederik, the young duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp. He continued in the duke's service until 1601, and as a parting gift prepared a lavishly-illustrated, three-volume manuscript of his treatise entitled Scientia e Prattica dell'Arme (GI.kgl.Saml.1868 4040).

(Read more…)

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Wiktenauer parent organizations

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Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) Alliance

A US educational non-profit which provides 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 (WMAC)

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