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Talk:Das Ander Theil Des Newen Kůnstreichen Fechtbůches (Cod.Guelf.83.4 Aug.8º)

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Work Author(s) Source License
Images Herzog August Bibliothek Herzog August Bibliothek
Translation David Kite Association for Renaissance Martial Arts
Transcription Olivier Dupuis Index:Das Ander Theil Des Newen Kůnstreichen Fechtbůches (Cod.Guelf.83.4 Aug.8º)

Transcription notes

Transcription of the Codex Guelf 83-4 August 8° from the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel

Author: Olivier Dupuis
Version 1, 28/12/2012

Physically, the document is an anonymous manuscript writen on 116 pergament pages and dated from 1591.

A digitized version can be downloaded on the website: http://www.hroarr.com/manuals-books/new-manual-section/?did=12
or directly to the website of the library: http://diglib.hab.de/mss/83-4-aug-8f/start.htm

Transcription notes:

  • foliation: the original foliation have been maintained
  • the umlaut have been maintained but not the round marks on the “u”
  • the “v” meaning “u” at the beginning have been maintained, as “u” meaning “v” inside a word
  • unsure translation was inserted into “[“ and “?]”.
  • special page descriptions have been inserted into “{” and “}”, for instance “{blank page}”
  • the few contractions have been developped
  • as usual, it’s difficult to manage capitals; only the letter written in the capital forms have been set in capital in the transcription, but not if the letter is only bigger than usual.

A very short glossary have been added at the end of the document and it could'nt be a real substitute to a good dictionnary.

Remarks or corrections are welcome and could be sent directly to dupuisolivier _at_ yahoo.fr.


Backen : jaw (3 mentions in f°13r and f°22v)

Binnen, baussen, boben, etc. : inside, outside, over, this strange form could come from mittleren und niederen Deutschland (Grimm Wörterbuch, entry binnen)

Giebell : forehead (2 mentions, f°20r et f°48r).

Gurgel : belt (2 mentions, f°70r, f°121r, f°133v)

Haken : the hook from the halberd (f°44r, f°44v, f°61r)

Hauff : hip, derivate form for « Hüfte ».

Positur : posture.

Praesentiren : to present, always used in german, for example into the form « präsentirt das Gewehr! » (Present Arms!)

Reuers : backhand stricke.

Rosen : the meaning is unsure; in this text (f°14v, f°15r, this could refer to the two hands; this word can be found in other fencing sources as in Pauernfeindt or Joachim Meyer books.

Rucktritt : about-turn (f°40v).

Venten : two mentions into the text (f°38v and f°62r) ; it could mean « to feint »[1]. There's very few chances it could derivate from the french word « fente » which mean lunge in fencing as this term wasn't used in this lexical field at that time.

Translation notes

David Kite
Summer 2013

Notes on the manuscript

Codex Guelf 83.4. Aug. 8vo is an anonymous fencing manuscript in the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel Germany. It is a small parchment codex, bound in parchment, measuring only 12 cm by 18 cm when closed (approximately 4 ¾ inches by 7 inches), or roughly the size of a person’s open hand.

According to the title page, the book was produced in 1591 a.d., and is the second part of a “true artful fencing book”. The manuscript survives in an unfinished state, with many blank leaves, some of which have borders, and unfinished illustrations, indicating that the book’s structure was planned, but produced in a rather haphazard manner. It consists of illustrations of pairs of fighters with brief descriptions of the action. The material seems descriptive rather than instructive, being written in third person as opposed to first or second, which leads to the assumption that it may have been intended either as a pocket reference work, or simply as entertainment. The whereabouts of the first part are currently unknown, if it survives, or of any subsequent parts. However, given the unfinished state of this part, it is conceivable that the first part was never actually produced. It stands to reason, however, that the first part would either mirror the contents of this second part, or perhaps provide the introduction and theoretical framework behind this version of the martial arts of Renaissance Europe.

I say “this version”, because this manuscript does not seem to bear any relation to the teachings of Johannes Liechtenauer, or even to any of the other German manuscript “groups”, though naturally there will be similarities in the actions performed. In fact, without knowledge of the contents of the first part, it is difficult to tell whether this manuscript even depicts a codified martial art at all. The only guards named are for dusack, in their own section which appears over halfway through the manuscript, where they are given only generic names. There is no discernable technical vocabulary like those found in English, Italian, or Liechtenauer-derived sources. Despite the statements in the Döbringer codex (Germanisches Nationalmuseum MS 3227a) that all fighting comes from the art of Liechtenauer, this manuscript does not seem to have been produced with those concepts in mind, even if those elements are present as a natural expression of fighting. Consequently, when interpreting this manuscript and filling in the details as we do so, we must be careful not to impose Liechtenauer-derived concepts of fighting or strategy where they do not necessarily apply. Other conceptions of fighting existed alongside Liechtenauer’s, even if they proved inferior.

The weapons portrayed represent the standard fare for the German Kunst des Fechtens, with illustrated sections devoted to the longsword, half staff, halberd, dagger vs. dagger, dusack guards, dusack techniques, unarmed vs. dagger, and wrestling. There is also a section of unillustrated techniques describing how to defend yourself against a dagger attack while sitting at a table.

Despite the unfinished state of the manuscript, it is clear that the section dealing with dagger defenses while sitting at a table were intended to be unillustrated. In every other section, each technique has its own page and accompanying illustration, but here there are several techniques per page, with no room for illustrations. Not only is this detail odd, but it is doubly unfortunate, partly because of the relative uniqueness of this material, but also because the absence of tactical details makes understanding this section more problematic. Factors such as the proximity of the opponent when he initiates his attack, as well as the type of seating are left to the readers’ imagination and experience. There are nine techniques with the opponent to the right, and six with the opponent to the left. However, interpretation and application of the techniques will be impacted depending on whether the seats are benches or chairs, or whether the opponent is immediately at the agent’s side at a long table or bar, or on the adjacent side of a square or rectangular table.

Of particular interest is the amount of gore seen in the manuscript, with the majority of images depicting a weapon strike featuring blood gushing from the wound. A favorite target is the face and eyes, with the scalp and forearms also receiving considerable attention, and occasionally the legs. Conspicuously rare are attacks to the torso, the most notable being longsword plate 13 (folio 8 recto). Not only is this the only longsword technique where the torso is the target of a strike, it is also the only weapon strike in the longsword section not depicting blood flow. While there is what appears to be some blood falling from behind the opponent’s vest, there is no obvious wound from the blow. The exceptions to the bloodletting are the halberd section, where the appearance of blood seems somewhat hit or miss, and the dusack section, which showcases no blood at all. Images depicting grappling or disarms are also bloodless.

What makes the presence of blood more interesting is the fact that the weapons throughout this manuscript appear to be training weapons. The longswords display the familiar narrow blades and flanges typically associated with federschwerter. Though the staves are, unsurprisingly, wooden weapons, even the daggers and halberds are made of wood, and display the characteristic rounded tips of wasters. The depiction of blood may reflect a simple love of gore on the part of the artist or owner; however, descriptions of prize fights and other public martial displays commonly refer to blood, so the depictions in this manuscript may instead simply reflect the brutal realities of training.[2] However, this does not explain the prominence of eyes as a target. Other wounds can be stitched and healed, and while eye injuries no doubt were common, their delicacy and inability to be replaced makes it questionable that they would be a valid target in training. Regardless, if blood was a common sight during training, the oddity, then, is why it is not more prevalent in other illustrated sources.[3]

Notes on the translation

I am an amateur, meaning, I am not a professional or trained linguist or academic. I am also fairly novice at translation. Though I am confident in my understanding of the original and my translation into English, there is of course plenty of room for error. This would be true even of experts and professionals. I am open to disagreement, correction, and constructive criticism. To minimize the amount of personal interpretation and allow the original text to speak for itself, I would have preferred to create a more literal translation. Unfortunately, that proved impossible here, as my original translation was often awkward at best, and nonsensical at worst.

As noted above, the text is written in the third person. In the original German, the combatants are designated as Man and Ander. I have rendered the word Man as “agent” (to borrow slightly from George Silver’s convention), and is the main subject, or “hero”, of each technique. Ander is rendered as “opponent.”

Three other words used throughout this manuscript which warrant special attention are verfallen, praesentieren and reverse. It is possible that volume one of this manuscript would explain the martial sense of these three words. However, in its absence, I am left with my best educated guess. In all of these cases, as stated above, I am open to disagreement, discussion, and constructive criticism.

The verb verfallen (conjugated in the third person as verfellt) was the most difficult word to understand and to translate. As far as I have been able to determine, the meaning basically equates to falling down, collapsing, or perhaps missing. I have given consideration to these meanings, however, in the context in which the word is used, they make little sense to me in terms of the action. My current understanding of the word is that of a warding action. Considering that I was unable to find this specific definition for the word, however, I need to explain my reasoning behind this decision.

One possibility I have considered is as a soft bind against a strike (thereby “falling” or “collapsing” under the pressure of an attack during a bind). Since most instances of verfallen involve attacking another opening instead of binding hard against a weak bind, I have abandoned this interpretation.

Keeping with the falling or missing concept, another possibility is that verfallen indicates a void or dodge. Given the importance of binding in the Liechtenauer conception of fighting, this may seem counterintuitive. However, as stated above, this is not a Liechtenauer-derived source. This interpretation is similar to the falling for a proffered strike, explained below, in that as the opponent voids, he exposes an opening elsewhere. However, while this interpretation could apply to some instances, other instances make it clear that a voiding action is not what is described.

However, another possibility is that it indicates a movement to forcefully bind or ward, perhaps “falling for” the proffered strike, since the word seems often used to describe the opponent’s reaction to a proffered strike (praesentieren, explained below), thus creating an opening elsewhere and allowing the agent to strike a reverse (explained below). I believe this to be the strongest interpretation, since it makes the most tactical sense, and is supported by several images and descriptions. For example, in the staff section, verfallen is sometimes used in the description, verfallt man vnter die Stange (the agent drops/collapses under the staff), which I understand as warding under the staff in a hanging position. This lends validity to the idea that in the longsword section the word indicates a warding action, even though there is no explicit description of dropping under a sword.

Again, although I was unable to find a definition for verfallen as a bind or ward, I have chosen it as an interpretation based on context. Of the two possibilities, I have chosen “ward” over “bind,” since a warding action allows for a bind without requiring it, and also allows for a “miss” in terms of a feinted strike or a failed attempt to create a strong bind. I have translated it consistently as such.

Praesentieren in English means generally to proffer or to provoke, most likely as a feinting action, and I understand this word to be similar to the term fehlen (often translated as “Failer” or “failing”) in Liechtenauer-derived sources. In my translation, I use variously “proffer,” “provoke,” and “feint,” and it is generally used during the agent’s initial action.

Reverse seems equivalent to the Liechtenauer term zucken (often translated as “pulling,” “twitching,” or less often, “withdrawing”). I have translated it simply as “reverse,” and in context the action is striking quickly from one opening to another, either high or low, left or right. However, it sometimes seems to indicate a simple strike from the left.

Dictionaries consulted

Langenscheidt’s New Muret-Sanders Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English and German Languages. Revised 1974 edition.

Mittelhochdeutches Handwörterbuch von Matthias Lexer. Accessed through http://woerterbuchnetz.de

Mittelhochdeutches Wörterbuch von Benecke, Müller, Zarncke. Accessed through http://woerterbuchnetz.de

Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm. http://woerterbuchnetz.de


  1. Leopold Ziller, Was nicht im Duden steht: ein Salzburger Mundart-Wörterbuch, Eigenverlag der Gemeinde St. Gilgen am Wolfgangsee, 1995, p. 60. See entry « fänten ».
  2. There is a quote from Rodger of Howden’s chronicle which is pertinent to the brutality of training (taken from the translation by Henry T Riley, The Annals of Roger de Hoveden [1853], p 490.):

    The science of war, if not practised beforehand, cannot be gained when it becomes necessary. Nor indeed can the athlete bring high spirit to the contest, who has never been trained to practise it. It is the man who has seen his own blood, whose teeth have rattled beneath another's fist, who when tripped up has strove against his adversary with his entire body, and though thrown has not lost his mettle, and who, as oft as he fell, has risen more determined, more bold, who goes forth with ardent hopes to the combat. For valour when aroused adds greatly to itself; transitory is the glory of the mind that is subjected to terror. Without any fault of his, he is overcome by the immensity of the weight, who comes to bear the burden and is unequal thereto, zealous though he may be. Well is the reward paid for toil, when is found the temple of victory.

  3. Rapier sources notwithstanding, of course. While depictions of blood are frequent in those books, the weapons portrayed are lethal, and not training versions.