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Index talk:Gladiatoria (MS U860.F46 1450)

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Transcription Dierk Hagedorn Hammaborg Historischer Schwertkampf

Transcription notes


This is the transcription of an Early High German illustrated manuscript from the first half of the 15th century. It belongs to the so-called Gladiatoria group. The original is located at Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut. The mansucript used to belong to the Universitäts- und Forschungsbibliothek Gotha Herzogliche Bibliothek Gotha [supplement fromApril 2013 with reference to Cornelia Hopf, head of the manuscript departmant at the Forschungsbibliothek Gotha], where it was once archived under the number Ms. Memb. II 109. For a long time, it was considered to be missing; see also Hils, Leng.

The Gladiatoria group

Named after the Krakow manuscript Ms. Germ. Quart. 16, the Gladiatoria group consists of the following manuscripts:

  • Krakow, Biblioteka Jagiellonska, Ms. Germ. Quart. 16
  • Manuscript 'T', sold at an auction in Heidelberg as single leaves
  • New Haven, Connecticut, Yale Center for British Art (formerly Gotha, Forschungsbibliothek Schloß Friedenstein, Ms. membr. II 109)
  • Paris, Musée National du Moyen Age, CL23842 (formerly Donaueschingen, Fürstenbergische Hofbibliothek, Cod. 862)
  • Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, KK 5013 (formerly P 5013)
  • Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August-Bibliothek, Cod Guelf. 78.2 Aug. 2o

The manuscript from Krakow is written in a more upright and more precise bastarda than the other two manuscripts from New Haven and Vienna – the only ones also to contain text passages. Additionally, the quality of the illustrations is superior to the other versions. E.g. the turf below the feet of the fencers shows flowers, grass and other plants, whereas in the other versions the fighters have to move on a barren, flatly coloured underground. The armour is depicted with more detail also.

The only information about the so-called Manuscript 'T' according to Hils are descriptions of three separately sold single leaves from an auction.

The New Haven manuscript which is transcribed here, is very similar to the Vienna version; both seem to originate from the same scribe, even the alignment of the text is partially identical. The writing is an accurate bastarda with hardly any corrrections and only infrequent abbreviations.

The codex from Paris is a compendium, and only the leaves 195r – 212v show an excerpt from Gladiatoria without text.

The Vienna manuscript ist very similar to the New Haven version, being only a bit more extensive – particularly concerning the dagger section.

The Wolfenbüttel codex Cod Guelf. 78.2 Aug. 2o offers only rough illustrations, coloured in a simple and flat manner, but no text – apart from some occasional remarks below the feet of the fighters and a single name on the mantling of a helmet (Johan Balder, f. 63r). This manuscript contains remarkably more techniques with the dagger than any other Gladiatoria version. Additionally, it features "Bloßfechten" and wrestling techniques as well as sword-and-buckler and staff fighting which do not occur in other Gladiatoria manuscripts. Since it also contains a war book and – in the very beginning – verses by Johannes Liechtenauer, it is most likely that it is a compendium from various different sources.

As Hans-Peter Hils already determined, the Codex from Vienna Cod. Vindob. B 11093 shows some similarities but does not belong to the group. Rainer Leng however adds this manuscript to the Gladiatoria complex, which I cannot verify. Admittedly, it deals with armoured fencers but the contentual differences are far too distinctive in order to come to that conclusion. (See also Hils: Meister Johann Liechtenauers Kunst des langen Schwerts, p. 201 f; Leng: Katalog ..., p. 22 – 34.)

The New Haven manuscript

As stated above, the present Yale version belonged formerly to the Universitäts- und Forschungsbibliothek Gotha Herzogliche Bibliothek Gotha, and was believed to be missing since World War II. According to Hils and Leng, the manuscript originally consisted of three separate parts bound together: the Gladiatoria part (1r – 43r), a fragment by Lope Felix de Vega Carpio, "El testimonio vengado" (45r – 55r) and a part with Spanish poems and French and Latin passages (57 – 100) (Leng, p. 23 f). In 2008 Leng still accounts parts one and three as missing (part two had already been restituted to Gotha in 1997). He surmises the manuscript to be identical to the manuscript 'T' which was sold at an auction by the antiquarian bookshop Dr. Helmut Tenner (see above). Considering the known number of leaves of the Gladiatoria part (1r – 43r) this assumption can be excluded for sure since the New Haven manuscript contains all of the 43 leaves. This assumption has been proven to be absolutely accurate, with the help of Hans-Peter Hils’ essay »Gladiatoria. Über drei Fechthandschriften aus der ersten Hälfte des 15. Jahrhunderts« (Codices manuscripti, Jahrgang 13/1987, Heft 1/2). [Supplement from April 2013.]

Parts of the manuscript are unfortunately lost due to clippping and croppping of the pages (possibly when it was assembled from its three parts mentioned above). This makes the text occasionally a little hard to read or to decipher at all. By comparison to the Vienna codex which has a very similar layout, several centimetres are missing, so even arms and legs of the fencers have been chopped off and other parts of the drawing are missing also. Furthermore, the text passages at the bottom of three leaves have been cut off entirely: foll. 3rv, 4rv and 7rv. I have added missing or illegible passages from the manuscripts from Krakow or Vienna.

Different from the Krakow version techniques with the long shield – along with either sword or club –, with sword and buckler or Hungarian shield and with the staff are missing in this manuscript. (The latter three consist of a single page in the Krakow codex anyway.)

Several different paginations and foliations occur throughout the entire manuscript, some of them old (contemporary?), some modern. However, none of them is particularly consistent or continuous. Leaf seven is considerably dirty on both front and back compared to the rest of the manuscript.

It is noteworthy that the suits of armour in all Gladiatoria versions are quite similar in most respects, particularly concerning the shape of the helmets, nevertheless there are a couple of distinctions. The present New Haven codex is the only one that features harnesses with a "Kastenbrust" breastplate, a fashion of armour popular in Germany in the middle of the 15th century: foll. 8v, 11r, 24v, 25r.

The transcription

The transcription follows the original as closely as possible. I have not dissolved the letter "v" in either "u" or "v". Abbreviations or other special characters remain mostly intact - considering the restraints of internet typography.

I am profoundly indebted to Christian Tobler and Jeffrey Forgeng without whose substantial help and support this project would not have been possible. Thank you very much.

Dierk Hagedorn, June 2009


Rainer Leng (compiler): Katalog der deutschsprachigen illustrierten Handschriften des Mittelalters, Band 4/2, Lieferung 1/2 – 38. Fecht- und Ringbücher. C. H. Beck’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 2008
Hans-Peter Hils: Meister Johann Liechtenauers Kunst des langen Schwertes. Peter Lang, 1985
Hans-Peter Hils: »Gladiatoria. Über drei Fechthandschriften aus der ersten Hälfte des 15. Jahrhunderts« (Codices manuscripti, Jahrgang 13/1987, Heft 1/2)
Martin Wierschin: Meister Johann Liechtenauers Kunst des Fechtens. C. H. Beck’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1965