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Talk:Cluny Fechtbuch (Cl. 23842)

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Transcription Dierk Hagedorn Index:Cluny Fechtbuch (Cl. 23842)

Manuscript info

More info: http://guenther-rarebooks.com/catalog-online/34.php (https://web.archive.org/web/20120215073856/http://www.guenther-rarebooks.com/catalog-online/34.php)


Description from Sotheby's action listing:

Southern Germany (perhaps Augsburg), last quarter of the fifteenth century

201 leaves (18 blank), plus 22 original blank endleaves, 218mm. by 156mm., lacking single leaves after fols.35 and 113, else probably complete although originally intended to be bound slightly differently, collation: i-ii12, iii11 [of 12, lacking i], iv12, v1+12 [blank fol.58 inserted at beginning], vi12, vii11 [of 12, blank vii cancelled after fol.90], viii10+2 [fols.95 and 100 inserted], ix11 [of 12, lacking viii], x8, xi12, xii12+1 [fol.145 inserted], xiii14, xiv12, xv10, xvi6, xvii2, xviii12, xix6, with original quire signatures in roman numerals in lower inner corners of first leaves, [1]-5 for gatherings i-v, then 8-11 for gatherings vi-ix and 12-17 for gatherings xi-xvi, which suggests that the unnumbered gatherings x and xviiii-xix include the unaccounted for quires between ‘5’ and ‘8’, nineteenth-century foliation (followed here) includes the 2 gatherings of blanks at each end (each of 11 leaves with the twelfth as a pastedown) and so reaches ‘223’ by the end, three hundred and fifty eight large coloured drawings (in effect, full-page, since there is nothing else on most pages) executed in pen and ink coloured with wash in shades of blue, pink, red-brown and khaki, the drawings in the lower halves of each page usually set on a khaki ground, some with numbers in roman numerals, some short captions in brown or pale red ink in a neat cursive bookhand, occasional slight wear, a few leaves a bit loose, a few extreme corners or edges slightly frayed or thumbed, generally in excellent condition, contemporary or very early binding of thin wooden boards very slightly bevelled on their inner edges sewn onto 3 thongs, spine covered with tanned leather blind-stamped with three vertical rows of 2 roll-tools, (i) a fretwork of lozenges and (ii) bounding stags among foliage (Kyriss, Verzierte Gotische Einbände, 1956, pl. 301, in use c.1492-1512), stubs (only) of 2 leather clasp straps secured by small metal plates on edge of lower cover with corresponding metal catches on edge of upper cover stamped ‘MAR[IA]’ in gothic capitals, spine worn, rough repairs at foot, old paper title-label at top

There is a contemporary inscription, apparently a name, scratched on fol.195r, “am ander wendels”. The principal watermarks are of the type of Briquet 11948-49 (Munich 1475, Augsburg c.1471-83, Bamberg 1484-88, etc.); Briquet 4891 (Landsberg 1480); a considerable variant of Briquet 4590 (Mainz 1489); and type of Briquet 14729 (Bergamo 1480). The manuscript is from the ancient court library of the Fürstenberg princes in the castle at Donaueschingen at the source of the Danube. It was perhaps acquired by the earliest recorded book collector in the family, Graf Wolfgang von Fürstenberg (1465-1509), who bought chivalric texts and entertained the Emperor Maximilian with a carnival and military sports at Donaueschingen in 1499. It was MS.862 in the nineteenth-century Donaueschingen catalogue, and has the library’s blue stamp on flyleaves at each end. It is one of a small group of manuscripts sold privately by the Fürstenberg family, apparently in the 1980s (cf. F. Heinzer in Unberechenbare Zinsen, 1993, p.13); and it was acquired by the late Ian Woodner, of New York.

The manuscript has the extraordinary total of 358 detailed illustrations of fencing, wrestling and other military sports of the late Middle Ages. The present manuscript is closely related to Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, P 5012, an anthology assembled by Peter Falkner which opens with rules on fencing ascribed to Liechtenauer and is illustrated with 130 pen and ink drawings with commentaries, usually in verse. It too, in turn, is copied from a collection put together by Paulus Kal, now in Munich (Staatsbibliothek, Cgm. 1507), c.1462-82. The artist of the present manuscript may have known the Vienna volume, for there is a brief allusion on fol.47r to a source described as Peter, “Hie hebenst peters stuck an …”. There is, in fact, almost no text here. It is a pattern book for teaching moves and positions; it is not text for theory but for use.

The last remotely comparable manuscript at Sotheby's was the Italian treatise on swordsmanship (lot 61 in the Phillipps sale, 29 November 1966), colour frontispiece to the sale catalogue, with 291 drawings, mostly 4 to a page (now J. Paul Getty Museum, MS. Ludwig XV.13).

The manuscript is in various sections. It comprises:

1. Folios 12r-57v, on fencing with the longsword, 92 pictures, 37 of them with captions, showing two young men in combat, one dressed in pale red, one in blue.

2. Folios 60r-69v, on fighting with long knives, 20 pictures, no captions, the same two young men in chivalric combat.

3. Folios 72r-87v, on fighting with daggers, 32 pictures, one caption, the two young men again in a contest.

4. Folios 95r-114v, on wrestling, 40 pictures, no captions, the same two young men demonstrating holds and throws and even (fol.114v) a hold to immobilise two assailants at once.

5. Folios 118r-131v, on fighting with a sword and buckler, 28 pictures, no captions, a dramatic and doubtless noisy sequence in which the contestants in gloves clash with swords and small shields.

6. Folios 133v-148r, on fighting on horseback, 29 pictures, including competing with lances (fols.133v-136v), swords (fols.137r-140v), wrestling on horseback (fols.141r-146r, including wrestling the opponent’s horse too), and fighting when one contestant is on horseback and one on the ground (fols.146v-148r).

7. Folios 149r-178v, on fighting on foot while wearing armour, 58 pictures, two with captions, a few with lances (fols.149r150r), mostly with longswords, including a rare instance where someone is actually wounded (not badly, fol.166r).

8. Folios 180r-181v, on fighting while dressed in hooded garments and holding shields (Franconian fighting), 4 pictures, no captions, including fighting with clubs and shields with peep-holes, fighting with shields alone, and using a Swiss dagger against a man with a shield.

9. Folios 183r-191v, miscellaneous combats, 17 pictures, no captions, including competing with poleaxes, maces, shields, battle-axes and lances, some in armour.

10. Folio 194r-v, 2 pictures, two men in loincloths fighting with swords, and a woman with a ball on a chain fighting a man with a club standing in a pit.

11. Folios 195r-121v, on fighting in full armour, 36 pictures, one caption, fighting with swords but often held from the middle or the other end (a style of fighting known as Gladiatorial, derived from a manuscript now in the Jagellonian library in Cracow, formerly in Berlin; cf. H. Wegener, Miniaturen-Handschriften der Preussischer Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Die Deutschen Handschriften bis 1500, V, 1928, pp.61-2).

There are probably two artists in the book. Most of the pictures are by a single illustrator who uses confident dark lines, three-quarter faces and profiles, and delicate cross-hatching. A second hand executed the pictures on fols.118r-126v, 145v and 194r-212v, using browner ink and larger figures. The general style is that commonly associated with Augsburg in the late fifteenth century (cf. H. Lehmann-Haupt, Schwäbische Federzeichungen, 1929) but a similar graphic style was also used by German artists further west, including Constance, less than 40 miles from Donaueschingen (A. Bockler, Deutsche Buchmalerei der Gotik, 1966, p.53).


  • K.A. Barack, Die Handschriften der Fürstlich-Fürstenbergischen Hofbibliothek zu Donaueschingen, 1865, p.583.
  • M. Wierschin, Meister Johann Liechtenauers Kunst des Fechtens, 1965, no.3.
  • H.-P. Hils, Meister Johann Liechtenauers Kunst des langen Schwertes, Frankfurt, 1985, pp.46-50.
  • H.-P. Hils in Die Deutsche Literatur des Mittelalters, Verfasserlexikon, 2 ed., V, 1985, cols.811-6.
  • F. Heinzer, ‘Die Neuen Standorte der Ehemals Donaueschinger Handschriftensammlung’, Scriptorium, XLIX, 1995, pp.312-9, citing present MS on p.317.|}