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Gladiatoria fencing manual.
Additional Title(s):

Fencing manual

Ars palaestra
Bavaria?, 1440s.
Physical Description:
1 v. ([86] p.) : ill. ; 18 x 19 cm.
Rare Books and Manuscripts
U860 .F46 1450
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
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Copyright Status:
Copyright Information
Archives & Manuscripts
"... part of the Gladiatoria group, a series of several German manuscripts from the 15th century that share the same art style and cover the same material, and seems to have been written by the same scribe as the Vienna version. The Gladiatoria manuals are interesting texts in that they seem to be contemporary with the tradition of Johannes Liechtenauer, but not directly influenced by it."--Wiktenauer (an online resource of the Historical European Martial Arts Alliance; accessed 4/3/2013).
On parchment. Captions in pen and brown ink; watercolor illustrations in colored wash over pen and black ink.
Title supplied by cataloger.
Binder's title, on spine: Ars palaestra.
Bound in 20th century blind tooled brown morocco. Binder's stamp on lower pastedown: S [i.e. Sven] Wiklander.
Hagedorn, D. Gladiatoria : New Haven, MS U860.F46 1450
Jacobs, F. Beiträge zur ältern Litteratur, III, p. 141
Hils, H-P. Meister Johann Liechtenauers Kunst des langen Schwertes, 21
Selected exhibitions: "'The Compleat Horseman': Sporting Books from the Bequest of Paul Mellon" (Yale Center for British Art, 17 February-29 April, 2001).
Manuscript fencing manual consisting of 77 watercolor drawings of two fencers in combat, with explanatory text, by an unknown author. Its elaborate illustration suggests that it may have been intended as an instruction manual for a Bavarian noble. The text has no connection with other well-known German fencing manuals of the period by Hans Thalhofer, Johannes Liechtenauer, and Paulus Kal. The present manuscript has 43 leaves, with the first three leaves almost certainly lacking.
The full-page illustrations depict two fencers in full armor, with closed helmets and flowing robes, all details drawn in ink, with washes of bright color, and small areas illuminated with touches of gold. Each scene depicts the combatants in an open space, without fences, on green fields or brown earth, with vague mountains in the background. On the ground in many of the illustrations is the Shield of St. George, with a narrow red cross on a white background (in 1392 the Society of the Shield of St. George was founded by Swabian noblemen).
Below each illustration there are 4 to 6 lines of explanatory text in German, instructing the pupil in fencing with the "spear" (lance), "short sword," and the dagger. There are also instructions on tricks of wrestling and in the holding down of an adversary. Based on peculiarities in the text, it is probable that the manuscript originated in the region comprising Bavaria and Austria, with Bavaria being the more likely choice.
Subject Terms:
Armor -- Germany -- Early works to 1800.
Armor -- Germany -- Pictorial works.
Fencing -- Germany -- Early works to 1800.
Fencing -- Germany -- Pictorial works.
Fencing -- Handbooks, manuals, etc. -- Early works to 1800.
Fencing -- Handbooks, manuals, etc. -- Pictorial works.
Fencing -- Training -- Early works to 1800.
Fencing -- Training -- Pictorial works.
Forschungsbibliothek Gotha -- Provenance.
Swordplay -- Early works to 1800.
Swordplay -- Pictorial works.
Wiklander, Sven -- Bookbinder.
Wrestling -- Early works to 1800.
Wrestling -- Pictorial works -- Early works to 1800.
Manuals (Handbooks) -- Germany -- 1450.
Ink drawings.
IIIF Manifest:

  • 1r-5r Spear in armor from Gladiatoria
  • 5v-29v Longsword in armor from Gladiatoria
  • 30r-40v Dagger in armor from Gladiatoria
  • 41r-43v Wrestling from Gladiatoria.

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