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Well worn but not out of action  

Medieval German fencing manual (MSS I.33)

This is the oldest known example in Europe of a fencing manual; also known as a Fight Book or a fechtbuch. Current research suggests that it was made in the early 14th century; sometime around 1330 in Germany. We don't know who the original owner or author was - there is no record of the manuscript for the first 250 years or so of its life, until the later 16th century; so the exact location of where it was made is not known. It was created to help teach the art of fencing with sword and buckler, but we cannot know whether it was ever used by a Master to teach students, or whether it was just set down as a record of the art. It is likely that it was the work of at least two scribes and several artists. This small workforce was presumably guided by a single (unknown) author. Surviving marks on its pages reveal some fascinating aspects about its design and creation process. Markings for images and text that are usually erased on completed manuscripts are still present, though appear to have been largely ignored by the artists, so the authors have had to jamb the text in around the images. Other marks, damage, graffiti and annotations acquired at later dates - including the signature of someone who looted the manuscript in the 16th century; stick figures, scribbles and moustaches drawn onto the characters - reveal that its life has been as colourful as its pages still are.

View the Fencing Manual Manuscript in our collection