Yesterday, I gave the impression that I had found an authentic medieval Italian falchion treatise. But actually it was the work of Heidi Zimmerman (the Meyer plates printing genius), an anonymous calligrapher friend, and yours truly. I got the idea long ago, and while talking to Heidi over skype one day, asked her in on the jape. My contribution was to design the system: I chose the guards, the techniques, and so on, and I wrote the “medieval Italian” verses. Which are largely stolen from Fiore and Vadi. I framed the images I wanted in the salle, with Ville Henell and Ilpo Luhtala, and took photos, which Heidi drew and painted. Then the calligraphy was added, and our treatise was made real. I also roped some friends in to boost the signal; not everyone who appeared to believe did so! Thanks Neal, Mike, and all the usual suspects.
But lest you think I am a lying toad, not so! Every word of the revelation yesterday was true. Let me explain, by adding in the missing information.
“Previously unknown Falchion treatise” is true. It is a treatise. About the falchion. Unknown to almost everyone. And I discovered it in my shared Dropbox folder.
As you may be aware, I have spent most of this year in Italy, [TRUE] and much of that time looking for insight into the systems I teach. [TRUE up to a point] While I was there, I found a treatise [in my dropbox folder]; probably in the Fiore/Vadi tradition. [Well, it is!] It features two women, exemplifying the art of arms as applied to the falchion (or messer, or storta). The original is in private hands: fortunately, the owner is a reader of my books, so agreed to let me post them. [Yes, Heidi does read my books.]
Every word of what followed was true. But my glee was caused by mischief-making, not by finding an original treatise…
But seriously, folks; if we ever do find a medieval Italian falchion treatise, I think it will look like this. These actions can all be found in, for instance, Lecküchner's treatise, and in Italian sources for the longsword. The structure is very Fiorean, and follows the logic of his sword in one hand plays. The number of guards, numbers of techniques, and so on, are all very much in the model Fiore set.
I should also point out that we were very careful to make it just “wrong” enough that it could not be passed off as a forgery. My overriding brief to Heidi was that if the original is found in a hundred years, nobody in the medievalist world could reasonably mistake it for an authentic medieval document. Well done all of you that spotted the many “errors”. Most obviously, that great big falchion at the end is indeed a picture of Cosimo de' Medici‘s falchion from the Wallace Collection. From about a century after this is supposed to have been written. That was meant as a little clue….
Anyway, I hope you all had fun with this (though it's obvious from some of the internet chatter that some folk were really annoyed, which I find baffling). I have been thinking a lot about stortas (Italian falchions), and how odd it is that we have lots of surviving originals, and lots of German sources for the equivalent messer, but nothing in Italian. So this is an exercise in predictive archeology: if such a treatise ever does come to light, I think it would look like this. I'm planning to write up a proper analysis of the “system”, with translations of the verses, and why I think it would look like this, but I'm in the process of moving back to Finland right now, so it will have to wait.
I raise a glass to tomfoolery, and to Heidi! For more of her art, go see Draupnir Press.