UPDATE: this was posted on April 1st, and was, as some readers spotted, a giant jape. For more details, see here.
Oh. My. God.
As you may be aware, I have spent most of this year in Italy, and much of that time looking for insight into the systems I teach. While I was there, I found a treatise; probably in the Fiore/Vadi tradition. 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.
I could not be more excited. These are relatively low-resolution files, so some detail is lost (but I will be getting the max-res ones soon, and will share, of course). It starts with six guards, Porta di ferro, Posta alta, Posta di Finestra, Dente di Chingiaro, Posta Frontale, and Posta di Vera Croce:
The text goes:
Porta di ferro
Son la porta di ferro forte
Aspeto per dare al nemico morte.
Son la posta soprana e altera
Per far difesa aciascuna manera
Posta di finestra
Questa sie posta di finestra
Che de malicie sempre la e presta.
Dente di chingiaro
Con mortal posta de denti cinghiare
Chi cerca briga assa glinposso dare.
Son posta frontal tanto sicura
De taglii epunte mainon faro cura.
Posta di vera croce
La croce vera contra ti voglio fare
In mi le toi punte non poii entrare
Then we have four plays, beginning with a parry from the left side.
The text with them goes:
De la sinestra facio mia deffesa
Fatta la coverta subito faro loffesa.
Traro il colpo come il maestro ha detto,
Fendente ala testa o punta in petto.
Questo contrario che io te facio
Entrarti nel mezana ligadura del bracio
Con questa partita ti butto al terra
Non mai tu po farai la guerra.
Then we have a crossing from the right, followed by six plays (for seven total on that side), and a definition of the weapon:
The text reads:
Le spade della destra son incrossade
Se la via e aperta, sempre intrare.
Levo la mano con la storta in erta
Traro nella faccia cum la coverta.
Fiero con la spada dalaltra parte
Questa lo faccio con tutta mi arte.
Col pomo martelando alsuo mustaccio
Guardando bene che tu non piglii impaccio
Piglo sua spada in mezo le mantenir
Cum taglo e punta io lo posso ferir.
Con la punta erta e la mano basso
Scambio la punta, in un solo passo.
Per la volta fata amia spada presta
Con quella di feriri non faro resta.
La Mesura della Storta [this paragraph is not in verse.]
La mesura della storta vol esere dal mano fin ala terra cum filo dritto e punta e fa chel taglio falso quatro dita inpunta.
In overall structure, the book follows the usual pattern: guards, followed by technical actions. The last “play” is actually a definition of the weapon, as we see in Fiore and Vadi’s armoured sword section, and in Vadi’s dagger section.
The content will be pretty familiar to medievalists; all of these techniques can be found in the longsword sections of Fiore; and many of the verses are very like ones we find in these other treatises.
Why women, though? And why Judith?
That question, at least, is easily answered. In medieval art, and indeed much later, the biblical character Judith was a favourite; as it allowed the artist to depict nekkid women with swords. Or dressed women with swords.
You can get the general idea here, in this version of the story by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi
The story is told in the biblical (Apocryphal in some traditions) Book of Judith. In short, Judith’s tribe was being attacked by the Assyrian army lead by Holofernes; the night before the battle, she seduced her way into his tent (hence the nekkid), hacked off his head, and took it back to her leaders in a basket (I’m pretty sure that’s where Lois McMaster Bujold got that fabulous scene in Cordelia’s Honor).
My favourite version of the theme in paint is this by Botticelli, which you can find in the Uffizi, along with it's partner image, the discovery of Holofernes:
Now, before everyone gets TOO excited, you should be aware that this has not been authenticated, and there is much work to be done examining the art and the text for possible correlations with other manuscripts. But oh my, I am falling off my chair in glee.
Please share this with everyone: our martial heritage should not be kept in the dark, but in the great tradition of Wiktenauer, let's get this stuff out there to everyone who might be interested.
OR DON'T: I posted this reveal on April 2nd, but on the principle that it's unlikely that everyone will spot it, I've copied and pasted it here:
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.