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The best book on armour, ever?

Armour of the English Knight, 1400-1450 is the best book on the subject of armour that I have ever read. I bought it last week at the Wallace Collection museum shop, and was simply blown away.

I’m not really an armour man; I prefer fighting out of armour, but I bought this book because I had just had lunch with its author, Toby Capwell, and when I asked him why the English knights preferred to dismount and fight on foot (eg at Agincourt), he said (charmingly) “I answer that in my book”.

And oh my does he ever.

This was the first time Toby and I had met, so you need not fear for my impartiality, but it’s not the first book of his I’ve read. Perhaps my favourite before this was The Real Fighting Stuff, a delightful survey of arms and armour in the Kelvingrove museum, where Toby was curator of arms and armour before taking up the same job at the Wallace. I should also point out that Toby is a serious practitioner of HEMA- primarily on the jousting scene. He’s one of us, but with better kit.

The basic premise of Armour of the English Knight is that funerary monuments can provide detailed information about the armour that the person being represented would actually have worn. This possibly controversial thesis is proven beyond reasonable doubt (to my mind) with a breadth of examples, including details of repairs to armour carved in the effigies that still exist on surviving pieces of armour.

He then uses this data to describe, in great depth and detail, how English armour developed over the course of 50 years or so.

The book is worth buying for the 60 page introduction alone. Or for the photos alone. Or for the rest of the text alone. It’s a coffee-table sized book, produced in exceptionally high quality.

Let me make a prediction: this book is, like most other high-end books on this topic, going to go out of print quite quickly. When it does, instead of paying a measly £50 for it you’ll end up paying hundreds. Because you’ll have seen it in your friend’s library, realised I was right all along and that you simply must have it, and you'll toddle along to amazon only to find you have to sell your house to get a copy: you’ll end up homeless, but with a really good book.

Save yourself the pain and get it now. It’s already over 250 dollars on, so don’t even try it there.

Best get it from the Wallace Collection, here. It’s only £50 + shipping. It's £40 if you go there in person and buy it, so Londoners, that's your best bet.

Or you can get it straight from the publisher: It’s £54, EU £65, Rest of the World £75, including shipping. (It's a big heavy book, so those charges aren't unreasonable.

OK, that’s my public service announcement for the week- best get back to editing, and getting ready for my trip to Seattle on Wednesday.

I'm sure you have an opinion: do share!

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