Guy's Blog

Guy frequently keeps this blog updated with thoughts, challenges, interviews and more!

Tag: books

It has been a splendid few days in Seattle so far, kicked off by a trapeze lesson with the excellent Milla Marshall at SANCA. The place was pretty empty, so there was no-one to hold the camera (Milla was busy spotting me through the tricky bits), but we did manage to catch this new trick on video:

There's no better way to get the aeroplane out of your spine! This was my third class with Milla, and I can highly recommend her. I also managed to get one go on the flying trapeze on Friday, so that's my adrenal glands thoroughly exercised.

On Thursday evening, Dan from Lonin took me shooting; it's been a while since I last shot, but I didn't disgrace myself. Dan is a fan of old British militaria (up to and including driving a 1980s military Land Rover), and he kindly let me blast away with his (semi-auto) Sterling SMG, his Browning Hi-Power (my favourite 9mm pistol), a WWII Webley revolver, and, to cap it all, a WWI era Webley .455, just like my grandfather carried in the Great War.

I spent most of Friday working on my new Vadi book (it's not all fun and games!). I'm reading around the period quite widely, and came across an interesting light history of the Medici banking empire on my brother-in-law's bookshelves. Medici Money by Tim Parks is well worth a look if you're interested. It's not a mighty and definitive scholarly work, but it explained some aspects of Italian financial history I hadn't grasped before, and it's a fun read. It's by the same Tim Parks that wrote Teach us to Sit Still, a very personal journey into meditation. As my regular readers know, I meditate a lot; if the Vipassana stuff Tim talks about is a bit heavy, you could try this instead.

While I'm on the subject of books: I'm staying at Neal Stephenson's house, and came across an advance reader's copy of his next novel (co-written with Nicole Galland), The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.. Let me put it this way- I meant to just scan the opening pages, but am now 400 pages in… It's classic Neal, in that you can't really categorise it, but it's a lot like Reamde in tone, with a bit of Baroque cycle in content, and it manages to fuse both classic SF elements (quantum physics stuff) with magic, in a way that's just a delight to read. Yes, we're friends so I'm biased, but I would never recommend a book just because a friend wrote it.

Friday night I was teaching in my Seattle sword home, the Lonin loft at SANCA, then all day Saturday (Fiore stuff, with a bit of Vadi), and all day yesterday (I.33 in the morning, Capoferro in the afternoon).  A big shout out to Dan Weber for organising the whole thing, Alex Hanning for running the I.33 group, and Michael Heveran for keeping the rapier flag flying amidst all this medieval stuff. Sunday's seminars were graced by Devon Boorman and three of his Duello students, one of whom, Greg Reimer, is a superb graphic designer who has taken my free Fabris photos and laid them out with Tom Leoni's 2006 translation… I have an advance reader copy of the first section, so it looks like I'll have plenty to do on my flight home next week!

But before then, I'm off to Vancouver tomorrow, to teach seminars at Valkyrie, and, while I'm there, go horse riding for the first time in about a decade… wish me luck! I'll report back in due course. If you're in or around Vancouver next weekend, come and train!

 

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 amazon.com, 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.

About a month ago I was checking through a pdf of Vadi's De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi, and thinking how lovely it would be to just pluck the manuscript off a shelf and curl up in an armchair with it. So I looked into getting a copy printed and bound locally. It was going to cost about £40. “Huh, that seems expensive” I thought to myself. “I wonder how much it would cost to get it printed by the company that does my print on demand publishing?” Then I thought- “you know what, I can't be the only person who wants one.” A quick email to my list triggered a deluge of “yes! do it! do it now! I want one!” responses, so I looked into the costs of getting it laid out and a cover designed.

Then it hit me that I really better do Il Fior di Battaglia first. That's a way more popular manuscript, and sales of it could very well subsidize producing Vadi… four weeks later, my facsimile of Fiore dei Liberi’s magisterial Il Fior di Battaglia is #1 in fencing on Amazon (where he assuredly belongs!) as well as #1 in “hot new releases” in martial arts!

The notion of a 600 year old book being a “hot new release” is gloriously ironic, but there you have it. The only modern text in the book is a note in the back saying where the manuscript is, and some details about it. I wanted to keep myself out of these books as far as possible; I mention my Mastering the Art of Arms books, of course, but also Bob Charrette's ArmizareTom Leoni's translation of the text, and some other resources, on the grounds that most readers of the book will be interested. But this is Fiore's book, not mine. It is his manuscript, laid out, but not edited, translated or commented on. It's just its own pure gorgeous self.

 

Our spiffy logo

And now Vadi is laid out, uploaded to the printers, and I'm eagerly awaiting the proof copy.

The ease and sheer pleasure of producing these facsimiles has lead me to create a new imprint, Spada Press, which even has its own (very basic, don’t go there! ok, you can if you want, but I warned you) website up at www.spada.press  I expect I’ll shift all my book publishing over to that imprint, to help keep the various aspects of my work separate. Expect facsimiles of Meyer (the 1560 ms), at least one other Fiore ms, Marozzo, Fabris, and hopefully Capoferro, in the near future. I welcome requests!

On the subject of books: I have been delighted by the way my beta-readers have been responding to the first draft of The Theory and Practice of Historical European Martial Arts, which I released a 100 copies of recently. While they like the book, they have also made some really useful suggestions for improvement. I hope to get the book finished within the next four months or so. Also, the second edition of Veni Vadi Vici went to the editor at the end of last week— I have completely rewritten the book, reorganised it, and added a ton of material to the introduction. It’s probably 8 months or so from being published, but this was a major milestone in its production, and it is a much, much better book. Veni Vadi Vici was my first self-published book, and it really shows. The second edition has benefitted greatly from the constructive criticism of many readers, and the expert help of friends and colleagues. I hope it does them justice. I will be sending out ebook copies of the finished book to everyone who backed the crowdfunding campaign, and to everyone I can reach who has bought the well-meaning but flawed Veni Vadi Vici since it launched.

I would say that was a cracking start to 2017, wouldn't you?

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