This book is an impressive achievement and something of an eye-opener.
Similar to Arthur Wise's The Art and History of Personal Combat, it is far
more detailed and lavishly illustrated. Sydney Anglo is a historian and a
professor at the University of Wales, who specializes in the Renaissance
period. He writes clearly and well, and his depth of knowledge and research
is apparent. He is aware of the immense problems involved in writing a book
such as this, and in his Introduction says he thinks of it as an
The book is illustrated with an amazing array of extant fechtbuch. While I
was aware of some of the fechtbuch he mentions, I hadn't realized how many
more had survived. Professor Anglo cites 17 collections of manuscripts
from all over Europe which he has drawn on in the course of his research
with special reference to the collections in Glasgow, Leuven, and Vienna.
He particularly singles out a hitherto little known collection of books and
manuscripts on European Combatives which had been put together by the
shipping magnate Robert Lyons Scott, and bequeathed to the City of Glasgow,
together with his collection of arms and armor.
Anglo draws on a vast number of original sources covering most West
European Languages (English, German, Dutch, French, Spanish, and Italian).
For example, Anglo cites over 30 of the so-called fechtbuchen in a
preliminary list of abbreviations of regularly referred to texts. Among
other things, I was fascinated to learn that the great artist Albrecht
Durer had also issued a fechtbuch, and delighted to see some examples of
his illustrations. (See illustrations 132-135 on page 185).
Anglo puts to rest for good the oversimplifications of those fencing
historians who see the history of Western swordsmanship as a linear
progression of increasing sophistication culminating in the triumph of the
point over the edge in the form of modern fencing. He shows clearly that
there have always been a wide variety of swords in all shapes and sizes,
and that even the earliest texts exhibit sophisticated technique.
Anglo's book will be welcomed by those with any interest in the subject. It
is both a landmark and a starting point for future research into specific
areas of interest.
In recent years there has been something of an upsurge in interest in the
history of European combatives, and a number of societies, such as the
HACA, have been formed to research, recreate, and practice medieval and
renaissance fighting arts. Moreover, several translations of specific texts
have become available recently. Talhoffer's book has been translated and
edited by Mark Rector and is available under the title of Medieval Combat.
interested in wrestling/close quarter combat will welcome Eli Steenput's
two translations, both available for downloading on the Internet. Petter's
famous Clear Instructions to the Excellent Art of Wrestling which has
Romeyn de Hooge's outstanding illustrations, is available at
http://ejmas.com/jwma/, and a translation of Passchen's Ring-Buch of 11659