This site will be dedicated to the study of Bolognese swordplay from the 16th century. If manuscripts or treatises are found dating from the 15th century we will include that information as well.
This site will grow over time and will include articles, copies of the treatises, translations, video and instructional materials.
Keep checking back!
As a preview of the types of information, check out this link of some sample play which contains a video clip you can download and some explanation.
Thank you for visiting this site -- William E. Wilson
With the blossoming of the renaissance in the 15 century, the changes in social structure, and the adoption of wearing of the sword with civilian dress, there was a rise in published fencing treatises, especially in Italy . The new breed of fencing master writing these treatises no longer taught only the nobility, but also taught the rising middle class who began to have disposable income.
In the 15 century, we have evidence of a fencing school that was founded by Lippo di Bartolomeo Dardi in Bologna, Italy . The descendants of his school would become prominent in Italian fencing for over a century . Today we have copies of the treatises of three prominent Bolognese masters who laid a foundation in Northern Italian swordplay of the time. These masters are Antonio Manciolino, Achille Marozzo and Giovanni dall’Agocchie. Manciolino published in 1531, Marozzo’s first publication was in 1536 and the publication of dall’Agocchie’s treatise was in 1572. We also now have a copy of a hand written manuscript by Francesco Altoni (another master of the Dardi tradition) that dates from approximately the time of Marozzo.
Of the three published masters, the most famous is Achille Marozzo who’s book was published numerous times under two titles: Arte dell’Armi (1536 ) and Opera Nova (1540). The fifth printing of the book was in 1615 .
One thing that I have noticed, is that prior authors on the history of fencing such as Egerton Castle or Arthr Wise, missed the mark when they described the combat of these masters coming out of the Dardi School. It is hard for me to believe that Castle actually read these books; in translation or in the original Italian. These early masters did not just teach tricks but taught a system of fencing that was as deadly as it was elegant. The principles of these combat systems were based in Aristotelian logic and were highly scientific . Contrary to the assertions of these authors, the combat systems of the Dardi School authors (and indeed most of the fencing treatises of the day) showed a thorough understanding of Artistotelian logic and physics in their expressions of time, distance and action.
“Manciolino and Marozzo who may be taken as typical of the masters of that period, afford a curious insight into the notions of swordsmanship prevalent in Europe during the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. It seems impossible to discern a general leading principle or settled method in the works of that period: each individual master taught merely a collection of tricks that he had found, in the course of an eventful life, to be generally successful in personal encounters, and had practiced until the ease and quickness acquired in their execution made them dangerous to an unscientific opponent.”
Neither Manciolino or Marozzo taught merely tricks. Both of these masters approached the subject of swordplay in a scientific manner and especially in the case of Manciolino gave their guiding principles and general guidelines for the application of the sword in combat. Marozzo in chapters one through nine of Arte dell’Armi set out a number of fencing principles that are as true today as they were in the 16 century. Some of these principles will be discussed later.
“Manciolino’s text is so much filled up with wise dissertations on the rules of honour and way of picking and deciding quarrels in a gentlemanly manner, that very little of actual “fencing” has found its way into his little work. Of the four guards therein described, the only one recognizable as being for any definite purpose, is a “high guard” somewhat similar to the modern head parry.”8
First, Manciolino did not have just four guards but ten. And each of the guards do have specific purposes as will be seen later in this book. As to fencing, many examples of parries, ripostes, attacks, feints and other techniques abound in the treatises.
This saite will be a place for you to obtain information about the Bolognese tradition and specifically about the Dardi tradition. And through this information we will show the fallacies in the views of prior authors such as Edgerton Castle.
You may also visit my Elizabethan website at http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~wew/fencing.html.