Medieval Combat: A Fifteenth-Century Manual of Swordfighting and Close-Quarter Combat

Hans Talhoffer, Author, Mark Rector, Editor
Hans Talhoffer, Author, Mark Rector, Editor Greenhill Books $29.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-85367-418-1
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 317 pages - 978-1-85367-582-9
Open Ebook - 978-1-322-21927-1
Hardcover - 317 pages - 978-1-85367-706-9
Paperback - 317 pages - 978-1-84832-770-2
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In 1467, Talhoffer, a Swabian fencing instructor, produced a lavishly illustrated fechtbuch (""fight-book"") with 270 illuminations demonstrating techniques for nearly every weapon in the medieval knight's arsenal, as well as techniques for judicial combats between nobles and between peasants. Although long available in German, this is the first English translation of his remarkable how-to. Profusely illustrated--here in black and white--the book offers freeze-frame instructions on medieval martial arts using swords, shields, poleaxes, daggers and wrestling, both on foot and on horseback. Its repeatedly drawn figures are lifelike and even emotive, grimacing in pain or frowning with fierce determination. Many of the plates do not demonstrate step-by-step techniques, preserving instead images of a bout at the moment when one technique has prevailed over another. Without a contemporary instructor as a guide, the drawings can seem arcane and confusing, since they lack explanatory captions. Rector, a founder of the Chicago Swordplay Guild, does provide an introduction and footnotes, and along the way gives practical clarification of German martial arts and a harsh, complex picture of medieval society (particularly medieval justice), if not of specific moves. Aside from their historical merit, Talhoffer's beautiful and austere illustrations provide a visual vocabulary of historical combat that might prove inspirational for directors, artists, re-enactors or stunt coordinators; others should not be surprised to find themselves posing in front of the nearest mirror. (Oct.)
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