English Rapier Timeline

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English Rapier Timeline

I was revisiting my article I wrote for Tournaments Illuminated on the London Masters of Defence, and I got to thinking that a timeline setting the developments in rapier in Europe alongside the developments in rapier in England might be a good idea, it would give people an idea of what types of fencing manuals would be available to an English fencer at different times. For this I was aided by the lists of fencing manuals kept by both ARMA and Jared Kirby. I ignored the manuals that didn’t involve fencing, so that would be any manuals that focused purely on wrestling or horsemanship.

What I learned is that the early use of Rapier in England (such as the exhibition matches before Edward VI) would likely have been more like longsword combat utilizing a rapier (or rather what we’d call a sidesword) or would be similar to Manciolino or Marozzo; while the formal teaching of the rapier under the London Masters of Defence (1568 and later) would have been closer to Agrippa and later DiGrassi and Dall’Agocchie. It would be interesting to compare Agrippa and DiGrassi as it would likely show the difference between the teaching of the Rapier for the yeoman class and the gentleman class. The yeoman class would likely still be using modified longsword techniques as well as Agrippa and Marozzo while the gentry, being taught by Bonetti and other Italian fencing masters, would have been using the newer techniques from DiGrassi and Dall’Agocchie earlier. By the time Silver is complaining about the use of the rapier in England the manuals of choice were likely from the later manuals such as DiGrassi, Meyer, de Sainct Didier, Dall’Agocchie, Viggiani, Ghisliero, Lovino, and perhaps even Carranza, in addition of course to Saviolo. Swetnam’s teaching however would likely have been closer to Fabris’ manual than even Saviolo’s work.

 

Decade English German Italian French Spanish
1500   1506: Das Solothurner Fechtbuch – adapted from Liechtenauer – Longsword      
1510          
1520   1520: Albrecht Durers Fechtbuch (originally published 1512?) Messer & Longsword

1522: Jörg Wilhalm’s Fechtbuch published – longsword

     
1530 1538: First reference to rapier in written English   1531: Antonio Manciolino’s Opera Nova published – Sidesword

1536: Achille Marozzo’s Opera Nova published – side sword, two hand sword

   
1540 1540: Letter of patent issued for Masters of Defence

1546: First known English portrait including a rapier as sidearm

1542: Paulus Hector Mair’s Fechtbuch published – longsword      
1550 1550: King Edward VI painted wearing a rapier

1558: Masters of Defence lose their charter and monopoly on teaching

1552: Maarten Van Heemskerck’s sketches of longsword and sidesword fencing

1558: Hans Lebkommer’s Fechtbuch published – Longsword & Messer

1553: Camillo Agrippa’s Trattoto di Scienza d’Arme published – Sidesword    
1560 1568: First reference to rapier being formally taught by Masters of Defence

1569: Bonetti arrives in England

       
1570 1576: Bonetti’s school noted in operation

1578: Rapier is the weapon of choice for civilian combat

1578: First London Master of Defence to fight the prize with rapier

1570: Joachim Meyer’s Kunst der Fechtens published – rapier, longsword 1570: Giacomo DiGrassi’s Ragione di Adoprar published – rapier

1572: Giovanni Dall’Agocchie’s Dell’ Arte Discrimia Libri Tre published – fencing

1575: Angelo Viggiani’s Lo Schermo published – sidesword

1573: Henry de Sainct Didier’s Traicté Contenant published – sidesword (may have been translated to English same year?)  
1580     1587: Frederico Ghisliero’s Regole do molti cavagliereschi esserciti published – Rapier 1580: G.A. Lovino’s Traite D’Escrime published – sword, longsword, rapier 1582: Jerónimo Sánchez de Carranza’s Philosophia de las armas y de su destreza published – rapier
1590 1594: Giacomo Di Grassi’s His True Arte of Defence translated into English – rapier

1595: Vincentio Saviolo’s His Practice published

1599: George Silver’s Paradoxes of Defence published – Short Sword (backsword?)

       
1600     1606: Salvator Fabris’ De Lo Schermo Overo Scienza d’Arme published – rapier   1600: Luis Pacheco de Narváez’s Libro de las grandezas de la espada published – rapier
1610 1610: Mr. Selden’s The Duello published – dueling

1614: GH (George Hale) Gentleman’s The Private Schoole of Defence published – rapier

1617: Joseph Swetnam’s The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence published – rapier

1612: S. Heussler’s Neus Kunstliches Fecthbuch published – rapier

1619: Joachimo Koppen’s Newer diskurs von der rittermässigen und weitberühmten Kunst des Fechtens, u. s. w published – rapier

1610: Nicoletto Giganti’s Scola Overo teatro published – rapier

1610: Ridolfo Capo Ferro’s Gran Simulacro published – rapier

1614: Antonio Quintino’s Gioiello di Spaienza published – rapier

   

 

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