An undated paper from the archives of Strasburg contains a set of rules approved by fencing masters for a fencing tournament. The dating of this document is uncertain but could be established around 1470-71. A complete and unpublished transcription will be supplied and completed with a detailed study of the final set of rules but also the subset which received some modifications. Even if some key points remains obscure, it’s possible to find some comparison between this text and the contemporary knightly tournaments or the German Fechtschulen.
This article offers a partial overview on fencing, as recognized through archive records, as well as French epics and romances from the twelfth to the early fourteenth century. In the twelfth century, fencing was only attested through knightly vocabulary as a way to describe actions performed during single combats involving a combination of shield and another weapon, most commonly a sword. Fencing was progressively dissociated from the knightly arts and there were even few mentions of its use by common people. There are archive records from the thirteenth century of individuals bearing the nickname “fencer”, although there is rarely enough context to be certain that they were really practicing the art. At the end of the thirteenth century, archives and narrative fiction show an established fashion for a certain form of fencing with a short round shield, the buckler. This is clearly established in London where surviving manuscripts include many regulations on fencing, however the fashion was also spread in the continent, even though it seems to be less documented.
Johann Georg Pasch was a very prolific author who published a large number of books during the third quarter of the seventeenth century. Some of these included physical exercises with a long staff and presented by Pasch himself as coming from France. Among all the known editions, four different versions can be isolated; this offers the possibility to study the filiation of the edition process. This study is combined with a textual criticism of the material, beginning with a comprehensive biography from the author and finishing with the questioning of the French origin.
During the nineteenth century, many sources were published about the regulation of fencing in Renaissance France. Comparing those sources shows significant though incomplete uniformity in the formalities observed in the training of students of fencing, particularly in the process followed by the neophyte in his passage to mastery of the art of defence.
Twenty-six years after the first edition and translation by Sydney Anglo in 1991 of the anonymous manuscript Le Jeu de la hache , many elements can still be significantly improved. This paper offers a completely new critical edition of the text, and a major revision of the translation. This article includes a detailed glossary as well as notes to discuss the many ambiguous passages in the original text. Finally, the studies of the language, the vocabulary, the dialect, the writing style and the physical document make it possible to refine the dating of the manuscript to the third quarter of the fifteenth century, between 1460 and 1485, and its origin, probably Flanders or Wallonia in the entourage of the dukes of Burgundy.