Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Paulus Hector Mair Manuscripts

Mscr.Dresd.C.93. Volume I of his manual in German in Dresden
Mscr.Dresd.C.94 Volume II: Paulus Hector Mair MS from 1550 held at the University of Dresden. Note how the otherwise unarmored fencers at sword and buckler are wearing metal gauntlets, apparently with mail protecting the palms (see 150v).

Many of the positions shown in the section on armored combat with spear and targe look remarkably like those in Codex Wallerstein, which Mair owned, even down to the positions of discarded shields and weapons lying on the ground, but with the armor updated to 1550 styles.
Wiktenaur discusses the sources for Dresden C.93-94

De arte athletica I - BSB Cod.icon. 393(1 Latin, mid-16th c., at the BSB
De arte athletica II BSB Cod.icon. 393(2

Thanks to Scott Cozad for finding these.

Codex Vindobonensis 10825 and 10826, ca. 1542, in Vienna, is written in both German and Latin. HROARR has it in PDF form.

Here is a partial transcription.

Here is his Wiktenaur page.


Josh Little said...

A lot of the imagery is reminisint of I.33 as well, which begs the question of is this just Mair copying stuff again or a continuation of a common fighting system. I rarely look at the later manuscripts, so I don't know if anyone yet has approached that angle. I would be surprised if someone hasn't. The gauntlets are neat too. Thanks for passing on the link!

Hugh Knight said...
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Hugh Knight said...

I have very strong doubts as to the accuracy of these depictions. First, it is well known and obvious that Mair was reproducing earlier Fechtbücher: We can see sequences taken directly from I.33, Codex Wallerstein, Paulus Kal, Gladiatoria, and other sources which he has simply copied page by page, just painted anew with figures in modern (to him) dress. That he copied them (or rather, had them copied), however, does not indicate he understood them, nor that he was showing how the forms were practiced in his day.

These plays of the buckler were likely copied from the Jörg Breu Sketchbook (I.6.2.4), itself almost certainly derived from I.33:
It is known (see http://www.marylandkdf.com/wiki/Paulus_Hector_Mair) that Mair owned a copy of the Beru Sketchbook. Note, please, that no gauntlets are shown either in this source or in I.33—a source almost 150 years older than Mair’s book.

Second, we know he got things wrong. Consider this plate from De Arte Athletica II (fol. 236r):
In this plate we see a duel with Langenschilt (I think it this sequence is copied from Talhoffer) depicted as being performed in full harness, when, in fact, it is never so depicted in any of the primary sources. It is usually shown being performed in tight-fitting leather suits, and it is *decidedly* not an armored form—it is *never* shown that way. This clearly shows that Mair felt no compunction to reproduce these plates accurately.

Third, a careful study of primary sword and buckler sources will show that in the early Middle Ages (prior to the introduction of basket-hilted swords), the buckler was used as a gauntlet for both hands; that was the main point of a buckler, to protect the user’s hands—bucklers were never used to actively block attacks. Gauntlet’s then, would lead to a different kind of technique with the buckler, just as we see in Silver’s buckler plays, where the basket-hilted swords he preferred meant that the buckler *could* be used for active blocking. In these plates, however, we see the earlier style of buckler play, not one modified by the safety that wearing gauntlets would have afforded.

Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that Mair’s illustrations reflected the actual practice of buckler play either in his day or in the earlier period from which these plays were taken.


Will McLean said...

I don't know, Hugh. It seems to me that if you are practicing the I.33 style, you might want to wear gauntlets for when you are trying to protect your hands with the buckler and fail.

Hugh Knight said...

You might want to wear a helmet, too, in case you miss a head block. And you might want to wear leg armor in case you miss a leg block. The problem is that we don't see evidence for these, any more than we do the wearing of gauntlets--and because of the errors in Mair, I don't consider these plates evidence.

If someone comes up with independant evidence, then that's a whole different thing, but as it stands right now, I think we have to say it's contrary to what we know.

Again, the main *point* of a buckler was to protect the hands. That makes the gauntlets redundant. In the later period, when basket hilts were used, as I said, the very nature of the techniques of sword and buckler changed since the buckler was no longer needed to protect the hands. Yet here we see the same techniques intended to be done without hand protection being done *with* gauntlets; that makes little sense--we should see changes in technique to reflect the fact that hands are protected.

Bottom line: You can't trust Mair.