Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Book of the Tournament

Full disclosure: several of my friends have been injured by Brian Price's failure to pay the royalties he owes them for years. Still, I have tried to give this book the cruel but fair review it deserves.

His Book of the Tournament, Chivalry Bookshelf, 2nd Edition, 2002, is a bad book on many levels. The faux-medieval typography is tiring to read. Don't take my word for it: look at the sample pages on the Chivalry Bookshelf site. Note the misuse of overly elaborate capital letters that would be used far more sparingly in an actual medieval book. This is a common error of bad designers using typefaces based on medieval fonts.

The discussion of tournament recreation is outdated: there has been a great deal of work done on new and better formats and rules for recreating medieval tournaments since the book was last revised in 2002. Too much space is devoted to formats that are modern inventions, and Price does too little to distinguish between modern and medieval formats. He also fails to be clear about what changes have been made to the medieval formats to adapt them to modern use. He misuses the medieval terminology of outrance and plaisance, and claims that "Courboille or boiled leather was the primary armour of the behourd" although I have seen no evidence that this was true.

He says that some period references exist for fighting with two swords at once, while omitting the important point that none of the references are relevant to medieval tournament combat.

His discussion of armor fails to emphasize the value of an arming doublet in supporting 14th century and later armor, and how to achieve the good fit essential for it to function well. He uses the term gambeson to describe quilted garments worn under other armor, although medieval sources often describe brightly colored gambesons worn as an outer layer. and he describes the pourpoint as a sleeveless garment, although pourpoints often had sleeves. He says nothing about the importance creating a harness of chronologically consistent components, or the importance of greaves in the accurate portrayal of a 14th or 15th man-at-arms armed for foot combat.

Finally, there is the discussion of chivalric ethics and ideals. As an example of writing on a subject on which the author is spectacularly ill qualified to give advice, this ranks with Lady Macbeth's On Hospitality and Richard III's Book of Nurture of Nephews: How to Be a Good and Faithful Guardian to Minor Relatives.

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