The Solothurner Fechtbuch, c. 1423

ColorSTF1.JPG (37177 bytes)In its continuing effort to bring to light the history and truth of Medieval fighting arts and promote accurate research into Western martial culture, ARMA is proud to present this exclusive, excerpts from Das Solothurner Fechtbuch. The Solothurner Fechtbuch is among the rarer of Medieval German fighting texts. The contents include the standard combat arts of  (both armored and unarmored) of langenschwert (long-sword), dagger, polaxe, and wrestling. It also contains some advice on mounted combat.  The 36 plates (18 jpegs) below are but a small portion of those which survive.

So-named for the Archive in Solothurn, Switzerland, it is believed to be from c. 1500 and its author is unknown. The plates are presumed to predate Talhoffer's Fechtbuch for which it bares resemblance with the exception of much less material on obscure forms of judicial duel. Comparisons of the armor styles show additional differences. The artwork with the Solothurner Fechtbuch is also generally of a better quality than in some editions of Talhoffer. The manual is seemingly in the "traditional style" of Liechtenauer.  It has also been suggested that the Solothurn fight book is simply another edition of Talhoffer's work, possibly from the late 1480's.  It may very well even prove be a portion of a copy of master Paulus Kal’s Fechtbuch. Kal was a fencing master in the service of a Bavarian duke between 1458 and 1467. Several editions of his work still exist.

A variety of observations can be made about the plates:   Again, it is possible to see the familiar guards and stances of the German style alone with specific techniques, cuts, thrusts, slices and deflecting actions. The fighting stances are agile and wide apart as is the combat distance. The feet of the fighters are clearly in motion to pass or step. One plate shows the German Oberhut (true high-guard) which differs from the Italian version which is held somewhat lower. Interestingly, one plate depicts a left "close-guard" as in Italian manuals but so far not found in other Fechtbuchs, the same applies for what is seemingly an example Posta Finestra (Window guard). Several times there is clear use of the fingering grip and several cuts are delivered to the hands/grip of the opponent. Half-sword techniques (Halb-Schwert) are also shown. A plate also shows an Unterhau (rising under cut) using the true-edge (Lange Schneide, long edge) as opposed to the false or back edge (Kanze Schneide, short edge). Again, as in most all the Fecthbucher, since parries are deflecting actions, there are no direct resistance blocks depicted or described.  Uniquely, the unarmored fighters are wearing what appear to be padded gamebsons and not just period-style shirts (training jackets perhaps?). At least one plate does clearly show a fighter in a mail hauberk.  It may also be possible that the weapons used are in fact blunt training foils, since their pints seem quite flat or rounded as were known to be used.  This would be evidence of earnest mock-fighting practice being part of training and not just exercise sequences of techniques.

Also noticeable is that different swords are used in the armored combat than those in unarmored. Those in the plate armor combat have no flared ricasso, have both longer blades and handles, are tapering with acute points, and are much thicker in cross-section. The book also shows specialty weapons such as the Panzerstecher or Dreiecker (heavy estocs) with round guards and long padded ricasso grips.  Additional plates will be added as possible.

Note: all graphics from these scans have been  marked as orginating at the ARMA.

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