The Cotton Titus Manuscript


The Cotton Titus A XXV Manuscript, folio 105 (r-v) is similar in structure to the Harleian Mansucript, although certainly recorded at a different time by a different scribe or copyist. Based on the use of an early secretarial English Chancery script and the language used, it can be dated to circa 1450-1465. Thus, this text falls chronologically after the Harleian Manuscript, but before the "Ledall" Manuscript.

There is no indication within the Cotton Titus text as to whether the listed exercises are meant as solo or paired drills, although they seem to work well as solo drills. There are really only three parts to the Cotton Titus text: two drills in the "Strokes of the 2-Hand sword" section and a separate drill listed under "Strokes of the 2-Hand staff".

This last bit is highly significant, as it not only confirms the Renaissance Englishman George Silver's claim that the 2-handed sword is used like a staff, but that his assertion was also held by at least one style of late medieval longsword. The other great significance of this material is the way in which it acts as a a sort of "bridge" between the Harleian Manuscript and the last of the arguably "medieval" English sources, the Ledall Manuscript.

Again--as with the Harleian Manuscript--we can assume that the sword used is something akin to longsword as opposed to a fully two-handed greatsword or true two-hander, because of the repeated appearance of one-handed attacks.

Of special note in this text is the appearance of many terms the appear in both the Harleian Manuscript and the Ledall Manuscript. While Harley's "hauke" has not yet been replaced with Ledall's "full stroke", we do see distinctions between "fore foynes" and "back foynes" that appear in Ledall, but not in Harley.

The idea of making the opponent focus on one side, and then attacking to the other side is an important concept shared between all three medieval English texts. Thus, this material also acts as a third data point between Harley and Ledall in order to confirm some of the conceptual underpinnings of the English systems.

As a final note, this text is the only medieval English instructional text on the use of what is now popularly called the quarterstaff. While other English texts describe its use, they are all later in period. Although further research is needed, it may be the earliest instructional work upon the quarterstaff (as opposed to the spear or other staff weapons) in all Western Martial Arts, making it an important landmark.

This transcription was made from a photocopy of the original manuscript; where the photocopy was unreadable, Dr. Eleanora Litta's transcription served as a template.

The Drills

All information contained within this website is copyright, 2006, the Black Falcon School of Arms and the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild. Background image used with permission from Bronwen Hodgkinson.