Harley, Silver & Swetnam Mash-Up

Medieval English Primary Sources

Harley Manuscript 3542, folios 82-85
"The Harleian Manuscript" consists of eight solo drills, seven paired drills, four fragmentary paired drills, and a mnemonic rhyme, referred to as "the Man that Would." This forms the basis for beginning level curriculum, as well as providing key concepts and philosophies for the style of swordplay the text represents.
Cottonian Manuscript Titus XXV, folios 105r-v
"The Cotton Titus Manuscript" is a short set of linked attacks, grouped under "Strokes of the 2-Hand Sword" and "Strokes at the 2-Hand Staff." This text serves mainly as a "bridge" between the Harleian Manuscript and the Ledall Manuscript, although it does offer some insight concerning the use of the sword as being related to the use of the staff.
British Royal Library Additional Manuscript 39,564
"The Ledall Manuscript" consists of 38 plays, and is so-called because of a signature at the end of the text reading "J. Ledall." This text serves to further clarify important concepts of longsword use in an English style, and also acts as a sort of link between the late medieval Harleian Manuscript and the Renaissance works of Englishman George Silver.

Later English Primary Sources

Paradoxes of Defence and Brief Instructions Upon my Paradoxes of Defence
Written around 1598 and 1607, respectively, these two texts are the work of English gentleman George Silver, who advocated a return to the "ancient" ways of English fighting, as a direct response to the burgeoning popularity of expatriate Italian fencing masters that had recently begun to move into London and popularize the use of the rapier. Silver's work is particularly clear in its phrasing when discussing such key principles as distance, timing, measure, and other important aspects of any martial art. The BFSA uses Paul Wagner's transcription and interpretation of Silver's work as included in the book Master of Defence as well as occasionally cross-checking from earlier transcriptions (notably those featured in Three Elizabethan Fencing Manuals) as the basis for much of our quarterstaff study.
School of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence
Joseph Swetnam's work of 1617 details the use of the rapier, but also of the staff. He presents a stripped-down system compared to Silver. This work also serves as a portion of the basis of the quarterstaff material for the BFSA.
English Master of Defence
This source comes from Englishman Zachary Wylde, writing in 1711. It deals with the use of the rapier, broadsword, quarterstaff, and with wrestling. The BFSA mainly focuses on the quarterstaff and wrestling sections for use in our curriculum.

Other Medieval Sources

Royal Armouries' I.33 "Tower" Fechtbuch
Estimated to have been written near the beginning of the 14th century, this illustrated German book is written mostly in Latin, and details the use of the sword and buckler. To date, it is the earliest known extant fencing treatise. Lacking a medieval English sword & buckler source, the BFSA utilizes this work as the basis for its sword and buckler study. Dr. Forgeng's translation and transcription of this manuscript is the text from which we work.

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.