This transcription/translation is outdated (2003). See here for my currently maintained page on the ms. For an updated (2016) translation with commentary see here (pdf).


Walpurgis (fol. 32r )
The I.33 manuscript (also called Walpurgis (cf. fol. 32) or Tower Fechtbuch; Tower of London manuscript I.33, Royal library Museum, British Museum No. 14 E iii, No. 20, D. vi., ink and water colour on parchment) is the oldest Fechtbuch preserved. It was created in Germany around 1290; it may therefore be considered as still dating from the age of the crusades. The technique presented is one of two unarmoured opponents fencing with a one-handed sword and a buckler. This, together with the intriguing fact that the fencers depicted are a monk and a 'scholar'/pupil (and on the last two pages, a monk and a woman), seems to suggest that the subject matter treated is not one of warlike or knightly fighting, but rather an art of self-defense outside the warrior class. Also, the drawings are in an unbloody and relaxed style, giving the impression that already, we have here an art of fencing that is in no direct relation with serious fights to the death, but rather a kind of hobby of a monk. Repeatedly, the text makes mention of the pupils (scolaris; discipulus 4r, 4v) - or the youths (iuvenis, fol. 9v) or clients (clientulum, fol. 4r, 12v, 13r) of the priest. It seems, therefore, that a monk, possibly a retired knight, was offering fencing lessons to young noblemen. The drawings appear to have been made by a different person (cf. fol. 23r), but the author of the text could be the instructor himself -- in any case, remarkably often in the text, when the priest appears in a position of disadvantage, it is stressed, that this happened purposedly for pedagogical reasons. (eg. fol. 10v; but the author could of course still be different from the actual scribe, possibly a secretary to the bishop of Würzburg, see below).

Description: I was allowed to inspect the manuscript on March 13th 2003, in the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. I did however only have sufficient time for some general notes. The MS is bound with an unconspicuous modern (18th or 19th century) wrapping. To the inside front cover, as well as on a piece of paper glued to the MS, earlier owners have written notes (fol. i-iii). The MS itself consists of 32 leaves of parchment, each bearing ink drawings and text on both sides. The clothes of the characters depicted has been coloured in black, blue, green and brown without any recognizable system. The text contains initials in red, as well as single letters traced with red ink and text highlighted with red ink (verses).

History: The MS became known to a broader audience only in 1997 through the article The medieval swordsman: a 13th century German fencing manuscript (Royal Armouries Yearbook 2 1997, pp. 129-136) by Jeffrey L. Singman (Forgeng).
sacerdos and scolaris (fol. 14r)
This article provides a good overview of the history of the MS and of its contents; the MS is first mentioned in the de veris principiis artis dimicatoriae of Heinrich von
Gunterrodt (1579). Gunterrodt relates that he had chanced upon a book with fencing monks, which Johannes Herwart von Würzburg, fencing master to Prince Friedrich Wilhelm had found in a monastery in Franconia at the time when he was serving under Markgraf Albert. (the name of Johannes Herwart appears on fol. 7r). The MS came into the possession of the dukes of Sachsen-Gotha and in the 18th century, it appears in the catalogue of the duchal library. It disappeared during WW2 and resurfaced at a Sotheby's auction in 1950, where it was purchased by the Royal Armouries. Alphonse Lhotsky has dated the MS to the late 13th century and identifies the scribe as a secretary to the bishop of Würzburg (Hils, H.-P., Meister Johann Liechtenauers Kunst des langen Schwertes, Frankfurt am Main / New York, 1985, p. 85). The name of the tutor is probably Liutger (fol. 1v; c.f. Frank Cinato and Swordforum).

the 'finder' left his name on page 13 (fol. 7r)

Translation: The text of the MS is accessible to me in the form of a photocopy of a transcription. I made a german translation in 2003 on the base of which I later compiled an english translation. At the time of my initial translation, I had no possibility to verify this transcription beyond what is possible from the photocopy scans available on the internet (cf. references). In the meantime, I have gotten hold of high resolution colour scans of the MS. These images now appear in reduced size alongside the text. Text in grey marks a hand different from the main text. The symbol of the cross (signum crucis) marking the beginning of a new sequence, I give as (+).


fol. i.-iii. (binding): Notes, probably made when the MS was in Gotha.

quaternum .i.: fol. 1r 1v 2r 2v 3r 3v 4r 4v 5r 5v 6r 6v 7r 7v 8r 8v

quaternum .ii.: fol. 9r 9v 10r 10v 11r 11v 12r 12v 13r 13v 14r 14v 15r 15v 16r 16v

quaternum .iii.: fol. 17r 17v 18r 18v 19r 19v 20r 20v 21r 21v 22r 22v 23r 23v 24r 24v

quaternum .iv.: fol. 25r 25v 26r 26v 27r 27v 28r 28v 29r 29v 30r 30v 31r 31v 32r 32v


Introduction; the seven wards -- 1r / first ward (below the arm) -- 2r (and 11v, 15r ) / second ward (right shoulder) -- 9r / third ward (left shoulder) -- 12r / fourth ward (above the head) -- 14v / sixth ward (breast) 17r / seventh ward (longpoint) -- 17v / "upper longpoint" -- 21r / "fiddle-bow" -- 22r / "special" longpoint -- 23v / fifth ward (right side) -- 27r / "special" longpoint -- 30r.

Index of technical terms:

durchtreten, durchtritt ('stepping through')
2v, 9r, 9v
halpschilt ('half shield') 2r, 3r, 8v, 13r, 14v, 23v, 24v, 25r, 27v, 28r, 29r, 32r
krucke 4r
langort ('long point') 1r, 1v, 6v, 14r, 16r, 17v, 20r, 21r, 23r, 23v, 24v, 25r, 26r, 27r, 30r
nucken 3v
schiltslac ('shield thrust') 2r, 2v, 16v, 18r, 23r, 25r, 29r, 30v
schutzen ('protection') 3v, 9r, 26v, 28r, 30r, 31v, 32r
stich ('stab') 3v, 4r, 20r, 28v
stichschlac ('stab-thrust') 2r, 10r
vidilpoge ('fiddle-bow') 22r, 22v

Latin: (conventions for the translation)
custodia `ward'
calceo `step (through)'
contrarium `counter'
defendo `defend'
dimicator; dimicatio, ars dimicatoria `fencer; art of fencing'
fixura `stab'
invado, intro `enter'
ligacio, ligo `binding, bind'
obsessio, obsedeo, obsessor `displacement, counter, counterer (also in variants possessor etc.)
plagam recipere `execute/place a strike'



Since I created these pages, numerous contributions concerning the MS appeared on the web. What follows is an incomplete selection.

Dr. Jeffrey L. Forgeng, The Medieval Art of Swordsmanship from Chivalry Bookshelf (related swordforum-thread).
Frank Cinato: on Lutegerus.
I.33 flowcharts by John Jordan
ARMA article and microfilm scans.
Boar's Tooth has pictures of Dave Rawlings' very dynamic interpretation.
myschwerk; czech translation.

Dieter Bachmann, 2003.