Two-handed Sword: Germany, c. 1560

"Anbinden auch alsdann der Schnitt"

The official Catalog of German-language Illustrated Manuscripts of the Middle Ages, Vol. 38:, lists all known German Fencing and Wrestling Books on just 144 pages.

We’re ridiculously proud that 2 of those pages are dedicated to a fragment closely associated with the American HEMA movement…

by J. Christoph Amberger

Baltimore, MD—Yes, we’ve mentioned this one before here on FencingClassics. But it sure doesn’t hurt to update the information.

Motivated alone by shameless self-promotion, we’re trying to establish the term “Codex Amberger” as a snappy handle for the 15 illuminated pages from a German manuscript in our collection.

We like to entertain the realistic possibly that it was originally created for Paulus Hector Mair, councilman and fencing collector in Augsburg in the middle of the 16th century. The manuscript was re-bound around 1840 and erroneously attributed to Albrecht Dürer. (A reference to Dürer on the binding has been scratched out.)

Most images appear to be at least inspired by the woodcuts in Egenolph’s book… although some indicate that they may indeed have been based on the same sources Dürer used.

The illustrations consist of wrestling, dagger, falchion/Messer, two-handed sword, and one text page on wrestling (Ringen).

Here’s what Dr. Rainer Leng, curator of the Katalog‘s Vol. 38: Fecht- und Ringerbücher has to say about it. (We translate.)


C. 1560-1580, watermark on sheets 12 and 13 bear, resembling PICCARD XV,2I701 and 703: Constance 1560, further South German samples 1570-1580. South Germany.

Provenance unknown; privately owned […]


1r-15v: anonymous, fencing book fragment

1r-8r Image catalog Wrestling (…)

9r-10r Image catalog Fencing with the Dagger

11r-13r Image catalog Fencing with the long knife (langes Messer)

14r Illustration Fencing with the Long Sword (see above)

15r Illustration Fencing with the Staff

15v Wrestling text (Ringerlehre)

I. Paper, 15 sheets (partial foliation [numbering] by a modern hand with pencil, sheets 2-8 older markings S/58-S-74), 310 x 185 mm, cursive from single hand; 14r one single annotation, 15v total of 33 lines; sheets 1-14 glued to more recent 19th-century paper with c. 1 cm framing, sheet 15 matted in younger passepartout to make visible the verso text.

Language: High German with Bavarian elements

II. 15 colored ink drawings on recto, by an unknown hand; 14r retains pencil sketch lines.


Image arrangement and execution: Pairs of fighters are c. 150mm high depicted in dynamic poses with various weapons, ornate, partly tight-fitting, partly puffed clothes with cut sleeves; several figures with frilled collars; strong to covering coloration, internal drawings only to highlight ornamental elements in their clothing, light enlargement through lead white and gold; fighters are arranged before a low-lying horizon with hinted-at floor and shadows; short hair and beard fashions with cruder facial depiction. Image themes: Images of Wrestlers 1-8, Dagger 9-10 and Messer fencing 11-13 very precisely match the poses and positions depicted in Egenolff’s prints; in addition, the works of Paulus Hector Mair might be considered as samples for the Stücke relating to long sword (14r) and staff fencing (15r) that are missing from Egenolff, there are no known texts for the fragmentary Ringerlehre.


Not mentioned in the relevant literature so far.


Dierk Hagedorn, author of the recent Peter von Danzig: Transkription und Übersetzung der Handschrift 44 A 8was so kind as to provide a transcription of the one-page Ringerlehre on page 15r:

Volget das Ringen

Lauft einer Zuo dir vnd begreift dir beÿde arm / Vnd du Ime die seinen / so las dich dringen / vnnd sich das du nicht zu sehr an dich zwingst oder druckest / Merck wen ehr dich will werffen oder schrencken / so trit mit dem rechten Fus Zuo Im Vnnd schlage In mitt dem Fus an schenckel / auf der andern seÿten hilf Im mitt dein arm / Vnnd stos In vber sich / so felt ehr.

Will es dir einer thun / so merck wen ehr dir den fus will versetzen / so Zeuch dein Fus vnnd setz In hinder den seinen / nim die wag vf der andern seytten / bey seinem Arm / stos [?] vber sich / so geth ehr dahin.


Lauft einer Zu dir mitt eim spies / vnd meinet dich zu stechen / Vnnd du kein ander wehr hast / als ein degen / so forcht dich nicht / Fast deinen degen Zum Oberstich in der schneiden / Vnnd setze das lincke bein vor / In dem als ehr Zu dir lauft oder sticht / so fall im mit dem degen an sein spies / vonn vnden auff / vber dem haubt Zu der rechten seÿtten mitt der lincken hand / greyf Im In sein Goller / stich in wo du hin wilt.


Hastu ein degen / Vnnd dein Feind ein schwerd / Vnnd ehr dich meint / so triet fest zuo Im / Vnnd warte wan ehr dich Zum kopf schlecht / so fas dein degen Zum Vnderstich / Zuck bald hin mitt der lincken hand / Far Im an die spitz deins degens / Vnnd kum von vnden auff an sein schwerd / Zu hand greuf mitt der Linck~ hand an sein gebunde / oder Vber seine beÿde arm / Vnnd arbeÿt mit dem degenn.


Wart wen ehr dir dein Arm will greÿffen / Zuck an dich mit einem Abtrit / vnnd stos In mitt deiner linck~ hand von dir.

We’d gladly publish attempts at an accurate and practicable translation!

(More transcriptions of medieval German manuals by Dierk Hagedorn can be found here, at his invaluable web site.)


6 responses to “Two-handed Sword: Germany, c. 1560

  1. Wow!

    Some of my friend here devoted to german twohanded sword fencing would love to see that!

    Is there a way to get images of them all?

    Really if the 17 are like this one…


  2. fencingclassics

    I’m planning to have the entire ms. properly photographed. It’s only a matter of months. Meanwhile, I may scan in the color copies I had made some time ago!

  3. It would be very kind to you… does they present other fencing position? You can write me on email if you want.


  4. Hi!
    I am curious about how things have gone with digitizing this manuscript, and if you would allow me to distribute it at when it is finished.

  5. Thanks for the link love.

  6. I’ve updated the Wiktenauer with the additional information here. Thanks!

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