Books on Fencing & Swordsmanship
The books listed in this section are concerned with use of swords, from sport and classical fencing right the way through to early battlefield weapons and techniques.
The Art of the Italian Rapier/Italian Rapier Combat - Jared Kirby :15/11/2002
More fully entitled - The Art of the Italian Rapier: Capo Ferro's 'Gran Simulacro'. The is the first book published as part of a translation project dedicated to making the great works of historic swordsmanship available to the English speaking world. This book is also referred to more simply as Italian Rapier Combat.
By the Sword - Richard A. Cohen :15/11/2002
More fully entitled - By the Sword: A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and Olympic Champions. This book is currently on order, so should be reviewed no later than mid December.
The Inner Game of Fencing - Nick Evangelista :11/07/2001
Written in a slightly idiosyncatic style, this book is more like an extensive collection of notes than a well thought out and planned book. This is not to suggest it lacks fluidity or grace of writing. For like all of Mr Evangelista books it is both easy to read and understand.
The History of Fencing - Dr William Gaugler :11/07/2001
This is just a fantastic book, in essence a list of all the people who have ever written anything of use about European fencing and an outline of their work. Works listed by period and weapons covered, as well as noteable techniques outlined. A fabulous reference book for anyone interested in European swordplay. This is not a book about European swordplay in general, but instead focuses on the civilian weapons and techniques that contributed to modern fencing. Rapier and smallsword are fully covered, sabre is only covered from it's first sporting incarnation and the work of Radaelli.
The Science of fencing - Dr William Gaugler :11/07/2001
Another fab book by Dr Gaugler. The emphasis is firmly upon classical non-electric fencing in the Italian style. Nicely illustrated and written, this book explains many fencing techniques in a straight forward and concise manner. Some fencing experience is useful though the book is written in such a way that it is very accessible even to those new to fencing. Wasn't overly impressed with the epee section at the rear of the book, but the sabre and foil sections are very informative.
The Secret History of the Sword - J. Christoph Amberger :11/07/2001
Now this, is an entertaining and informative book, very well written and nicely illustrated. This book deals with the history of European swordplay, it details the development of weapons, changes in fencing and duelling target area, has some fabulously detailed accounts of actual duels including Aldo Nadi's, before going on to build a convincing case for the possibility of dark age European fighting arts.
The English Martial Arts - Terry Brown :11/07/2001
Whilst I like this book and enjoyed reading, it deals with a bag full of weapons that I just don't know enough about. As such here is a review by Rob Lovett of the Exiles, which I shamelessly copied form the Amazon.co.uk site:
On Fencing - Aldo Nadi :11/07/2001
An interesting and valuable book on fencing, written by possibly one of the best fencers of all time, it dispells many of the myths behind fencing technique. Not for the beginner this book is almost wholly unillustrated, the description of technique is very detailed but can be very convoluted, and Nadi has an occasionally confusing habit of describing blade position from both the attackers and defenders point of view with just a few words at the end of a paragraph to indicate the perspective. Although this book does include an account of Nadi's only duel, it should be noted that it is specifically written for the foil.
The Art and Science of Fencing - Nick Evangelista :23/07/2001
This is a very good beginners book, basic techniques are described eloquently and simply. The strategic element of fencing is also introduced and through out the book is usefully illustrated.
Secrets of the Sword - Baron Cesar Lecat Bazancourt :23/07/2001
Written in the style of several after dinner conversations, this book focuses on the general principles behind good fencing. It begins with a general overview of the different approaches to fencing, including fencing as a martial art for self defence and as a sport. Bazancourt then proceeds to suggest his own simplified approach to fencing, debunking many of the myths and traditions of fencing, outlining the essential techniqes, amount and style of practice. Following on from this the author then addresses some supplementary issues, duelling in general, parrying with the off hand etc.
Old Sword Play - Sir Alfred Hutton :09/08/2001
Sir Alfred Hutton, Egerton Castle and Sir Richard Burton were the three great Victorian swordsmen/historians. All the books produced by these three are very difficult to get hold of, electronic copies are easily available, but the books themselves are notoriously scarce and expensive. Old Sword play is finally coming back into print in January of 2002. Pre-orders are now being accepted. Review in February/March 2002.
Fencing and the Master - Lazlo Szabo :10/08/2001
This is a fabulous book full of detail that is frequently overlooked in ordinary fencing books. It has a strong emphasis on teaching techniques as well as fencing techniques. A little bit laborious in the first few chapters unless you're already a practised instructor. A very good section on distance and problem isolation. Also a very good section on parrys, guards and transports, and a very useful section at the back on fencing terminology.
The Complete Bibliography of Fencing and Duelling - Carl A. Thimm :10/08/2001
Haven't read this one yet. Considered by many to be the definitive work on fencing and duelling up until the end of the 19th Century when it ends. More fully titled: A Complete Bibliography of Fencing & Duelling: As Practiced by All European Nations from the Middle Ages to the Present Day(1898ish).
Older books on fencing and duelling can be of particular use in classical and historic fencing, especially if written before the advent of electronic scoring equipment. Alibris and Bookfinder are large American sites. Scimitars is a UK bookshop specialising in books to do with swords and swordplay. All three sites have a fab selection.
The Fencer's Companion - Leon Bertrand :11/07/2001
This book was originally written in the 1930's before fencing had made the switch to using electric scoring equipment. It is simply, but well, illustrated. Written in a remarkably efficient yet easy to understand style, suitable for the absolute beginner and experienced fencer/coach alike. This book takes you through all the most useful techniques, explains the basic terminology and even suggests some useful practice routines.
The Duel - Robert Baldick :11/07/2001
A detailed account of duelling through the ages, numerous accounts of real duels as well as a fluid narrative that fills in the legal and environmental changes that contributed to the different styles of fighting and weapons used. A very enjoyable well put together book.
For more book reviews see J.Christoph Amberger's site, Swordhistory. The site itself is designed to provide information about his book listed above, but it also contains a number of interesting articles on the various aspects of swordplay ane EMA. It also has some nice links and a set of book reviews.