Transcriptions | Joachim Meyer, Rostock

Introduction

Late in 2014, the Universitätsbibliothek Rostock published the digitized colour scans of Mss. var. 82, an important manuscript by the hand of fencing master Joachim Meyer (ca. 1537–1571). He was among those pioneers that were the first to ever publish a fencing manual in print. The first edition of his magnum opus “GrĂĽndtliche Beschreibung der Kunst des Fechtens” (Thorough Description of the Art of Fencing) was published in 1570. Before—with very few exceptions—fencing knowledge was passed on in the form of handwritten manuscripts. Nevertheless Joachim Meyer produced two manuscripts himself: One voluptuous, representative volume with numerous full-page colour images around 1560 (MS A.4Âş.2, currently held in Lunds Universitets Bibliotek in Lund, Sweden), and another one—the one present here—that seems to have served as his personal exemplar, copied from various sources in 1570.
Apart from the last section, which is Meyer’s very own take on how to fence with the rapier, this manuscript is another specimen of those vast compendia that consist of numerous fighting techniques by various masters: We encounter unarmoured fencing with the sword as well as in armour; there’s wrestling and fighting on horseback; and also dagger plays and techniques for sword and buckler are depicted.
One of the most intriguing aspects are master Johannes Liechtenauer’s teachings with the sword that can be found twice: Once in an edition (so to speak) of Sigmund Einring (also erroneously known as Ringeck), and once in a version that is similar to the one from the so-called Jude Lew manuscript (Cod. I 6 4o 3, Universitätsbibliothek Augsburg) or that from the so-called Hans von Speyer codex (M.I.29, Universitätsbibliothe Salzburg). The former is furthermore most interesting since quite frequently the text says: “als hie gemalt stet” (as it is painted here).
All this suggests that Meyer copied from various sources—one of them obviously (or possibly) illustrated. His copy however does not contain any such images.
Meyer’s Einring version is a rather abridged one, particularly in comparison to the famous so-called Ringeck manuscript from the Sächsische Landesbibliothek Dresden (Mscr. Dresd. C 487). Major portions of the corpus are missing.
The version that is similar to the Jude Lew manuscript is much more complete, and in fact this similarity goes beyond when we look at the following sections that seem to be a verbatim copy of other sections from Lew, including armoured combat by an anonymous author and by Mertein Huntzfeltz (which is attributed to Andre Lignitzer in the manuscript 44A8, Biblioteca dell’Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei e Corsiniana, Rome).
Apart from that, Meyer seems to have copied rather randomly what he could lay his hands on like for instance very brief excerpts from Liechtenauer’s wrestling in armour that are stacked completely out of context between Huntzfeltz’ armoured combat and some notes on fighting on horseback on fol. 74v/75r.
Another section about the dagger, fol. 76r–86r, is interesting insiofar as it shows no particular resemblance to any other master we are currently aware of—and it addresses the student in the second person singular and plural, thus differing from any other source.
Possibly Joachim Meyer was a bit absent-minded when we look at fol. 94v/95r and 96r/v which present exactly the same text about wrestling on horseback twice.
Particularly interesting is the name of a fencing master called Pegnitzer that appears on fol. 94r. His teachings do not appear in any other fencing manual but his name is nevertheless familiar to us on account of his membership to the “Gesellschaft Liechtenauers” (Liechtenauer’s society), as listed by fencing master Pauls Kal in his manuscripts (Ms. 1825, University Library Bologna; Cgm 1507, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Munich; KK 5126, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna).

The entire volume seems to have been written by one hand, quite likely Joachim Meyer’s own, although the two last sections differ in style. Both parts deal with the rapier: The first one seems to be an adaptation of the messer to be compatible to the new weapon that became modern at the time. It is written in a more stately, less fluent and cursive style than the rest of the manuscript. The handwriting however deteriorates considerably on the last pages as if it was done in a hurry or by an increasingly ill person. Nevertheless, this section is frequently annotated in the very same style of handwriting that is responsible for the bulk of the manuscript.
The last section shows yet another style in writing. It also describes the rapier and is of Meyer’s own invention which he has composed of various sources as he states on the preface page on fol. 123r, which also bears the date 1570.
It may be possible however, that the major part was written somewhat earlier. When we compare the style of writing to the second manuscript that has survived from Joachim Meyer’s hand, the one from Lund which is dated to the 1560s, we notice a stunning similarity.
The largest part of the manuscript, from fol. 6–110, is written in one homogenous and clear hand, with only very few deletions or corrections. Occasionally, there’s a marginal note, mostly in Liechtenauer’s horsefighting, where the text is segmented by horizontal lines with the words “end” and “anfang” (beginning) next to them. Some portions of the text are crossed out. Whether this indicates that the manuscript served as a blueprint for another volume and edited sections were marked in that way is only an assumption that cannot be ascertained.

The transcription follows the text as closely as possible. The specialties of capitalisation are maintained, but it was not always clear whether a single glyph was meant to be upper or lower case. When in doubt, lowercase was preferred, except in the beginning of a sentence.
Since the letters “n” and “u” look almost identical in handwriting, the scribe used a demicircle above the “u” for differentiation. This symbol is not maintained here since the modern typeface used makes the difference quite clear.
The vocal letter “y” is written as an umlaut througout the manuscript. The dots are omitted here, and “Ăż” appears as “y”.
The ligature for “sch” is written in a condensed form so that the “c” between “s” and “h” is hardly noticable—if at all.  Nevertheless, the transcription writes “sch”.
Another combination that frequently appears in the transcription is “tz”. It was not always clear whether the scribe intended to write “cz” or “tz”. When in doubt, I opted for “tz”.
Other abbreviations, such as “áş˝”, mostly indicating a missing final “n”, have not been resolved in order to keep as much character of the original text intact as possible.
The text is structured by commas and full stops. It was not always possible to determine whether a spot omn the page was meant to be a comma, a full stop—or whether it was just that: a spot.
The manuscript has not preserved its original size, the pages have been cut at the outer margins, resulting in an occasional slight loss of text material. Additions to the text that I made in an attempt to restore the original are set in square brackets [].
The foliation of the transcription follows the modern one in pencil, that is written in the centre at the bottom of each recto page. Another, older foliation at the top right corner of these pages is partially or even completely lost due to the clipping the manuscript had to suffer from. This old, possibly contemporary foliation is lesser by four than the current one in the beginning, or by three (around fol. 83), or by two (from about fol. 107 onwards).

 

Dierk Hagedorn, 24th February 2015
(Joachim Meyer’s 444th day of death)

Graphs/Rules

Longsword Einring

Longsword Liechtenauer

Longsword Siber

Horse Fencing Liechtenauer

Harness Fencing Lew

Holding Down/Getting Up

Harness Fencing Huntzfeltz

Harness Fencing Liechtenauer

Horse Fencing

Dagger

Sword

Dagger

Harness Fencing

Wrestling on the Horse

Wrestling with the Sword

Wrestling on the Horse

Sword/Buckler

Harness Fencing Liechtenauer

Index Horse Fencing

Rapier

Rapier