Fightbook Facts

Video highlights from Medieval Fightbook

Learn more about one of the world's most mysterious manuscripts

Hidden in a dusty library, locked in a secure vault this obscure and strange manuscript has the power to unlock lost secrets from a medieval world. Contained within the beautifully illustrated 150 paper folios is unique imagery of bloody but highly sophisticated combat, weird futuristic designs and inventions, ingenious engineering and judicial duels. Hans Talhoffer’s 1459 Fightbook is one of medieval worlds’ most mysterious manuscripts, challenging the legends and myths that surrounded this so often misunderstood period of our history.

    •    There are 7 reasons why a person would be called forth for judicial battle: murder, treason, heresy, disloyalty, betrayal, falsehood or using a maiden or lady.

    •    For commoners, the judicial duel involved unique and occasionally bizarre weapon combinations and ritual costumes: the combatants were stitched into cowled leather suits, greased with pig fat, and armed with a selection of wooden maces, swords, and spiked and hooked shields. The trials duel to the death.
    •    Not everyone was permitted to engage in trial by combat. In 1140, Pope Innocent II ordered that Ecclesiastics should not take part in such a duel. Serfs could not challenge freemen. The sick, e.g. lepers, could not challenge the healthy. Bastards could not challenge those who were legitimately born. Children were not allowed to fight.

    •    The hole and the weapons the combatants were forced to wield, fulfilled multiple functions. Firstly they balanced out the fighting inequality between the sexes and secondly the less than ideal weapons were thought to be all commoners deserved to decide their fate.

    •    The Staatsarchiv Zurich of 1454 records that Talhoffer was charted to teach fencing near its town hall; consequently he was obliged to become a staff bearing empire at duels between citizenry combatants.

    •    By 1459 cast iron had been invented in the west but it was only really used for canon balls, and they couldn’t bore and drill through a solid block. So they made it in the same way they made buckets and barrels. They made it with staves. Single slats of iron that are held together by hoops, just like they are on a barrel, which is why it is called the barrel of a gun.

    •    Talhoffer was a German catholic who journeyed as a travelling knight through Swabia, Franconia, Bavaria and Switzerland. During this time it seems he was personal trainer to Herr Leutold von Königsegg and master of arms to his royal army.
    •    A warrior in plate armor was far from being the sluggish lobster so frequently mischaracterized by military writers. Armor could weigh 40 pounds if well made, and was so well spread over the body that a fit man could run, or jump into his saddle. A well-trained and physically conditioned man fighting in full harness was typically a formidable opponent.

    •    With a sharp, historically accurate robust blade, designed for fighting armor, you’re simply not going to get through wound him with an edge blow. It doesn’t matter how hard or where you strike an opponent it is impossible to cut through the armor with edge blows.

    •    Talhoffer shows that you also could use the hilt effectively - to knock him about the head to bash him with the pommel or the pummel, may even be where the phrase to pommel someone to death comes from.

    •    By the time of finishing his 1459 edition it seems that Talhoffer had the means to run his own permanent training hall with its required helpers and consistent patronage.

    •    Talhoffer authored the 1459 edition and five other editions between 1443 and 1467, while ten copies circa, 1500 and 1850, appeared after his passing; which thus totals sixteen versions (see chart one).

    •    Swabia, Bavaria, Franconia were places of mountains, green forests and fresh waters. Those lands were part of the so called Holy Roman Empire which often were involved in warring with their fellow states and neighbors circa 1200 through 1500.

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