It seems like it will be another summer of solo practice for me here in Toronto. Looking for something new to keep myself engaged (not to mention a good excuse to buy a new sword), I decided to take a break from larger translation projects I’ve been working on and tackle Francesco Ferdinando Alfieri’s Lo spadone (“The Greatsword“). First appearing in 1653 as Part 3 of Alfieri’s L’arte di ben mannegiare la spada (“The Art of Handling the Sword Well“), many surviving copies are bound as separate volumes, including the Getty Research Institute’s copy, which I used for this translation.
It’s a short work that seems rather light on technical specifics, especially compared to Alfieri’s generally clear (for the first half of the 17th century) earlier work, but it was a fun project to spend a couple weekends on. I’m looking forward to doing some interpretation work later in the summer.
My annotated translation of Francesco Antonio Marcelli’s 1686 fencing treatise Rules of Fencing is now with a publisher, and over the last few months we’ve been working steadily to get it edited. No ETA yet, but I will be posting additional details as things become clearer. Stay tuned!
Coming down the pipeline is a translation of Neapolitan Fencing, of which I have nearly finished a complete first draft. The 1669 work by Francesco Antonio Mattei details the fencing system Mattei ascribes to Giovanni Battista Marcelli, F.A. Marcelli’s father. It is organized into two discourses and contains no illustrations. The first discourse details fencing with the sword and dagger, while the second discusses the single sword. Mattei’s work was criticized by the Palermitan fencing master Giuseppe Morsicato Pallavicini shortly after its publication, but was defended by F.A. Marcelli in Rules of Fencing as a “most ingenious book”.
Beyond being what appears to be the first printed description of Giovanni Battista’s southern Italian “school”, Neapolitan Fencing is interesting for its publication history. In a forward written by the work’s printer, Novello de Bonis, we are told that an earlier draft was loaned to an unnamed individual, who then sent it to the press without the author’s permission. De Bonis likens this event to a “miscarriage of genius”, and implores readers who come across a copy of this version to burn it and pity the author. Sadly, thus far I have been unable to locate any library catalogue entries that indicate any copies of this first edition survived the flames.