Mattei’s Neapolitan Fencing (1669) Now Translated and Available

A translation of Francesco Antonio Mattei’s Della scherma napoletana (“Neapolitan Fencing“) has been sitting in my pile of mostly complete projects for far too long, so I have finally taken the time to polish and release it.

Tracing his teachings through his brother, Giovanni Mattei, to Giovanni Battista Marcelli, Francesco Antonio Mattei published this clear but unillustrated work on the sword and dagger and single sword of the “Neapolitan School” in 1669, claiming to be the first to do so. Interestingly, the book states that an earlier, unfinished version of the sword and dagger content had been previously published without Mattei’s permission by an unnamed person who had been loaned the manuscript. Sadly, there do not appear to be any surviving copies of this earlier edition of the work.

This release has omitted a large amount of dedicatory poetry in Latin and Italian and has left the scattering of Latin quotations in the text untranslated. In the future a published version will be available that includes this content and also annotations explaining the many mythological, historical, and contemporary events and figures mentioned throughout.

You can download Neapolitan Fencing for free in Translations.

Keep an Eye out for Marcelli

My heavily annotated translation of Francesco Antonio Marcelli’s 1686 treatise Regole della scherma (“Rules of Fencing“) is drawing ever closer to the finish line. Keep an eye out for news here and from Fallen Rook Publishing. Francesco Antonio Marcelli being a fellow student of Giovanni Mattei (and Giovanni Battista Marcelli’s son), his book compliments Della scherma napoletana quite well, both works shedding light on some areas the other lacks detail, while also differing in intriguing ways.

Mattei Translation Complete*

*Mostly, that is.

I’ve finished the first thorough pass of my translation of Francesco Antonio Mattei’s 1669 fencing treatise Neapolitan Fencing, aside from two minor things. First, pages 81 and 82 are missing from the only publicly available digitized copy. I made inquiries with a couple libraries that hold copies of the text, and will hopefully be able to arrange for some photographs to be taken of these missing pages.

Second, at the front of Neapolitan Fencing, after the dedication and forwards and before the main text, in addition to sixteen (SIXTEEN) Petrarchan sonnets in Italian, there are five pieces of poetry written in Latin. Translating Latin not being my favourite job in the world, I’ve left these for last. Once those two things are taken care of I can get some more eyes on the text and start thinking about getting it out into the world.

Stay tuned!

Translation Updates


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!

What’s Next?

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.