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Arms & Armor
Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi: 15th Century Swordsmanship of Master Filippo Vadi

trans. by Greg Mele and Luca Porzio

$59.95 / Chivalry Bookshelf / 2002

The late-15th century court of the little Italian state of Urbino was one of the places where the light of the Renaissance shone most strongly. From this tiny principality came artists such as Raphael and Pietro della Francesca, the architect Bramante, Castiglione's Book of the Courtier, and a fencing master named Filippo Vadi, who left us a detailed treatise on how these gentlemen and scholars fought with their swords.

Vadi's work on fighting with longsword, axe, dagger, and wrestling both in and out of armor, was hand-written in the late 15th century. As such, it was previously only available in a 2001 modern Italian edition edited by Marco Rubboli and Luca Cesari. Greg Mele and Luca Porzio have finally brought this book to an English-speaking audience. The result is not perfect; the images could have been of higher quality and the translation unavoidably goes astray in a few places, but it is one of the better publications in the rapidly growing corpus of western martial arts.
One particular strength of this translation is that somewhat obscure figures of speech (such as what it means to "take the rose from the thorns") are explained. Additionally, the original manuscript is reproduced alongside the English translation, so one can check Mele and Porzio's work-and their interpretation of Vadi's art-for oneself. The introductory material, which places Vadi and his work in context, is also rather good, and any student of history or historical martial arts will, no doubt, find it enlightening.

If you are interested in historical fencing or just the cultural accomplishments of the Renaissance, Arte Gladiatoria is well worth its expensive price tag.

—Ken Mondschein

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