Saturday, December 31, 2011

At the Turning of the Year

I would now like to give thanks to the time-binding bipeds, now dead, who gave us:

The plant we now know as Corn
The plant we now know as the Potato
The Compass
Celestial Navigation
Glass Windows
The University
The Chimney
"No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right."
Double-Entry Bookkeeping
Movable Type
The Full-Rigged Ship
The Caravel
The Joint Stock Company
Representative Government 2.0 See: Glorious Revolution of 1688. This evolved into something more stable and durable than Representative Government 1.0 See: Athens, Siege of Syracuse and That Did Not Go Well.

With many omissions, that brings us up to 1700.

My ancestors, I thank you and salute you

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Inequality in Ancient Rome: the Gini Coefficient is a Blunt Instrument

This post describes a careful estimate of the size and distribution of the economy of the Roman Empire at its greatest demographic extent in the second century c.e.

We conclude that in the Roman Empire as a whole, a ‘middling’ sector of somewhere around 6 to 12 per cent of the population, defined by a real income of between 2.4 and 10 times ‘bare bones’ subsistence or 1 to 4 times ‘respectable’ consumption levels, would have occupied a fairly narrow middle ground between an élite segment of perhaps 1.5 per cent of the population and a vast majority close to subsistence level of around 90 per cent. In this system, some 1.5 per cent of households controlled 15 to 25 per cent of total income, while close to 10 per cent took in another 15 to 25 per cent, leaving not much more than half of all income for all remaining households.

This estimate gives imperial Rome a Gini index roughly equivalent to the United States today. This is, however, an example of the limitations of the measure. As Milanovic, Lindert and Williamson noted, in pre-industrial societies the necessity of leaving the laboring poor enough food for them to subsist, work and replace themselves and the relatively low productivity of such societies limited the surplus production that elites could control.

Strikingly, they estimate that 10-20% of the population had incomes below subsistence: the unemployed or underemployed: not actually starving to death, but malnourished, unhealthy, stunted and with energy only for minimal activity. This underclass was disturbingly ubiquitous in pre-industrial societies.

Compare imperial Rome with England and Wales in 1688. This was before the industrial revolution, but England benefited from global trade, the printing press, and New World plants. According to Gregory King's estimate, it had a much larger middle class comfortably above subsistence and had a higher average per capita income. As a result, its Gini measure of inequality was significantly higher than that of imperial Rome.

And yet, in a real sense the England of 1688, becoming a nation of shopkeepers, had greater equality of welfare.

Or consider this thought experiment: imagine an imperial Rome with the incomes of the top and bottom 10% doubled, and other incomes unchanged. Measured by Gini coefficient, there's a significant increase in inequality. In terms of equality of welfare, there's a big improvement, since bottom 10% move from going to bed hungry to not, and the top 10% just get better stuff.

Bunnykins Sir Gawain with Severed Head of the Green Knight

Perfect for the season, but discontinued. Shown here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

English Longbow Testing against Various Armor Circa 1400

Here is an interesting series of tests.

There seems to be a consistent bias towards minimizing the effectiveness of armor. A jack test piece of fifteen layers of linen and one of deerskin is used, while the Ordinance of Louis XI sets 25 layers of linen with one of deerskin as a bare minimum, and 30 layers of linen plus one of deerskin as the desired goal.

The weight of linen used in the test piece is not specified, but linen comes in a wide range of weights.

The tests were done with pieces of simulated armor about foot square pinned over a box of clay. These would not necessarily behave the way a complete a complete jack or mail shirt would.

is a test against complete sleeveless jacks rather than simulated patches.

When complete jacks were tested, a 25 layer jack reproduction defeated all attacks from a a 80 lb. bow. Bodkin points did best, but failed to entirely penetrate. 15 layers over mail, attacked by bodkins, were barely penetrated.

Bane tested over mail two layers of linen, but the ordinance of St. Maximin de Treves, published in 1473, required mail worn with a jack of ten layers, with the jack as the outer layer.

The author tested the bow against modern reproduction mail made from iron wire, which is described as "average quality". However, the author describes the reproduction by saying "The rings were inconsistent in craft and the integrity of the metal around the rivet was questionable on average." I have seen similar problems in other modern reproductions of medieval mail. I doubt that medieval customers would have accepted such poor quality control in armor expected to to offer the wearer the difference between life and death. Medieval iron mail would be less protective than steel, but probably offered better protection than the modern reproduction used in the tests described as mail of "average quality."

The plate armor test also presents problems. The author apparently chose to use the minimum thickness of Robert Hardy's tests, 1.2 mm. Unfortunately, the quality of steel was not specified. I suspect that modern mild steel was used, which would be better than much medieval armor, but worse than the best. 1.2 mm is quite thin for a breastplate; Williams measured five breastplates from 1470-1510, ranging from 1.5-2.5 mm, with 2.1 mm median. Earlier breastplates and coats of plates were often worn over a mail shirt, and later ones had some overlap with the mail gussets worn beneath plate. Arming doublets worn beneath may have have been considerably stouter than the two layers of linen in Bane's tests.

Perhaps more important,body armor was convex, not the simple flat plate, and the kind needle bodkin head that gave the best results against plate in Bane's tests was particularly vulnerable to failure of the head or shaft if it struck obliquely.

Bane also draws unsupported conclusions about the damage caused by non-penetrating deformation of armor. He uses the standards published by the National Institute of Justice for body armor, which counts more than 1.7" deformation of specified clay backing material as a failure. This is designed to measure behind armor blunt trauma caused by modern bullets, which are much faster and energetic than the heavier and slower war arrow. The lowest level of protection, IIA, is expected to stop a 124 gr 9mm bullet moving at 1225f ft/s. In contrast Hugh Soar, shooting a very heavy 144 pound bow, measured his 1324 gr war arrows with leaf shaped or long bodkin heads at speeds of 155-157 ft/s. The backface of flexible armor struck by the bullet is going to have much higher peak acceleration and very different effects on the body than that struck by an arrow.

The most interesting results of the test was the high effectiveness of the ubiquitous Type 16 head in penetrating jacks and mail, against which it achieved slightly better penetration than the long bodkin. This is consistent with Soar's results with what he decribed as a leaf shape head, shaped much like a Type 16 but without separation between the barbs and the socket. He found that it performed as well against mail as the long bodkin.

Apparently subtle details can make a big difference in results. These include the shape of the arrowheads tested and the quality of the metal used in them. On the defensive side, the weight of the linen used in defensive jacks is also worth documenting.

This is experimental archaeology. Give us enough information to reproduce your results.

Status Competition among English Lit Professors

(This has been a trend for years--sometime around 1993, I recall a professor telling me that there was a sort of boomlet in dissertations on Spencer's Faerie Queen. When I asked him why, he raised an eyebrow and said, "Well, you know, no one's actually read the whole thing, so there's a lot of unexplored territory there.")

So says Megan McArdle

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Medieval Musicians on Retainer: 1412

In 1412, Henry, lord Beaumont agreed to two indentures. The first granted land rented at 40 shillings a year to a trumpeter, on the condition that during his lifetime "at all times he shall be bound to serve in his office me and my heirs"

The other retains a minstrel "for life in peace and war" for a similar 40 shillings a year.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Household Economy of a Banneret and a Squire

The Black Book of Edward IV describing the domestic houshold economy of the squire who can spend fifty pounds a year, may be compared with Hugh Latimer's often-quoted account of his father's yeoman household. Of his £50 the squire spends in victuals £24 6s; on repairs and furniture £5; on horses, hay and carriages £4; on clothes, alms and oblations £4 more. He has a clerk or chaplain, two valletti or yeomen, two grooms, 'garciones,' and two boys, whether pages or mere servants; and the wages of these amount to £9; he gives livery of dress to the amount of £2 10s., and the small remainder is spent on hounds and the charges of hay-time and harvest.*

The annual wages amount to £2 a year each for the cleric and two yeomen, £1 each for the two grooms, and 10s each for the two boys.

The notional budget for a banneret in the Black Book is:

Victuals, including the stable: £121 13s 4d
Renewing the wardrobe, alms and oblations: £25
Necessary repairs of the house and expenses while away from it: £16
Gifts, rewards (regardis) and horseflesh (escambia equorum): £10
Wages of the household £12
Liveries: £6 6s 8d

The banneret's servants annual wages are:

Seneschal: £2 13s 4d
Pro iiii mulieribus per vadiis, per annum: 6s 8d: The value is so low I suspect scribal or typographic error, especially since the women are listed before the cleric.
Cleric: £2
Yeomen: Duorum valletorum, two of the vallets for £4, or £2 each.
et unius valleti: and one vallet at £1 6s 8d:
Grooms: 6 at £1 2s 6d each.

Squires are not listed on the banneret's payroll, but in the Black Book a count hires them for 60% more than yeomen.

Note that these budgets cover only ordinary annual consumption. They assume estates unencumbered by debt payments, and they make no allowance for saving to provide for extraordinary expenses, such as weddings, dowries, funerals or major building projects.

*Stubbs, William. 1874. The constitutional history of England, in its origin and development. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Household of Alice de Bryene

The widow lived on her manor at Acton in Suffolk from around 1400 to her death in 1435. Her detailed household accounts for 1412-13 survive. At one point her liveried affinity consisted of

2 maids
6 squires and chaplains
(Treated as one group for summer livery, and given 8s each for clothes)

A chamberlain
9 of yeoman rank
(8 yards cloth at just under a shilling a yard)

6 ranked as grooms
(liveries worth 5s)

These numbers probably include both the servants in direct attendance at Acton and those that served her as bailiffs and other officers at her other manors. Besides bailiffs at the other manors, she employed other receivers in addition to her general receiver, as well as rent collectors. Her accounts do not mention stewards for her outer manors, but this seems to have been normal practice in her lifetime. Her immediate household sitting down to dinner minus guests but including Alice herself seems to have been about 15 souls.

Her employees included a steward, a receiver, a butler whose duties included snaring rabbits, a baker and several bailiffs at her manors.

The small priory established under John Fastolf's will suggests how an immediate household of this size might be organized. There were to be twelve servants. Besides the chapel there were five departments. The chamber, kitchen and brewhouse each had one yeoman servant and a groom. The pantry and buttery were under a single yeoman and the stable had a groom. Two boys assisted at services, and there was a gentleman and attendant as well.

The larger household of John Fastolf at Caister included his steward and John Kertelyng, his clerk and general attorney and receiver (clericus, supervisor domini) among the generosi with his chaplain and two women who were apparently gentle servants.

His yeoman rank servants included his daughter's maid (ancilla), a household clerk, his butler, cook, baker, gardener, bailiff, his fisher and swankeeper (piscator et custos cygnorum), Kertelyng's servant and another female servant.

His sevants ranked as grooms included a chamber groom, two grooms of the kitchen, a clerk and one woman.

Alice de Bryene had an annual income of about £400. In 1419 she spent just over £35 on liveries, summer and winter. Household wages were £44, and food for the household £163. Miscellaneous household items such as candles, kitchen utensils and household repairs another £8.

Not all of the food was consumed by the liveried servants. Besides Alice herself, guests often ate at her table, and boon workers were fed by the household at harvest time. Even so, it's striking how much of the servant's compensation was in kind.

Interestingly, she seems to have kept her own wardrobe accounts: her steward refers to records of the amount of her payment of servant wages in "the papers of the lady".

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another Harbinger Departs into the Great Dark

MSL leaves for Mars. And there it goes.

This is harder than it it looks. The cold equations are unforgiving of any error. The team that beat us into space made their own effort at this launch window with Phobos-Grunt, which remains unable to leave low Earth orbit, unresponsive to command. Russia reports that its launch window has now closed.

Our Tik-Tok emissary is on its way, 251 days to landfall. Meanwhile, Opportunity, survivor of the pair of rovers we landed in 2004, continues to soldier on.

It would be a brave and splendid thing to keep this up. Every year, from now on, we could keep at least one proxy for our civilization active on the Martian surface, if we were willing to pay for it.

It's a good life, if you don't weaken.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lance Construction

The mad antics of the Knights of Mayhem inspired me to do some research into pre-1600 lance construction. I doubted that they used 1 5/8" hemlock dowels, and my suspicions were justified. What they did use was complicated.

Ash, Beech and Pine are all mentioned as lance materials in pre-1600 sources. Chretien de Troyes, writing in the 12th century, often described ash lances. Luis Zapata, a 16th c. Spaniard, recommended pine lances as superior for jousting to beech or ash, "because using lances of ash or beech for jousting (which when all is said and done is a game) among friends would be a cruel game indeed; and lances made of those woods are for enemies." Fir was also used. Compared to ash, pine and fir were lighter and allowed a thicker lance for the same weight, improving stiffness. Lances for Rennen could be 7 centimeters thick and those for the Gestech could be 9 centimeters thick at their greatest diameter.

By the end of the 15th c. hollow lances were in use in Italy. For the same weight a hollow lance could be thicker than a solid one, improving stiffness, or a lance of the same diameter could be lighter, or some combination of the two. Philippe de Commines described the Italians at the battle of Fornovo using hollow bourdonnasses that were "no heavier than a javelin, but well painted". As that example shows, they were used on the battlefield as well as within the lists.

Chastelain's Chronique de Jacques de Lalain describes Lalaing jousting with bourdons that were "marvelously long and thick." Their construction is not specified but it seems very plausible that they were hollow.

The hollow lances like  VII.550 now in the Royal Armouries, seem to have been built up from staves like a barrel and then turned. The Brandon lance was made up of four pieces. At 20 pounds, it is heavier than many solid lances. The hollow lances at the Tower ranged from 1.4-.8 pounds a foot of length, compared to .5-.4 pounds a foot for the surviving solid lances. Here is another photo of a VII.550.

Here is a photo of, from left to right, VII.634, VII.551 and VII.550.

Here is another photo of VII.551, now in Leeds.

Here is more on the lances from the Tower:

Viscount Dillon's Nos. 1&2 are VII.550, 3&4 seem to be VII.551, and 9&10 appear to be VII.634.

Commines reported an exceptional number of bourdonasses collected after Fornovo, discarded by the Venetian man-at-arms in their retreat. At the same time, he treats their construction and lightness as remarkable.

Polish and Hungarian hussars also used hollow lances on the battlefield: the hollow construction allowed their lances to be unusually long, at the cost of reduced durability.

This site has more on the Hungarian and Polish hollow lances, including the detail that the lances were hollow only from forward of the grip to the tip, which would move the balance point closer to the grip. A wooden ball forward of the grip resembles the knobs on pilgrim's staffs or bourdons, and may explain why hollow lances were called bourdonnasses.

The Polish lances were made from fir or aspen shafts that were split, hollowed, and glued back together, and reinforced with cord or twine wrapping.

Cesar d'Evoli, writing in 1583, described and disparaged the Hungarian hollow lances for their fragility, although he admitted their greater reach was an advantage. In contrast, he praised Italian solid lances as less likely to shatter.

The Arabic writer Al-Jāḥiẓ, writing in the 9th century, wrote that the Turks at that time favored short hollow lances "and short hollow lances have greater penetrating power and are lighter to carry."

Here is Galileo on hollow lances:

For any given weight, length and wood, hollow lances were stronger. They were also required more labor to construct, so that virtue came at a price. Viscount Dillon's article noted above indicates both that hollow lances were used in Tudor England and that solid lances were used as well, and were at least as common in the weapons that survive.

I conclude that hollow lances in the 16th century were common among two groups:

1: Lancers, typically the hussars of Poland and Hungary, who were expected to use a lance that was unusually light for its length to gain a reach advantage over opponents.

2: The wealthiest men-at-arms, willing to pay a premium for a lance that they might use in the lists or on the battlefield that was either stronger or lighter than the simpler solid lance used by their peers.

Giovanni dall'Agochie, writing in 1572, recommended a lance in two pieces for practice. The lower part was some four feet in length, the end of which was fitted halfway into a soldered metal tube nine inches in length. The other piece forming the sharp end of the lance was six feet long and fitted into the other half of the metal tube, which was painted to match the rest of the shaft. Presumably, most often the fore piece would break, so the two piece lance would avoid replacing the entire lance for each break.

Hardened Leather Armor

I have hardened leather by immersion in boiling wax, but I find that method can easily make the leather brittle. My preferred method is casing the leather and then letting it dry under conditions of dry heat, and then applying hot wax to protect it from moisture. I based this on Cennino Cennini's instructions for making leather crests.

Start with vegetable tanned leather. I have used 1/4 inch sole leather. Once cut to shape, I bevel the edges. Case the leather. Once cased, I round the edges with a plastic pulley wheel and tool the edge so it resembles a rolled edge on metal armor.

I shape the leather over a form. For open greaves, I made a Hydrocal cast of the front of my legs. For comfort, the form should have some extra flare above the instep. I used strips of cloth to force the leather around the form.

Cennini tells you to put the leather in the sun for "a good many days". I left it in an oven set on "warm" until dry.

I dye the leather and then apply molten wax heated in a double boiler. I have used paraffin candle wax: beeswax would be more authentic but more expensive. Brush it on and then use a hair dryer to keep the wax liquid until it is absorbed by the leather. Repeat as necessary until the leather is coated well.

Finally, apply shoe polish the same color as your dye. Use the hair dryer to help it soak in, and polish as you would shine a shoe.

Update: visit Mark Carlson's fine site for much more.

Robotic Bear-Pillow Tickles Snorers

The kawaii answer to sleep apnea.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Life Cycle of Burning Man

It would be nice to see something like this for Pennsic.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"There's a lot of Confirmation Bias Out There"

in 2010, self-described libertarian Daniel B. Klein and Zeljka Buturovic published a paper indicated that self described liberals scored worse than libertarians or conservatives on a set of economics questions. However, Klein writes:

But one year later, in May 2011, Buturovic and I published a new scholarly article reporting on a new survey. It turned out that I needed to retract the conclusions I’d trumpeted in The Wall Street Journal. The new results invalidated our original result: under the right circumstances, conservatives and libertarians were as likely as anyone on the left to give wrong answers to economic questions. The proper inference from our work is not that one group is more enlightened, or less. It’s that “myside bias”—the tendency to judge a statement according to how conveniently it fits with one’s settled position—is pervasive among all of America’s political groups. The bias is seen in the data, and in my actions.

Good on Klein for publishing a conclusion so uncongenial to his own admitted biases.

A full tabulation of all 17 questions showed that no group clearly out-stupids the others. They appear about equally stupid when faced with proper challenges to their position

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Alternate Universe Shakespeare

A friend has described Anonymous as an Alternate Universe FanFic, and right good fun if you take it in that spirit.

And here's the thing. Shakespeare's Histories were also set in an alternate universe from our own. He ruthlessly fudged chronology and character when it made a better story. He used biased sources for his background research.

And as Poul Anderson noted and built a novel around, the past of Shakespeare's Histories was more technologically advanced than our own. In Shakespeare, the Rome of Julius Caesar had mechanical clocks and the knights that fought at Shrewsbury in 1403 were armed with pistols as well as swords.

Explicit alternate history can be a very appropriate and effective way to present Shakespeare's histories. Ian McKellen's 1995 Richard III, set in an alternate history 1930s England, is an excellent example of how well this can work.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

World Order in Mexico

Joy. I am reminded of Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Drummers Bring Occupy Wall Street to the Brink of Collapse

One word. Doumbeks. Been there.

My Pitches for a Less Stupid Edward de Vere Movie

#1: Edward de Vere wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare. Also, he's a vampire.

#2: Edward de Vere wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare as part of an unspeakable Dalek plot to unravel the very fabric of time and space itself if not reversed with much running and exclamations of "Don't you see? Marlowe has had his throat cut! The Christopher Marlowe of our continuum was stabbed above the right eye and died instantly six years ago!" and "Who are you and what have you done with the real Queen Elizabeth?" followed by more running.

Happy St. Crispin's Day

From the archive.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Anonymous: Zombie Edward de Vere Wrote Macbeth and The Tempest

After his death in 1604.

"Tomorrrrrrrow and tomorrrrrrow and tomorrrrrrow.....rrrrr.......brrrrains....."


See also the creation of this giant origami dinosaur in Japan. For more origamisaur joy, see here, here, here, here and here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Religion and Culture are Complicated

Whenever you read or hear phrases like "The Arab mind is...", substitute a similarly broad cultural group you are more familiar with. For example, "The Anglophone mind is..." Unless hedged with qualifications, could you confidently say much that was both useful and true?

If you can't, treat simple, unqualified statements about other cultures with suspicion.

Likewise, "Islamic ideology..."

Substitute "Christian ideology..."

I would hope, if you either are a Christian or know many, that you would respond that self-described Christians hold very diverse beliefs, and generalized statements without qualification should be made with caution.

I believe that Muslim belief is equally diverse.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Because Everything Goes Better with Ninjas

From Improv in Toronto

Imagine this. A single ninja, standing silently by himself. Beside him sits a sign urging people to fight. Walking along the pathway, you notice said ninja, the sign, and lastly a foam sword laying at your feet. You pick it up.

Seemingly from thin air, ninjas appear.

Slow-Motion Vole's-Eye View of an Eagle Owl

Here's the full approach.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Moamar Khaddafy is Dead

In related news, so is Gadhafi, Gaddafi, Qadhafi, Qaddafi, and el-Qaddafi.

Science! History! Fun!

Mike Outmesguine shares this video:
My son, Mikey, and his classmates put on a demonstration for his school. His class created their own culture faire after learning about ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. His class set up tables and demonstrations for parents and the lower grades at the school.

Pretty darned adorable!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Consulting Peter von Danzig

In German medieval swordplay, nachschlagen means striking after, a blow that follows the first bind. In modern German it means to look up, refer to, or consult. I suspect the etymology travels from following up in swordplay to following up a question.

It can also mean a grace note in music.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Occupy Harfleur Movement Comes to Colonial Plantation, PA, October 15-16

La Belle Compagnie will bring an October 1414 impression to Colonial Plantation's Medieval Days event October 15-16, 2011, in Media, PA.

We will portray the early 15th c. England that is 99% English, with part of the remaining 1% having a completely valid dynastic claim to the throne of France through Isabella of France, great-great-grandmother of the current king, Henry V.

We are the 99%, plus the other 1%, who are also us.

Our demands? Thank you for asking. Normandy, Touraine, Anjou, Maine, Brittany, Flanders, a fully restored Duchy of Aquitaine in full sovereignty, the lordship of Provence, the one million six hundred thousand crowns outstanding from the ransom of Jean II of France, and two million crowns as dowry for the Princess Catherine of France, to wed Henry V.

We believe in making explicit and coherent demands, so you know where you stand.

At this time the Valois royal princes of France have been going at each other since 1407 like a bottle of scorpions, lightly shaken, so I think we can offer an attractive alternative.

We believe the French deserve a king who is fit, rested, pious and doesn't intermittently believe he is made of glass.

In October of 1414, the king is not yet ready to sail to France to reclaim his inheritance, so our impression will be of the Compagnie in Carlisle, where one of our number has undertaken to perform a deed of arms against a Scots esquire.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Douglas Vs. Clifford: 1414 or 1415

…also, the same year, on the 15th of October, the king granted his letters of safe conduct to Sir William Douglas, of Drumlanrig in Scotland, chevalier, (to hold good till 8 November following) to come to the town of Berwick, with six Persons in his retinue, to perform certain feats of arms, with this Sir John Clifford, and six other Englishmen. But they not coming at the said time, the king, 16 December following, renewed his said letters of safe conduct, for them to come to Carlisle, at the request of John de Neville, Warden of the West Marches, to hold good till 15 February following. And then meeting accordingly, this John Lord Clifford, and six other English, encountered as many Scots, viz. himself with the aforesaid Sir William Douglas, Sir William Harrington with Sir David Mynges, Knt. Sir Ralph Greystoke with William Edmundson, Esq; Sir Christopher Curwen, of Workington, with ... . Halyburton, (whom he hurt in the neck) and Sir John Lancaster of Holgell Castle and Ridale, with Sir John St. Leger, Knt.; in. which exercise the English had the prize.

A supplement to the four volumes of The peerage of England: 1750

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Before Agincourt

In France an intermittent civil war, punctuated by truces, had been going on since 1407 between the Burgundians and the Orleanist faction that later became known as the Armagnacs. King Charles VI had suffered from bouts of insanity since 1392, and his relatives feuded over who would control France while he was incapacitated. Simmering for some time, the rivalry between Burgundy and Orleans became openly violent when the king’s nephew, John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy, had the king’s brother, Louis, duke of Orleans, assassinated in Paris November 23, 1407.

The two factions bid against each other for English support. Negotiations began between the English and the Burgundians and the Burgundians offered sufficiently attractive terms that an English army supported the Burgundians in breaking the blockade of Paris at the battle of St. Cloud on November 9, 1411.

The desperate Orleanists offered even better terms, and in May of 1412 the English agreed to support them. In August the English launched an expedition to Normandy under the duke of Clarence. Clarence arrive in Normandy only to discover that the French factions had made temporary peace while he was en route, and had to content himself with extracting promises of a large indemnity to depart, some in cash and with hostages as surety for the rest.

Around this time the earl of Warwick did much destruction on the frontiers of Calais, burning Samer and taking Wissant by storm.

Afterwards, he held a deed of arms at Calais beginning the twelfth day of Christmas.

James I, king of Scots, had been captured by English pirates in 1406, and delivered to the English crown. He would not be ransomed until 1424.

Murdoch Stewart, Duke of Albany, grandson of Robert II of Scotland, had been captured at the battle of Homildon Hill in 1402. He would remain an English prisoner until 1416, when he would be traded for Henry Percy, second earl of Northumberland, son of Henry “Hotspur” Percy


Henry V was crowned king of England April 9, 1413.

In the spring of 1413 a popular revolt encouraged by the duke of Burgundy took control of the city of Paris and the persons of the king and dauphin for several months. Called the Cabochien revolt after one of their leaders, Simon Caboch of the wealthy but low-status guild of butchers, they wore white hoods as livery. The Burgundian knights Leon de Jacqueville and Robert de Mailly were also described by Monstrelet and the monk of saint-Denys as leaders of the revolt.

Orleanist ministers and servants in the royal households, as well as Paris burghers of the Orleans faction, were imprisoned, murdered and executed.

By July, the Duke of Orleans and his allies were gathering their forces and pressing for the release of the King, Quean and Dauphin. King Charles VI was described as then being ‘in good health”.

Around this time the English took, plundered and burnt the small town and monastery of Treport in Normandy.

Cabochien brutality had alienated potential supporters within Paris, and the Orleans party was accumulating powerful forces outside the city.

By the middle of September the duke of Burgundy and most of his supporters had left Paris and the Orleans faction was in control of the city and the royal court.

In September an embassy from England, led by the earl of Warwick and Henry Chichele, bishop of St. Davids, met at Leulinghen, halfway between Calais and Boulogne with ambassadors for the French king, but were only able to agree on an eight month truce.

By November 14, 1413, the duke of Burgundy had been accused of raising troops in breach of royal proclamations.


Oldcastle's Lollard revolt was intended to begin with an attack on the king at Twelfth Night at Eltham palace. Forewarned by spies and informers, the king crushed the revolt, which seems to have had little support, on January 10th. Seventy or eighty were captured and 45 executed. On March 28 the king offered a general pardon to all rebels who submitted before midsummer.

On January 24th the truce with France was extended through February 2nd, 1415.

January 26th, the Armagnacs issued a summons for a French army to assemble against the Duke of Burgundy, who was marching on Paris with 2,000 men, having left Lille on the 23rd.

February 3rd Beauchamp was appointed captain of Calais.

In February, the duke of Burgundy retreated from his position outside Paris.

The English Parliament met at Leicester April 30th.

The King received envoys from both the Burgundians and Armagnacs at Leicester between April and June. Several embassies were also sent to Paris in April, May and July-August.

In May, the Armagnacs invaded the Burgundian territory of Artois, taking and plundering Soissons with brutality that was remarkable by contemporary standards. Monstrelet reports that English fought on both sides in the assault.

The Armagnacs besieged Arras without success in June. The count d'Eu and Lord Montagu did arms in the mines.

In September John of Burgundy signed the peace treaty of Arras

October 20th, Beauchamp was appointed an envoy to the Council of Constance, and he had reached the city no later than January of 1415.

In November Parliament met again, and at that point it was clear the Henry V was prepared to go to war with Parliament’s support if his claims were not met.

On December 13, John de Clifford asked the king to order John Neville, warden of the Marches, to be present at a combat between him and William Douglas of Drumlanrig at Carlisle. Safe conduct was granted for Douglas “to him and six persons chosen by him, attended by eighty horsemen, to go to Carlisle, to perform certain feats of arms before judges, against Sir John de Clifford and six persons of his nomination”.

The combat was accomplished some time before the safe conduct expired on February 15, 1415. It seems to have been a series of single combats.

Douglas had visited England several times earlier as part of Scottish embassies to negotiate the release of King James and a truce with England.


In February, an English embassy visited Paris, but the French were unwilling to agree to Henry’s demands. Portuguese men-at-arms, who were English allies, were with the English and fought four different challenges against the French at that time, but no English did. It seems likely that it was English policy not to seek or accept such combats, either to avoid hampering the diplomatic effort, or because the English wanted to husband their resources for the expected war.

In February Henry was also preparing for war by impressing tentmakers and seamen.

In March he sent to Holland and Zeeland to hire ships.

On April 11, he gave orders to seize all English and foreign ships above twenty tons.

On April 16 the king’s chancellor declared to his council the king’s intent to make a voyage to recover his inheritance.

On April 24th, it was announced that the truce with France was extended to June 8.

In June, a final embassy from France arrived in England, but was a failure. The French offered an enlarged Aquitaine, marriage with Catherine of France and a dowry of 800,000 francs, but Henry demanded Normandy, Anjou, Touraine, Poitou, Maine and Ponthieu in addition.

On April 29, the king ordered his treasurer to pay wages to various retinues, and had indentures drafted for several retinues for the expedition.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Jörg Wilhalm Huter: an Early 16th c. Fechtbuch

Huter, Jörg Wilhalm: Fechtkunst - BSB Cgm 3711

Bayerische Staatsbibiothek dates this to 1523

A high resolution scan is available here.

Here is the Wiktenauer entry.

Pretzel product placement here.

My thanks to Hugh Knight for finding this.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Invention of Glory: Afonso V and the Pastrana Tapestries

The Pastrana Tapestries—among the finest surviving Gothic tapestries—will be on view together for the first time in the United States at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, from September 18, 2011, through January 8, 2012. The Invention of Glory: Afonso V and the Pastrana Tapestries will feature the recently restored set of four monumental tapestries that commemorate the conquest of two strategically located cities in Morocco by the king of Portugal, Afonso V (1432–1481).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dawn Flies Around Vesta

Animation based on images from Dawn's framing camera.

Friday, September 09, 2011

What Is This?

I have a theory, but I don't want to prejudice you.

The owner was born in 1852 and died in 1931. The head is iron or steel.

The handle seems to be silver, and is engraved with the owner's name. While it resembles a box tool, it is much smaller.

The wear is consistent with being used as a letter opener.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Incandescent Hypocrisy of Mike Griffin

The former NASA head that brought you the failed, ill-conceived Constellation project does not like NASA's current approach to human space flight.

He complains:

On Aug. 5, the Orlando Sentinel cited internal NASA documents detailing a $38 billion estimate for a “new NASA moon rocket.” This estimate is entirely out of line with previous projections and good management practice. Even if correct, such documents would normally be extremely sensitive and available only to NASA leadership. Their release offers yet another example of the tiresome Washington game of leaking a highly biased story in order to set the terms for an upcoming debate.

Well, it certainly makes sense that cost and schedule of a multi-billion dollar project would be highly sensitive, and thus kept from the eyes of mere taxpayers.

Griffin, incidentally, misleadingly quotes the inaccurate headline, which does not reflect the content of the article. The article describes a $29-38 billion range to pay for not only the rocket, but the capsule to ride it.

To explain why the NASA plan is bad, Griffin himself leaks like a sieve:

NASA’s internal documentation shows the SLS budget assumed by the administration would spend only $1.2 billion per year through 2025, far below the $2.65 billion peak authorized in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act and the $1.8 billion appropriated by Congress in 2011.

But as the program stretches out, it still must absorb its share of the cost of running NASA, an agency with 10 centers and some 24,000 employees (including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory). These fixed costs consume approximately $7 billion per year. This is what it costs to own our national space agency. These internal taxes, when applied to a program that has been slowed to a crawl, maximize cost growth at the expense of hardware development. Under the administration’s scenario, the entire exploration budget would be capped at $3 billion for the next 13 years — including SLS, MPCV and ground operations

We need to compare this with NASA's budget request for 2008, when Griffin was still in charge, and his Constellation program was asking for $3 billion. Or what was actually enacted, when Constellation was funded at $2.7 billion and the full exploration program at $3.3 billion, with about $1 billion of that for Ares I, Griffin's contemporary version of the shuttle derived SLS. This is, of course, a funding level Griffin now claims is clearly inadequate.

This should be compared with NASA's 2012 budget of $3.9 Billion for exploration, plus an additional $1 Billion for space technology, a category not itemized in Griffin's 2008 budget.

Griffin might respond that his own exploration budget for 2012 was much more generous, at $7.1 Billion. He achieved this in part by shrinking the share of NASA's budget devoted to science from 28% in 2007 to 24% in 2012. Also, he made optimistic assumptions. His budget assumed that the Shuttle would be retired by the end of 2010, that 2012 STS shutdown costs would be minimal, and he significantly underestimated the cost of crew and cargo resupply for ISS. Also, he assumed that a NASA owned launcher and manned spacecraft would be able to reach LEO no later than 2015, so there was no reason to for NASA to fund a commercial alternative to take crews to ISS

Griffin was wrong on every single point.

Why should he be given credence on other questions?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What a Pas d’Arms Was and Was Not

The Pas d’Arms was a very specific format for medieval deeds of arms. It always involved a specified number of defenders agreeing to meet all comers on terms specified in advance. It sometimes, although not always, included considerable ceremony.

For those who currently recreate medieval deeds of arms, “Pas” is often used as a shorthand description of any recreation of medieval deeds that attempts to come closer to medieval models than the standard double elimination tournament of the SCA, that places less emphasis on objective competition, and that involves considerable ceremony.

This is not what a Pas was in the Middle Ages. It was only one format among many: other formats, for example, arranged both comers and defenders in advance. The rules of a Pas could be designed to yield an objective winner to a highly competitive contest, and sometimes ceremony and speeches were clearly less important than a briskly arranged series of combats.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus

At the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Well worth seeing if you live close enough. For me the high points were two different versions of the Hundred Guilders Print, showing how much Rembrandt varied his inking from print to get different effect of light and shadow, the virtuoso drypoint of the late Ecce Homo print, and the scumbled luminosity of his late portrait of Jesus, the final painting in the show.

Endeavour Crater

Image : NASA

Opportunity has reached the rim of Endeavour Crater, 14 miles in diameter. Click on the image for a larger view.

I wrote this years ago, when both rovers were rolling on Mars. Remarkably, Opportunity is still moving forward and showing us new things

Best Wedding Photos Ever.

Here. Thanks to Amy Victoria Lindey.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Videos from the Met

Here Early twentieth century films of armor from the Met being worn, the flexibility of articulation demonstrated, and the resistance of tightly woven mail to puncture shown, as well as the ability of supine men in armor to get to their feet with ease.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Paulus Hector Mair Manuscripts

Mscr.Dresd.C.93. Volume I of his manual in German in Dresden
Mscr.Dresd.C.94 Volume II: Paulus Hector Mair MS from 1550 held at the University of Dresden. Note how the otherwise unarmored fencers at sword and buckler are wearing metal gauntlets, apparently with mail protecting the palms (see 150v).

Many of the positions shown in the section on armored combat with spear and targe look remarkably like those in Codex Wallerstein, which Mair owned, even down to the positions of discarded shields and weapons lying on the ground, but with the armor updated to 1550 styles.
Wiktenaur discusses the sources for Dresden C.93-94

De arte athletica I - BSB Cod.icon. 393(1 Latin, mid-16th c., at the BSB
De arte athletica II BSB Cod.icon. 393(2

Thanks to Scott Cozad for finding these.

Codex Vindobonensis 10825 and 10826, ca. 1542, in Vienna, is written in both German and Latin. HROARR has it in PDF form.

Here is a partial transcription.

Here is his Wiktenaur page.

Monday, August 15, 2011

417 Metric Tons of Awesome

Image: NASA

Three football fields in span, with wings like a giant robot dragonfly, the International Space Station falls always towards the horizon. When in sunlight it shines as bright as Venus.

If you know when to look, you can see it in broad daylight. It is the biggest structure built by man that never rests on land or water.

Currently, four different spacecraft can dock or berth there, from Russia, Japan and ESA, the European consortium. If all goes well, by early 2012 there will be two more, both from the United States. SpaceX plans to send their Dragon to visit the station in December of 2011, and Orbital hopes to send their Cygnus in February of 2012.

That's impressive redundancy, although only the Russian Soyuz carries human passengers. We need to correct that.

It is still the premier venue for flute-playing astronauts.

Looking Down at a Meteor

What a "Shooting Star" looks like #FromSpace Taken ... on Twitpic

Astronaut Ron Garan photographed this Perseid meteor from the International Space Station.

Looking down at a meteor below you: how cool is that?

Plotting Amongst Themselves

Friday, August 05, 2011

Atlas V Hurls Juno Towards Jupiter

Ben Cooper has some impressive pictures of the launch. The core of the rocket is gleaming white not because it's painted that color, but from ice forming on the supercold oxygen tank.

Even that powerful rocket isn't able to send the 3.6 tonne spacecraft directly to Jupiter. It will loop beyond Mars only to fall back towards Earth again for a gravity assist that should send it to Jupiter orbit five years from now.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

As the Asteroid Turns

A series of images from Dawn shows the asteroid Vesta rotating.

Friday, July 29, 2011

We Throw our Servants into the Dark...

...and yet we hit the mark.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Mars Express
Mars Exploration Rovers
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Meanwhile, having passed Jupiter, New Horizons is halfway to Pluto, on its way to the cold outer marches of our Solar System.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Return of Atlantis, Seen from Space

See the full size image here.

Image credit: NASA

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Complete Shuttle Missions in Order

I found this retrospective moving, although it was painful to watch, knowing that I would inevitably again see the destruction of Challenger and the loss of Columbia.

Our astronauts are still up there. We will need to depend on the Russian Soyuz for a few years, but we will be back with our own mannned spacecraft.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What a Lovely Home We Have

Messenger looked back at Earth. Beautiful, isn't it?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Shuttle and the Future

One of the problems with the Shuttle was that it was an enormous rocket with huge fixed costs. After the retirement of Energia/Buran, its Soviet copy, it was, by a huge margin, the biggest rocket in the world. The fixed costs of operating it was about $2 billion a year even in years the Shuttle did not fly at all.

It did one thing very well: carrying crew and cargo to a space station and helping to build it.

It was also capable of servicing, repairing and upgrading the Hubble Space Telescope. Arguably, it would have been less expensive to plan from the beginning to launch several progressively improved versions of the telescope.

It could and did recover or repair other satellites for reuse, but those missions were much more costly than launching a replacement. It could and did put satellites into low earth orbit, but it was found that other rockets could do the same job for less money and without risking a human crew.

In the end, it was a special purpose vehicle, used to support ISS and occasionally service Hubble. NASA was essentially the only user, and so absorbed the fixed and variable costs year after year, severely restricting NASA's ability to fund other human spaceflight projects. NASA was unable to simultaneously operate the shuttle and develop a replacement.

Other, smaller rockets are more flexible. Atlas, Delta and Falcon can split their much smaller fixed costs among several government agencies, and possibly commercial customers as well.

In retrospect, building a huge specialized launcher with NASA as the only customer was a mistake if there is a reasonable alternative

Unfortunately, there are many in Congress and at NASA who want to repeat the mistake, building a huge, specialized launcher with NASA as the only customer, reusing as much Shuttle technology and infrastructure as possible.

The attractions of this are obvious if your district is making Shuttle components or operating Shuttle infrastructure, or if you work at a NASA center that expects to oversee or operate the Shuttle-derived launcher.

For everybody else, this is a bad idea. At the funding that NASA can realistically expect, a specialized mega-rocket is not the best way to get beyond low earth orbit.

We can return to the moon or visit asteroids with existing launchers, using spacecraft assembled and loaded with propellant in low earth orbit. Ed Kyle explains.

At worst, we use a brute force approach and storable propellant for the departure stage. This is less efficient, pound for pound, then liquid hydrogen and hydrogen, but it's proven technology. We know that storable propellant can be stored for long periods and is routinely transferred in low earth orbit.

I believe that we can do better. It should be possible to store cryogenic propellant with limited boiloff in LEO and transfer it in orbit. This would significantly reduce the mass required in LEO for any given mission. If not, we can fall back to storable propellants.

This approach has several virtues. NASA would avoid the need to develop and maintain their own unique launch system, freeing more money for spacecraft, other systems, and missions. At the same time, shipping propellant and hardware to LEO would be a significant new market for which currently underutilized US launch companies could compete, spreading their fixed costs over more missions and significantly lowering average launch costs.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The End of an Era

The Shuttle has been an amazing achievement and a splendidly capable piece of machinery. And, once the orbiter shed the ungainly solid boosters and utilitarian external tank, a beautiful one.

It has also been, like the Concorde, an economic disappointment that attempted too much too soon and promised too much, a costly detour on the road to growing human use of the universe beyond our atmosphere. The magnificent yet fragile machine has been described as a hypersonic Ming vase.

Keith Cowing has written a moving reflection on the program . Rand Simberg describes 6 False Lessons of the Space Shuttle, and he's mostly right.

I'd argue with his #3. The Shuttle Proved that Cargo and Passengers Should Travel on Different Vehicles. At the current state of the art, we want a manned spacecraft using a launcher that's as simple as possible (to minimize failure modes) that flies as often as possible (to build reliability). In practice, that means a fairly small manned spacecraft with very limited cargo capability.

He also argues here, that the last flight of the Shuttle only marks the end of the big government model for the best way for humans to flourish beyond our atmosphere.

I hope that he's right.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

David Brooks on Making a Reasonable Compromise on the Budget Ceiling

A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.

The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.

This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.

More here. Megan McArdle comments here and here.

Monday, July 04, 2011

A Republic, If You Can Keep It

If there is a lesson in all of this it is that our Constitution is neither a self-actuating nor a self-correcting document. It requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens. There is a story, often told, that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: "A republic, if you can keep it." The brevity of that response should not cause us to under-value its essential meaning: democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.

The full essay is here.

Since its founding, our republic has been both admirable and imperfect. Will Wilkinson has a good post over at the Economist on the insufficiently remembered minority of the founding fathers who truly worked tirelessly to end slavery.
Ms Bachmann can easily correct the record, and sound smart to boot, by insisting on a distinction between those founders who really did fight tirelessly to end slavery and those who fought tirelessly to tilt the young country's balance of power toward states filled with human chattel who could not vote. And she ought to stop name-checking John Quincy Adams and start agitating for the eternal glory of John Jay. Or Gouverneur Morris. He had a peg leg.

We should be proud of the truly admirable aspects of our republic and its history, but humble about the things we got wrong and continue to get wrong. And by we, I don't just mean the people in the other political coalition.

It's seductive to believe in the policies that inconvenience us the least: that the budget can best be balanced by raising taxes on someone else, or by cutting government spending that benefits someone else, or that magical tax cuts will always and everywhere increase revenue.

But more often, the right thing to do will inflict pain on us personally. As good citizens, we need to face that.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Judith & Holofernes as Portrayed by Mantises

From artist Judith G. Klausner. Here is her Queen of Hearts, which I find more esthetically effective.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Duarte Translation Reissued as Self-Published Second Edition

The Art of Riding on Every Saddle: Livro da Ensinança de Bem Cavalgar Toda Sela by Dom Duarte tr. António Franco Preto. Reviewed here, but note that the review is of the first edition. The second, which I have not seen, is longer and contains new content, and changes to the title, as well as what I know of the history of the first edition, suggest that the text may have been significantly revised. It is now published through CreateSpace rather than Chivalry Bookshelf.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Medieval European Martial Arts

This page will focus on European martial arts before 1600.

There were two main traditions in the European martial arts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance: German and Italian. While they shared some common elements, they differed enough that I would advise a student to master one or the other tradition well first before attempting to become competent at the other.

At the same time, both schools were trying to solve similar problems and did exchange ideas, so some knowledge of the Italian school might be of value to a student who wishes to master the German, and vice versa

AEMMA Primarily study the Italian tradition, as well as I.33, but their online library covers a broader array of resources.
ARMA They have a useful collection of historical manuals. Their interpretation of the historical evidence is often very, very unreliable.
The Chicago Swordplay Guild. Studies the Italian tradition.
Forteza Studies the early masters: I.33, Ms. 3227A (AKA Doebringer) and Fiore
The Higgins Armory Sword Guild German and Italian material, as well as later sources and a speculative attempt to reconstruct Viking combat.
HROARR"This site focuses on different aspects of Historical European Martial Arts." Articles on a wide range of sujects, and manuscripts from the German, Italian and Iberian schools
Die Schlachtschule
This group is dedicated to the study of medieval martial arts. We focus particularly on the teachings of Liechtenauer as interpreted by Döbringer, Ringeck, and von Danzig, and we also rely heavily upon Le Jeu de La Hache and Talhoffer, although material from other sources is very welcome.

Their Web Page
The site and group are very focussed on German sources. They do study Le Jeu de La Hache but none of the Italian school. Many useful links.
Schielhau: another group studying German sources.
The Selohaar Fechtschule. Concentrates on the Liechtenauer tradition of German combat manuals.
Wiktenauer. A very large collection of Historical European Martial Arts resources.

Translations and Interpretations:

German School
The Medieval Art of Swordsmanship: A Facsimile & Translation of Europe's Oldest Personal Combat Treatise, Royal Armouries MS I.33 by Jeffrey Forgeng ca. 1300
Codex Wallerstein: A Medieval Fighting Book from the Fifteenth Century on the Longsword, Falchion, Dagger, and Wrestling by Grzegorz Zabinski with Bartlomiej Walczak Reviewed here. Compilation: oldest portion first third of the 15th c., rest ca. 1470
The Gladiatoria Fechtbuch by Hugh Knight Reviewed here. 1430s-1440s
"Ringeck" (Actually a compilation that ascribes some material to Ringeck,mentioned in the third person, and includes other material from unidentified sources) Plausibly from the 1440s, but could be as late as 1470 and perhaps as early as 1390.
Secrets of German Medieval Swordsmanship: Sigmund Ringeck's Commentaries on Liechtenauer Translated and interpreted by Christian Henry Tobler* Reviewed here. Available from Freelance Academy Press
Sigmund Ringeck's Knightly Art of the Longsword .
By David Lindholm and Peter Svard Reviewed here
The Ambraser Codex by Master Hans Talhoffer By Hugh Knight (commentary and translation) (Talhoffer 1449)
Medieval Combat: A Fifteenth-Century Illustrated Manual of Swordfighting and Close-Quarter Combat translated and edited by Mark Rector (Talhoffer 1467) Reviewed here
Paulus Kal's In Service of the Duke by Christian Tobler Available from Freelance Academy Press. ca. 1470
In Saint George's Name: An Anthology of Medieval German Fighting Arts by Christian Henry Tobler Reviewed here. (1452-1495)
Master Peter Falkner's Art of Knightly Defense Reviewed here ca. 1495
The Art of Combat: A German Martial Arts Treatise of 1570 by Joachim Meyer, tr. Jeffrey Forgeng. Reviewed here.

General Interpretation of the German School:
Fighting with the German Longsword, by Christian Henry Tobler

Fencing With Spear and Sword: Medieval Armored Combat
Grappling and Dagger Combat in Armor
The Play of the Axe: Medieval Pollaxe Combat
Introduction to Liechtenauer's Longsword
The Last Resort: Unarmored Grappling and Dagger Combat
Medieval Sword & Buckler Combat
The Knightly Art of the Longsword
Die Schlachtschule Fechtbuch

All by Hugh Knight on Lulu

Italian School
Fiore dei Liberi 1409 Wrestling and Dagger by Colin Richards
Fiore de' Liberi's Fior di Battaglia By Tom Leoni
Fiore dei Liberi’s Armizare by Robert Charrett. Reviewed here and here.
Arte Gladitoria Dimicandi: 15th Century Swordsmanship of Master Fillipo Vadi translated by Luca Porzio & Gregory Mele* Reviewed here 1482-1487 Available from Guilt Free Books
The Complete Renaissance Swordsman : Antonio Manciolino’s Opera Nova (1531) tr. Tom Leoni
Fighting with a round shield strapped to the arm, as taught by the Bolognese School. First half of the 1500s.
Opera Nova by Achille Marozzo. Partial translation here As Arte dell’Armi (1536 ) and Opera Nova (1540)
Di Grassi his true Arte of Defence Also partially transcribed here. 1570, English translation 1594

Le Jeu de la Hache

MS 39564 Just because it's in English doesn't mean you'll be able to understand it. This is written in very specialized technical language, and we no longer have the glossary. 15th c.
Man yt Wol (Harleian MS 3542) Ditto. 15th c.
Paradoxes of Defense (1599) and Brief Instructions Upon My Paradoxes of Defense (after 1595) by George Silver

The Art of Riding on Every Saddle: Livro da Ensinança de Bem Cavalgar Toda Sela by Dom Duarte tr. António Franco Preto. Reviewed here, but note that the review is of the first edition. The second, which I have not seen, is longer and contains new content, and changes to the title, as well as what I know of the history of the first edition, suggest that the text may have been significantly revised. It is now published through CreateSpace rather than Chivalry Bookshelf.
Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia by Noel Fallows. Reviewed here.

Anthology: Various Schools
In the Service of Mars: Proceedings from the Western Martial Arts Workshop 1999–2009, Volume I

*Published by Chivalry Bookshelf. Please read this important information about Chivalry Bookshelf

Posts on this blog on recreating medieval combat. and on armor vs. weapons.

Other Blogs
Armizare & Co.
Hans Talhoffer

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Singing Bird Pistols

A splendid pair of early 19th century automatons. When you pull the trigger of the pistol, a tiny bird, covered with real iridescent feathers, pops out of the barrel to perch there, twisting back and forth while it flaps its wings and sings.

For generations these ingenious devices passed from one wealthy individual to another, who from time to time took them out of their case, wound them up, and heard them sing. Less often, they displayed them to a few friends or acquaintances.

And now Christie's, in their effort to to facilitate a transfer to yet another wealthy individual and profit by that transaction, provide the rest of us with a dazzling video of the amazing mechanisms.

Apparently someone paid $5.8 million to own them. I suspect that this was paid by someone who had an ample surplus beyond essential food and shelter, and so they are happy with the exchange, and why not?

I, on the other hand, paid nothing to hear them sing. And so I am certainly enriched. And so are you.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Oh Brave New World, That Has Such Flamethrower Trombones in It!

It is new to thee.

The logical next step, of course, is the Flaming Brass Marching Band. You could add some flame shooting trumpets and sousaphones:

Yes, you'd have to play with the instruments elevated at about a 45 degree angle when marching in formation. And fire resistant helmets and Nomex greatcoats would be a good idea, but that would just make it more all more awesome.

And goggles. They could wear goggles.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

Othon de Grandson vs. Gérard d'Estavayer, 1397

Ordinance of the Gage Of Battle

De la Marche's account of the duel.

And they say that as he (Othon) mounted his horse at his lodgings to come to the day of battle, a lame of his cuirass hindered him, and he quickly had his armorer remove it. Among the others present was a follower of his opponent Sir Gerard Estavayé, who advised his master of the removed lame. Sir Gerard took pains to seek the exposed place and find it with his sword and put it into his stomach.

At the beginning of the battle Sir Othon pierced the thigh of his enemy with a lance stroke. If he had been able to keep it there Sir Gerard would have had the worst of it, but he let the point withdraw.

And in the end, Sir Othon was overthrown and put to a sorry death and a pitiful end.

His enemy lifted the visor of his bascinet and stabbed him in both eyes saying:

“Surrender and recant!” (te desditz)

And the good knight, in spite of his distress, would neither surrender nor recant. As long as he could speak he said:

“I surrender myself to God, and to my lady, St. Anne”

And so he died.

Translation copyright Will McLean, 2011.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


"Push" often occurs as a technical term in medieval accounts of combats written in French. What seems to distinguish a "push" from other thrusts is that it's expected to include a lot of momentum transfer, and to knock the target back or down if everything goes right. This would be in contrast to a rapid pool-cue pop.

The combat at Vannes in 1381 seems like a promising starting point, since Froissart describes pushing attacks with the lance, and he agrees with Cabaret d'Orville, the other chronicler of the combat, that there were several knockdowns. Unfortunately, while Froissart and Cabaret agree on the broad outline of the combat, they disagree so thoroughly on the specifics of who was struck where that the core account of the combat that they both agree on tells us little about where exactly the combatants were trying to hit each other.

Here are some other accounts where the blow is specifically described as a push and where blows are said to hit.

Galiot de Baltasin and Phillipe de Ternant Fight on Foot with Lances, 1446
Edge of the bascinet, piercing it.

Galiot de Baltasin and Phillipe de Ternant Fight with Swords, 1446
On the bascinet, piercing it close to the earlier lance hit
Below the left shoulder, piercing and carrying away the gardebras
Top of the head. (Many great bascinets have perforations considerably higher than eye level. A thrust that lodged there could reasonably be described as hitting the top of the head).
Breaking the sword rondel
Piercing the gauntlet

Jacques de Lalaing and Jacques d'Avanchies Fight with Swords, 1450
De la Marche's Account
Chastelain's Account.
Between the left shoulder and the bevor of the armet, twice.
On the left flank

The pattern of hits described seems consistent with:
Aiming for the visor, and sometimes hitting points adjacent, and:
Aiming for gaps between plates, such as between the breastplate and armharness or at the inside of the elbow, and sometimes hitting points adjacent.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

15th c. Deeds of Arms by Consent on Foot with Sword: Edge vs. Point

When 15th c. men-at-arms freely agreed to fight on foot with swords, how often did they choose the edge and how often the point? Often we can't tell because the description of the deed is ambiguous. Also, the sword seems to have been a distinctly less popular choice for these combats than the pollaxe during this period, so examples of sword combats are somewhat limited. Still, we do have some accounts that shed light on the question.

Arms the Seneschal of Hainault Did on his Voyage to Santiago: 1402-1403. The three combats at Bourdeaux, against Alvaro d'Avile and against Rodis de Mendoza all speak of pushes of the sword, attacks with the point rather than the edge.

Continge vs. de Bars (1415) . Striking with point and edge of the sword.

Galiot de Baltasin and Phillipe de Ternant Fight with Swords, 1446 Attacks only with the point.

How Sir Jacques de Lalaing did arms in Scotland, 1449. According to Chastellain’s account, in the course of his combat Jacques drew his sword, which was an slim estoc designed only for thrusting.

Jacques de Lalaing and Jacques d'Avanchies Fight with Swords, 1450
De la Marche's Account
Chastelain's Account.
Thrusting only.

So the evidence of these accounts is that the edge was sometimes used, but thrusting was far more common.

For My Readers Who Are Interested in Creative Anachronism

Knight on a Dinosaur by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

Sunday, June 05, 2011

More Saturn

5.6k Saturn Cassini Photographic Animation from stephen v2 on Vimeo.

Along with a team of effect artists, Van Vuuren has pieced together thousands of stills taken from the Cassini spacecraft during its flyby of Saturn, animating the four-year journey around the ringed planet with incredible effect.

More here.

Peer Review with SWoRD

SWoRD is a site that not only facilitates peer review, it allows for student grades to actually be determined by their classmates' reviews.

More here.

Shaving Viking

Shaving Viking by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

Saturday, June 04, 2011


The word was invented by Patricia Chapin, a member of the urban legends discussion mailing list run in conjunction with this site. At a loss for words to describe the retching sensation this then-unnamed category of stories subjected her to, she fashioned a word that simultaneously named the genre and described its effect.

Glurge (a term which can be used to describe one story or applied to the genre as a whole) is the body of inspirational tales which conceal much darker meanings than the uplifting moral lessons they purport to offer, and which undermine their messages by fabricating and distorting historical fact in the guise of offering "true stories." Glurge often contains such heart-tugging elements as sad-eyed puppies, sweet-faced children, angels, dying mothers, or miraculous rescues brought about by prayer.

From Until today, I did not know there was a word for this. This is good to know.

Bascinet-Faced Pig

Bascinet-Faced Pig by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

Friday, June 03, 2011

R/C Planes with First Person Video

Raphael Pirker used to fly traditional remote-controlled airplanes, but he can’t remember now what the thrill of it was. He no longer settles for watching model aircraft fly around over his head and thinking how much fun it would be to be up there soaring among the birds.

Now Pirker flies FPV, or First Person Video, using electronic goggles to watch video streaming in real time from a camera mounted on the airplane. In effect, it’s like being in the cockpit. His airplane, a flying-wing-style Zephyr with a 54-inch wingspan, is light and fast, with a top speed of 90 mph—ideal for feeding his addiction to high-speed aerobatics.

Pilot Cam

Banned Weapons of the SCA: the Carthaginian War Elephant

Elephant by ~WillMcLean on deviantART