Agrippa Page




Click on the cover to buy Dr. Mondschein's seminal translation of Camillo Agrippa's Treatise on the Science of Arms, or scroll down to read about the book.

Agrippa cover


"[Mondschein's] translation reads smoothly—I would say even better than the original."

—Tommasso Leoni, editor and translator, The Art of Dueling

"Mondschein has at last made available to English-speaking readers one of the most important texts in the history of European martial arts. Agrippa marks a turning point in the intellectual history of these arts.… Mondschein’s introduction to his work helps the reader understand Agrippa — and the martial practices themselves — as pivotal agents in the evolving cultural and intellectual systems of the sixteenth century.

"Above all, Mondschein’s translation is refreshingly clean and idiomatic, rendering the systematic clarity of the Italian original into equally clear modern English — evidence of the author’s familiarity with modern fencing and understanding of the physical realities that his author is trying to express. Mondschein’s contextualization of his topic points the way for future scholarly exploration, and his translation will doubtless be valued by both students of cultural history and practitioners of modern sword arts.”

— Dr. Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Paul S. Morgan curator, Higgins Armory Museum and translator of several medieval and early modern fencing treatises.


Review by James Hester from the De Re Militari site (PDF).

Review by Bert Hall from Renaissance Quarterly (PDF).

Review by Brian Jeffrey Maxson from Sixteenth Century Journal (PDF).



Corrections and emendations:


Acknowledgements: Two people who I should have also thanked are Paul Macdonald and Valerie Eads.

Bibliography: Other works I should have mentioned for context are:

Thomas V. Cohen and Elizabeth S. Cohen, Words and Deeds in Renaissance Rome: Trials before the Papal Magistrates (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993)

Steven C. Hughes, "The Rise of the Duel in Renaissance Italy" (Journal of Medieval Military History V (2007), 99–152). (Unlike me, Hughes sees the duel as having more of a military component, whereas I would dispute how apropos the term "military" is.)

V.G. Kiernan, The Duel in European History: Honour and the Reign of Aristocracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988). (Worth mentioning, even if its Marxist historiographical take is thoroughly outdated.)

Elio Nenci, "Camillo Agrippa: un ingegnere rinascimentale di fronte ai problemi della filosofia naturale." (Physis. Rivista internazionale di storia della scienza vol. 29 (1992), 71–119)

David Quint, "Duelling and Civility in Sixteenth Century Italy" in I Tatti Studies: Essays in the Renaissance Vol. 7, (1997), pp. 231-278.

Donald Weinstein, The Captain's Concubine: Love, Honor, and Violence in Renaissance Tuscany (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000) (especially for Cosimo I and duels. See also Weinstein's "Fighting or Flyting: Verbal Duelling in Mid-Sixteenth Century Italy" in Crime, Society and the Law in Renaissance Italy, ed. Trevor Dean and K. J. P. Lowe [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994])

Also, globally, I.33 is not Cotton MS I.33, but Royal Armouries I.33.

p. XVI fn 2 line 2: I believe de la Torre also published in 1474.

p. XVII fn 6n: From Malcolm Fare: "I believe Marozzo's second printing is undated and carries no printer's name, but it is thought to have been printed around 1540. There are at least six copies in existenceBritish Library, Livrustkammaren, Newberry Library, Leuven University, my own collection and that of another British collector."

p XX line 18: Delete comma after "Aretino."

p. XXIII, Agrippa's lifespan: Agrippa apparently appears in the record of the 1494 trial of Matteo Nerone, the unscrupulous foreman of the Medici press, as do Giacamo and Marcantonio Agrippa (his sons/Matteo's brothers-in-law), who offered surety for the convicted. See Bertolotti, Artisti Lombardi in Roma Vol 1 (1881), pp. 367, 67–68 et passim.

p. XXIII, congregazione de'Virtuosi: I thought, based on Bertolotti, that this was some ancient order of merit. Rather, it was, and still is, the Compagnia di San Giuseppe de la Terra Sancta, a confraternity both of what we would consider fine artists and humble artisans founded in 1543 by Paul III and known informally to its members as the Congregazione di Virtuosi until that name was made official in the 1940s. (Incidentally, I replicated Bertolotti's orthography for no good reason.) It is today known as La Pontifica Accademia dei Virtuosi dei Pantheon. Unfortunately, last time I visited the Pantheon, all I could find out was that, it being Italy, that the Congregazione was closed today.

The confraternity's cardinal-protectors included, from 1581–1587, Cardinal Fernando de' Medici, for whose palazzo Agrippa created the waterworks. See Evelyn Lincoln, The Invention of the Renaissance Printmaker (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000) 160–164 et passim. Lincoln also points out that the place of guilds and confraternities overlapped in the sixteenth century. In any case, the implications for Agrippa's milieu, patronage, and relationship to craft-guilds are obvious, though in retrospect I should have probably tried to find out more about craft-guilds in sixteenth-century Rome.

p. XXX, first line: Luis Pacheco de Narváez is usually referred to as "Pacheco," not "Narváez."

p. L fn 84: The Royal Armouries copy is a 1604 edition. Thanks to James Hester for pointing this out.

p. LXIII fn 110 line 11: Oresme, not Oreseme. There exists a substantial bibliography of Scholastic ideas of time, far more than I alluded to in my footnote.

p. LXIII: From Bert S. Hall:

Discussing geometry, Agrippa claims the earth is not the centre of the universe, but “rather has a center in itself about which it rotates and the universe another.” The idea that the centre of the earth and the centre of rotation of the universe are not coterminous is standard Ptolemaic doctrine, the “equant” is the centre of rotation for celestial bodies, and it lies within the earth, but not at the centre of the earth.

p. LVIII: It is worth explaining here that "line," in the fencing sense, is not synonymous with "line of direction."

p. LXVII, line 8: Agrippa, not Agripa.

p. LXXIII, line 2: The three performatives Van Orden discusses are music, discipline, and arms.

p. LXXIII, line 15: Read "dueling ground," for "battlefield."

p. LXXXI line 10: Eliminate first quotation mark.

p. LXXVI line 5: A stramazzone is essentially a molinello, or circular cut.

p. 19: The second paragraph should read, "And if he tries to give you a thrust in the hand, I say it is good thing for you that he has decided to so disadvantage himself. Though you could simply draw your hand back, don't do so, but merely lower your hand from first to second, evade his point, and when you see him making his thrust, attack him with opposition."

p. 64: This is a very odd passage in which the text and illustration are in discord. The text can be interpreted that the man in C (on the left) wants to attack the man in A, which makes sense as the instruction is to press down with the true edge and that the letter above the figure is H, or that he wants to go into A (which the illustration shows and the text describes later on). I am now leaning towards the former interpretation. Furthermore, Agrippa says to step to the adversary's left side with the right foot.

p. 65: Stramazzone has two z's.