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The Italian Renaissance Swordsman

Manciolino, Antonio (fl. 1531)..

 Opera nova, dove li sono tutti li documenti et vantaggi che si ponno havere nel mestier de l'armi d'ogni sorte novamente corretta et stampata.

Manciolino, Antonio (fl. 1531)..  Opera nova, dove li sono tutti li documenti et vantaggi che si ponno havere nel mestier de l'armi d'ogni sorte novamente corretta et stampata. Venice, Niccolò di Aristotile de' Rossi called Zoppino, 1531.

8° (144x98 mm). Collation: A-H8. 63, [1] leaves. Italic and roman type. Woodcut printer's device on last leaf verso. Woodcut vignette on the title-page, seven woodcuts in text. French red morocco signed by Devauchelle. Covers framed with double gilt fillets. Spine with five small raised bands, richly gilt tooled, title in gold on green morocco lettering piece. Gilt edges. A very good copy. Title-page and last leaf slightly soiled.

$ 8,000

The rare first edition of one of the earliest fencing books printed in Italy, the nation that claims primacy in the development of swordsmanship, or scherma. Preceded only by the Exercitationum atque artis militaris collectanea by Pietro Monti (Milan 1509), the Opera nova is the first manual to be written in Italian vernacular. Little is known about the life of Manciolino, although he played a crucial role in the evolution of fencing in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. He was one of the most important masters of the so-called Bolognese School, a tradition in teaching which goes back to the fifteenth century and included, among others, the aforementioned Monti and Guido Antonio de Luca, Manciolino's teacher. The Opera nova was composed around 1522 and was probably published posthumously. The manual is elegantly written, and represents a significant step towards an innovative form of fencing to be practiced on foot rather than on horseback as in the medieval tradition. It is divided into six Libri, dedicated to preparatory actions, offensive movements or attacks, parries, counterattacks, and – for the first time in the history of fencing – the handling of the one-handed sword (spada di una mano). The sections are introduced by a woodcut not immediately related to the different techniques explained in the text; for example, one vignette of an equestrian battle points to the re-use of blocks employed by Zoppino for illustrating chivalric works issued by his printing house. Manciolino also deals with the manner in which a gentleman should conduct himself in a quarrel, as is consistent with the Italian conception of swordsmanship. “The culture of la scherma in premodern Italy, however, has two important elements that must be accounted for in any treatment of violence and its performance, the urban nature of Italian society, and Mediterranean honor culture” (K. Mondschein, “The Italian School of Fencing”, p. 282).

Gelli, Bibliografia, p. 125; A. Manciolino, Trattato di scherma 1531. A cura di S. Longhi e S. Pivotti, Busto Arsizio (VA) 2008; F. Castagnaro, “La scherma nei trattati italiani del Cinquecento: immagini e parole”, Ludica, 15/16 (2009/2010), pp. 55-72; K. Mondschein, “The Italian School of Fencing: Art, Science, and Pedagogy”, D. Jaquet, K.Verelst and T. Dawson, Late Medieval and Early Modern Fight Books. Transmission and Tradition of Martial Arts in Europe (14th-17th Centuries), Leiden-Boston 2016, pp. 280-323.

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