Henri de Saint-Didier, Traicté contenant les secrets..., 1573

Henri de Saint-Didier (1484 - 1553)

A portrait of Henry de Saint-Didier extracted from the manuscript. Click to view the manscript's pages.

Henry de Saint-Didier wrote the first French book about the art of fighting with the sword, dagger, dagger & cape, sword and shield and other weapons. The content, design and structure of the manuscript may have been due to the influence of the treaty published by Giacomo de Grassi in 1570 in Venice. The French were infatuated with the Italian style of fighting, with the hopes of perfecting their own art of duelling.

A gentleman from Provence, Henry de Saint-Didier, devoted his study to the art of fencing. He learned the Italian fencing theories and published in 1573, his first treatise defining the secrets of épée. His theory was accurate and he can be considered the "founder of French fencing", even though his treatise was inspired by the Italian methods. He may have been a member of the Academy of Masters of the King's Academy.

The book is comprised of illustrations made from 69 woodcuts, including two portraits of King Charles IX and the author. The complete title in French is "Traicté contenant les secrets du premier livre sur l'espée seule, mère de toutes armes, qui sont espée dague, cappe, targue, bouclier, rondelle, l'espée deux mains & deux espées, avec ses pourtraictures, ayans les armes au poing por se deffendre & offencer à un mesme temps des coups qu'on peut tirer, tant en assillant qu'en deffendent, fort utile & profitable por adextrer la noblesse, & suposts de Mars: redigé par art, ordre & practique. Composé par Henry de Sainct Didier Gentilhomme Prouençal.", and translated into English is "Treatise containing the secrets of the first book on the sword alone, the mother of all weapons, which are sword, dagger, cape, targ, buckler, rondel, the sword with both hands and two swords, with ?pourtraictures?, also weapons in hand to defend himself & offense at the same time they can take strikes, both assaillant and defendent, very useful & beneficial for the nobility & acts of Mars: written for art, order & practice. Composed by Henry de Sainct Didier, a Gentleman from Provence".

Other References: (sources included)

  1. Traicté contenant les secrets du premier livre..., available online and free to download from Google books.
  2. Wikipédia L'encyclopédie libre. Henry de Saint Didier, accessed November 2, 2990.


Copyright © 2001 Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts  (AEMMA)
Released: August 10, 2001 / Updated: November 2, 2009