Talhoffers Fechtbuch (Gothaer Codex)
aus dem Jahre 1443"

Copyright © Information: The purpose of these Hergsell 1443 pages is to share the "work in progress translation" of this particular historical fechtbuch with practitioners and researchers who study historical European martial arts. AEMMA's efforts in the research and development of historical European martial arts has resulted in accumulating of and gaining access to this material from the various libraries, museums and institutions and worked with these sources to make available to the WMA community the same material where possible. The images presented on this page are extracts from the restricted material and are available online for scientific and academic reference and research purposes only and remain the property of the sources. Any desire to use the images for commercial publications, or for profit, or copied is strictly prohibited. If publications require images from this library, explicit permission from the sources must be obtained. If you have any questions regarding this presentation and any other material on this website, feel free to email .

Notes on Hergsell's 1889 Publication:

Gustav Hergsell: Capitan, Director of the Academy of Arms of the Kingdom of Bohemia, Knight of the Imperial Order of Franz-Joseph of Austria, Decorated with the Military Medal of Merit (Sigmun Laudis). Officer of the French Academy, Knight of the Royal Order of Frederic of Wuttemberg, first class, of the Crown of Romania, first class, of the Order of the Falcon of Saxe-Weimar, and decorated with the Military Medal of Merit of the Ducal house of Saxe-Coburg Gotha for the arts and sciences.

In short, a 19th-century Viennese fencing master, Hergsell found the original Talhoffer manuscript at the Ducal Library of Gotha (Ch. P.N. No. 558) and edited, translated, and self-published the manuscript initially in 1887 followed by later re-publications in 1901. His transcriptions and translation of the original treatise was not with vocal criticism. Hergsell transcribed only portions into modern German, leaving the rest as it were and really didn't regard it as being problematic. His publication begins with a lengthy introduction that presents metaphysical concepts with origins in Ptolemy1, Plato2, Pythagoras3 and Kabalistic4 in the form of circular tables and clocks, which have calculations and geometries blended with philosophy in which one can determine whether an individual will survive or die depending on the day and hour he was injured on the clock. However, his interpretations, both in his illustrations and his text reveal a degree of carelessness and inaccuracies of the period and was highly criticized by Dr. Karl Wassmannsdorff who deconstructed Hergsell's interpretation of Talhoffer's 1467 fechtbuch line-by-line resulting in an entire book on the subject.

Hergsell's book provides an indication of his position with respect to duels that tried to discourage "first blood" duels preferring instead the principles of duelling was until one of the participants was incapacitated. He wrote (p74):

"If the motives for the duel are of less serious nature, or both opponents only took refude in arms due to a wrong interpretation of the points of honour, the seconds have to agree that the fight will be continued no further after the first injury, even if it is light. This condition will have to be communicated to the duellists just before the fight."5

-- Contents --

click to view text for the introduction
Section 1: Vorrede, Text des Werkes nebst Anmerkungen, Aufschriften der Tafeln mit erläuternder Übersetzung
The first part of Hergsell's publication contains a preface and his notes on his interpretation and understanding of Talhoffer's 1443 fechtbuch. Click the following to get to the sections directly: Vorrede, Text des werkes and Aufschriften der Tafeln. His publication begins with a lengthy introduction that presents metaphysical concepts with origins in Ptolemy1, Plato2, Pythagoras3 and Kabalistic4 circular tables, which have calculations and geometries blended with philosophy in which one can determine whether an individual will survive or die depending on the day and hour he was injured by refering to these tables or "clocks".

Pages Translated:

Hergsell's Preface

click to view the illustrations of Talhoffers Fechtbuch
Section 2: Talhoffers Fechtbuch (Gothaer Codex) aus dem Jahre 1443
The opening of the fechtbuch begins with some religious overtones that includes an illustration of the crucifixtion of Jesus Christ and below that an individual holding a longsword point vertical while kneeling. It is not until after these initial pages that the fechtbuch takes a turn to the serious presentations of unarmoured longsword techniques however, it lasts only for 5 plates.
Talhoffer's Text
click to view the illustrations of Talhoffers Fechtbuch
Section 3: Hewing Shields et al...
An unusal presentation that begins with an illustration of a bizarre hewing shield however, the actual hewing shield techniques comprise only 10 plates of the 26 plates in this section. Interspersed with the plates illustrating hewing shields techniques are images that reflect Hergsell's interpretation and presentation of medieval life. Numerous illustrations with strong religious overtones, one illustration that appears to depict a fox hunt and another depicting individuals in what appears to be an encampment with 2 individuals sitting at a table whereby one is playing a stringed instrument, the second appears to be holding/examining a sword, and the third individual sitting in a tub filled with water and a tray affixed across it with drinks and food layed out on it.
click to view the illustrations of Talhoffers Fechtbuch
Section 4: The Lists
The lists begin with a pair of unarmoured contestants, preparing for the engagement which involves the hewing shields. Again, as in the previous section, interspersed are illustrations depicting religious overtones, scenic view of the beginning of the prossession beginning at the town and the classic Talhoffer pre-engagement with the contestants sitting in chairs, coffins or biers available and their supporting staff and banners. The engagement concludes with the death of one of the contestants by the point of the hewing shield.
click to view the illustrations of Talhoffers Fechtbuch
Section 5: Armoured Fighting
This section begins with an armoured individual knelt with his sword at his knees in front of what appears to be an angel holding a shield and possibly lance. The individual is framed by a bannner with wording difficult to deduce from the image. The next 5 frames depict an armoured individual assuming very stately poses of the classic guard positions and concludes with him between a pair of musicians prior to entering the lists in the following plates. The plates following depict an armoured engagement in the lists, and begins with an illustration of the lists with only the pair of coffins or briers revealing a rather sobering situation that is about to begin. In the classic Talhoffer style, the engagement begins with the tossing of the lance or spear. This is followed by the classic longsword conflict found in any of Talhoffer's original fechtbuchs.
click to view the illustrations of Talhoffers Fechtbuch
Section 6: Armoured Fighting: Pollaxe
The pollaxe section begins with a pair of interesting, perhaps un-finished illustrations of a pair of combatants working a pair of pollaxes which are not completed. These initial pair of images are in fact, sketches followed by 5 completed illustrations depicting a pair of armoured combatants working with the pollaxe, more specifically, bec de corbin.
click to view the illustrations of Talhoffers Fechtbuch
Section 7: Dagger Techniques
click to view the illustrations of Talhoffers Fechtbuch
Section 7: Grappling Techniques


  1. Ptolemy (CLAUDIUS PTOLEMAEUS) (fl. second century a.d.), the most famous astronomer and geographer of the ancient world, whose theories placed the earth at the center of the universe and dominated scientific research for 1400 years.
  2. Plato (427 BC in Athens, Greece), Plato's main contributions are in philosophy, mathematics and science.
  3. Pythagoras (569 BC in Samos, Ionia), Pythagoras of Samos is often described as the first pure mathematician whose discpline of geometry influenced Plato's thinking significantly.
  4. Kabalistic: A metaphysical or spiritualist-oriented mathmatical belief system in which the symbols employed in the "formulas" can lead to a specific result, e.g. will the individual die from his injuries. Its origins are in Jewish cosmology and mysticism, specifically in the meaning of the Hebrew alphabet, considered to be the very breath of God responsible for the emnation of the universe and all things in it. It was introduced into Europe by certain Jewish "converts." Once transplanted into Europe it mixed with the already existing esoteric traditions such as neo-platonism and the Tarot.
  5. Paragraph sourced from Brian House, classical fencing egroups posting Feb 3, 2000.

Translation of the French version of Gustav Hergsell and additional notes contributed by Mathieu Gérard Ravignat (Wigwalt).
is a native speaker of French. Of Belgian and French background but living in Ottawa he has been bilingual all his life. Mr. Ravignat holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences and a Masters in Moral Philosophy from the University of Ottawa. Currently he works as the linguistics officer of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. His published works include a philosophical translation from French to English. His thesis discussed, among other things the influence of medieval thought on the philosophy of Romanticism in the 18th century. He is the founder of the Stonelion Traditional Chinese Martial Arts Association, teaching traditional Northern Shaolin Kung-Fu with branches in Montreal and Ottawa. He has been an avid martial artist all his life and has a variety of experience in the western martial arts including Greco Roman Wrestling, Boxing and Fencing. He has been an avid student of medieval history for most of his life and is a student of AEMMA.
The author's coat of arms is blazoned: pale, or, sable, charged gueules lion saliant.

Copyright © 2001 Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts  (AEMMA)
Released Internally: December 08, 2001
Updated: March 15, 2002