Path of the Sword and Buckler
By 1670 the foil was a prominent part of French fencing practices and it was heavily sportified as a popular amusement in the French royal court. A manual written by Philibert, Sr. de la Touche entitled Les vrays principes de l’espée seule (The True Principles of the Single Sword) clearly shows a shorter weapon than a standard rapier that is most certainly behaving as a foil.
After this the ‘court sword’, or smallsword, largely replaced the usage of rapiers until the smallsword itself was replaced by military sabres, and smallsword fencing with the foil became a social past time of European aristocrats. In the 18th century the Angelo family of fencers would continue to gamify the fencing styles until the 1880s when French fencing master Camille Prévost, Walter H. Pollock, and F.C. Grove created the basic conventions by which modern sport fencing utilizes in their book Fencing, with a complete bibliography of the art by Egerton Castle, M.A., F.S.A., which was published in London in 1889 as part of the Badminton Library. Lastly, Louis Rondelle would publish Foil and Sabre a Grammar of Fencing in detailed lessons for professor and pupil in 1892 which popularized the modern rules, too.
These rules were incorporated into the Fencing events that were a featured part of the Olympic Games in the summer of 1896, which had three separate fencing events; foil, masters foil and saber. Several fencing associations would then sprout up in countries around the world, until by 1909 there were many associations for participation in the Olympic games.
Finally in 1687 Sir William Hope published the first of his many treatises, The Scots Fencing Master, which detailed the French method of smallsword fencing which he had learned. He would then write The Sword Man’s Vade Mecum in 1692 where he expressed some dissatisfaction with the system he had learned and sought to improve upon it.
In 1711 Zachary Wylde published The English Master of Defence, which is popularly studied today by English smallsword fencers.
In 1707 Hope published ‘A New Short and Easy Method of Fencing‘ where he discussed the use of the small-sword and the spadroon broadsword that was replacing the small-sword. A 2nd revised edition of The New Method would be produced in 1714. Hope would then write two more treatises; A Few Observations Upon the Fighting for Prizes in the Bear-Gardens in 1707 and ‘A Vindication of the True Art of Self-Defence‘ in 1724, which is largely an essay on the morality of dueling which he argued was immoral.
If you’d like to learn more information about historical fencing practices please check out our Learn HEMA page for a guide to learning about the historical weapon that interests you. You can also find more guides we’ve written about other topics at our Helpful Guides page.
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