The importance of books 11: Bert Gevaert

Image by Thomas Kelley, from

This is a series of interviews with well-known HEMA practitioners from around the world. The subject is the importance of books in the HEMA community. Personally, I think books are immensely important to the community (and in general!), but I am interested to find out more about how other people see the issue.

This week’s interview is with Bert Gevaert, who is an instructor at De Hallebardiers in Belgium, as well as a published author.

1) Do you feel that modern publications are valuable for the HEMA community? Whether yes or no, can you explain your answer briefly?

What do you mean by ‘modern publications’? You mean modern publications of ancient fencing and fighting treatises? Of course they are very important! Certain books only offer a transcription or facsimile of the original manuscript and even these books are very important for me! I’m thinking now about the Würgegriff und Mordschlag, a critical edition of the Fechtbuch of Hans Czynner, published by Ute Bergner and Johannes Giessauf. Of course publications of Fechtbücher with translations (preferably in English) are even more interesting, but for me, I prefer translations where a transcription of the original text can also be seen.

2) Was there a book that inspired you to become involved in HEMA, or that inspired you to study HEMA more seriously than before?

It was not a book that inspired me to do HEMA, but my ancient fencing master who was talking very enthusiastically, after which I decided to get involved. But a real eye-opener for me was the fantastic The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe (2000) by Sydney Anglo. It was this book that inspired me to write my own book on HEMA, Te Wapen: Europa’s vergeten Krijgskunsten. I think I’ve read Anglo’s book at least three or four times and I saw my own book more or less as the successor of Anglo’s book.

3) Can you list between three and five books that you feel are invaluable to your study of HEMA, and say something briefly about why each book is so important to you?

Anglo, S., The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe (Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 2000). Fantastic book, great research, and it inspired me – as I said – to write my own book. Though I have to say that this book lacked many important images from fencing treatises.

Forgeng, J.L., The Medieval Art of Swordmanship: a Facsimile and Translation of Europe’s Oldest Personal Combat Treatise (Chivalry Bookshelf: California, 2003). This is how every fightbook should be published: high resolution images of the original manuscript, transcription, translation and comments + good introduction. This is how I would love to publish my translation-transcription-critical edition of Heinrich von Gunterrodt at Freelance Academy Press. I hope this will be done within two years from now.

Richards, C., Fiore dei Liberi 1409 (Arts of Mars Books,: Apelern, 2007). Without any doubt one of the best interpretations of a fencing master, good images, step by step explication on how to apply the techniques of Fiore dei Liberi, even if you don’t know anything at all about Fiore or HEMA.

Loades, M., Swords and Swordsmen (Pen and Sword Military: Barnsley, 2010). This is a great book that I have read several times. I really like the enthusiasm and passion of Mike Loades. His knowledge is incredible and besides that, he is also a nice and modest guy. His book Swords and Swordsmen is beautifully edited with nice images, captivating text… I love it and I would recommend it to every person who wants to know what HEMA is about.

Actually it is difficult to make a selection and only provide these books. I also enjoyed the interpretations of ancient Masters done by Keith Farrell, Reinier van Noort, Christian Tobler… We may not forget that the amount of academic publications is also increasing, I’m thinking now about the fantastic work Daniel Jaquet is doing. And of course HROARR is also an endless resource for me. It’s good to have so many fantastic researchers in the HEMA-community!

4) Are there any kinds of publications you would like to see become available to the community?

I’d love to see a facsimile edition with translation of Talhoffer’s Thott Manuscript; Pauernfeyndt, Sutor, Marozzo… But most importantly, my favourite master: Hector Paulus Mair! As said before: I’m currently working on Heinrich von Gunterrodt, and I hope that will soon be published!