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 Meg Floyd, who is an instructor at Krieg School in the USA, and who runs the HEMA News website.
1) Do you feel that modern publications are valuable for the HEMA community? Whether yes or no, can you explain your answer briefly?
Modern publications are invaluable to the modern HEMA community for two reasons. The first is that the average lay person trying to study a source almost never has the fortuitous combination of things needed to access a source in a scholastically viable manner–these things being a working knowledge of the manual’s language (Latin, medieval German, Renaissance Italian, etc), the necessary professional relationships and/or credentials to access the manual, or the personal time and resources to devote to translating and then distributing the work.
The second is that many of these sources are written in a way that it difficult to access for the average student. Having a living tradition of researchers that maintain peer-reviewed scrutiny for our interpretations, which are constantly changing, as well as researchers serving as a mixture of interpreter and teacher, both strengthens the scholarship of the community and increases access to the sources for the average person looking to learn about Europe’s fighting traditions.
Ideally a student or coach will eventually access the sources directly for themselves, to consider the work in a critical manner, but modern publications bridge the gap for that even to become possible for many people.
2) Was there a book that inspired you to become involved in HEMA, or that inspired you to study HEMA more seriously than before?
There is a book that inspired me to branch into a new field in HEMA. I had already taken HEMA pretty seriously for years, between running a club and events, but it was Tom Leoni’s translation of Fabris’s Scienza d’Arme that made me fall in love with a weapon enough to really dig into a manual and try to formulate my own interpretations, rather than relying solely on the instruction of others to accompany my reading of the text. Doing this has forced me to think critically about my fencing and consider it in a way I never had before–becoming a student of the material directly, rather than just a student of my instructors. Italian rapier was the first weapon I fell truly personally in love with, and it was because of that 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?
The first book that’s invaluable is the Wiktenauer compendium of Older Source Lichtenauer, because that’s essentially the textbook we run our club’s beginner and intermediate classes off of. It’s not only easy to work with and accessible, but the fact that it’s free to acquire and easy to get your hands on is very valuable to the community as a whole.
After that, Jeffrey Forgeng’s translations of Joachim Meyer’s manuals from 1568 and 1570. These were the first books I studied and ones that still play a large part in my club’s longsword curriculum at more advanced levels.
Finally, for me personally, Tom Leoni’s translations of Giganti’s first book and of Fabris. When I first set out to learn Italian rapier I went through Giganti’s first book front to back with a coach, and I’m currently working through Fabris with a study group of people at my club. These two books are readable, accessible, and I’m confident in the quality of the translation, which is more than I can say for other translations of Giganti by others that have crossed my desk.
4) Are there any kinds of publications you would like to see become available to the community?
I think what I would like most, just as a more advanced student and coach, are translations of books with the English and the native language published side by side in an easy to read format. I would love to have an edition of Fabris this way. I would also really love it if manual translators started putting out properly formatted Ebooks that are easy to read and accessible via tablet and mobile phone. It’d be handy for teaching in class, rather than the spiralbound copy of Wiktenauer’s compendium I have that’s covered in footprints and whose pages are half shredded. I like to teach directly from the book whenever possible, both to remain faithful to the sources and to start giving the students access to the literature by showing it to them and having them read it themselves, so making that connection easier would be helpful.