In "Les Trois Mousquetaires", we have a lot of sword fights. We have a dozen different people who are described as really good sword fighters. What sword schools were active during the 17th century in France? Do we still have fighting manuals from that period?


2 Answers 2


There are quite a few historic manuals linked from ARMA's page of manuals. The majority are pre-17th century, but there's a good dozen from that period.

As to schools, my understanding is that practically every fencing master would claim his/her own style.


As far as French manuals go, I know of only one from the late 16th century, entitled (deep breath):

Traicté contenant les secrets du premier livre sur l'espee seule, mere 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

The title is nearly longer than the book.

Essentially, it became a bit of a gentlemanly sport by the 17th century, leading to the development of the foil, and modern fencing is largely derived from the French school of sword work. Unfortunately, having done no fencing since high school, this is all I can recall.

  • 3
    For completeness' sake, the title means "Treatise containing the secrets of the first book on the sword by itself, mother of all weapons, which are dagger, cloak, targe, shield, rondel, two-handed sword and dual swords, with its drawings, having arms in hand to defend and attack at the same time from the strikes that can be given, as well as attacker as defender, useful and profitable to master the nobility and servants of Mars: redacted by art, order and practice.
    – Anon
    Feb 6, 2012 at 18:14
  • Indeed. The point seemed moot when "The Three Musketeers" was written in French (I presume to differentiate itself from a similarly named candy bar produced by the Mars corporation).
    – stslavik
    Feb 6, 2012 at 18:23

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