Meyer’s Dedication

According to Meyer, the study of the sword is in decline due to the introduction of the gun, a weapon he finds ignoble. But despite the gun’s predominance on the battlefield, melee weapons and armor are still very much in use. In fact, there are times when the whole battle must be conducted without firearms.

He offers harness (called plate mail in our time), mail shirt, sword, halberd, and pike as examples of what he means by weapons and armor.

Meyer stresses the importance of daily practice, lest the weapons and armor be worse than useless to the user and make it more likely the wielder will be injured or killed.

He goes on to explain how hard it is for adults to “grasp and learn correctly” how to fence. He argues that the study of arms begins while one is young, citing the above and historic precedence such as the case of Scipio Africanus, a youth of 18 who saved his father, people, and the supreme field marshal against Hannibal at the Ticino River.

Meyer go ones to claim that the German tradition of training the youth was instrumental in the history of the Roman Empire. Because they focused on training, while the Romans devoted themselves to sensualities, it was up the to German people to “save it, take over it, and erect it again”, a reference to the creation of the Holy Roman Empire.

Among the German heroes, Meyer lists Pepin, Charlemagne, Louis the Pious, and Henry I. He credits Henry with the creation of the tournament at Magdeburg (closed for legitimate reasons) and, in a broader sense, the Germanic tradition of tourney fighting.

Meyer then makes his personal claims. Specifically, that he studied under skillful and famous masters, practiced for many years, and has taught “young princes, counts, lords, and nobles”. And this manual was written and published at the prompting of Lord Johann Casimir, for whom it is dedicated.

The balance of the dedication consists of Meyer praising the Lord Casimir and modestly asking for his opinion of and patronage for the book.

Conclusions

This introduction supports the idea that Meyer was intending his manual to be used in a school setting, but with the expectation that eventually his students would become capable soldiers and officers. So to say Meyer’s work is “school fencing” is true, but misleading.

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