The Manual of Fencing, 1877 is a pivotal work in the evolution of fencing. It marks the transition from “ancient” to modern fencing and stands as the gateway between the old and new styles of handling both weapons. This work provides a unique glimpse into the world of swordsmanship as a solely military activity concerned with life and death on the battlefield, as well as the dictates of nobility.
The technical fencing terms used in the Manual are the same as those used by fencers today, but the emphasis is on a set of core techniques more suitable to a weapon much heavier than the modern sport épée or sabre. It can be seen as the last of the manuals in France covering swordsmanship as a solely military activity.
Teaching the swordsmanship described in the Manual was made compulsory for all arms in 1877, and it was in continual use for thirty years until its replacement, a thoroughly modern sports fencing manual, was introduced in 1908. During this time, fencing lost its relevance to the military context and became solely a sporting endeavor.
The Manual of Fencing, 1877 played a crucial role in the transition from the traditional fencing techniques to modern fencing techniques that are still used today. It is a testament to the evolution of fencing as a sport and a martial art. Famous fencing authors such as Louis Rondelle and Romuald Brunet trained under this system.
This work is an essential resource for academic historians and practicing fencers who seek to understand the evolution of fencing and its place in both military and sporting contexts. It provides valuable insight into the of teaching swordsmanship in late nineteenth century France.