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Friday, February 23, 2018

How to Be a Knight: Pietro Monte’s Collectanea

This week marks the appearance of my latest book, Pietro Monte’s Collectanea: The Arms, Armor, and Fighting Techniques of a Fifteenth-Century Soldier. Monte was a renowned Spanish mercenary active in Italy around 1500. He is mentioned multiple times in Baldesar Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier, and Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks include a remark about consulting Monte on the technique of throwing spears.

The Collectanea is a detailed technical treatise on “how to be a knight.” Monte tells us about the sports that kept knights in physical shape (wrestling, running, throwing, jumping), as well as knightly martial arts (combat with swords, staff weapons, on horseback, in and out of armor). In an age when almost nothing was written about the design of arms and armor, Monte offers extensive detail about how these objects should be made. This makes his work hugely important for arms and armor scholars, who mostly have to rely on reverse engineering to explain the objects we study.

Monte wrote his book in Spanish sometime around 1490, then published an expanded Latin translation in 1509. I began translating Monte’s Latin text about a dozen years ago. It’s been a challenging project: Latin isn’t a great language for technical writing, and Monte’s Latin is exceptionally bad, so it can be difficult to figure out what he’s trying to say. But the work and wait are finally over, and I’m thrilled to have made this important work accessible to modern scholars and enthusiasts.

—Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art


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