Engineers and masters of warfare

At least two manuscripts of Hans Talhoffer contain drawings and comments to technical devices for warfare (Ghota, MS Chart.A.558, and Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen, MS Thott 290.2º) and another early copy was according to Gustave Hergsell bound to a treatise about the same topic (KHM Vienna, P 5342 B aka Cod.Nr.55.Ambras) until rebounded in the last 100 years. Hans Talhoffer was on the leading edge of development, but he was not the only one, there had been predecessors and successors.

In this article I collected a big but probably incomplete list of the books on warfare, regimen, tactics, and war engines to the 17th century.

Early books

1230- 1260 – Villard de Honnecourt was a soldier (as he pictured himself) and a master builder, he was drawing his knowledge into a sketchbook, that is not exactly a portfolio on warfare and war-machines but it is touching the aspect of a siege engineer (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale,

1340 – Guido da Vigevano was the personal physician of queen Joan I of Navarre. In his “Texaurus Regis Francie Aquisitionis Terre Sancte de ultra Mare” he drew sketches of armoured chariots, wind-propelled carriages and siege engines (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Manuscrit latin 11015)

15th Century

1400 – The BSB cgm 600 is the oldest illustrated manuscript on guns and warfare and was written by an unknown author. A copy is found in Nuremberg, GNM 25661. The book is about using canons and guns Anleitung “Schießpulver zu bereiten, Büchsen zu laden und zu beschießen”.

1405 – Like others Talhoffer copied a great amount of pages from the Bellifortis of Konrad Kyeser (Göttingen, 2° Cod. Ms. philos. 63, and Göttingen, Staats- und Universitätsbibl., 2° Cod. Ms. philos. 64 Cim.). Keyser fought in the lost battle of Nikopol, Bulgaria, against the Ottoman Empire at 25 September 1396. Kyeser created two editions of his book (one with 10 and on with 7 chapters) in his exile in Bohemia and dedicated it at June 23, 1405 to  King Ruprecht of the Pfalz (images in Wikipedia Common).

1420 – The Feuerwerksbuch of 1420 was copied at least more than 20 times. The complete list of known copies are:

  • Berlin, Staatsbibl., mgf 710a (end of 15th century), mgf 1117 (1463), mgq 621,  mgq 867 (1450-1475), mgq 1018 (1425-1500), mgq 1187 (containing Johannes Hartlieb: ‘Namenmantik too), mgq 2041 (together with Albrecht of  Lannenberg: “Abhandlung zur Kriegskunst”),
  • Dillingen, Studienbibl., Cod. XV 50 (1466, together wit regimen),
  • Frankfurt a. M., Universitätsbibl., Ms. germ. qu. 14 (Ausst. 48) (see below)
  • Freiburg i. Br., Universitätsbibl., Hs. 362 (see below)
  • Gotha, Forschungsbibl., Cod. Chart. B 428 (1480, cataloque)
  • Heidelberg, Universitätsbibl., Cpg 122 (1450-1500), Cpg 502 (1450-1500)
  • Leeds, Royal Armouries, Ms. I-34 (together with the Bellifortis)
  • Leipzig, Universitätsbibl., Ms. 1597 (1450-1500)
  • Memmingen, Stadtbibl., Cod. 2,39.4° (1450-1500)
  • München, Staatsbibl., Cgm 5437 + Cgm 4902  (1429), Clm 30150 (Patrimonia 137, together with the Bellifortis)
  • New York, Public Libr., Spencer Collection, Ms. 104 (1445 together with the Bellifortis)
  • Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Hs. 719 (1462) , Hs. 1480 (1446-1450), Hs. 1481a (with Marcus Graecus “liber ignum”, 1425-1450)
  • St. Gallen, Kantonsbibl., VadSlg Ms. 396 (1425-1500)
  • Vienna, Österr. Nationalbibl., Cod. 2952 (1450 containing a encyclopaedia of warfare), Cod. 3062 (see below)
  • printed by Hans Schulte 1529 with the title “Büchsenmeysterei”, Egenolph, Straßburg, and Frankfurt 1531, and 1534

1432 – The Feuerwerksbuch (Universitätsbibliothek Freiburg, Ms. 362) is another copy of the one of 1420 and was finished in 1432 and printed by Heinrich Stainer in Augsburg 1529.

1420 – 1437 – It is interesting to note, that the combination of the war machines and onomancy is not only found in the work of Talhoffer but in the Vienna, Cod. 3062 (1420-1437), a book that was thought to be written by Johannes Hartlieb (ca. 1410 – 18 May 1468) but his authorship of the more practical part of that book written in 1420 is doubted as it is a copy of the Feuerwerksbuch of 1420.

1420 – 1430 – Johannes Fontana de Venetiis (Giovanni Fontana,  ca. 1395 – ca. 1455) of Venice, studied in Padua, and was the author or some books about mechanical devices. He wrote his “Bellicorum instrumentorum liber cum figuris” in Venice around 1420-1430 (Munich, BSB Cod.icon. 242).

1423 – The regimen of  Jan Ziska of Trocznow in 1423 for the Hussites had more religious impetus than recommendations for military tactics, but it contained rules enough to form an army. Jan Ziska born in 1360 was one of the leading heads of the Hussite army. The one-eyed knight fought in several wars (Tanneberg, Ottomans, Azincourt) and became 1419 a leader of the Hussite movement.

1413 – 1426 – Jan Hájek z Hodětína (Jan Hajek of Hodetin) captain of King Wenceslaus (Wenzel, Václav) army was identified as the possible author of a regime manuscript written between 1413-1426 containing military tactics, handling of prisoners of war, and new ideas like the wagon forts and wagon trains. Thus reflecting a change in the organisation of the Hussites to a more practical approach to warfare. His authorship is doubted by some researchers, dating the book to 1426, six years after the death of Hájek.

1428 – A book containing sketches of Fiore de Liberi’s teaching of fencing and a copy of the Bellifortis was created. The book is found in the  Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna, Austria, under the number Codex 5278.

1431- 1432 – These ideas of Jan Hájek z Hodětína were absorbed in the 1431 and 1432 regimen of Albert II of Habsburg who fought against the Hussites.

1433 – 1449 The Italian engineer Mariano di Jacopo detto Taccola lived and worked as a administrator in Sienna and created at least five surviving books: De ingeneis I-IV (BSB Clm 197), De machinis (Munich, BSB Clm 28800); (Institute and Museum of the History of Science – Online-Exposition about Taccola’s drawings). It is not certain if the books Paris BN 7239 and St Mark VIII.40 is of his hand or of his copier Paolo Santini.

1443 – Augustin Dachsberger a  „moler vnd büxsenschiesser“ of Munich created a „ein büxen buch“ (Cologne, Historisches Archiv der Stadt, W* 232, Best.7020), which was a copy of the Bellifortis with some additional work in it.

1443 – Hans Talhoffer created his fechtbuch Ghota, MS Chart.A.558, with war machines and the Onomatomantia by Johannes Hartlieb in it.

1440 – 1470 – Johannes Formschneider was 30 years in the service of the city of Nuremberg as a master gunner. He wrote a “Feuerwerks- und Büchsenmeisterbuch” (Munich, BSB Cgm 734) that he passed to his successor. The content of that book was copied by later masters and printers.

1442 – 1453 – A copy of the regimen of Johannes Glöckner of Zittau for the Nuremberg council (Gießen, Universitätsbibliothek, Hs. 996, see this article for more information).

1450 – Hans Talhoffer wrote his fechtbuch KHM Vienna, P 5342 B aka Cod.Nr.55.Ambras. In the 19th century it was rebounded, a second part of the book containing Bellifortis drawings got lost.

1450 – Johannes Bengedans (Johannes Beugedantz) wrote his  “Kriegskunst” as a poem (Kopenhagen, Arnamagnæanske Institut, Cod. AM 374.2°). Bengedantz was according to his letter to the Highmaster of the Teutschorden, Ludwig of Ehrlichshausen, in Prussia of 1451 a gunmaster and had knowledge of making gold!

1459 – Hans Talhoffer finished his Fechtbuch  Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen, MS Thott 290.2º, with the Bellifortis, and a astrological treatise by Jud Ebrseech.

1460 – Another copy of the Bellifortis was created (Frankfurt, Ms. germ. qu. 15) in the Alsace for Count Philipp of Hanau (1417-1480).

1466 – While most of the Bellifortis copies are made from the Göttingen, 2° Cod. Ms. philos. 64, the only copy of the 63er Bellifortis is now in Innsbruck, Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Cod. FB 32009.

1472  – Roberto Valturio was born 1405 in Rimini, and died there in 1475. He wrote the military treatise “De Re militari” from 1460. It was published 1472 in volumes under the name Robertus Valturius, later editions were printed in Verona and Paris (british library Add. 24945).

1475 – The printer Ludwig Hohenwang created a modern edition of Vegetius Renatus, Flavius in his “Red von der Ritterschaft” in Augsburg (Munich, BSB-Ink V-64GW M49503).

1475 – Martin Merz was a gun-master in the service of Frederick I, the victorious, Elector Palatinate. 1469 he was the supreme canon master of Frederick’s army. He remained remained in the service of the Frederick’s successor Philip the Upright, Elector Palatine of the Rhine. He created his Feuerwerksbuch around 1460-1480 (Munich, BSB Cgm 599).

1450 – 1480 A Fechtbuch was written by an unkown author bound to a Bellifortis (Herzog August-Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel, Cod. Guelf. 78.2 Aug. 2, Images at the Wiktenauer)

1482 – Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439 – 1502) was a painter, sculptor, and architect, he lived and worked in Siena. He worked on his book “Trattato di architettura, ingegneria e arte militare” for several years and finished it ca. 1482 (Codice Magliabechiano, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, II.I.141).

1496 – The master gunner Philipp Mönch born in 1457 created his illustrated book “büch der stryt vnd buchßen (Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 126) in 1496 probably for Philip the Upright, Elector Palatine of the Rhine.

1490 – 1500 – The author of this version of the “Büchsenwerk”  and the “Feuerwerkbuch” of 1420 made a poem of the text  (Berlin, Staatsbibl., mgf 710a).

16th Century

1500 – Despite the image of the coat of arms nothing is known about the author of the  “Ingenieurkunst- und Wunderbuch” (Weimar, Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibl., Cod. Fol. 328). It contains devices for war like the Bellifortis and the book of Philipp Mönch.

1500 – The “Feuerwerk- und Büchsenmeisterbuch” (Gotha, Cod. Chart B 1032) was created probably by Hans Folz of Worms in Nuremberg, the same one who had created a Fechtbuch (Weimar, Q566, images at the Wiktenauer).

1500 – The “Rüst- und Feuerwerkbuch” was bought by the city council of Frankfurt (Frankfurt, Ms. quart. 14) on the 5th April 1511 “Eyn buche von allerhande mostern”.

1510 – Ludwig von Eyb zu Hartenstein wrote his Kriegsbuch (Universitäts-Bibliothek-Erlangen, Ms. B 26) as a copy of the Bellifortis, it contains also a Fechtbuch transcribed by the Pragmatische Schriftlichkeit (images at the Wiktenauer).

1523 – 1530 – A book on guns, artillery, and siege by an unknown author (Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 123).

1528 – Franz Helm wrote his “Buch von den probierten Künsten” (Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ 128, 1573 copy Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 135).

1555 – 1573 – Leonard Fronsberger lived from 1520-1575 in Ulm and produced printed books on war, regimen and guns in Frankfurt: “Fünff Bücher von Kriegß Regiment vnd Ordnung” (Munich, BSB Res/4 Mil.g. 230), Besatzung (Munich, BSB: 2 J.publ.g. 14#Beibd.2), “Kriegs Ordnung Vnd Regiment” (Munich, BSB 2 Polon. 9#Beibd.1), “Von Geschütz vnd Fewerwerck, wie dasselb zuwerffen vnnd schiessen, ...” (Munich, BSB 2 Polon. 9#Beibd.2), “Von Wagenburg und Feldtleger” (Alsace, BNU 1/1595419) . He became the most copied author on military issues. He was himself a Landsknect before he became burger of Ulm in 1448, during 1553 and 1573 he did not only wrote his book but fought or was military consultant in several wars. He died during an inspection of marksmen by an explosion of black-powder.

1545 – 1559 – Reinhard, Earl of Solms-Lich and Münzenberg (1491-1562), was the emperors Field-marshal he wrote his  “Kriegsbuch” (“Kriegsregierung”) in 1559, his “Kriegsordnung” in 1545, and a book “Eyn gesprech eynes alten erfarnen kriegßmans vnd bawmeysters mit eynem jungen hauptmann: welcher massen eyn vester bawe fürzunemen vnd mit nütz des herren mög vollenfürt werden” already in 1535. His nephew Johann von Nassau-Siegen (1561 bis 1623) wrote his “Kriegsbuch” around 1562.

1566 – Herzog Philipp Eberhard von Kleve owned a Kriegsbuch (Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 132). The  book is found from 1570 as Erlangen, B 213, written in Augsburg.

1568 – another Kriegsbuch, this one created in Amberg (Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 173).

1573 – Martin Peder (Martin Pistorius) wrote a further one created in Amberg (Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 131) dedicated to Pfalzgraf Johann Kasimir (copy of the same book like Cod. Pal. germ. 134, 173, and Erlangen B 212 (for Joachim II of Brandenburg).

1585 – Ulrich Beßnitzer created an inventory of the Zeughaus of Landshut “Der Gezewg mit seiner Zugehorunge” (Cod. Pal. Germ. 130, Heidelberg).

1587 – M. Phillippi dedicated his Kriegsbuch to Pfalzgraf Friedrich, later Kurfürsten Friedrich IV. of the Pfalz (Cod. Pal. Germ. 124, Heidelberg).

How valuable this knowledge was, we can see as we look at the life of men like Johann Glöckner of Sittau.

Johann Glöckner of Sittau

Johannes von Sittaw, Hanns von Zittaw, Johann Glöckner von Sittau

Johann Glöckner was a battlement architect, a master gunner, a engineer, and a maneuverer, short he was a military scientist. And he was payed and received well in his times. This science was a Disciplina Arcani or Discipline of the Secret, something with a touch of magic combined with the brutal reality of the soldiers. Most master gunners had been soldiers, but that is no big surprise as many citizen switched between the the life of a soldier and civil business more than once in their life, it had been rough times.

Glöckner was born in Zittau and started his career as a writer for the city council. He is named in 1414 and 1423 in the files of Zittau. In 1429 he worked for the council of Görlitz (Saxony), to which notes to some letters exist, the last one in 1432 sent from Nuremberg. Glöcker was concerned about the development in Bohemia.

In the year 1427 the council of  Nuremberg was aware of the feuds by knights and the danger rising up from Bohemia (Hussites) and decided to enlarge the battlement. They ordered every man and women from the age of 12 to work at the ditches, ramparts, walls, and buildings. The building of the outer ward of the Königsfeste (today the Kaiserburg, the towns landmark) was finished in the following year. One of the heads of the complete project was Johann Glöckner of Sittau. He was drawing plans of the pitches and the battlement and observed the construction in the years 1431-34 as „anweiser des gepews im graben“. He was payed 24 Florin gold in advance for staying for three years. He received 50 pouds Haller  payment on a yearly base and special payment for his plans, and treatises. (3)

He topped his work by developing a siege defense plan, a “von einer ordnung wegen, wenn die stat belegert wird“ and for what he was payed for with a pound Haller (half a gold Guilder or Florin) in 1434. An payment of 4 Haller (2 gold Guilder or Florin) he was payed in the same year for a plans of open battles and camp “meister Johan Glökner für ein muster an einem gemolten tuch eins veltkriegs oder legers” Ordnung, wenn die Stadt belagert würde” (1)(2)(3)

“Ich wil in dem anfange dieser ordenung setzen ymagmatiue, auff ain gemaine stat, andern steten zu ainem bedewten oder aym geleychnusse..” is the beginning of a regimen in the Gießen manuscript 996. Hiram Kümper identified in 2005 the author as Glöckner. This is a variation of the plans for siege and open battle he created for the city of Nuremberg. It was probably produced in Munich, where “maister Hanß von Nuremberg” stayed and worked in the canon manufacture around 1453. (3)(7)

1444 The city of Vienna paid “Dem Johan von der sittaw, exjussu consulum vor ainer prob zu Wagenpurgen, auf Pergament entworffen vnd gemalt, vnd andere Form zum Steigen 8 Pf”. To Johann of Sittau, on the order of the council, is to pay 8 Pfennig for drawings of a waggon fort and other forms of mounting (waggons)”.(4)

Used books:
(1)  Nürnberger Jahresregister III, Blatt 86, 121, 123, 126, 128, 204 in Kriegsgeschichte und Kriegswesen, Joseph Würdinger, Literarischartistische Anstalt, 1868
(2) Die reichsstädtische haushaltung Nürnbergs dargestellt auf grund ihres zustandes von 1431 bis 1440, Paul Sander, 1902
(3) Regimen von der Wehrverfassung : Ein Kriegsmemorandum aus der Giessener Handschrift 996, zugleich ein Beitrag zur städtischen Militärgeschichte des 15. Jahrhunderts, Kümper, Hiram, 2005, Giessen
(4) Wiener Skizzen des Mittelalters, Wien, 1846
(5) Reallexicon der Deutschen Altertümer, Ernst Götzinger, 1885
(6) Die deutsche Literatur des Mittelalters: Slecht, Reinbold – Ulrich von Liechtenstein, Wolfgang Stammler, Karl Langosch, Kurt Ruh, Walter de Gruyter, 1977
(7) Hs 996 : Goldene Bulle – Schwabenspiegel – Landfrieden – Regimen von der Wehrverfassung – Oberbayerisches Landrecht – Münchner Stadtrecht – Münchner Gewerbeordnung (M. 15. Jh.) – Federzeichnungen, Seelbach, Ulrich, 2007
Note: for the list of the manuscripts and authors I used various books, websites, and databases – too many to list here. Of great help was the Handschriftencensus

3 thoughts on “Engineers and masters of warfare

  1. A really great collection, thank you for this.

    1585 – Ulrich Beßnitzer created an inventory of the Zeughaus of Landshut “Der Gezewg mit seiner Zugehorunge” (Cod. Pal. Germ. 130, Heidelberg).
    According to University Library Heidelberg the book dates to 1485.

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