This book was written by the Eduarte (Duarte) I of Portugal in the early 15th century; a text that has long been overlooked by horse masters and schol...moreThis book was written by the Eduarte (Duarte) I of Portugal in the early 15th century; a text that has long been overlooked by horse masters and scholars alike over the centuries. Usually when Duarte's work is mentioned, it is in brief and only covers a singular topic. Due to these limited translated excerpts, there is a common misconception in the community of interest that this book is just about jousting. I assure you, it is not.
Basically "Bem Cavalgar", a short hand term for the work, is a 15th century book of advice on or teaching how to ride in every type of saddle. Duarte speaks from his own experience about having a firm seat and to be well mounted when performing tasks from jousting to hunting and every day riding. He also covers the use of proper equipment for the specific task. Many modern equestrians may see bits of advice that come remarkably close to what they've been taught from their earliest riding lessons.
Duarte, like many rulers of his age, was philosophical, being well versed in mythology of the past and the religion of the day. Duarte covers many of these aspects in his own musing about "The Will" and why sometimes riders fail or succeed because of the types of will and desire employed in riding or other activities.
Amusingly enough, Duarte was very concerned about appearance and looking good while you were in the saddle. If one had an especially difficult horse, he explains how the rider could "disguise" the difficulty by straightening a hat or bit of clothing until the horse was under control so as not to appear unsafe or concerned about falling; style and elegance.
The book contains Duarte's advice and thoughts on weapon handling. His advice is sound regarding work from the ground before trying it from horseback. His belief that if you didn't feel safe and confident working with a weapon on the ground, you wouldn't be safe or confident with it on horseback. This follows the teachings of some of Duarte's contemporaries like Fiore di Liberi (Italian), whose system approaches the basics (wrestling and weapons) from the ground and eventually teaches the student to use the combat techniques from horseback a skill that Duarte laments later in his text that the young noblemen seem to be losing due to their pursuit of the ladies and courtly romance.
Martial techniques that are discussed in whole or briefly: work with the lance, the sword, and wrestling. Probably not as detailed as most students of historical western martial arts would like, but those experienced in equestrian martial sport will probably realize that much of it is common sense and practices that many of us have been doing for years.
In comparison to other works on the horsemanship of antiquity, Duarte is at times sketchy about details and without images for guidance; the reader is left to draw their own conclusions in regard to visualizing how certain movements are performed.
About the translation (adaptation as it is not a literal translation), I've been studying the work by Joseph Piel (he transcribed the manuscript into a more "readable" document) for years and know what a difficult and monumental task "Bem Cavalgar" was to translate. Mr. Preto has done a commendable job in bringing this difficult work to English, in full, for the first time. He has also added a bit of information to the beginning of the book to share a chronicler's description of Duarte and share the history of Portugal with the reader to add a bit of context to Duarte's work. (Obrigado)
While I have the highest regard for the content of the book and the effort it took to bring it to the masses, as a bibliophile and a design professional, I must now share my concerns regarding the presentation of this work.
In comparison to other works on horsemanship that offer a modern translation, I found the work to be missing two key components, a facsimile of the original manuscript or a text version of same and/or contemporary artwork to add visual breaks for the eye. While this may not seem to be an issue with most readers, for a scholar, it doesn't allow for comparison of the translation with the work. Sometimes errors occur and without a source to for comparison, you will never know.
When I was finally able to hold the book in my hands, my first impression was the disappointment I felt with the low quality of the binding and the flimsy paper stock. The faux leather had air bubbles under it where the glue didn't adhere or didn't cover the boards. The gold leaf text was practically illegible (same for the dust jacket). The whole thing would probably have been better served by a cloth cover and a regular serif font for readability rather than trying to mimic a manuscript.
A major issue was that before I had even finished my first reading, the binding had come unglued and the end papers had begun to separate from the cover. I have purchased several books over the years in the same price range and have never had this happen. The watch phrase is "handle with care" when reading to avoid damage to the book.
Advice to the publisher: Quality Control.
Having said that, I am pleased to see the work finally come to light as the information is more important than the binding. So, if you are a medieval horsemanship enthusiast or interested in the knightly arts even if you don't have a horse, I definitely recommend that this book be a part of your equestrian and medieval studies library. I would also make an attempt, if you have any foreign language skills (Latin, Portuguese, Arabic, etc...), that you also acquire a copy of Joseph Piel's transcription:
LIVRO DA ENSINANÇA DE BEM CAVALGAR TODA SELA EL-REY DOM EDUARTE
(it's extremely rare) and/or the French study:
"Étude d'un traité d'équitation portugais du XVème siècle:Livro da ensinança de bem cavalgar toda sela du roi Dom Duarte" by Carlos-Henriques Periera, (2001).
Note: I've edited this review to add the book titles and to add the term adaptation.
This book is the ideal study for modern equestrians who wish to have a more accurate view of their medieval counter parts, that the medieval equestria...moreThis book is the ideal study for modern equestrians who wish to have a more accurate view of their medieval counter parts, that the medieval equestrian was not some ham-fisted thug hauling on the mouth of his mount with what could be considered a torture device, and that they didn't have a clue how to ride or work with horses.
This particular work focuses on Eduarte I of Portugal's treatise "Livro da ensinança de bem cavalgar toda sela", "The book on teaching how to ride well in every type of saddle" or as some have come to call it, "The art of riding". It basically deals with the rider and how their mindset can set them up for success or failure and other things like not over-mounting the student and not brow beating them if they make a mistake...at least not until they are of a level where they should know better.
It shows quite clearly that "the more things change, the more they stay the same".(less)
The title is a little misleading. When I read it, I was expecting at least some translations of the existing document in the British library. Given my...moreThe title is a little misleading. When I read it, I was expecting at least some translations of the existing document in the British library. Given my reading experience with other monographs and more robust works dealing with manuscripts, it didn't seem an unreasonable assumption.
The author discusses Medieval Muslim Horsemanship in only a passing way. It's really a study of the manuscript itself and the descriptions of what the riders and horses are wearing or carrying, and occasionally what is happening in the various plates.
At 36 pages, a quarter of which are plates, it's obviously not an exhaustive study, but I think it was the author's goal to have other interested students pick up the baton and perhaps do a more thorough study or translation.
Bibliography is short and mostly secondary in nature.
A nice book for the student of classical equestrian studies.(less)
The plates in this book are stunning. The difficult feat is actually reading it. The text is a facsimile so the type is in a Fraktur. If you've never...moreThe plates in this book are stunning. The difficult feat is actually reading it. The text is a facsimile so the type is in a Fraktur. If you've never tried to read a document that has interior 's' as something that resembles an "f", it can be quite laborious.(less)