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.
Dr. Richard Walsh's monumental work is an absolutely vital addition to the library of any student of the Court of Valois Burgund...moreMy Review from Amazon:
Dr. Richard Walsh's monumental work is an absolutely vital addition to the library of any student of the Court of Valois Burgundy, and any student of the last Valois Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold.
The book covers the Italian influence in Charles the Bolds court, as well as the major diplomats and the Italian exiles and adventurers, who helped shape the ultimate form of the Burgundian army of the Ordinances, and of course explores the political course of Burgundy in the Italian peninsula, offering evidence for a more effective diplomatic strategy than has generally been acknowledged or recognized by previous scholarship.
The only critique I can add as a student of the Companies of the Ordinances of Charles the Bold, is a slight confusion as to the Italian condottiere captains tenure (sometimes brief, as the captains of companies were appointed or dismissed on an annual basis, and sometimes more often as necessity dictated) as captains of ordinance companies that existed prior to the Italian captains entering Burgundian service. Many of these existed both before and after the Italian captains tenures,which confuses the nature of the ethnic origins of the personnel of some companies with the Italian lances brought into Burgundian service in 1473. The author does address this in one example, but insufficiently in my understanding of the subject.
For a scholarly work, the book is eminently readable. If a student of Valois Burgundy could only have four authors works as the basic foundation of a library on the subject, they would include Walsh's book, alongside of Vaughn's four volumes, John Foster Kirk's Charles the Bold, and Blockman and Preveniers.
A must read for any student of the subject. (less)
If you've ever wanted to learn about some daily aspects of serving in a great household in the late 15th century, the I recommend the "The Boke of Ker...moreIf you've ever wanted to learn about some daily aspects of serving in a great household in the late 15th century, the I recommend the "The Boke of Keruynge". Readers will be treated to the original text, as well as an interpretation of it. You will learn the fine art of setting, serving, and carving at the high table. (less)
This book was written in the 1860s by John Foster Kirk. The language, while written in English, is very Victorian. In other words, it can be difficult...moreThis book was written in the 1860s by John Foster Kirk. The language, while written in English, is very Victorian. In other words, it can be difficult to get through due to the syntax and run-on sentences. That being said, this document is one of the primary sources of information for any student of Medieval Burgundy and its last Valois Duke, Charles the Bold.
Kirk treats Charles even handedly and his footnotes are impeccable, many details often being written in the original language.
This book is highly recommended for access to the color images of the Getty Manuscript alone and is better than any online sources of the images from...moreThis book is highly recommended for access to the color images of the Getty Manuscript alone and is better than any online sources of the images from the Ludwig XV 13 on the Getty's web site.
Work contains the modern author's thoughts and reconstruction of how he thought the techniques should work. The work is in Italian.(less)