Nicoletto Giganti

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Nicoletto Giganti was a 17th-century Italian rapier fencing master. The frontispiece of his 1606 work[1] names him as “Nicoletto Giganti, Venetian”, although evidence suggests he or his family, moved to Venice from the town of Fossombrone, in Le Marche, Central Italy.[2]

Nicoletto Giganti "Scola, overo, teatro"

Little is known of Giganti’s life, but in the dedication to his 1606 treatise, he counts 27 years of professional experience, whereas the Giganti family of Fossombrone were lesser nobility, long in the military service of Venice.[3] He is a famous representative of the Venetian school of fencing. [4]

Трактат "Scola, overo, Teatro". Nicoletto Giganti

His 1606 work was reprinted in Italian in 1628,[5] and in French and German parallel translation in 1619, 1622, and 1644.[6]

Johann Joachim Hynitzsch accuses Giganti of plagiarising Salvator Fabris in the second volume of the 1622 French and German translation of Giganti's treatise, printed in Frankfurt.[7] This is probably unfounded, as there is no evidence that Giganti had any involvement in any of the later printings of his 1606 work. Likewise Giganti does not appear involved in the 1628 Italian edition of his own 1606 treatise, which merely reprints Giganti’s original 1606 dedication, to the by then deceased Cosimo I de' Medici, with a separate printers dedication that makes no reference to Giganti’s continuing involvement. Likewise the disputed 1622 edition contained no dedication and was likely printed by the publisher and translator, De Zetter, without consent.

On several occasions in his 1606 treatise Giganti promised a second book. This pledge appeared to have remained unfulfilled. As early as 1673 the Sicilian master Pallavicini noted with heavy irony that while he was publishing a second volume, without having undertaken to do so in his first book, other masters such as Giganti had promised a second work and not delivered.

… we should not make promises [we can't keep] to the curious. … Nicoletto Giganti promised to publish a second book, but it cannot be found[8]

The first positive reference to a purported second book by Giganti, does not arrive until the 1847 publication of Alberto Marchionni’s Trattato di scherma:

In 1608, from the press of Giovanni Fontani of Pisa, came forth a second book of fencing by Niccoletto Giganti in which he deals with the use of the single sword, sword and dagger and also the sword and rotella, the sword and targa, the sword and buckler, the sword and cape, the dagger alone, the dagger against the spear and the dagger alone against the sword. Subsequently he discusses grabs to the weapon and pommel strikes to the face, and of other grapples advising to put your left hand over the hilt of your opponent's sword. He proposes executing the passata sotto in the tempo in which your opponent performs a cavazione on the line of terza. Finally he discusses a new guard with the sword and dagger with the left foot forward, suggesting that he proposes to publish another book where he will teach all of the actions possible with the left foot forward. This treatise is illustrated with 53 figures, very badly drawn and likewise engraved; nevertheless his treatise is filled with very useful teachings.[9]

This work is further cited by Gelli, who merely quotes word for word from Marchionni, adding only the note 'rare work', indicating that he almost certainly had not examined the treatise himself.[10]

The existence of this elusive second work, matching Marchionni's description, was not confirmed until the publication of an English translation by Piermarco Terminiello and Joshua Pendragon in November 2013.[11]


  1. ^ Giganti, Nicoletto. Scola, overo, teatro: nel qual sono rappresentate diverse maniere, e modi di parare et di ferire di spada sola, e di spada e pugnale. Venice, 1606.
  2. ^ Lancellotti, Francesco Maria. Quadro letterario degli uomini illustri della città di Fossombrone. In Colucci, Giuseppe. Antichità picene, XXVIII. Fermo, 1796. p.33
  3. ^ Calcaterra, Francesco. Corti e cortigiani nella Roma barocca (Rome, 2012) p.76.
  4. ^ Venice: its individual growth from the earliest beginnings to the fall of the republic, Part 6, Pompeo Molmenti, A.C. McClurg & Co., 1908
  5. ^ Giganti, Nicoletto. Scola, overo, teatro: nel qual sono rappresentate diverse maniere, e modi di parare et di ferire di spada sola, e di spada e pugnale. Padua, 1628.
  6. ^ Giganti, Nicoletto. Escrime nouvelle ou théâtre auquel sont réprésentées diverses manières de parer et de fraper, d'espée seule et d'espée et poignard ensemble. (Frankfurt, 1619). And Giganti, Nicoletto. Fechtschul: Darinnen angezeiget wie man auff unterschiedlich weisen das Rapier allein/oder beneben dem Dolchen beydes zum aufschlagen unnd zum treffen/gebrauchen soll. / Eschole ou theatre: auquel sont représentées diverses manières de se servir de l’espée seule, ou accompaignée du poignard, tant pour destourner que pour donner le coup. Frankfurt, 1622, 1644.
  7. ^ Fabris, Salvator. Scienza E Pratica D'Arme Di Salvatore Fabris, Capo Dell' Ordine Dei Sette Cuori. Das ist: Herrn Salvatore Fabris Obristen des Ritter-Ordens der Sieben Hertzen, Italiänsche Fecht Kunst. Wie solche in zweyen Büchern ordentlich und deutlich verfasset, und mit Figuren dargestellet worden. Leipzig, 1676. fol.3r-3v.
  8. ^ Pallavicini, Giuseppe Morsicato. La seconda parte della scherma illustrata (Palermo, 1673) p.v.
  9. ^ Marchionni, Alberto. Trattato di scherma: sopra un nuovo sistema di giuoco misto di scuola italiana e francese. Florence, 1847. p.41-42.
  10. ^ Gelli, Jacopo. Bibliografia generale della scherma. Florence, 1890. pp.112-113.
  11. ^ Terminiello, Piermarco and Pendragon, Joshua. The 'Lost' Second Book of Nicoletto Giganti: A Rapier Treatise Rediscovered and Translated. London, 2013.

Further reading[edit]

Venetian Rapier: The School, or Salle (English translation of Giganti's first book of 1606).

The 'Lost' Second Book of Nicoletto Giganti(1608): A Rapier Fencing Treatise (English translation of Giganti's 'lost' second book of 1608).