The Neapolitan fencing lineage is one of the most well-documented and longest-lasting in Europe, arguably rivalling the Liechtenauer, Kreussler, and Destreza traditions. From Marcelli in the 17th century to the Parise at the end of the 19th century, there are around a dozen different authors who wrote treatises in the name of the Neapolitan or southern Italian tradition. One lesser-known treatise from this tradition can be found in Niccolò Abbondati's Istituzione di arte ginnastica per le truppe di fanteria di S. M. Siciliana ('Institution of the art of gymnastics for the infantry troops of His Sicilian Majesty'), published in 1846. Having recently acquired an original copy of Abbondati's work, it is my great pleasure to be able to share it here today.
Volume 2: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VJplcFInFcqYmxv3QLDo9gxYAGq2P_Jg/view?usp=sharing
The publication comprises two volumes, with the first containing instruction for gymnastics and various physical exercises akin to modern military physical training, and the second containing instruction on horse riding and fencing (both sword and sabre). As the title implies, the material was intended to be used as a textbook book the physical training of soldiers in the army of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
For the part which most concerns the main topic of this blog, i.e. fencing, Abbondati attributes his knowledge of the art to his master Emmanuele Dumarteau, a famous Neapolitan fencing master of the first half of the 19th century who also taught Giacomo Massei, a founder of the Grand National Fencing Academy in Naples and a mentor of Masaniello Parise.
|The most prominent Neapolitan fencing lineages of the 19th century|
The sword method greatly resembles that detailed in Rosaroll-Scorza & Grisetti's seminal 1804 work The Science of Fencing, albeit more abridged and with somewhat more modernised terminology, as well as what could be considered the first appearance of synoptic tables in an Italian fencing treatise. Abbondati's book also contains one of the few sabre treatises published in Italy in the first half of the 19th century, and prescribes a peculiar method of gripping the weapon which involves supporting the thumb on the upper quillon in order to better direct the cuts.
Abbondati's passion for gymnastics and physical education would be passed on to his son Ferdinando, who would go on to published several works on gymnastics. Today, Niccolò and Ferdinando Abbondati are considered two of the founding fathers of Italian gymnastics.