Saturday, 17 December 2016

Who is Settimo Del Frate?

An avid student and friend of Radaelli, Settimo Del Frate was the man who assumed the role of scribe for Giuseppe Radaelli, publishing the works that outlined his fencing system. Below you will find my translation of Jacopo Gelli's biography of Del Frate, taken from his 1890 "Bibliografia Generale della Scherma".

As an interesting side note, Gelli mentions an 1881 text written by Del Frate called "Istruzione per la scherma a cavallo" (Instruction for fencing on horseback), which Gelli could not find, nor has it been found since to my knowledge. Perhaps it lies in a dusty archive in Italy, waiting to be identifed. The thought of such a thing occurring excites me far more than it probably should...

Nevertheless, here is what Gelli had to say about Del Frate:


The work of Cav.1 Settimo Del Frate, inspired by excellent technical and practical principles, is above any praise. The minor mistakes that were found in the first editions were amended in the subsequent editions.
Settimo Del Frate, already a law graduate with the University of Pavia in 1856, volunteered in the Monferrato Cavalry regiment in 1859, with which he made the campaign against Austria.
After the war he remained in the army, in the hope that Italy would soon regather the army for its independence.
In fact, in 1866 with the same regiment he made the campaign with the rank of first lieutenant, then with that of captain.
In 1872 he was called to the post of captain-secretary with the committee of the cavalry division. Promoted to major, he returned to the regiment; currently he is a colonel and regimental commander of the Saluzzo Cavalry regiment.
During his voluntary service and the campaign of 1859 with the Monferrato cavalry, the present Colonel Del Frate became acquainted with the volunteer Giuseppe Radaelli, a Milanese fencing Maestro. The ordinary life of the field and a passion for the army brought the lawyer-soldier and the soldier-fencer together. And so Colonel Del Frate, excited by Radaelli's theories, became a very dear friend and active student and hence intelligent interpreter of the ideas of the new system, created by Radaelli, which he committed to the presses.
In 1869 Cav. Del Frate published the first essay on the fencing system of Radaelli by invitation of Colonel Avogadro, a passionate fencer and a friend and student of Radaelli.
A second essay was written by the Captain Del Frate, written by order of the Ministry of War, to be used as the text for the Scuola Magistrale of fencing, founded in Milan in 1871. This new essay saw the light in 1876 and was reprinted a second time.
H.M. King Vittorio Emanuele, accepting the homage of the first essay, to demonstrate to Captain Del Frate his royal approval and the merit in which he held the work, he presented the author with a beautiful gold watch with the royal cypher.
In turn, the Ministry of War put forward Captain Del Frate to become a Knight of the Crown of Italy.
The second essay of Captain Del Frate in Radaelli's fencing system was awarded with a certificate and silver medal of 1st class by the Congress of the Italian Gymnastics Federation, held in 1873. 
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On the merits of these treatises and of this fencing method came the publications of Pilla, Besenzanica, Arista, and Gelli, cited in this Bibliography.

1 Cav. is short for Cavaliere, basically the Italian equivalent of a knighthood.

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