Thursday, 14 December 2017

Translation - Quattro Parole sulla Scherma by Salvatore Arista

A few years after Salvatore Arista published his highly critical and reactionary Del progresso della scherma in Italia, an article written by him entitled Quattro Parole sulla Scherma (literally: "Four Words on Fencing") was published in the short-lived weekly magazine Don Giovanni. Here is the translation of this article:

In this article, Arista gives a much more introspective and reasoned look at the history of Italian fencing, focusing mainly on the 19th century and highlighting the achievements and innovations of the Northern Italian school in comparison to the Southern school. He then moves on to the story of the Radaellian school, proving himself to still be one of its staunchest defenders and praising Masiello's recent fencing treatise as being an excellent propagation of Radaelli's theories. At the very end, Arista announces to the world that he has designed his own type of sword which is supposedly inspired by the cut-and-thrust types seen in the 18th and earlier 19th century.

The main interesting parts I take away from this article are:
  1. Where he describes Radaelli's pasteggio, that is, how Radaelli told his students to grip the sabre, his description of which closely resembling that of Masiello, Barbasetti, and Pecoraro/Pessina (a discussion on this topic is forthcoming).
  2. His mention of there being some form of compromise by the Ministry of War in which the Scuola Magistrale would still officially adopt Parise's method as the regulation sabre system, but the cavalry regiments would continue to teach Radaelli's method. This seems to strengthen my theory that the cavalry never adopted Parise's method in the first place, or at least it was only for a brief period of less than a year.
  3. Arista announces a new, revolutionary sword of his design and that he intends to take it out and trial it in private fencing halls, however I have yet to find any mention of it elsewhere, so it probably wasn't that great.
The article was divided across three issues of Don Giovanni, the first part being published on the 7th of January 1888, the second on the 26th of January, and the last on the 23rd of February. The magazine itself only had 11 issues in total, the last of which being published on the 31st of March 1888.

The scans of this article may be found here. Special thanks to Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze for sifting through the magazine for this article and providing me with the scans.


  1. Gelli mentions somewhere that the cavalry had abandoned Parise's method after some brief period. I think it is in the Bibliography/Biography. Granted, Gelli is sometimes of questionable accuracy on earlier stuff, but he seems better with later era issues, having been around or known people who were.

    1. Yeah Gelli says that in both the bibliography and Resurrectio. I see no reason to doubt it now that we see Arista saying the same thing and the 1885 Cavalry Regulations showing the same Radaellian sabre system as in the 1873 regulations.