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Konrad Kyeser

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Text from Talhoffer


Complete Translation Complete translation
by Rebecca Garber

Transcription [edit]
by Dieter Bachmann

MS Thott.290.2º 011r.jpg

[1] He writes on a knotted string.

He writes [the words] from his mouth and becomes black.

MS Thott.290.2º 011v.jpg


MS Thott.290.2º 012r.jpg


MS Thott.290.2º 012v.jpg


MS Thott.290.2º 013r.jpg


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[10] This battle wagon should be fortified according to this shape using metal work, and with a shield, as is drawn here, and those who fight on this, they should have weapons as is painted here.

MS Thott.290.2º 016r.jpg

[11] This is a human image made from metal work, internally hollow, and should be filled with amber and with chervil blossoms.[1] One should set it in the places of the palace, wherever it turns its face, there will be pleasant aromas at all times.

MS Thott.290.2º 016v.jpg

[12] This is a large stone thrower,[2] with which one throws stones and breaks cities and strongholds.

MS Thott.290.2º 017r.jpg

[13] This is “cat” and also a runner with a fast shield with which one lifts armored people into the battlements.

MS Thott.290.2º 017v.jpg

[14] This is called the “large hunting dog”. It moves to castles on the wheels and should the walls have equal heights, the square bridge which hangs thereon should lower down using the rope until the front iron grips the wall. Afterward, the Saxons go out of the hollow [interior]. They battle and fight until they capture what they desire.

MS Thott.290.2º 018r.jpg

[15] Take note of this runner which is noble and good. The upper part should be fastened with boards up to the fourth [ladder] rung that you move to the walls. Armed people go through that up onto the walls. You can lift the rear part up like the front [part].

MS Thott.290.2º 018v.jpg

[16] With this “cat”, one quickly gains walls with the height, which is built at the top. Hang the bridge with the cable until the front iron grip the wall. Afterward, the armed [men] run into the walls.

MS Thott.290.2º 019r.jpg

[17] This is a high bridge, which moves over water and across all ditches. It should be built from a tall chamber,[3] and the bridge should hang thereon, so that one lifts it up externally until the wheels grip the location, then one lets the bridge drop, and with the dropping, the pointed iron grips the ground and makes of the height even with the height.

MS Thott.290.2º 019v.jpg

[18] This is called a “rocker”[4]and is a pretty thing. It moves on six wheels and stands on two columns. At the beginning, it inclines the head to the ground and lifts the tail up until it comes to the wall. Then it raises the head up to the wall and touches the ground with the tail, and those who are under it, they injure those on the wall. The upper part of the “rocker” should be fortified with decoys,[5] with manure and with green hides, so that hot water for emergency protection cannot injure them. When one pulls it behind them, then the head pulls back onto the ground and the tail is above until you come to a safe place.

MS Thott.290.2º 020r.jpg

[19] This present elevation shields the people inside from the rear and the front and also from above.

MS Thott.290.2º 020v.jpg

[20] That is a “monk’s hood”, which lies behind on his back. One guides it on the three wheels, one in front under the point and two following. It should be covered above with decoys[5] and covered with hides and other things that belong with that; it should be joined using strong woodwork, supplied with iron. That is necessary so that heavy stones or hard shots do damage to it. When you arrive at the walls, then direct the point up with the one wheel. All who are inside it then climb it afterward.

MS Thott.290.2º 021r.jpg

[21] This is a bread that one calls “zwieback” and is twice baked bread. It is useful in fortresses and in tents. It remains good for a long time without mold or mildew.

MS Thott.290.2º 021v.jpg

[22] This wooden ladder, made with disks on the inside, should connect itself to the wall using a cable fastened to it. Afterward, lash the pieces of the ladder when you want to remove it, then separate the left part from the ladder using the outer cable, then it is free.

MS Thott.290.2º 022r.jpg

[23] This whip is a knife when you want, and this drill[6] bores through twofold metal sheets.

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[24] You should consider an access using ditches. You should dig crookedly around, back and forth; set a shield over it, which is guided using long poles. The ditches protect the people from [stone] throwers and [they] approach safely, and when they want to exit then they should draw the shield behind them, so that they move safely.

MS Thott.290.2º 023r.jpg

[25] This is a deadly defense, little jabbing small carts filled with stones [fitted] on the front with sharp iron. Run down the mountain. Armed people can run after the same because the wagons lay waste with the sharp iron whatever is in front of them.

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[26] See the access to the fortresses using baskets or buckets. The posts underneath should go into the point of the basket or bucket.

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[27] Wherever people are gathered in cliffs and in caves, whom you otherwise cannot overcome, then you should take mattresses or pillows with feathers; add to that urine[7] and pisul,[8] and ignite it so that the smoke arises from there. Then those [who] are in the caves suffocate, thus you get to them.

MS Thott.290.2º 024v.jpg

[28] You can make a light on top of a tower, and over that a lantern made from red glass with a long neck. Set that on a corner and set a large light therein. That illuminates many miles from you.

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[29] You can fortify erected tents in this way, with wooden [stakes] pointed on top with metal work and set into the ground. The Turks overcame the King of Hungary with this wisdom.[9]

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[30] This arrow should be made from the best steel, with doubled ends and internally hollow and filled with lead. The same arrow flies so secretly and so quietly that no one can hear it.

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[31] Ingenius and pleasing for horses to be swum[10]
Look at the thing, consider how many, which are this way
When it is fastened,[11] when it is pleasing, draw back with the small rope.

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[33] This is an article with which you can swim. Bind it in front of the stomach. The head of the tail should hang. The legs should be linen and the rings iron.

You go or swim over any [body of] water with this article. You should pay attention that the head is forward on the hand, and the back is covered. And this item is made from ram skin leather and the edges should be silk.

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[34] This is [a] stairway[13] with the ladder with single and double footsteps.[14] Go up and set it up, and the long double tines below support the ladder from below.

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[35] These climbing ladders are made from rope.[15] You should fasten them using the long fork tines.[16]

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[36] You gild a wreath with white roses in this way. Take yellow flowers[17] and grind them, and take beaten egg white and brandy wine, and mix the ground flowers with that and coat the roses, so that they become gold colored.

MS Thott.290.2º 029r.jpg

[37] This “serpent” is a probe[18] against major failures, because it climbs on battlements and on towers. When one stretches it outwardly, then it moves upward using the disks. Afterward, one should reverse it until the hooks grip the fortress and the pointed iron at the bottom goes into the ground.

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[39] This dagger should have a short shank[19] four hands long or more. Fight with the dagger in the right hand, with the round shield in the left hand.

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[40] This large club belongs with the shield. You should guide the shield with the left hand and the club in the right hand and fight, stand, and strike with them both.

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[41] This is a sling with which one throws stones, and is a sneaky weapon. With this weapon, David overcame Goliath, and [it] is useful on fortifications and in the fields.

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[42] This bath is described by Galieno the premier doctor and is good for many types of breakdowns, particularly for trembling of the limbs and for breakdowns in the flow of the bright artery, you should take these herbs: artemisia, wormwood,[20] valerian,[21] chrysanthemum or tanacetum,[22] thorny restharrow,[23] St. Benedict’s herb,[24] kraut,[25] heather or broom, agrimony, and European water lily.[26]

Obtain them in nice weather, wash them well and cut them into pieces and lay them in the crock under the bath so that the steam goes in through the tube. When one has sweated in there, then one should take the herbs out of the crock and rub and wash him or herself with them, the hottest that one can endure. This is useful all months except during the dog days.

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[43] This is another sling and is useful in the fields, on fortifications, and on mountains.

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[44] This is a kitchen with a chimney so that the smoke flows away quickly in all winds. Take the white from eggs and separate if from the yolk, and pour the white through a funnel into a large flat bowl. Afterward, beat the yolks well through and over one another. If the white is in the closed flat bowl, afterward pour the yolks into that. Simmer until it becomes hard. That is then a large egg from which many can eat.

MS Thott.290.2º 033r.jpg

[45] If you want to secretly carry letters, pearls, gold, silver, or precious stones, take linen and make a hollow item from that, and place it in there. Afterward, take lime and salt and temper that with egg white, [and] coat it with that. When it is dry, then it becomes harder than a stone. Or separate a bread [loaf] into two parts and hollow it out, and place it there in and put it back together. Or drill a wooden block and force a peg into that and cut off the peg (and the block is a wooden [block]).

An herb is called darnel[27] (some call it ninilol). It grows well at the locations where one has burned charcoal. Whoever simmers the roots in wine until the wine is one-fourth of the simmering, and then mixes that with other wine, that brings the strongest sleep that one can ever have, and whoever then puts moss in a well simmering wine, and combines and mixes it with that, then it becomes a surpassingly strong sleep draught. Whoever drinks that, that one loses all strength and defenses because of sleep. And one can lay a large population low with that, and know that this is a secret thing.

MS Thott.290.2º 033v.jpg

[46] This is a winch made from doubled wheels and arranged such that one part connects the rope to the other, so that if you pull on the one side, then it goes above itself, to the other side [and] back under itself.

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[47] This is moving bridge, that is pushed forward using the outer ropes, and it goes back behind again using the middle rope, and it is a clever article, and [one] should thus attach the ropes underneath and inside.

MS Thott.290.2º 034v.jpg

[48] This box shield is made from woodworking and moves up and down. One shoots stones out of it when it moves up, and when it moves down, then no shot can injure the one who is behind the shield.

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[49] This ship runs[28] fast against water, as quickly as a horse with a fast gait. It should have two wheels as are pictured here.

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[50] Pay attention: wherever the sun follows the gold or brightly shining armor, the shield should move in front of that. Thus, a manly fighter overcomes his enemy with the sun’s help. He sends the beams of the sun (in the gold or in the brightly beautiful armor) in a measured way from there into the enemy’s eyes.

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[51] This head, equipped with weapons, cuts with the ears to either side. It moves on two wheels and it thrusts and kills with the tongue and the horn, and is a fighter in battles. It should be internally wooden and externally strongly reinforced[29] with iron, so that no one can hack it into little pieces with hammers or with axes. King Porrus guided this shield and laid many of his enemies low with it.

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[52] A wise fighter should organize his wagons like this when moving quickly. Firstly: one wagon after the other, afterward two next to one another, afterward three, afterward four, increasing according to the lines until you fill them all out. Divide the army’s force therein, that is, the warhorses, people, and also the people on foot. Divide all the points thusly. Use this organization when you move into foreign lands..

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[53] This spur subdues[30] six horses and the shapes on it are half iron and half steel. It is to be used in foreign lands and it is taken as a means of security, because it forces the men strongly to the sides.

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[54] One should make two wagons. On top of this frame there in the center, armed people fight; the wagons, they battle; the guns, they injure, and they beat drums. If you have arrived at water, then set the two wagons following one another in series, thus you are in a safe place due to the water. Each wagon should have six wheels according to its size and should be one-and-a-half wagon lengths. The horses should follow two ells behind the two first wheels so that they are safe, and they lay everything low. The rods, which are inside underneath, protect them from falling and the boards which are hung at the sides shield the unarmored horses. One horse should follow the other, and at each side one second [horse] is enough, [they] and are held together with twofold chains.

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[55] This item is called a “crab” and is smithed from iron, and moves backward and forward. One guides it on four fast wheels. It cuts in front and behind. There should be doubled sickles made of long iron at each side on the axles of the disks. It has four eyes: when one ignites them, then it shoots stones in front, crushed steel pieces like a hail, so that one lays the enemy low. One can make the item as large or small as one wants.

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[56] This battle wagon, which hacks up armored people’s legs, it fells unarmored people with contact. It has iron [parts], broad in the rear, and narrow in the front, filed sharp as a sickle, and one guides it on two wheels.

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[57] This shield belongs to the guns, and is built from woodwork, and should have two small wheels in front and two large behind. And so that it can more easily go over mountain paths, it should have two short iron [pieces] one ell long behind and in front. This is measured to mountains and for climbing, and also to pull it back again. One should always pull the iron with long ropes behind it.

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[58] This is a frightful, long “viper” with strong hooks in front, which one should place at a face on [exterior] walls. The people attacking [the walls] can use it and knights, who can pull into the interior in the walls, whatever they grip, when they strongly pull on the rope.

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[59] This bridge serves in two ways. It travels over land on four wheels and floats in the water. Do this as I said before, this bridge is a good wagon and watertight and comfortable on the water.

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[60] This is another climbing hook. It moves on four wheels until the upper hook grips the wall and one safely climbs towers and walls with it.

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[61] Thus, water guides itself from above on one side and up again to the other side. [There] should be a chamber inside in the middle which detains the water.

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[62] One should load wild horses with dry wood, including sulphur and pitch and resin.[31] If the saddle is daubed or smeared with egg white, then ignite that. Drive the horse among the enemies, thus [they] bite and strike and burn the enemies.

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[63] A correct fire arrow should be round in front and hollow therein, which one should fill with powder, and pull a small sack over that, which is also filled with powder. Ignite it behind and shoot it quickly so that the fire burns and damages the shaft only a little. And where the shaft sticks in, it damages a great deal. Another fire arrow: take powder, sulphur, and work the correct mixture with oil. Bind it on top like a spindle, ignite it, and shoot with it.

Using a large drill,[6] bore a hole into a tree and a small hole on the other side using a small drill,[6] and fill the large hole with powder and close it completely with a chunk of wood. Ignite it at the small hole and flee quickly from there. It bursts apart and makes a large tumult.

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[64] This item is made for three guns and shoots one after the other.

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[65] Take the very best powder and place it in these spheres. Ignite them and throw them. Great damage arises from this because the fire explodes them and burns very strongly.

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[66] This item belongs under the water. The head and the body are covered with leather and sewn well, and the eyes are made with glass therein and secured well with resin and with pitch. A sponge[32] or two should be above in front of the mouth, from which you can catch your breath and you can let [your breath] back into it, thus you can move and see under the water.

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[67] This article is [made] the same way, with the exception that the head is covered by a heavy helmet, and the eyes under that are made as before. If the water flows strongly, then you should weight yourself with weight or tie a rope to a tree or to a pole,[33] so that you can come out using it.

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[68] Darnel[27] is called libol [when] cooked together in wine, and the wine is mixed into another. Whomever you give this to drink, he falls asleep and does not wake for eight days. Take the fig-leaf-shaped part from the backbone of the crab,[34] mix it with whatever you want. That makes for great sleeping. Take valerian, soak it in wine overnight. Whomever you give it to drink, he sleeps until someone wakes him. Take the seeds from muratiten.[8] Whomever you give this to in a drink, he grabs the other by the hair.

The remedy for the previously described articles is to pour strong vinegar into the nostrils. Whoever wants to ride across the country or to be taken as a watchman, and wants to make sleep difficult, he should take seeds of strepiton[8] and places them in the mouth, then the sleep quickly ends.

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[70] Take copper, beat [it], and make a sphere from it (internally hollow). Afterward, take unslaked lime, one part, [and] galbanum,[35] one half part. Mix the galbanum and the lime. Afterward, take turtle[36] gallbladder in the same weight and place the galbanum therein. Afterward, take soldier beetles[37] (as [many] as you want), cut the heads and wings off, and push with the same weight of mercury. Put it on a club, bury it in manure for forty days, and change it in the manure every 5th day. Then it becomes like gold. Take the ball and coat it with the first part and let it dry and when it is dry, then coat it with the other thing. Ignite it, and it does not extinguish. If you want to extinguish it, however, then take a piece of a flint, soften it in vinegar for three days, and immerse the ball within it.

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[71] I am called Philomenus and am made from ore or from copper. I do not give [off] any heat if I am empty. However, if I am filled with turpentine[38] or with brandy wine, and someone places my body toward the fire so that I become hot, then I throw fire in sparks in front and one can light any candles thereby.

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[72] These are snowshoes, one should make them in this shape and cover them with straw and tie them together above the foot. In the same way that you do that, tie them together under the feet with long straw.

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[73] You can make a prince’s palace warm with this well-flavored piece. Take many crucibles that contain fire, make a fire under them from dry wood and coals, [and] place therein ambrosia, partially-fermented wine, saffron, camphor, myrrh, old frankincense, mastic, incense, and two kinds of sandalwood. Add select incense to that, or other well-flavored things.

Item: soak cloves[39] overnight in wine, and in the morning, cut them up finely. Place the cloves thickly in one crucible and pour a little of the wine on that. When this piece becomes hot, then it will smell good.

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[74] These assembled items are good in riding[40] for the army: a saw with a handle, crowbar, drill,[6] hook spanner,[41] pointed instrument for drilling mounted on a handle, a threading[42] die, [and] a cutting[43] blade.

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Additional Resources

The following is a list of publications containing scans, transcriptions, and translations relevant to this article, as well as published peer-reviewed research.


  1. Chaerophyllum. Note: these are both aromatics.
  2. Blide = Steinschleuder, which is any weapon capable of casting stones.
  3. Or “space/interior”.
  4. Gnapper = a rocker/totterer/nodding movement.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Or “bait”.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Näbiger is a broad term including both a drill and an auger.
  7. Irem => urin
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Unknown word.
  9. Reference to the Battle of Nicopolis (1396), which Kyeser may have participated in.
  10. Or “floated”.
  11. Or “inserted”.
  12. The wrong text is included here. The original (Latin) 7-chapter version had this text on the page facing this illustration, and they were swapped by a careless scribe. The creators of Talhoffer’s manuscript only included one of the two illustrations with its wrong caption, leading to much confusion. This is also the only Latin text in this version, though the Cod. 3086 (from which it was copied) has several more that weren’t translated.
  13. Or “steep incline”.
  14. Sets of rungs?
  15. Or “cable”.
  16. Gabel doesn’t exactly mean hook, but sort of any type of forked/pointed agricultural tool.
  17. Goldblumen can be flowers made from gold (which appears unlikely here) or any number of yellow/gold flowers, including chrysanthemum, calendula officinalis (marigold), heliotropium, solsequium, areola, dandelion, Catha palustris (marsh marigold), centhauria, aurifolium, asphodelus, heliochrysum, anthemis tinctoria, ranunculus, lilium martagon (turban lily), etc.
  18. At the time, a sonde was a medical instrument for examining a wound or another point that could not be reached with one’s hand.
  19. Bomöl => baumel = small baum. In the context of fighting/dueling, a baum is a staff, so a short staff.
  20. Absinthium.
  21. Baldrian = valeriana.
  22. Bërhtram = pyrethrum.
  23. Eindorn = ononis spinosa.
  24. Benedict = herba benedicta.
  25. Heide = erica.
  26. Harwe/harwurz = nenuphar.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Loliol = lolium: darnel, poison darnel, darnel ryegrass, cockle, or false wheat.
  28. Or “moves”.
  29. Or “covered”.
  30. Or “overpowers”.
  31. Or “gum”.
  32. Presumably some type of natural sponge.
  33. Or “stump”, “pole”, “column”.
  34. Likely crayfish.
  35. Galbanum is an aromatic gum resin, the product of ferual gummosa.
  36. Schneggen could an older version of turtle, or specifically garter snakes in the north; it also means snail, but snails don’t have gallbladders.
  37. Cantharidae.
  38. Literally terebinth, the turpentine tree.
  39. Nelken can be cloves, carnations (dianthus), or the pistils of flowers like lilies.
  40. Or “traveling”.
  41. Or “wrench”.
  42. Or “screwing”.
  43. Or “shearing”.