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Konrad Kyeser

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Text from Talhoffer


Draft Translation Draft translation
by Jeffrey Hull

Transcription [edit]
by Dieter Bachmann

MS Thott.290.2º 011r.jpg

[1] He "inscribes" a message within a knotted twine.

He records the words of the mouth upon paper and those shall become black later.

Talhoffer (?) stands in the middle of the scene while speaking from an inscribed scroll, between two cryptographers, perhaps Rotwyler (?) and Pflieger (?), while the one to the left knots a message in cordage as the one to the right puts unseen words on a scroll with invisible ink.

MS Thott.290.2º 011v.jpg

[2] Talhoffer (?) stands in the middle of the scene and breaks apart an iron chain with his bare hands, while a man to the left with quill & inkpot inscribes or draws something unseen on the back of a half-barefoot running courier, while another man to the right seemingly starts knotting or rending a yard of heavy cloth.

MS Thott.290.2º 012r.jpg

[3] Two possibilities:

  1. Huntsman slays aurochs with broadhead-bolt from crossbow and with hounds.
  2. Herdsman defends cattle against wolves with broadhead-bolt from crossbow.
MS Thott.290.2º 012v.jpg

[4] Quick-shooting targets with the crossbow, fire-pots or grenades, air-mattress, peacock.

MS Thott.290.2º 013r.jpg

[5] Hardware — wheels, hinge, hasps & clasps, perhaps lock-works — the stuff of various mechanical devices.

MS Thott.290.2º 013v.jpg

[6] Medicine or poison mixing?

MS Thott.290.2º 014r.jpg

[7] Shooting a life-line to swimmer with blunt-bolt from crossbow and poisoned dagger-attack?

MS Thott.290.2º 014v.jpg

[8] A man in the load-basket of a perriere spies the carriaged culverin (?) upon the battlements of a burgh-tower, as river-borne men float by means of cantilevering bladder-raft and air-ring, utilised perhaps to cross over river to burgh.

MS Thott.290.2º 015r.jpg

[9] Various belt-buckles and/or belt-graffles to aid crossbow-spanning. Pole-cleaver head, pike-head, lash-flail & pole-flail — weaponry especially for troopers in war-wagons.

MS Thott.290.2º 015v.jpg

[10] This war-wagon which flies the flag of Saint George should be wrought in this form and fortified with thick planking and hub-threshers as designed here; and therefrom troopers strike; they shall have weaponry as depicted here of spear, halberd, morning-star, pike, corseque.

MS Thott.290.2º 016r.jpg

[11] This is a manlike effigy; made of fine metalwork and hollow inside; and shall become filled with amber and with flower-mincings; which one shall set in palatial chambers — wherever it turns its face, there goes good smoke all the time.

An elaborate & symbolic censer.[1]

MS Thott.290.2º 016v.jpg

[12] This is a great trebuchet wherewith one may throw stones and break cities and forts.

MS Thott.290.2º 017r.jpg

[13] A "cat" / catafalque and also a "ladle" with a speeding shelter, wherewith one heaves armed folk onto battlements.

This lacks the wheels, but this is the top part of a catafalque or belfrey (wheeled siege-tower) — the cloven lance thrusts out to smite defenders at ground level, while the invaders teeter-totter over the wall.

MS Thott.290.2º 017v.jpg

[14] This is called a "big dog". It goes to castles upon its wheels and with walls shall deal. It has the square bridge affixed with ropes, which lowers once the forward irons grapple the wall. Thereafter go the "foxes" out of the hull, who strike and fight — and they clear away whatever they desire.

MS Thott.290.2º 018r.jpg

[15] Mark this ladle — it is way-good. The upper part shall be wrought of planks whereupon are the faring-rungs that convey you to the walls; whereby armed folk go up onto the walls; the hinter-part heaves you forth as the forward iron grapples that wall.

Again, part of a belfrey.

MS Thott.290.2º 018v.jpg

[16] With this cat, one quickly wins walls with the holds upon the tops of buildings. The bridge hangs down therefrom by ropes once the forward irons grapple at the wall. Thereafter lope the armed folk upon the wall.

Again, part of belfrey.

MS Thott.290.2º 019r.jpg

[17] This is a holding-bridge that goes over water and over all trenches / moats; it shall be built of a high room topped by a bridge hanging therefrom, so that one be lifted up outside when the wheels are set to let it grapple. And so one lets fall the bridge and by that fall the pointed iron grapples the Earth and makes a mighty even hold.

MS Thott.290.2º 019v.jpg

[18] This is called a "nodder" and it is a nice rig. It goes upon six wheels and props upon two. Should it rotate forth upon two wheels, then it tilts the "head" to the Earth and raises up the "tail" until it comes to the wall; such that it raises up the head at / upon the wall and touches the Earth with the tail; and so then thereunder are ravages wrought upon the wall. The upper part of the nodder should be festooned with oakum, muck and green protection; so that what men call "water-fire", or even guns, may not hurt men when one tugs that back; one thus tugs the head again onto the Earth and the tail upward; around that thereupon it comes to certain stance.

MS Thott.290.2º 020r.jpg

[19] The present hold shelters folk inside from attacks ahead and behind and also above.

Screen to protect pioneers?

MS Thott.290.2º 020v.jpg

[20] This is a "monks-hood", which leads from the front upon a wagon; which one directs upon three wheels, one in front under the peak and two after at the mouth; it shall be sealed with oakum and bedecked with protection and other things that are fitting. It should be configured together with strong woodwork, braced with iron such that it is not makeshift, thus hard stones or high-powered shot damage it not. When you come to a wall then raise up the peak climbing with that one wheel, then all come out who are within.

Mobile battlefield-tunnel, apparently with a pop-top, for conveying troopers.

MS Thott.290.2º 021r.jpg

[21] This is a bread that one calls biscuits and is a twice-baked bread. And theses nuts, whether upon the battlements or camping, stay good a long time without getting moldy.

Zwieback croissants and hazelnuts — minimal rations for siege.

MS Thott.290.2º 021v.jpg

[22] This wooden escalade-ladder, made with discs inside, so you shall join to the battlements with attached ropes controlling & lowering it from the belfrey. Thereafter bind it; thereupon tether the steps of the ladder when you will deposit troopers thus vexingly; that aligns the upper part of the ladder with the fastening-rope — thus it is vexing.

MS Thott.290.2º 022r.jpg

[23] This whip is a knife when you want it to be. This "knapper" bores through double-plating.

This is a curve-bladed knife for some purpose.

MS Thott.290.2º 022v.jpg

[24] You shall mark that one goes forth with this while digging — while you dig bent over, the shelter is set above you with long spars; the digging is protected, the missiles are repulsed and the folk go forth certainly and the work be flowing; so should the shelter be dragged after you from within. So you certainly be going.

Mobile shelters — both man-borne and wheeled sows — to cover pioneers with picks & shovels during siege.

MS Thott.290.2º 023r.jpg

[25] This is one deadly weapon: The trooper has run out from the mountain-burgh pushing a small stone-filled cart prowed with sharpened irons. The same one may attack that armed lot in the trench — that is when he wreaks havoc, with sharpened irons and falling rocks — they get what-for.

MS Thott.290.2º 023v.jpg

[26] See — they are going toward the fortress. With the "basket" they should lurch around. Within the shelter of the basket they go.

MS Thott.290.2º 024r.jpg

[27] What stops the buzzing of folk in confined shelter — whom you otherwise may not overcome? There you should take beds or cushions filled with feathers; do thereto with pitch / piss (?) and kindle it; so the smoke goes therefrom. So that sticks it to those in the confines — thus you get to them.

MS Thott.290.2º 024v.jpg

[28] You may make a light upon a tower and set thereover a lantern of red glass with a long neck. Set that upon an edge and put a great light therein. That illumines for many miles around you.

MS Thott.290.2º 025r.jpg

[29] Setting up a pavillion, this one flying an Árpád / Hapsburg flag, you make it protected in this way — with either wooden or else wrought-iron spikes set round in the Earth. With this cunning the King Wenzel / the King Sigismund of Hungary quelled the Turks.[2]

MS Thott.290.2º 025v.jpg

[30] This file is made of best steel, with twofold ridging, hollow inside, filled with lead. This same file does file so secretly and so quietly that no man may hear.

The arrow is given no remarks, although it could carry an egg-shaped ordnance.

MS Thott.290.2º 026r.jpg

[31] Beautiful instinct whereby horsemen outstretch — see why and consider likewise who and whereby. When it may finish is when it withdraws and finally gets it. (?)

Text that tells nothing about the thing portrayed — which is a swimming-girdle.

MS Thott.290.2º 026v.jpg

[32] Seems like a pulley that mounts into or grapples either belfry or battlement.

MS Thott.290.2º 027r.jpg

[33] This is a rig wherewith you swim; make it so the "belly" binds around; and the "tail" should hang up to the head; the legs should be in line and the rings should be of iron.

You go or swim with this rig over / through any water. You shall notice that the head be in front; the hands and the back are covered. This rig is made of buck-leather and the "bridle" would be silken.

A swimming-girdle.

MS Thott.290.2º 027v.jpg

[34] Escalade-ladders, with single-file and double-file foot-rungs. Up it goes and you drive yourself up. And the long twofold forks hang up the ladder from underneath.

MS Thott.290.2º 028r.jpg

[35] These escalade ladders are made of ropes; you should slap them up against battlements with the long forks.

MS Thott.290.2º 028v.jpg

[36] You gild a wreath of white roses in this way: take golden blooms and mash them and take beaten egg-whites and brandy-wine and mix the mashed blooms therewith and then paint the roses so that they become gold-colored.

MS Thott.290.2º 029r.jpg

[37] This "snake" tracts and retracts again, when it climbs up battlements and up towers, for when one storms those from outside; so it goes up and thereafter one shall turn those discs with ropes from belfry until the hooks grapple the fortress and the pointed irons pierce into the earth.

MS Thott.290.2º 029v.jpg

[38] Four specialized tactical arrows, for cutting ropes, maiming enemy horses, or making mayhem with malicious incendiary or "water-fire".

MS Thott.290.2º 030r.jpg

[39] This dagger should have a blade four-hands long or more. Fight with the dagger in the right hand and the swiveling buckler in the left hand.

MS Thott.290.2º 030v.jpg

[40] This great mace belongs with the shield: You should advance the shield in the left hand and the mace in the right hand; and with both those fighting, stabbing and striking.

Perhaps these are in style of the Turks or Mongols.

MS Thott.290.2º 031r.jpg

[41] This is a pole-sling for throwing stones and is a cunning armament; with this weapon David overwhelmed Goliath; it is useful at forts or afield.

MS Thott.290.2º 031v.jpg

[42] This bath portrayed is a sauna which is near a hole-in-the-ice; the oven is outside. And this bath is good for treating many hand-maladies, especially jittery limbs / joints and for the flow of "golden arteries". While resting therein, you shall take these herbs — mugwort, wormwood, valerian, bertram, einkorn, bennet, heather, agrimony, sorrel — chop them to pieces and extract them well with sweet water; pack them in the pot / basket underneath the bath wherefrom steaming water arises through the grating. When one then swishes or sweats in the bath, so shall one take the herbs out of the pot / basket and rub and wash oneself therewith — so may one invigorate. It is beneficial every month, especially for those dog-days.

MS Thott.290.2º 032r.jpg

[43] This is another sling and it is useful to wield at forts or upon mountains.

MS Thott.290.2º 032v.jpg

[44] This is a kitchen with a chimney, where the smoke vents quickly away to all the winds, via the chute turned by the weather-vane. Take some egg-whites that you separated from the yolks; and pour those whites through a funnel into a hollowed-out rutabaga; thereafter beat the yolks well together. Unify the whites in that relocking rutabaga; thereafter beat the yolks therein; and boil it until it becomes hard. Then that is a great "egg", of which many may eat.

MS Thott.290.2º 033r.jpg

[45] You will carry this secret formula: kernels of gold, silver or precious stone; take linen and make a husk thereof and lay the kernels therein; thereafter, take lime and salt and mix egg-whites and then overcoat the husk; when that solidifies to become harder than stone, then make a bread of two parts and hollow out and lay this stone therein and reassemble it, or make instead a little shell of a block of wood, bore a plug therein, saw it out of the block of wood, hollow it out, stuff the stuffing therein and plug the shell.

An herb called darnel;[3] some name it ninilol; it grows readily in the spots where man has burnt charcoal / coal; brew the root in wine until the wine has brewed down into a quarter-mass; and then that mixed with more wine, that brings the strongest sleep for any man who may make that. Whoever thus does ready such a cider into a fully brewed wine and imbibes or consumes it, thus becomes drunken with a most exquisitely and strikingly strong sleep. Whoever drinks that, he falls asleep because all of its efficacy and potency. And therewith someone makes a great many folk lay down. And wit you that this is a secret matter.

MS Thott.290.2º 033v.jpg

[46] This is a windlass made of twofold pairs of wheels which thus work methodically, such that the parts lock together with ropes and posts / spindles, so you draw yourself through space and so this elevator goes upward and downward and wherever again.

MS Thott.290.2º 034r.jpg

[47] This is a footbridge viewed from overhead that slides forth by its iron side-ropes and pulled by the middle rope it goes back again; this is a clever rig; the ropes shunt beneath and within, thus it arrives.

MS Thott.290.2º 034v.jpg

[48] This wheeled gun-shelter is made of woodwork and goes up and down, for when the stones shoot thereout. Thus it goes out, and when the screen goes down, then may the shafts and shot wreak havoc, which are behind the screen.

MS Thott.290.2º 035r.jpg

[49] This ship runs quickly through / against water — thus briskly as a horse — at speedy pace. It should have two paddle-wheels as sort of portrayed here.

MS Thott.290.2º 035v.jpg

[50] Mark where the Sun gleams upon the gold or polishment of the harness and goes thereafter. So shall a manly fighter advance the shield and overcome his foe with the Sun's help. The Sun glints in the gilding, or shines in the mirroring, of the pretty plate-armor, which thus sends rays thereout and into the foe's eyes.

Left-man wards in SS-2 and right-man wards in SS-4.

MS Thott.290.2º 036r.jpg

[51] This weaponised ravens-head shears with ears to either side; it goes upon two wheels; and with the beak and tongue it spears and kills; and is warlord of strife. Inside it should be wooden and outside strongly sheathed with iron, such that it may never be hewn asunder, with hammers nor yet axes. The King bores out fords in these battle-lines and therewith smites low many of his foes.

MS Thott.290.2º 036v.jpg

[52] A wise man should strike because he may strongly strike. Order firstly one battering-wagon, after that another, that makes two, yet another thereafter is three, thereafter four, however more and so forth. Next, put them in lines such that you be all the result (?) of the might of lordly forces (?); deal these among the horsemen and among the footmen, thus you deal all your tactical spearhead this array. Breaching thusly, you move into the foreign territory.

MS Thott.290.2º 037r.jpg

[53] This "spur" is driven by six horses and is formed half of iron and half of sticks; it is broken apart in the foreign territory and takes many a certainty / much aplomb when it forces the man to hold fast.

Framing around harnessed horses.

MS Thott.290.2º 037v.jpg

[54] One shall make two wagons of this form as viewed from below; from there, within the wagons, folk combat those outside, they fight with the guns and the lances; the lorication is all-around them. If you come to water, then set the two wagons one after the other such that only half the train be in the water while fording. Either wagon should have six wheels supporting its bulk; and driving these are the horses equaling half the wagon's length, while also the first pair of wheels equal two ells length; and so they be secure. And so are laid out all the things beneath, the poles which are thereunder and inboard, protected from whatever happens; and likewise upon the boarding of the sides hangs shelter for the unarmored horses. It should go with one horse after the other; and to either side is one pair enough; and those are linked with twofold chains.

An early light tank.

MS Thott.290.2º 038r.jpg

[55] This rig is called a "crayfish" and is wrought from iron and goes hin and yon. It conducts itself upon four speeding wheels. It shears front and behind. There are twofold sickles of long iron to either side at the axles of the wheels. It has four eyes. If one kindles its munitions then it shoots stones before it, steel buckshot as a hail, wherewith one smites low the foes. One may make this rig either big or small, as one will deem.

MS Thott.290.2º 038v.jpg

[56] This war-cart shreds the ankles of an armed host and mangles unarmored folk by its movements. It has beams in back and in front slender sharp iron routers, like unto sickles; and one directs it upon two wheels.

MS Thott.290.2º 039r.jpg

[57] This shelter goes with guns; and is built of woodwork; and should have two small wheels in front and two big wheels in back, so the better it goes over mountains; it should have two short irons one ell long, fore and aft; this is snazzy on mountains and up steps / terracing; and also to haul off / dig out, whereunder the irons thus lengthen all the way with lengthy ropes running behind.

MS Thott.290.2º 039v.jpg

[58] This is a long "sand-adder". One shall put it to a battlement with the strong hooks / claws at the front. Masonry it may break and then the folk storm. And the adder, which be at the masonry, may tract and retract. Something be pouring over, when the ropes draw criss-crossingly over the discs.

MS Thott.290.2º 040r.jpg

[59] This bridge serves in two ways: It conducts itself over land upon four wheels and swims in the water as well. I, Kyeser / Talhoffer, have seen this before. This bridge is a good wagon and is sound and lucky upon the water.

MS Thott.290.2º 040v.jpg

[60] This is another "scaling-hooker" that conducts itself upon four wheels, such that the upper hooks grapple the battlement and one climbs towers and walls assuredly therewith.

MS Thott.290.2º 041r.jpg

[61] Thus conveys water from a lofty cistern and up again to a tank. In the middle of the piping should be a chamber that lets and holds the water.

Thus a large-scale yet simple syphoning system.

MS Thott.290.2º 041v.jpg

[62] Wild horses should one laden with dry wood, wherein be brimstone and downy fluff and resin; the saddle shall be coated with egg-whites; kindle that, drive forth the horses among the foe; thus bite and strike and burn the foe.

MS Thott.290.2º 042r.jpg

[63] A real "fire-bolt" should be as such and well-be: Therein the shaft it is hollow and one fills it with gunpowder; and the bodkin that surrounds it is also filled with gunpowder. Kindle it behind and shoot it timely, as the fire burns that and at last the shaft a little; and where the shaft pierces, there someone suffers badly. Another fire-bolt — take gunpowder, brimstone and oakum; soak those with oil; bind it around as a spool; then kindle it and shoot therewith.

With a big auger bore a hole in a tree; and with a little auger bore a small hole upon the other side; and fill that big hole with gunpowder and seal it well-tight with a clod; kindle it at the small hole and flee directly therefrom. The tree bursts asunder and makes a great uproar.

MS Thott.290.2º 042v.jpg

[64] This rig is made of dumb (?) guns and shoots the one after the other.

Thus a manifold-mortar that elevates and repeats / revolves.

MS Thott.290.2º 043r.jpg

[65] Another mainfold-mortar: Take the best of all gunpowder and pack it into these grenades / bombs (fire-pots / fire-kegs); kindle them and launch them; from them comes great harm, when the fire blasts them apart and burns fiercely.

MS Thott.290.2º 043v.jpg

[66] This rig relates to underwater: The head, including the lips, is covered with leather and well-riveted; and the inset goggles are made of glass and well-sealed / secured, with resin and with pitch; above and before the mouth should be a "diving-swan", thereunder two, so thereout and thereby you draw in breath and let it out again. Thus you may go and see under the water.

Wetsuit & air-bag for a "frogman".

MS Thott.290.2º 044r.jpg

[67] Materially similar is this rig — except that the head is covered with a hard helm, though the goggles thereunder are made as before. Be it that the water runs strongly, then you should burden yourself with weights, or bind a tether to a tree or to a stump, so that you may submerge and emerge again too.

Wetsuit, mask, snorkel and helmet for underwater deep-diving.

MS Thott.290.2º 044v.jpg

[68] Loliol is also named libol, ninilol or darnel; take its seeds brewed in wine and then mixed into other wine; and whomever you get to drink that, he "dies" / sleeps and awakens in eight-days-nights. Take out the eye-grit of crayfish and a fig and mix that with whatever you will — that makes deep sleep. Take valerian, steep it overnight in wine — whomever you get to drink that, he sleeps until someone wakes him. Take the seeds of "wall-titan" / houseleek (?) and to whomever you give this in a drink, it "grabs him by the hair". Remedy for the aforedescribed trick — strong vinegar poured into the nostrils. Whether one will ride overland or do guard-duty and so sleep burdens, then to counteract that he takes grains of strepico and chews it in the mouth and so he shakes off the sleep.

MS Thott.290.2º 045r.jpg

[69] A skin-diver breathes while underwater by means of a snorkel and syphon-flask rig.

MS Thott.290.2º 045v.jpg

[70] Take "copper-slag" / chalcocite and make thereof a nimbly hollowed ball. Thereafter, take one part quick­lime and one-half part galbanum and mix the galbanum with the lime. Thereafter, take snail-gall (?), of similar weight and put that into the galbanum and lime. Thereafter, take chanterelle, as you will snip off the "heads" and the "wings" into the mix and stuff that along with similar weight of quicksilver into an earthenware flask and bury it in muck for forty days and inter that undisturbed in the muck until the fortieth day. Thus it becomes as gold. Then take the ball and coat it with that first part of the mixture and let it dry; and when it becomes dry then coat it with the second part of the mixture and kindle it — for it becomes a torch which extinguishes not. However if you would extinguish it — then take a bit of an "owling", soak that in vinegar for three days, and sink the ball into that liquid.

MS Thott.290.2º 046r.jpg

[71] I am called Philomenus — and I am made of bronze / brass or of copper. I "give no heat" — thus I am empty. When I become filled with turpentine or with brandy-wine. And if one puts my lips to the fire, then I become hot. Thus I spit fire, pouring it forth and therewith one may kindle each and every candle.

MS Thott.290.2º 046v.jpg

[72] These are "snow-hoops" / snow-shoes that one should make in this form; and thatch straw on top of these; and if the feet become "knitted together", thus stiffened from cold, then you may make these materially similar yet also with long straw bundled together under the feet.

MS Thott.290.2º 047r.jpg

[73] You may warm a princely palace with these savory-scented ingredients: Take many crucibles that hold fire. Make a fire under those with thick wood and charcoal; and into those crucibles put amber, musk, saffron, camphor, myrrh, old olive-wood, mastic, holy incense and two kinds of sandal-wood; put choicest holy incense therein or another savory-scented thing instead. Thus steep those mincings overnight in wine, and so by morning all be split apart; and then put the mincings generously in each crucible and pour the wine thereupon and when then these ingredients become hot, so it becomes sweet-smelling.

Palatial heated potpourri-censer altar.

MS Thott.290.2º 047v.jpg

[74] This tool-kit helps lords gain entry: One hafted-saw, one "whip-fist", one knapper, one skeleton-key / lock-pick, one punch, one smiths-iron, one shears and one jimmy. These are needful things.

MS Thott.290.2º 048r.jpg

[75] Tools for undetermined purpose.

MS Thott.290.2º 048v.jpg

[76] Bundle of hollow casings wrapped with fusing apparently — perhaps for incendiaries or explosives?


  1. Two triangular patches are at bottom of page.
  2. Reference to the Battle of Nicopolis (1396), where Kyeser was personally present.
  3. Lolch (Lolium), more precisely the so-called "Taumel-Lolch" (L. temulentum), is meant because the plant was often contaminated with a relative of the ergot, which could cause severe symptoms of intoxication.