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Cotton MS Titus A XXV

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Cotton MS Titus A ⅹⅹⅴ
British Library
London, United Kingdom
(No scans available)
Type Fencing manual
Date 1450 - 1465
Place of origin Ireland (?)
Author(s) Unknown
Material Paper, with a British Library binding
Size 139 folia (160 mm × 220 mm)
Script Secretary
External data Library catalog entry

The Cotton MS Titus A ⅹⅹⅴ is a British compilation manuscript containing a brief fencing manual created between 1450 and 1465.[citation needed] The original currently rests in the Titus section of Cotton Library at the British Library in London, United Kingdom.[1] The manuscript consists of three major sections which were compiled together by Robert Cotton in the 17th century; of these, the second section (ff 94-105) is that which contains a few brief notes on fencing. Along with the Man yt Wol and the Ledall manuscript, this is one of only three extant Medieval English writings on swordsmanship.


The known provenance of the Cotton MS Titus A ⅹⅹⅴ is:[1]

  • each segment created separately during the 13th to 15th centuries; The time frame for the fencing work has been further narrowed down to 1450 - 1465.
  • before 1631 - acquired and bound together by Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631) and placed in the Titus section of his collection.
  • 1631-1662 - owned by Sir Thomas Cotton (d.1662).
  • 1662-1702 - owned by Sir John Cotton (d.1702).
  • 1702 - donated to the British people, confirmed by Act of Parliament (12 & 13 William III, c. 7).
  • 1753 - added to the newly-formed British Museum.
  • 1973 - moved to the newly-formed British Library.


This is the official table of contents provided by the museum.[1] As the manuscript has not been digitized for study, its accuracy cannot be guaranteed beyond that fact.

2r - 35v Chronicle of Boyle Abbey, AM 335–AD 1257[2]
36r - 71v Historia trium regum by John of Hildesheim[3]
72r - 93v De itinere by Ludolphus[4] (imperfect)
94r - 104v Prophecy of John of Bridlington
106r - 117v Historia regum Britannie by Geoffrey of Monmouth[26] (imperfect)
118r - 139v Collection of documents[27]


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. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Explore Archives and Manuscripts". British Library. Retrieved 08 August 2016.
  2. Annales monasterii de Buellio in Hibernia ("Annals of Monastery of Boyle in Ireland"); partly in Latin and partly in Irish.
  3. The Manner of Seeking and Offering, and Also of the Bearing and Translations of the Three Holy Kings of Coleyn.
  4. Via nova deiversarum regionum proprietatum declarativa, dispositio terrae sanctae, per Ludolphum, qui Palaestinam adiit A.D. 1336, et per quinquennium ibi moratus est ("Declaration of a New Way of Properties of Different Regions, the Disposition of the Holy Land, by Ludolphum, Who Visited Palestine, A. D. 1336, and Remained There for Five Years").
  5. There is a tiny marginal “a” here, where a bracket begins, extending down to line 7.
  6. A thrust, likely from the French foine.
  7. This term appears in MS Harley 3542 and Additional 39564. James Hester suggests it refers to one of the four quarters of the body, as it is often depicted in illustrated fight-texts. However, there is no corresponding indication in this text as to which quarter is meant. It may refer, in this case, to a specific movement of the student, either with the body or the feet. See James Hester, “‘The Vse of the Two Hand Sworde’: The English Fight Manual of MS Harley 3542 (A Critical Edition),” (MA dissertation, York: University of York, 2006).
  8. This term appears in the Gresley dance choreography and is interpreted by Nevile as a lateral movement of the feet. “Dance Steps and Music in the Gresley Manuscript,” 5. Hester defines it as a type of cut, “‘The Vse of the Two Hand Sworde,’” 19.
  9. This is identified, by Nevile, with the French dance term semibreve and refers to a specific movement of the feet. Nevile, 5-6.
  10. Appears in the Gresely dance choreography, where Nevile equates it with the French breve, a movement of the feet. Nevile, 5-6.
  11. This may modify the movement of the dowbull in line 3, or it could be a separate movement of the weapon in relation to the feet. It has no cognates outside English fight-texts. Hutton glosses rownis in MS Harley 3542 as a “circular cut,” Hutton, 36. Hester defines it as a “cut using a wide swing to gather strength,” Hester, “‘The Vse of the Two Hand Sworde,’” 18.
  12. This appears in MS Harley 3542 as hauke where Hutton and Hester define it as a blow or a cut: Hutton, 36; Hester, “‘The Vse of the Two Hand Sworde,’” 18.
  13. “voiding.” Its specific function here is unclear.
  14. “skipping.”
  15. See also bakke in lines 10 and 11. This may be a contraction of “backward.”
  16. This term appears in MS Harley 3542 as rabetis (plural) and in MS Additional 39564 as rabett. Hester interprets this as a metaphor for a “vertical cut,” Hester, “‘The Vse of the Two Hand Sworde,’” 22. However, the French rabatir, used to describe a parry or block, appears in a description of axe combat by Olivier de la Marche in his sixteenth-century memoirs, and may be a more appropriate reading in this context. See Sydney Anglo, “Le Jeu de la Hache: A Fifteenth-Century Treatise on the Technique of Chivalric Axe Combat,” Archaeologia 109 (1991), 127, n.28.
  17. A second tiny marginal “a” is placed here at the head of a second bracket, extending to the foot of the leaf.
  18. Likely a contraction of “forward.”
  19. This is a construction in Old English that is read as “then the.” My thanks to Dr. Maren Clegg Hyer, Valdosta State University, for pointing out that this is a deliberate word choice and not a scribal mistake.
  20. The “a” here is clearly legible, although it may be a scribal mistake where a reading of “and” would make more sense.
  21. “other”
  22. “eyes”
  23. The word staffe appears in the margin on this line, outside a bracket that runs down the side of the text from line 14.
  24. “behind”
  25. Alternate spelling of awke from lines 3 and 12.
  26. Historia de regibus vetustis Britannorum, à rege Arthuro ad Cadwalladrum ("Background of the Ancient Kings of the Britons, from King Arthur to the Cadwalladrum").
  27. Formulae obligationum, acquietantiarum & testamentorum, &c ("Formula of Obligations, Acquiescence and Covenants, etc."); in French and Latin.

Copyright and License Summary

For further information, including transcription and translation notes, see the discussion page.

Work Author(s) Source License
Modernization Jon Pellett MEGALOPHIAS His Page
Transcription Mark Ryan Geldof University of Saskatchewan