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Nicoletto Giganti

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Nicoletto Giganti
Born 1550-1560
Fossombrone, Italy
Died after 1622
Venice, Italy (?)
Nationality Italian
Citizenship Republic of Venice
Patron Cosimo II de Medici
Influenced Bondì di Mazo (?)
Genres Fencing manual
Language Italian
Notable work(s)

Nicoletto Giganti (Niccoletto, Nicolat; 1550s-after 1622[1]) was a 16th – 17th century Italian soldier and fencing master. He was likely born to a noble family in Fossombrone in central Italy,[2] and only later became a citizen of Venice as he stated on the title page of his 1606 treatise. Little is known of Giganti’s life, but in the dedication to his 1606 treatise he counts twenty seven years of professional experience (possibly referring to service in the Venetian military, a long tradition of the Giganti family).[3] The preface to his 1608 treatise describes him as a Mastro d'Arme of the Order of St. Stephen in Pisa, giving some further clues to his career.

In 1606, Giganti published a treatise on the use of the rapier (both single and with the dagger) titled Scola, overo teatro ("School or Theater"). This treatise is structured as a series of progressively more complex lessons, and Tom Leoni opines that this treatise is the best pedagogical work on rapier fencing of the early 17th century.[4] It is also the first treatise to fully articulate the principle of the lunge.

In 1608, Giganti made good on the promise in his first book that he would publish a second volume.[5] Titled Libro secondo di Niccoletto Giganti Venetiano, it covers the same weapons as the first as well as rapier and buckler, rapier and cloak, rapier and shield, single dagger, and mixed weapon encounters. This text in turn promises two additional works, on the dagger and on cutting with the rapier, but there is no record of these books ever being published.

While Giganti's second book quickly disappeared from history, his first seems to have been quite popular: reprints, mostly unauthorized, sprang up many times over the subsequent decades, both in the original Italian and, beginning in 1619, in French and German translations. This unauthorized dual-language edition also included book 2 of Salvator Fabris' 1606 treatise Lo Schermo, overo Scienza d’Arme which, coupled with the loss of Giganti's true second book, is probably what has lead many later bibliographers to accuse Giganti himself of plagiarism.[6]


Giganti, like many 17th century authors, had a tendency to write incredibly long, multi-page paragraphs which quickly become hard to follow. Jacques de Zeter's 1619 dual-language edition often breaks these up into more manageable chunks, and so his layout is reflected in these concordances.

Research on Giganti's newly-rediscovered second book is still ongoing, and it cannot yet be included in the tables below.

Additional Resources

  • Giganti, Nicoletto; Pendragon, Joshua; Terminiello, Piermarco. The 'Lost' Second Book of Nicoletto Giganti (1608): A Rapier Fencing Treatise. Vulpes, 2013. ISBN 978-1909348318
  • Leoni, Tom. Venetian Rapier: The School, or Salle. Nicoletto Giganti's 1606 Rapier Fencing Curriculum. Wheaton, IL: Freelance Academy Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9825911-2-3
  • Mediema, Aaron Taylor. Nicoletto Giganti's the School of the Sword: A New Translation by Aaron Taylor Miedema. Legacy Books Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1927537077


  1. Leoni, p xii.
  2. Lancellotti, Francesco Maria. Quadro letterario degli uomini illustri della città di Fossombrone. In Colucci, Giuseppe. Antichità picene, XXVIII. Fermo, 1796. p 33.
  3. Calcaterra, Francesco. Corti e cortigiani nella Roma barocca. Rome, 2012. p 76.
  4. Leoni, p xi.
  5. This treatise was considered lost for centuries, and as early as 1673 the Sicilian master Giuseppe Morsicato Pallavicini stated that this second book was never published at all. See La seconda parte della scherma illustrata. Palermo, 1673. p V.
  6. This accusation was first made by Johann Joachim Hynitzsch, who attributed the edition to Giganti rather than Zeter and was incensed that he gave no credit to Fabris.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 In a counterguard.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 The enemy.
  9. Although the plates depicting the guards and counterguards are somewhat less than clear, we know from this chapter that Figure 2 depicts binding the enemy’s sword on the inside.
  10. Figure 3, which we know from the description of this chapter’s action depicts binding the enemy’s sword on the outside.
  11. Reading the text, Figures 6 and 7 appear to be swapped, meaning this lesson’s text refers to Figure 7. Interestingly the plate order does not appear to be corrected in subsequent printings, even in Jakob de Zeter’s German/French version (1619), which uses entirely new plates created by a different artist.
  12. This lesson’s text refers to Figure 6.
  13. The two fencers.
  14. The placeholder was never replaced with the proper figure number reference when the book went to print, and it remains missing in Paolo Frambotto’s 1628 reprint. Jakob de Zeter’s 1619 German/French version refers to Figure 7.
  15. The figure number is missing in both the 1606 and 1628 printings. Jakob de Zeter’s 1619 German/French version refers to Figure 8.
  16. Your hand.
  17. This is the second manner mentioned at the beginning of the lesson, rather than an action that follows from the first.
  18. Camillo Agrippa (1553), for example, recommends turning the face away.
  19. The two preceding figures.
  20. The original text is “vorreste”, or “you would like”. As our fencer’s opponent is the one with the dagger, it is likely that this is a mistake in the text and should be “he would like”.
  21. The figure number is missing in both the 1606 and 1628 printings. Jakob de Zeter’s 1619 German/French version refers to Figure 21.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Figure 21.
  23. The guard Giganti refers to here is unclear.
  24. First lesson of sword and dagger – Figure 21.
  25. Figures 21-26.
  26. The figure number is missing in both the 1606 and 1628 printings. Jakob de Zeter’s 1619 German/French version refers to Figure 27
  27. The chest is uncovered.
  28. “Scannare” – to slaughter or cut the throat of.
  29. Of the enemy.
  30. Our fencer.