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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jan, 2006 8:45 am    Post subject: The use of the term "main gauche"         Reply with quote

Does anyone know when this term became used? I've never seen it used in period literature, though I certainly haven't exhausted all of the period sources. But it's a strange term to me: I realize it's French for "left hand", but many modern enthusiasts only apply this term to the sailboat hilted daggers that were most common in Spain. Though, granted, the style was seen all over Europe, so I'm sure there were French examples.

I'm just curious if this is modern terminology.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


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Jean Le-Palud




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jan, 2006 9:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is what I found in a french book:
"L'escrime etait tres en vogue. Vers le milieu du XVIeme siecle, c'etait devenu un art tres complexe, et l'on utilisait parfois une dague et une epee. C'est a cette epoque que prit naissance la dague appelee MAIN GAUCHE"
Translation:Fencing was very fashionable. Around mid-XVI century it had became a very complicated art, and a sword and dagger were used (simultaneously). It's the period when the dagger called MAIN GAUCHE was born.
Hoping this helps.
Jean
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jan, 2006 12:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jean,
Thanks for the info. The problem is that this is still ambiguous as to whether the term is a modern one or not. Italian, Spanish and English fencing treatises from the Renaissance use words synonymous with "dagger." I've never seen the term main gauche used in the time period.

edited to add: I've never read any period French fencing text, so I don't know if they used the term or not.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
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Jean Le-Palud




Location: France
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PostPosted: Fri 27 Jan, 2006 8:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I made a further research in french books and I think that the term is rather modern. In the "Encyclopedie" by Diderot (issued between 1751 and 1722) it is referred to as a "poignard" which in french is nearly a synonymous to "dague" or dagger. In his book "L'escrime travers les ages", (Fencing through the ages) issued 1898, Corthey uses the term "poignard de main gauche" and describes it as a pointed weapon with no edge (poignard in french)and a large plate as a guard, and as it was not very practical to wear at one's belt it became a dagger (dague in french) with a 2 edged blade and a simple cross as a guard.
However french fencing books consider mainly the use of this dagger as being specific to italian fencing.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Fri 27 Jan, 2006 8:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's interesting. Thanks, Jean. So we know that the term "poignard de main gauche" was used in the 19th century, at least. I'm leaning more and more on the term being modern myself, or at least post-Renaissance, but I would be happy to find evidence on the contrary.

I find it interesting that your books say that the dagger was specific to the Italians. We know that the English, Spanish and Germans used the off hand dagger as well, based on both existing examples as well as fencing treatises from the time.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Sat 28 Jan, 2006 12:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It might be interesting to note that at least Silver in his Paradoxes of Defence (1598) and Brief Instruction on... (1599) makes a difference between "dagger" and "poniard", the former being used with the sword and the latter always with his detested foreign (specifically Italian) rapier. I suspect - based on no particular evidence, honestly - that he refers to a broader blade also capable of cutting with "dagger", and the slimmer, pointy stiletto- or rondel-like types with "poniard".

Also, all the classic Mains Gauches I've seen are of the narrow pointy style...

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