Friday, August 11, 2006

Distillations of Defense

Distillations of Defense is the title I put on my first effort to extract the most useful information from an abridged version of Joseph Swetnam's 1617 book, The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence. I've since obtained scanned versions of the whole thing, and I'm working on transcribing it before I actually go back to pulling out the good stuff. I've gotten through much of the introductory material, where I came upon this comment from Swetnam...

"I have made this of brick and stones, as Augustus said of Rome at the first, but now Rome is built with marble: even so I would wish that some expert and learned person or other would pull down this rude begin work of mine and build it up with marble."

Well, maybe I -- a professional technical writer -- am the expert he sought. I have only a fraction of the fencing experience of Swetnam, but from grinding through his prose I can say that I know a hell of a lot more about writing than he did. In my transcribing effort so far, he has tried and failed something like five times to conclude his "Epistle to the common Reader"; he just can't seem to stop diving off into tangents. His spelling is inconsistent; his grammar is horrendous; and he has absolutely no concept of how to use punctuation. In his defense, I doubt these are unusual failings of Jacobean writers.

But I shall persevere, and hopefully I'll have a concise, coherent manual of Swetnam's fencing style by the time I finish. Excerpts will likely show up here from time-to-time as I progress.

In the meantime, please try not to write like Joseph Swetnam.

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