Episode 64

Tales from the National Fencing Museum with Malcolm Fare

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Show Notes:

My interview today is with Malcolm Fare, who is a collector of historical fencing books, a fencer himself and proprietor of the National Fencing Museum in the UK. The museum houses a library of over 300 books, 250 paintings and prints, 200 weapons, numerous masks, kit, trophies, posters, programmes, medals, stamps, postcards and other ephemera. You can click through on the museum’s website to see photos of the items.

In 2017 I spent three days at the National Fencing Museum with a decent camera and a book-photography rig, taking hi-res images of the cream of their amazing collection of treatises, with the kind assistance of James Hester, and Malcolm himself. Here is a link to the Senese: https://guywindsor.net/2018/06/the-last-of-the-bolognese-seneses-the-true-handling-of-the-sword-yours-free/ and De La Touche: https://guywindsor.net/2017/07/the-true-principles-of-the-sword/

In the interview I mention the photos I took of McBane’s The Expert Sword Man’s Companion. They are sadly still in a disorderly state on my hard drive, and not yet fit to share. If anyone would like to organise them, please get in touch!

Listen to this episode to hear how Malcolm got his hands on some of his favourite books. It’s a wonderful tale involving auctions, barons, and chance encounters.

You can get in touch with Malcolm and arrange a visit to the National Fencing Museum at http://www.fencingmuseum.com/

Guy’s new book, as mentioned in the intro, can be found at www.guywindsor.net/solo

GW:  Hello, sword people, welcome to The Sword Guy podcast. This is your host, Dr Guy Windsor, Consulting Swordsman, teacher and writer. Join me for interviews with historical fencing instructors and experts from a wide range of related disciplines as we discuss swords, history, training, and bringing the joy of historical martial arts into our modern lives. My interview today is with Malcolm Fare, who is a collector of historical fencing books, also a fencer himself and proprietor of the National Fencing Museum here in the UK.

 

But before we get on with that, I should just mention that yesterday, as this goes live on August the 6th, yesterday, on August the 5th, my new book, The Windsor Method: Principles of Solo Training, went live on all platforms, in all reasonable formats. So hardback and paperback and large print and regular print, etc. I haven’t got an audiobook done of it yet because they are very expensive and time consuming to produce. So I’m basically waiting for the book to make some money before I can drop all of that money into producing the audiobook. So let me read you the blurb. “The secret behind all great artists is how they practice. The Windsor Method: The Principles of Training is the self-help book for people who want to add years to their life and life to their years. In this refreshingly straightforward and gentle guide, best-selling author and world-renowned historical swordsmanship instructor Dr Guy Windsor lays out the fundamental principles behind personal development and excellence in any field. How? By establishing a solid foundation and a step-by-step approach to mechanics and training. This is the Windsor Method. Use it to guide your practise and elevate your skills.” And if that doesn’t make you want to go and buy it, I don’t know what will. You can find links to the book on whatever platforms you particularly like to buy your books from. Of course, I recommend your local bookshop or even your library. I mean, your library can stock it for you. If you go to www.guywindsor.net/solo, you will find links to the books in various places and the ISBN number if you would like to order it from your local library. It’s actually really good for authors when people get their books from the library. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s absolutely true because firstly, the library buys a copy if it doesn’t already have one. And secondly, it gets the work out in front of all sorts of people who might not stumble across it on the various book buying places where people go. I’m not even going to mention the name of the world’s longest river. So, get it from the library, get it from the bookshop. I don’t mind where you get it from, but I definitely think you should go and get it. www.guywindsor.net/solo.

Now, without further ado, along with the show. I’m here today with Malcolm Fare, who is a fencer, a collector of fencing history and also owner of perhaps the finest collection of fencing books I have ever been in the presence of, and founder of Britain’s National Fencing Museum. So without further ado, Malcolm, welcome to the show.

 

MF:  Thank you. Good to be here.

 

GW:  So whereabouts in the world are you?

 

MF:  I’m in a small village called Hanley Swan, which is near Malvern in Worcestershire in the mid west of England.

 

GW:  It’s a lovely rural setting. I’ve actually been there a couple of times, listeners, but I still have to ask because, you’ve not had the pleasure of being there. But am I right in thinking that your museum is actually still open?

 

MF:  It is, by appointment, but with social distancing, it’s not possible to show people around without being fairly close to them.

 

GW:  OK, but if anybody is in the vicinity of Hanley Swan, they could make an appointment and pop in and have a look. Is that correct?

 

MF: Indeed.

 

GW: And if you are ever in that area, people, you should definitely go because it is awesome. So how did you get started collecting fencing books?

 

MF:  Well, I started collecting first weapons and prints in the mid 1970s. And then in 1979, I stumbled across Aylwood’s The English Master of Arms, the classic work on the development of fencing in Britain. And he mentioned that one of the rarest books and the only one written by a fighting master of defence was Donald McBane’s The Expert Swordsmans Companion.

 

GW:  One of my favourite books.

 

MF:  Yes, well, I determined to try and find it, and I put the word out amongst a number of antiquarian book dealers. This was, of course, in the days long before Google, or Abe Books, or other modern means of tracking books and waited for any replies. Some months later, a Scottish dealer rang me to say he had bought a copy at an auction in Edinburgh and was selling it for one hundred and fifty pounds.

 

GW:  One hundred and fifty quid for McBane! That’s not bad.

 

MF:  But I had not paid more than twenty pounds for any item of fencing history. And so I said I’d think about it for a couple of days. And then I popped round to the V & A Museum where they had a copy from the Alfred Hutton Bequest, and it was indeed a fascinating book by a soldier in Malborough’s Army. But it did include a portrait of the author and 22 crudely drawn plates. So I rang the dealer back and to check whether his copy had the illustrations. And he said it didn’t and the auction catalogue had not mentioned illustrations at all. So he was proposing to send it back, to take it back to the auction house and ask for his money back, unless, he said, I wanted it for what he had paid, which was £90. So bearing in mind with the rarity and the fact that I didn’t feel the illustrations added much to its value, I took the plunge and snapped it up. And very glad I am that I did because I have never seen another copy on the market in 40 years.

 

GW:  Yeah, and that is the book. I mean, my first book is called The Swordsmans Companion, which was published in 2004 and I took the title as an homage to the McBane. His was the first historical fencing treatise that I discovered for myself in a library as a copy in the National Library of Scotland. And I actually wrote an essay on it for my English degree in 1994. So I managed to get it photocopied and distributed. So it sort of became a bit more widely known in the 90s. But yeah, it’s just fantastic and the autobiography in it, his story, is absolutely outrageous.

 

MF:  It’s like nothing else in the world of fencing books.

 

GW:  Yeah, it is absolutely unique. And actually, for people listening, a couple of years ago I went to Malcolm’s glorious museum and I took photographs of a lot of his books, as in every single page, carefully photographed. And I did photograph that McBane from start to finish. And those pictures are available on my website. I will put a link in the show notes. So if anyone wants to see the pages of Malcolm’s glorious book, then they can. So. A copy of McBane for 90 quid, which is just outrageous, got you started on the collection. It’s a fantastic place to start and I’m extremely jealous, but every collector I know has a “one that got away” story. So what book slipped out of your grasp that you would most like to get back?

 

MF:  Well, not really, I think I’ve grabbed hold of every book that came my way, but I suppose the object that I most regret not buying, when I had the chance, was a practice swept hilt rapier. These are like hen’s teeth. And yes, in 1979, just as I was starting to collect seriously, one was included in a collection of arms and armour put together by an American stuntman. And it came up at Christie’s in London, but the low end of the estimate was £800 then, which is, what, £4,000 now. Way beyond my means and most other people, because it didn’t sell and it was eventually included with a bunch of other unsold items and sold to a Californian dealer. Who I tracked down and I wrote to him saying, of course, the Christie’s estimate was way over the top. But, you know, I might be prepared to pay £400 for it, and he replied, saying the price was now £1200, in 1979. So it escaped me and I’ve never seen another one on the market.

 

GW:  So it was this was from a film set or was this an antique?

 

MF:  No, this was an antique, a genuine 1600 practice rapier.

 

GW:  Oh I think I’ve seen two of those in museums. There’s one in the Tower.

 

MF:  There’s one in the V&A.

 

GW:  Yeah. I can’t think of any others.

 

MF:  There are few in Italy I believe, but I’ve never seen one at an auction. So these things happen.

 

GW:  I know you have kids. You could have maybe sold one of those to raise the cash.

 

MF:  I should have taken out a second mortgage.

 

GW:  Yeah, I’m not sure Val would have appreciated that. OK, so, your collection includes dozens and dozens of absolute gems, particularly in the books area. But what’s your absolute top favourite? If you had to keep one book, which one would it be?

 

MF:  That’s a hard decision to make. But I suppose it would have to be Thibault’s Academie de l’Espée 1628. That is the supreme masterpiece amongst fencing books. And one of the greatest illustrated books in the history of printing. It has forty five enormous double plated engravings measuring 70 centimetres by 48, and each showing up to 17 pairs of swordsmen with rapiers. I mean, it’s just a wonderful book and these illustrations were probably drawn by Thibault himself and the prints produced by 16 of the best engravers from across what is now the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. So the copy I have is bound in contemporary gold carved binding. It’s just beautiful. So how did I get hold of it?

 

GW:  Go on then, because they go for one hundred and twenty thousand dollars at the moment.

 

MF:  Yeah, well, I bought mine in 1995 after a chance encounter with an American dealer at an auction where I was trying unsuccessfully to acquire two Italian books but was outbid by a collector on the telephone. However, he happened to be standing next to me and noticed my interest in the fencing books. And he said, well, he had a few fencing books for sale. Including a Thibault, which he had bought sight unseen. And then discovered that one plate was missing and he only dealt in complete rare books, so he was looking to pass it on for what he had paid for it, which was then £10,000. This was far beyond what I could afford. But I managed to acquire it by selling several rare books already in my possession to a wealthy former international fencer who had started to build a fencing library, and these rare books included Di Grassi, Bruchius, Marcelli, Kahn and Breyer. All these I sacrificed in order to bring the price down to a more manageable £1700 for a Thibault, which I thought, I cannot pass up this opportunity because as you say, the prices have just rocketed all the time. So I was very pleased. And then 10 years after, I found the missing plate on eBay. By a dealer who’d bought the whole book and broken up it into plates.

 

GW:  Bastard. Those people should have their legs broken.

 

MF:  But anyway, I bought the missing plate and I had it bound into my copy to make it complete. So that’s my favourite book.

 

GW:  Yeah, and I remember when we photographed it, it is a big heavy book. I mean it is enormous and just finding a place where we could actually get the camera in place. We actually went outside and we put a blanket on the ground and photographed it outside so we could get the light. Wow, that’s a hell of a book. But I seem to recall you’ve got a second copy of Thibault somewhere.

 

MF:  Well, it’s a skeleton. It is the bound book with all the text, but all the double page engravings were taken out and sold separately. So I just found the skeleton in a provincial auction. And even that for the beautiful wood cut capital letters and other bits is worth having.

 

GW:  Absolutely. Yeah, I guess it would be possible now to pick up the illustrations and have them bound back in.

 

MF:  Yeah, but each plate now is selling for a thousand pounds and there are forty five of them.

 

GW:  That’s right. Yeah, but that’s worth like £120,000. So, you would come out ahead, but finding every illustration might be pretty tricky.

 

MF:  Yeah. So anyway, I’m pleased to have a complete copy.

 

GW:  Yeah, and it’s a thing of magnificence and you have all sorts of fencing treatises I wouldn’t have even thought of. Like Senese, for example. How did you get hold of that? I mean, I think that’s the only copy of Senese I’ve ever seen.

 

MF:  Yeah, well. I’ve got a half a dozen 16th century books. And a dozen or more 17th century. Most of the great Italian rapier treaties. Fabris, Cappoferro, Giganti, Alfieri, Senese. And the 16th century ones, Marozzo’s second edition, undated, but generally acknowledged to be 1540 and his 1568 reprint, Arte delle Armi with the new copperplate engravings. As well as Agrippa 1553, Di Grassi 1517, Sainct Didier 1573, Viggiani 1575. So these are just amazing, rare books that never come on the market again. So how I got hold of them is a long story.

 

GW:  Go on then, we have the time, absolutely we have the time.

 

MF:  I will tell you how I put together the greatest deal of my collecting career. And it follows three different strands of information that I came across during the 1980s. The first arrived in 1982, and one lunchtime I entered an antiquarian bookshop in London’s Charing Cross Road and asked the usual question, do you have any fencing books? And was presented with the 1898 facsimile edition of George Silver’s Paradoxes of Defence. And this particular copy had once belonged to Archie Corble, twice British sabre champion and a passionate collector of fencing history, who between the wars amassed the largest ever collection of fencing and duelling books. And he bought several copies of the facsimile to present as gifts. And on the inside cover, he had pasted a typewritten list of the owners of the 10 original Silvers that he knew about in the 1930s. Three were in museums, three with dealers in the days when, you know, you could go to a dealer and buy one.

 

GW:  Oh, God. We’re talking about the 1599 Paradoxes of Defence?

 

MF:  Yes, exactly. Which I don’t think has appeared since the war.

 

GW:  No, it’s all been snapped up by museums.

 

MF:  There were, I think, two in libraries and two with private collectors, one Corble had found himself and the second one was in the hands of a very good ambidextrous fencer, a collector of fencing books and one of the richest men in Britain, the eighth baron Howard de Walden. I noted these names and put the facsimile back in my library and carried on collecting where I could. And then the second strand emerged in 1985 when I went to the auction in Paris of a French fencing master’s library. A few months earlier, I had interested the fencer whose purchases helped me buy the Thibault in starting to collect fencing books, and he wasn’t able to go to Paris, but he gave me five thousand pounds to buy whatever I could for him at this auction. The star item was one of three volumes of fencing and duelling anecdotes written by Arsène Vigeant, the leading fencing master in late 19th century Paris and the first great collector of fencing history. And he had commissioned the fencing artist Frédéric Régamey to paint several watercolours to illustrate his stories in these three volumes. One had escaped Vigeant’s library and had found its way into the collection of this fencing master, which he was now selling. It was fifteen hundred pounds, I couldn’t afford it myself, but I bought it for my fellow collector.

 

GW:  That must have hurt.

 

MF:  It did, but there is a limit to what I could afford. I didn’t have the money. So a further four years pass and the third strand that brings this all together appeared in a Sunday newspaper in the form of a profile of the ninth Lord Howard de Walden. So I remembered the name from my copy of the Silver facsimile. And I wondered whether this man, the son of the Eighth Baron, the collector had inherited the original 1599 Silver that his father had owned. So I wrote to him. Just asking whether the book was still in the family’s possession. And he wrote back a charming letter saying he hadn’t the faintest idea whether he had the Silver or not. But his father’s fencing books were all at the family manor house in Berkshire, and I was welcome to have a look for it.

 

GW: Oh, my God.

 

MF: Needless to say, I was down there like a shot.

 

GW:  Imagine, you have a 1599 Silver and you don’t even know. That’s insane.

 

MF:  He wasn’t really interested in fencing books, but he knew his father had collected them and they were all in this converted barn. So, I went down there and he took me over to the barn, which was a treasure trove of antiques, paintings and leather bound books, and he pointed me in the direction of the fencing books and left me to it.

 

GW:  Wow.

 

MF:  So two hours passed in a flash as I examined some of the rarest books on swordplay, each one in immaculate condition and many bearing the signature Vigeant on the flyleaf. And I realised that this must be the long lost Vigeant library which had disappeared in 1913. Nobody had known what had happened to it.

 

GW:  The baron had bought it.

 

MF:  Yeah, Vigeant had spent his considerable income as the most sought after fencing master in Paris on acquiring the best examples of every rare book on the subject he could find, as well as original paintings. But towards the end of his life, he decided to sell up and most items were dispersed at auction. But he had struck a deal with Lord Howard de Walden, to sell his library of 180 books en bloc. And so they were transported to England, unknown to anyone else, to join the Eighth Baron’s already substantial collection. Ironically, Silver’s Paradoxes of Defence, which had led me to the connection, was not in the library, but it was later found somewhere in the house. Someone had taken it out and left it in a bedroom somewhere.

 

GW:  Oh my god, that is so unfair.

 

MF:  So, yeah, anyway, some months after my discovery, the American historian and leading authority on the Italian school of fencing, William Gaugler, came to stay with me while he ran a fencing workshop. And I arranged with the Ninth Baron to show him the library. He was duly staggered by the quality and rarity of the books assembled by the two collectors. He suggested I should offer to catalogue the books for his lordship and persuade him to allow the rarest books to be microfilmed so that research students around the world could gain access to them. So Lord Howard de Walden agreed, and then every Sunday afternoon for six months, I drove the 70 miles to his manor house to pore over the books with the help of Tim’s bibliography and record their essential details. And at the end of it all, I discovered two things. One, there were numerous duplicate volumes created when the Eighth Baron merged the Vigeant library with his own, and two, only two of Vigeants, three volumes incorporating these original watercolours were in the library, the missing book being the star item I had bought at auction four years earlier for my fellow collector. I mentioned this to his lordship and added that it might be possible to obtain it at no cost if he was prepared to part with some of his duplicates. And although he was not interested in fencing books as such, the idea of completing his father’s collection appealed to him and he said, well, pick whatever duplicates you think would persuade this chap to part with his original, unique, book.

 

GW:  Yeah, it’s a good thing you’re an honest man, Malcolm. You could have walked away with a crate full.

 

MF:  Well, yeah, but I’d picked out half a dozen of the rarest works, including Marozzo, Senese, Leoncourt, and three or four others worth 10 times what this chap had paid for the unique Vigeant. And I said, was he interested in exchanging? Well, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse because he would never see Marozzo or certainly Senese.

 

GW:  I would take Senese over Vigeant any day.

 

MF:  Yeah, yeah. So anyway, he said yes, I left the duplicates with him, I presented the missing volume to the Ninth Baron together with my catalogue of his father’s collection, and he was delighted. And then he asked me how much he owed me for the work I had done. And I replied nothing because it really had been a real pleasure to research these books and to discover where the Vigeant library was. But I said that if I might acquire one or two of the remaining duplicates, I would be more than happy. And he then said words I hardly dared hope to hear. “Why don’t you take the rest of them and we’ll call it quits?” It was the perfect deal. No money changed hands and everyone was delighted with their transaction.

 

GW:  That’s fantastic. And I’ve handled some of those books. Probably all of them. And they have this fantastic rock solid sort of early 20th century bindings that they’ve been rebound into for the Duke’s library.

 

MF:  Yes, they’re all in Morocco leather, tooled leather, with some of the best binders in Paris and London. So they are just amazing. So this was how the core of my library was created.

 

GW:  Well, that’s a combination of luck and, but if you hadn’t put in the work collecting and travelling and studying and what have you, then you wouldn’t have been placed to make the catalogue anyway.

 

MF:  No, if I hadn’t bought a Vigeant by chance and there’s a volume missing, I would have had nothing to offer the Baron except a catalogue. That wouldn’t have been so special. Actually there was a sting in the tail eventually because I took all his rarest books to the Royal Armouries, then in the Tower of London, to be microfilmed, and they took six months over it. But in due course, they said, well, we finished the microfilm and if you’d like to come and collect the books, here they are. So I picked them up again, took them back to the family manor house. And left them with his lordship, and that was the last time I saw him. He died in 1991, I think. After his death, I received a letter from the family solicitor saying that they had discovered an inventory dated 1946 that the Eighth Baron had put together just before he died. And they had compared this with the catalogue I had left.

 

GW:  And there’s all these books missing.

 

MF:  And they said there were rather more books in 1946 than there are now. So how can you explain this discrepancy? So I was pleased to be able to do so by writing back enclosing a letter from Lord Howard de Walden, stating that he had given most of the duplicates to me. Having taken the precaution at the time to ask for such a note in case the family ever query the transaction. So then I thought that was that was that. But then came the sting, another letter from the solicitor saying that back in 1946, the family had entered into an agreement with the Inland Revenue whereby the fencing books would be exempt from 70 percent estate duty provided they were never sold. And if they were, the government would demand the hefty duty. It was a way of ensuring that works of art considered to be of national importance stayed in the country. And by giving me the duplicates, Lord Howard de Walden had unwittingly passed on the same obligation.

 

GW:  Ah. OK.

 

MF:  Now, the family had happily paid the duty on the six books deemed to have been sold to my fellow collector in exchange for the missing volume. And then they agreed that the fencing library should go on long term loan to the Wallace Collection where it remains. But my duplicates were seen to be a gift. Not for anything in exchange. And so just like the Howard de Walden library, it can never be sold without most of their value passing to the Treasury, and H.M. Customs and Excise periodically check that I still have them.

 

GW:  Really?

 

MF:  Yes. I mean, it doesn’t worry me because I would never think of selling them. But it just shows that we are temporary custodians of beautiful things.

 

GW:  And also is excellent leverage. You can’t be pressured into selling the books because most of the value will go. So you have to keep them for the rest of your life. Oh no, what a shame.

 

MF:  I’m happy to do it.

 

GW:  OK, now one of the things that really strikes me about your collection, and it struck me three times over when I actually went to see it, is you have this absolutely astonishing collection of books, but also fencing equipment and memorabilia and things going back. Some of them are really very old. And you have this outbuilding with everything displayed. Most collectors don’t open their collection to the public. They normally tend to keep it secret, keep it safe. So I’m curious, what led you to actually start this national fencing museum? How did that come about?

 

MF:  Well, while we were living in London, my collection of fencing history was gradually taking over the house. So when I retired in 2000 and we decided to move out of London, my wife insisted that wherever we settled, there had to be a separate building to house the collection. So by chance, we found this property with a bungalow at the back, which had been used as offices, and I was able to convert that to house the whole collection, and I thought, well, why not make it a museum? In fact, it is the only museum of fencing history in Britain, so I’ll call it the National Fencing Museum. And then I put out, because I was editing The Sword, the British Fencing Association’s magazine at the time, I mentioned that this collection of fencing history was available for any fencers who were interested. Various people over the years have come down to look at it, coaches have shown children around, older fencers who’ve become interested in the history after their fencing career is over, come down, but it’s never going to attract the hordes of people to go to a football museum or a golfing museum. So it’s not a commercial operation, but it’s something I’m happy to show others who are interested.

 

GW:  Yeah, we’ve talked a lot about the books, which is actually the stuff in your museum I am most interested in. But you also have a ton of other things. I seem to recall there is there’s this sort of device that you can attach a foil to and you can sort of do fencing against the wall with this device poking it for that. And a box set of duelling swords. If I remember rightly.

 

MF:  Yes, I’ve on the whole collected just fencing things with occasionally duelling épées turn up that are irresistible. And I guess I must have more than 500 weapons.

 

GW:  Yeah, a lot of small swords, as I recall.

 

MF:  One small sword. And then I did indulge myself during lockdown, buying a swept hilt rapier, knowing that I will never find an actual practise one. But in a provincial auction house, one dated around 1600, swept hilt rapier, looking very nice. And it fits beautifully between the two big Thibault prints that I have which show rapiers of the same period.

 

GW:  I’m coming back to handle this one as soon as I can. It’s only about a five hour drive from where I live. I’ll be around tomorrow. So you’ve just bought this on an online auction?

 

MF:   Well, yes, it was online, but then luckily it was in Stoke-on-Trent, not in America or Italy. So I was able to drive up and collect it.

 

GW:  What’s it like?

 

MF:  Oh, it’s plain, it’s not beautifully embellished, but it’s a good, honest plain 1600 swept hilt rapier and I love the lines of it. I think the swept hilt is the most elegant form of sword that I know of.

 

GW:  Yeah. So have you picked it up and played with it a little bit?

 

MF:  Well, I’ve held it and I’ve realised how heavy it is compared with a small sword. My son has held it. He is a fencer and he says how on earth do you do quick parry ripostes with it? Well, that’s not how you fence with rapiers. So it is very different from everything that followed after the small sword and modern fencing weapons of course are much, much lighter.

 

GW:  Sure. So other than your beautiful new swept hilt rapier, which is, of course, your current pride and joy, what would be your favourite quirky fencing memorabilia stuff that you’ve picked up?

 

MF:  Oh, well, I’m trying to think. I mean, there is this fencing dummy.

 

GW:  Yeah, that’s what I was thinking of.

 

MF:  I mean, that’s a French full size dummy, with a hand or an arm that comes down and in the hand is cut a slot to hold a French foil. It’s on a spring or so you could fit that originally against the wall and do attacks and other movements against it. Now the joint in the elbow is so weak it can’t hold the foil any longer, but it is an interesting bit of miscellanea that used to be available.

 

GW:  Where you find it?

 

MF:  I found it in America, it came shipped in the days when shipping costs didn’t cost twice as much as the items, it came over from America where someone had brought it back from Paris, no doubt, in the early 20th century.

 

GW:  Wow.

 

MF:  You never know where these things are going to turn up.

 

GW:  No. I need to get back to the museum, clearly. OK, now I have a couple of questions that I tend to finish up with. And the first is, what is the best idea you haven’t acted on?

 

MF:  Well, I suppose I haven’t acted on converting the attic of the bungalow into another floor to allow the museum to expand. That will never happen because it’s too expensive and there are too few visitors to make it worthwhile. But ideally, I need another floor.

 

GW:  Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff there.

 

MF:  Four rooms is not enough.

 

GW:  Well, yeah, actually quite a lot of listeners of this podcast are actually in the UK, so you might be getting some additional phone calls and visits as people hear about this, because I’m guessing you don’t really have an advertising budget for the museum, just a website which people will stumble across. So if somebody did give you a million quid to spend on your museum, what would you do with it?

 

MF:  Well, I suppose I would move it online. I would arrange to have every item professionally photographed and videoed in 3D so that those interested in fencing history around the world can look at these books and weapons, paintings, prints and medals and as if they were handling the objects themselves. And I would equip two purpose designed mobile display cases with a selection of objects to tour schools and sports centres with a periodically changing exhibition of fencing history. I mean, I would just like to make fencing history better known.

 

GW:  That’s a really good use of the money and you must know of the Oakeshott collection. That was picked up by a couple of friends of mine in the states who run the Oakeshott institute, and they do go around with great big boxes full of these swords so that people can pick them up and handle them and get a sense of what swords are really like. And I guess we sort of made a start on your grand project by photographing 23 of your books. But just 23 out of three or four hundred, took three of us two full days. And so there’s quite a lot of time investment to be made there.

 

MF:  Yes. And if you include weapons that need to be looked at in three dimensions. Zooming in on marks on the blade and looking at the hilt in more detail. That’s going to take a lot of time with five hundred weapons to go through.

 

GW:  Yeah, well, I guess it’s you would start with a dozen of the best examples. Like most museums, if you go to the Tower or the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, as it is now, they have so many more weapons in the vaults than they do on the walls or in the cases. So I think it’s not unreasonable to start reasonably small. I’m talking myself into a job, aren’t I?

 

MF:  You just need to spend a month or two here.

 

GW:  Yeah, I shall actually give it some thought because there’s a lot that can be done these days particularly with virtual reality where you can take really high resolution pictures and you can put it together into an experience so people can feel them moving around the object. I don’t think anything replaces the sense of actually picking it up, but if you go to the museum, you don’t normally get to pick up the weapons anyway, you just get to look at them. And with these high resolution pictures and stuff, you can often see more detail through these virtual reality things than you can if you actually look at the object because you’re not taking out the case and using a magnifying glasses and things, you often can’t see those little details.

 

MF:  So yes, there’s lots to be done still.

 

GW:  Yes, indeed. And do you have any plans for the future? I take it you’re still collecting?

 

MF:  Yes. If anything that I haven’t come across puts up, then I’m always keen to add it to the collection.

 

GW:  Well, actually I have a project you might be interested in. I am currently producing an audio book of Silver’s Paradoxes of Defence. Two versions, one in modern pronunciation and one in original pronunciation. So I’ve got an actor, Ben Crystal, who does original pronunciation Shakespeare, and his dad is a linguist. And they’ve basically figured out as close as we can establish how people actually were speaking in London in the late 16th century. And he’s doing the original pronunciation of Silver. So you can actually sit in an armchair with the glass of wine or something and have Silver read to you pretty much the way it would have been done. Most people in the 16th century experienced books by people reading them aloud because it was like TV back then. We’ve got the 19th century facsimile, which is simply another facsimile. This is like taking it to the next technological layer or the next future of books with audio. So I shall definitely make sure you get a copy of that.

 

MF:  Yeah, that would be interesting.  Just to say that people are always welcome to come and visit the museum.

 

GW:  Excellent. I will make sure they are aware of that. So thank you very much for joining me today, Malcolm. It’s been a delight talking to you again.

 

MF:  OK, and you.

 

GW:  Thanks for listening, I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Malcolm. You can find the episode show notes at guywindsor.net/podcast. While you’re there, you can sign up to my mailing list and I’ll send you a free copy of my book, Sword Fighting for Writers, Game Designers and Martial Artists. And of course, speaking of books, you should definitely have a look at the new solo training book, which you can find at www.guywindsor.net/solo. My patrons on Patreon already have the book, of course, because they get pretty much everything I make and usually before anyone else. So thanks again to all my lovely patrons there for their kind support of the show. It’s really useful to me to know that people care about the show enough to actually throw some money at it. It doesn’t have to be much, but every little does help. So join us there for behind the scenes content and to submit your questions for future guests. That’s www.patreon.com/theswordguy. Join us next week when I’ll be talking to Dr. Amanda Taylor, who is the author of several academic papers that you might find interesting if you’re into medieval stuff, especially medieval literature featuring knights. And she’s the author of the forthcoming Domesticating War: Women, Medicine and Military Activity in Premodern Europe. She also works with the Oakeshott Institute, which is the custodian of Ewart Oakeshott’s extraordinary collection of antique swords. And one of the things she does with them is personally put original antique swords into people’s hands, which is just a fantastically good thing to do. So you don’t want to miss that episode. So subscribe to this show wherever you get your podcasts from and while you’re there, if you have a minute, please rate the show or even review it. And best of all, if you know someone who you think might particularly enjoy this episode, email them a link to it or post it out on social media or something so they can find it because absolutely nothing helps more than word of mouth personal recommendations. So thanks for listening and I will see you next week.