Saviolo, Vincentio (DNB00)

SAVIOLO, VINCENTIO (fl. 1595), writer on fencing, was born at Padua, where a family of the name was long settled (Crollanza, Dizionario Storico Blazonico, p. 497). Vincentio travelled abroad, chiefly in eastern Europe, and obtained a reputation as a fencer. Finally coming to England, he was taken into the service of the Earl of Essex. On 13 Dec. 1589 Richard Jones obtained a license for the publication of a book by him, called ‘The Book of Honour.’ No volume by him of so early a date is extant. But in 1595 there was issued ‘Vincentio Saviolo his Practise. In two Bookes. The first intreating the use of the Rapier and Dagger. The second of Honor and honorable Quarrels. Both interlaced with sundrie pleasant Discourses, not unfit for all Gentlemen and Captaines that professe Armes,’ London, 1595, 4to. Some copies bore the imprint of John Wolf, but most of them were printed ‘for William Mattes.’ The work—the first in English dealing with the rapier—was dedicated to the Earl of Essex, whom Saviolo described as the English Achilles. He apologises for the defects of his English. The first book is in dialogue, the interlocutors being the author and a friend called Luke, and it is illustrated by woodcuts showing the uses of rapier and dagger. Saviolo expounds the Italian system of fencing, and shows no acquaintance with the French system. The second book, consisting of a series of detached essays, has a preface dated 1594. The last chapter bears the title ‘The Nobility of Women,’ and concludes with a panegyric on Queen Elizabeth. Two copies are in the British Museum.

Shakespeare was familiar with Saviolo's ‘Practise.’ In bk. ii. sig. Q, reference is made by Saviolo to an episode which resembles Orlando's duel with Charles, the Duke Frederick's wrestler, in ‘As you like it.’ In the same play (v. 4) Touchstone's description of the various forms of a lie is obviously based on Saviolo's chapters ‘Of the Manner and Diversitie of Lies.’ Saviolo treats in detail of ‘Lies Certaine,’ ‘Conditional Lies,’ ‘Lies in General,’ ‘Lies in Particular,’ and ‘Foolish Lies.’

[Saviolo's Practise; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. x. 25; Collier's Bibl. Cat. ii. 321; National Review, May 1891; C. A. Thimm's Complete Bibliography of Fencing and Duelling, 1896 (with reproduction of Saviolo's title page).]

S. L.