Nov 302012

This small French volume, entitled “Traite des Armes,” looks like it was designed to just slip into the pocket of the soldier-on-the-go in the late 1600s.

Illustration of a soldier using a sword

With 172 pages (including 19 pages of woodcut illustrations) stuffed into a leather-bound book under 6 inches tall, about 3 inches across and an inch thick, it’s a tiny trove of European soldiers’ cheat sheets. It’s also one of the earliest books to describe their armor.

Illustrations of armor

Written by Louis de Gaya and published in 1678 in Paris, this French book contains 3 volumes of information on arms and other tools of warfare. Gaya published previous works on strategy, and dedicated “Traite…” to practical instruments and how-to info.

The translation of the title is: “Treaty of weapons, the machinery of war, the fires of artifice, of signs and the old military instruments and modern:…” with a subtitle about use,  language and pictures.

The small volume contains three books: Book I covers swords, bayonets, muskets, pistols, pikes, crossbows, armor, and shields. Flares, fireworks and mines are the topic of Book II.

Illustration of soldier using a pike

Illustrations of bombs and grenadsIllustrations of musical instruments

Book III is about explosive devices and ballistics.

Traite des armes…  is in the Norwich University Archives & Special Collections. It was a gift of Frank E. Southard, Jr. in memory of the 955th Field Artillery Battalion.

Little is known about La Gaya other than he was a captain of a regiment in Champagne. An English translation of this book was published in London later that same year and another version was published as part of the anonymous “English Military Discipline” in 1680.


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