The history of Joachim Meyer's fencing treatise to Otto von Solms.

The Joachim Meyer fechtbuch named MS A.4°.2, a beautiful hand-written and watercolour-illustrated fencing treatise dedicated to Herrn Otto von Solms-Sonnewalde is currently held at the University Library of Lund, but how did it end up there after having been given to the young Count Otto von Solms some time in the 1560s?

The Solms-Braunfels Coat-of-Arms

As it was a personal gift to Otto von Solms we can fairly safely assume that he was given the book sometime during either his studies or his early travels. As it happens, Otto traveled to Strassburg both in 1560 and in 1568, two years before Joachim Meyer's death, where he finished his studies at the University. As Joachim Meyer was a fechtmeister in Strassburg, then a part of the Holy Roman Empire, it seems likely that they would have met there and at either or both of those dates. Possibly, the book was ordered by an older relative when Otto was younger.

After his studies, which lasted between 1563-1569, Otto travelled extensively through Europe, passing both Switzerland, Italy, France and England, not returning to his family castle in Sonnewalde until 1576. Possibly, this is when the book arrives at the family library in Sonnewalde, but it could of course also have been sent home earlier. In 1596 Otto is appointed Graf of Solms and the year after we see him fighting with Moritz von Oranien against the catholic Spaniards at the Battle of Turnhout. Otto is then 47.

Otto von Solms at the Battle of Turnhout in 1597.

In 1618 the Thirty Year's War breaks out. The conflict is too complex to go into here and now and here I instead refer you to follow the link given. However we know that in April 19th 1642 the Swedish Army under leadership of Hans Cristoff Königsmarck, Martin Lange, Lennart Torstensson and Torsten Stålhandske (the family name means "Steel Glove"...) stands outside the city gates of Sonnewalde.

Map showing Sonnewalde in the 1600s
Map showing Sonnewalde in the 1600s

However, Lieutenant Colonel Martin Lange is defeated by Commander von Cottwitz who defended the town "bravely". Then, on the night of April 22nd after the town has celebrated its victory heavily as part of their Easter celebrations, the city is once more attacked and this time defeated and consequently the Swedish soldiers loot and burn the town down to the ground. The day after, the castle is surrendered.

Peasants at Sonnewalde at the end of the 1600s.

After taking the castle, Königsmarck handed over the castle to Cpt. Hofemeister and later to Lt. Alman and even later to Johannes Levi vom Sommerlad. The latter was, from what it seems, the one who looted the library on behalf of Torstensson, although Uno Röndahl in his Skåneland utan försoning mentions that it was in actuality General Johan Lilliehök who took the books from the library.

Reading Otto Walde's Storhetstidens litterära krigsbyten : en kulturhistorisk-bibliografisk studie, the contents of the library had arrived in Sweden in September 1643, with at least one book from the library marked with "Carolo Sparre Anno 1643 18 Septemb" and later having a Bielke Ex Libris added to it. So, according to this book Carl Carlsson Sparre (b. 1632 - d. 1672) is one of the first owners of the war booty books from the Solms Library, possibly also Meyer's 1560 treatise. Carl Sparre's sister was first married to Ture Bielke and after his death to Gustaf Bielke.

It should also be noted that Carl Carlsson Sparre was rather young in 1643, only eleven years old, which might give cause to consider that the book mentioned could have been given to his father, Carl Ericsson Sparre (b. 1595 - d. 1632).

The Falkenberg Coat-of-Arms
The Falkenberg Coat-of-Arms

Carl Sparre's brother Axel Carlsson Sparre was father to General and Field Marshall Axel Sparre of Brokind who married Anna Maria Falkenberg. After his death Anna Maria made the Brokind estate the fideikomiss (an estate that can't be sold, only left as an inheritance) of her brother's son Melker Falkenberg,which is the person who donated the Meyer treatise to the University Library of Lund.

Melker Falkenberg's grandfather was Melchior von Falckenberg who was born in Livonia in 1597 and page under both Axel Oxenstierna and Gustav II Adolf and later a diplomat at the courts of Sachsen, Brandenburg, Pommern and Mecklenburg. Melchior's father Heinrich von Falckenberch was born in 1552 and resided in Livonia.

 

So, to "simplify" things, the history of the book and the persons surrounding it looks like this:

  • 1537 Aug 16th a Joachim Meyer is born in Basel, Switzerland. This may or may not be "our" Joachim Meyer.
  • 1550 June 25th Otto von Solms is born.
  • 1560 June 4th Joachim Meyer marries Appolonia.
  • 1560 July 10th Joachim Meyer is accepted as a burgher of Strassburg.
  • 1560 July Otto goes to Strassburg with his brother and possibly Meyer's treatise is handed over to him.
  • 1561 Feb 15th Joachim Meyer is for the first time mentioned in relation to fencing with his petition for a fechtschule.
  • 1561 Otto's father Friedrich Magnus I, Graf zu Solms-Laubach, Herr zu Sonnewalde & Pouch dies.
  • 1563 Otto and his brother Johann Georg are sent to the University of Tübingen.
  • 1564-67 Otto and his brother Johann Georg studies at the University of Wittenberg.
  • 1568 Otto studies in Marburg and later Strassburg where he finishes his studies. This is the second possibility where the treatise may have been handed over to Otto.
  • 1568 Joachim Meyer is for the first time mentioned as a fechtmeister as he petitions for a fechtschule in Strassburg.
  • 1569 Otto travels to Savoyen, Switzerland.
  • 1570 Jan 12 Otto is in Genève, then part of Switzerland.
  • 1571 Feb 24th Joachim Meyer dies after having travelled to take up his appointment as the Fencing Master at the Court of the Duke of Mecklenburg in Schwerin.
  • 1571 Otto is first in Besançon and later Paris, France.
  • 1572-73 Otto visits England and is held in "high esteem" at the Royal Court.
  • 1573 Otto returns to Wittenberg.
  • 1574 Otto is in Verona, Italy.
  • 1574-1576 Otto is in Venice, Italy.
  • 1576 Otto travels to Paris, France.
  • 1576 Otto returns to Sonnewalde after having travelling almost constantly around Europe for seven years and instead engages in several military campaigns.
  • 1578-1579ca. Otto retires to his family castle.
  • 1581 Sep 9th Otto marries Anna Amalie, daughter of the Duke Albrecht von Nassau-Weilburg.
  • 1587 Otto is sent as a Kursachsian Geheimecouncil to the Emperor in Prague.
  • 1588 Otto's mother Agnes van Wied dies.
  • 1596 Otto is appointed Graf of Solms-Sonnenwalde (Graf zu Solms-Laubach-Sonnenwalde, Herr zu Sonnenwalde u.Pouch, Mitherr zu Wildenfels).
  • 1597 Otto fights the catholic Spaniards at the battle of Turnhout, alongside of prince Moritz von Oranien.
  • 1600 Otto's brother Johan Georg I zu Solms-Laubach dies.
  • 1612 Jan 29th Otto dies and his son Friedrich Albert inherits the library alongside of the estates of Sonnewalde, half of Wildenfels, Baruth and Pouch and all of Otto's clothes, armour and arms. Thus Friedrich Albert becomes Graf zu Solms-Sonnenwalde.
  • 1615–1632 Johann Georg II becomes Graf zu Solms-Baruth in Wildenfels.
  • 1632 Carl Carlsson Sparre is born.
  • 1632–1690 Johann Georg III becomes Graf zu Solms-Baruth.
  • 1642 The book is taken as war booty by Johannes Levi von Sommerlad on behalf of Lennart Torstensson.
  • 1643 Parts of the collection is in the possession of Carl Carlsson Sparre or possibly his father Carl Eriksson Sparre. The Meyer treatise stays in the Sparre Library until 1728, when Field Marshall Axel Sparre dies.
  • 1648 The Thirty Year's War ends.
  • 1681 The Holy Roman Empire loses Strassburg to France.
  • 1728 Melker von Falkenberg is given the Brokind estate with its library by Anna Maria Falkenberg, the widow of Field Marshall Axel Sparre.
  • 1780 The treatise is donated to the University Library of Lund by Riksråd Greve Melker von Falkenberg.


Show a larger map of Locations related to Otto von Solms

One important question arises as a result of this. How good support do we have for the current 1560 dating of the MS A.4°.2 treatise? Meyer dedicates the treatise to Otto, but Otto is only 10 years old in 1560 and although we know that Otto was in Strassburg in 1560 we also know that he revisited Strassburg in 1568, where he finished his studies at the age of 19. It seems as likely that they met at the later date.

Furthermore, Meyer became a burgher of Strassburg in 1560, joining the messerschmidt guild and marrying the widow Appolonia Rülmann. He requests his first fechtschulen in 1561, but not as a fechtmeister. The first time Joachim Meyer is mentioned as a Fechtmeister in official documents in Strassburg is in 1568. Meyer signs this treatise with "Joachim Meyer, Fechtmeister", which again could indicate a later dating than currently thought.

In his foreword he seems to speak of the Count having heard of him expressing that he doesn't know how, which makes it seem as if Otto actually requested Meyer to write the book for him. This seems more fitting for a young man than a 8-10 year old.

Otto's father was still alive in 1560 so we can only speculate on the possibilities of Meyer seeking patronage through tutoring a boy who one day likely would become a duke. However, with the other data in mind this date seems less likely, in my opinion.

Also, more research on Otto's military experiences in 1576-78 should be done.

References:

Röndahl, Uno: Skåneland utan försoning : Om kungahusens och den svenska överklassens folkdråp och kulturskövling i Skåneland. (1981, 1993, 2009). Karlshamn

Solms-Laubach, Rudolph zu  : Geschichte des Grafen- und Fürstenhauses Solms (1865). S. Adelmann, Frankfurt.

Walde, Otto : Storhetstidens litterära krigsbyten : en kulturhistorisk-bibliografisk studie. 1 (1916). Almqvist & Wiksell, Uppsala

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