Figures 3 and 4 from the plate of Sir William Hope's New Method

Sir William Hope (1660-1724) wrote a number of books on fencing, which we have transcribed. His work is notable for a gradual realisation that the French Small-Sword system he originally trained in was lacking, and that the true Art of Defence lay in the English back-sword method. Although often rather verbose, his books clearly explain his reasoning and the principles and methods of his system.

We consider his most important works to be the New Method, and the Vade Mecum

Spooky! According to The Secret Destiny of America, by Manly P. Hall, Sir William Hope wrote a prophecy that relates to the fate of America. The prophecy was handwritten inside a copy of the Vindication originally from his own library, the copy containing the prophecy is now held by the US Library of Congress.

Although unrelated to fencing, we also have a copy of a representation to His Majesty's High Commissioner PDF (484 kB), by Sir William Hope, against Mr William Gordon. The document concerns a dispute between Hope and some of his tenants.


Thimm, Carl Albert A complete bibliography of fencing and duelling : as practised by all European nations from the middle ages to the present day published 1896.

  • H[OPE] (W[illiam]). - Scots Fencing Master, or a Compleat small-swordman, in which is fully Described the whole Guards, Parades, and Lessons belonging to the Small-Sword, &c. By W. H. Gent. 8°. 1687. Edinburgh: John Reid. [12 copperplates, out of the text.]
  • -(-). - The Sword-Man's Vade-Mecum, or a preservative against the surprize of a sudden attaque with Sharps. Being a Reduction of the most essential, necessary, and practical part of Fencing, into a few special Rules. With their Reasons: which all Sword-Men should have in their Memories when they are to Engadge; but more especially if it be with Sharps. With some other Remarques and Observations, not unfit to be known. By W. H. Gentleman. 12°. 1691. Edinburgh: John Reid. (In Captain Hutton's Collection)
  • -(-). - The Fencing-master's advice to his scholar: or, a few directions for the more regular assaulting in schools. Published by way of a dialogue for the benefit of all who shall be so far advanced in the art as to be fit for assaulting. Small 8°. 1692. Edinburgh: John Reid.
  • -(-). - The compleat Fencing-Master: in which is fully Described the whole Guards, Parades and Lessons, belonging to the Small-Sword, as also the best Rules for Playing against either Artists or others, with Blunts or Sharps. Together with Directions how to behave in a single Combat on Horse-back: illustrated with figures Engraven on Copper-plates, representing the most necessary Postures. 2nd edition. 8°. 1692. London: printed for Dorman Newman, at the King's Arms in the Poultrey. [12 copperplates, out of the text. This work, with a different title, is in every other respect a reproduction of the "Scots Fencing Master."] (In Captain Hutton's Collection.)
  • -(-). - Sword-Man's Vade-Mecum. 2nd edition. 12°. 1694. London: printed byJ. Taylor. [The title of the 2nd edition only shows a little difference in the spelling.] (In the British Museum.)
  • -(-). - Sword-Man's Vade-Mecum. 12°. 1705. Edinburgh: J. Reid. (In Captain Hutton's Collection.)
  • Hope(Sir William, of Balcomie, Bart.) [Late Deputy-Governour of the Castle of Edinburgh]. - A New, Short and Easy Method of Fencing: or the Art of the Broad and Small Sword, Rectified and Compendiz'd, wherein the Practice of these two weapons is reduced to so few and general Rules, that any Person of indifferent Capacity and orginary Agility of Body, may, in a very short time, attain to, not only a sufficient knowledge of the Theory of this art, but also to a considerable Adroitness in Practice, either for the Defence of his life, upon a just occasion, or preservation of his Reputation and Honour in any Accidental Scuffle , or Trifling Quarrel. 4°. 1707. Edinburgh James Watson. [One large folded sheet, containing 16 figures engraved on copper.] (In Captain Hutton's Collection.)
  • Hope (Sir William, of Balcomie, Bart.) [Late Deputy-Governour of the Castle of Edinburgh]. - New Method of Fencing, or the True and Solid Art of Fighting with the Back-Sword, Sheering-Sword, Small-Sword and Sword and Pistol; freed from the Errors of the Schools. 2nd edition. 4°. 1714. Edinburgh: printed by James Watson.
  • A Vindication of the True Art of Self-Defence, with a proposal, to the Honourable Members of Parliament, for erecting a Court of Honour in Great Britain. Recommended to all Gentlemen, but particularly to the Soldiery. To which is added a Short but very useful memorial for Sword Men. 8°. 1724. Edinburgh: William Brown and Company. [The same plate as that which appears in the work published by Sir W. Hope in 1707, and a frontispiece, representing the badge "Gladiatiorum Scoticorum."] (In the British Museum, and Captain Hutton's Collection.)
  • Hope (Sir William, of Balcomie, Bart.). - Observations on the Gladiator's Stage-Fighting. 8°. 1725. London.
  • -(-). - A Vindication of the True Art of Self-Defence &c. 2nd edition. 8°. 1729. London: printed byW. Meadowes. [Same plate and frontispiece dedicated to the Right Honourable Robert Walpole. “In these Islands the great advocate and exponent of French fencing at the end of the seventeenth and in the early eighteenth century was Sir W. Hope, of Balcomie, at one time deputy-governor of Edinburgh Castle. He wrote a great number of quaint treatises of great interest to the “operative” as well as to the “speculative” fencer, and yeat was instrumental in endeavouring to push through Parliament a Bill for the establishment of a “Court of Honour,” the office of which was to have been the deciding of honourable quarrels, if possible, withouth appeal to fencing skill. The House, however, being at the time very excited and busy on the question of the union of England and Scotland, teh Bill never became Act. And gentlemen, in consequence, continued to discuss their knotty point “ sur le pré.”” - Castle (E.), “The Story of Swordsmanship.” (“The National Review,” May 1891.)]