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Old 18th January 2014, 04:44 PM   #13
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Posts: 4,310

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On top, an octagonal wrought-iron handgonne barrel with hollowed area around the touch hole, early 15th c., , and
a wrought-iron ring rod tiller haquebut, with pointed hook, ca. 1430-40, both Musée de l'Armée Paris.

Next I wish to introduce a sensational small haquebut of ca. 1450-60 retaining its original larch wood (!) full stock originally painted red all over, both wood and iron. Together with three others, also illustrated in the first image, it was said to come from the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (Arsenal) Vienna, in the surroundings of which many pieces were reported to have been found scattered around and were taken by people after an American bomb hit in the eastern wing in 1944.

The four were sold with Hermann Historica, Munich, 31. auction, 14 October 1994.
The measurements of the one on top of the picture of four, the smallest of them all, lot 451:
overall length 104 cm, barrel length 26.5 cm, bore at muzzle 25 mm, narrowing down to ca. 18 mm about 4 cm backwards of the muzzle plane (for gun arrows!), weight ca. 4 kg.

The narrowing bore indicated that that small arquebus (German: Viertelhaken) ws designed to fire gun arrows, mostly incendiary arrows sent flying in a parabola onto the wooden shingle roofs of a besieged town - cf. the Hauslab manuscript, dated 1442, preserved in the Royal Armouries Leeds; I attached two details showing such small arquebuses along with crossbows, firing incendiary arrows.

The slightly downcurved buttstock was drop-shaped like the tiller of a Gothic crossbow, with a narrow ridge on top (see close-up)! On the left rear side, the buttstock was deeply branded with an arsenal mark, the Gothic numeral 4, and incised on the barrel was the Roman cypher VIII, plus an additional magic symbol struck by the barrelsmith: three dots.
The octagonal barrel changed flats at about mid-section, with one edge on top at the slightly swamped muzzle acting as a foresight. The relatively small touch hole with a surrounding slight hollow had a raised fire shield at its rear, behind which there was a v-shaped notch: the earliest predecessor of a rear sight that I have ever noticed Mid-15th c.!
The little straight hook was already wrought integrally, protruding from the forestock, about 4 cm in front of the muzzle, and deeply struck two times with a barrelsmith's mark, an anchor in a shield, on both sides! A very similar mark is seen on the hook of a haquebut still preserved in the Vienna arsenal.

Well, did I buy it? No.
It fetched a tremendous price, much more than the other three haquebuts, which all were just nothing compared to that earliest piece. With an estimate of 10,000 Deutsche Mark, bidding started as high as 17'000 DM. For the whole length of the bidding process, the auctioneer kept staring at me encouraging me to enter the battle, but I just signaled 'no'. Although I was not involved, it went up to 20,000 DM hammer price, plus 23 per cent auction fees. That was about 12,500 euro, and I had been told before that they had a commission bid of 24,000 DM on it, so I first would have had to outbid that.

Why did I restrain myself? Originally, both the barrel and stock of that fascinating little guy were painted completely painted with red lead minium. The armory inventories of Maximilian I depict such guns painted in red and green all over, the basic colors of the Late-Gothic period!
The sad fact was that somebody had used leach to get rid off what he thought was a later coating - resulting in countless remaining speckles of that red paint all over the surfaces of both barrel and stock, and even deep down in the age cracks of the larch wood. It had entered the wormholes, just everywhere. The stock showed the characteristic fine fibrousness of leached wood. That cruel mistreatment just could never be mended, it will always be there.
Poor thing.
I documented it photographically as comprehensively as possible.

Had that piece been preserved in undistorted condition, I would have bought it at that time; it would have been my greatest wish come true. I have thought about it every now and then but I feel I would act the same again. To make sidesteps like that, I've been way too strict in only choosing pieces in optimum condition for more than 30 years of my active collecting life, with having had to renounce on almost everything else. I do not even own a car. Too much money for a ruined item.
But that was one heck of a collector's story.

Now do enjoy the photographs I took, they are of good quality and worth studying.

Attached Images

Last edited by Matchlock; 19th January 2014 at 10:01 AM.
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