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Old 6th June 2020, 03:52 PM   #1
Lee
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Smile Big British Basket Hilted Sword

Following a discussion in another thread I promised to present an example of a threaded tang on a British sword dating to around 1600. Having dismounted the pommel, I am doubting that the actual threads that I now see are pre-Victorian. We do know where this sword was in 1881 as it is illustrated, likely with artistic 'restoration,' in Drummond's Ancient Scottish Weapons and it was sold with the W. Wareing Faulder collection in London in 1889. The sword disappeared for about a century until it resurfaced at Christie's in May, 1994. The current academic opinion is that this sword, as presently configured, is English from around 1600 with a reused 14th century blade and this attribution depends considerably upon the pierced, threaded tang button (a feature seen on the Twysden baskethilt at the Met). The Baron of Earlshall did not exclude a Scottish origin in 1996 (Park Lane Arms Fair catalogue, pp. 30-38) but he had largely come around to the English attribution in 2016 in The Scottish Basket Hilted Sword, vol 1, pp. 464-470. I am hardly in a position to argue with the authorities in this field, but I have always wondered if this sword is not an object intended for the same uses as the Scottish 16th century two handed swords.
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Old 6th June 2020, 03:54 PM   #2
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Wink Technical details

However, the sword has clearly seen some use and substantial wear and it was clearly made for and shows evidence of use and not mere parade display. The plano-convex stiffening rods are attached to the forte of the blade proper by rivets, but are welded to the tang, showing some respect and attempt to preserve the original heat treatment. Overall weight is just shy of 5Ĺ pounds (2.487 kg) with the balance point 4 inches (~10 cm) forward of the guard. The blade is just over 38Ĺ inches in length (97.7 cm) with an overall length of 44ĺ inches (113.8 cm).
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Old 6th June 2020, 04:49 PM   #3
Jim McDougall
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Lee, thank you so much for this excellent demonstration on the topic of the early use of threaded tangs !
Also for the wonderful photos from Drummond a book I always dreamed of having!
If I may just add an unrelated note on that illustration, the hilts in the uppermost left and lower left of the six shown are actually Italian schiavona not Scottish.
In the time of Drummond's work it had been presumed that the Scottish basket hilt had either derived from the schiavona or been closely related. It was later of course shown that the two hilt firms were structurally different and in fact not related as seen in the 'lattice' type character of the schiavona .

The question on the pragmatism of the threaded tang adding to the strength of the blade attachment in combat seems well placed. In fact the Scottish two handed sword known as the claymore (my Gaelic is rusty, =great sword) was a huge two hand sword, and as the blades on these were often cut down to use in basket hilts, the term often was used in describing them as well.

While by far, not one of the 'experts' , the use of the threaded tang seems more a convenience for field repairs or replacement blade......but the added strength seems most reasonable as a purpose.

The hilt on this example shown dismantled is indeed English as used by dragoons in units of English cavalry through 18th c. but was probably produced in the 'garrison' context by hilt makers in Scotland.
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Old 7th June 2020, 10:22 AM   #4
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Lee that is a wonderful basket hilted sword. I do appreciate swords that have been used for more than dress purposes. Possibly someday one will come my way?
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Old 7th June 2020, 12:39 PM   #5
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Hi Lee, at first glance I was somehow surprised because the thread tap is more modern, however looking closer I saw the old thread the first few lines are still visible . This is of course a responsible restoration on a beautiful sword.
kind regards
Ulfberth
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Old 7th June 2020, 02:29 PM   #6
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Red face

Thank you Gentlemen.

Here are closer-up up views of the threading. I wonder if the obvious diagonal weld line in one of the views indicates material added at the last restoration to 'beef up' the end of the tang so that the same threaded tang button could also be re-threaded inside.

I have also wondered how much of the state of condition that we see in Drummond's drawing published in 1881 was the artist's reconstruction of how he thought this sword had once appeared and how much may be Victorian era restoration that has now perished. There is also evidence that there had been considerable decoration on the forte of the blade that has long been almost completely rubbed away. Further down on each side of the blade there are running wolf marks that I failed to photograph. Published accounts regularly speculate that the 'ail' inscription just beyond the reinforcing rod might be the end of a longer now hidden inscription, but I believe that it was added around the same time as the basket hilt and rods.
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Old 7th June 2020, 02:44 PM   #7
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about the obvious diagonal weld line at the end of the tang, im not sure this could also be a line from forging its hard to tell for sure.
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Old 7th June 2020, 09:23 PM   #8
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The scarf weld is fairly apparent. There were definitely lathe screw threads of size well before the Victorian age and certainly in the 18th century. If you have, or can borrow some thread gauges (look like notched feeler gauges), a clear match might place it to a standard thread pitch, tpi, etc.

By the mid 18th century, there were some standards for interchangeability.

Cheers
GC
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Old 8th June 2020, 11:11 PM   #9
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Beautiful basket hilt, Lee! Thanks for posting it in regards to our questions of threaded tangs on that other post. One must also remember that basket swords were definitely one of those types that were handed down and refitted over many centuries. In Culloden: The Swords and the Sorrows, an extensive collection of baskets from the time of the '45', we see among the large grouping all manner of repairs, restructuring of the basket, removal of some bars to 'open the hilt', forward quillons (hand guards) added after 1700, etc. Its good to lock down the time period of when the detachable pommel first came into place.
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Old 9th June 2020, 07:50 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lee
Following a discussion in another thread I promised to present an example of a threaded tang on a British sword dating to around 1600. Having dismounted the pommel, I am doubting that the actual threads that I now see are pre-Victorian. We do know where this sword was in 1881 as it is illustrated, likely with artistic 'restoration,' in Drummond's Ancient Scottish Weapons and it was sold with the W. Wareing Faulder collection in London in 1889. The sword disappeared for about a century until it resurfaced at Christie's in May, 1994. The current academic opinion is that this sword, as presently configured, is English from around 1600 with a reused 14th century blade and this attribution depends considerably upon the pierced, threaded tang button (a feature seen on the Twysden baskethilt at the Met). The Baron of Earlshall did not exclude a Scottish origin in 1996 (Park Lane Arms Fair catalogue, pp. 30-38) but he had largely come around to the English attribution in 2016 in The Scottish Basket Hilted Sword, vol 1, pp. 464-470. I am hardly in a position to argue with the authorities in this field, but I have always wondered if this sword is not an object intended for the same uses as the Scottish 16th century two handed swords.


Hi Lee,

Following on from Jimís observation that two of the swords in Drummondís illustration are in fact schiavonas, I wonder if schiavonas were popularly used by Scottish soldiers at the time, or whether these were simply collectorsí items for display? Were there Scotsmen serving in the Venetian armed forces who could have used schiavonas and then brought them home to Scotland on retirement? I know that there were Scotsmen serving in the Imperial Austro-Hungarian armed forces and I believe some Scottish families settled in the region after they were granted land there. Names like Leslie and Loudon spring to mind: https://electricscotland.com/histor...To10Austria.pdf.

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Old 9th June 2020, 02:38 PM   #11
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Lee

A remarkable sword! Two things I have never seen before, the threaded tang (very practical) and the strengthening rods.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 10th June 2020, 08:12 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix
Hi Lee,

Following on from Jimís observation that two of the swords in Drummondís illustration are in fact schiavonas, I wonder if schiavonas were popularly used by Scottish soldiers at the time, or whether these were simply collectorsí items for display? Were there Scotsmen serving in the Venetian armed forces who could have used schiavonas and then brought them home to Scotland on retirement? I know that there were Scotsmen serving in the Imperial Austro-Hungarian armed forces and I believe some Scottish families settled in the region after they were granted land there. Names like Leslie and Loudon spring to mind: https://electricscotland.com/histor...To10Austria.pdf.


Victrix, thank you for the recognition, and interesting postulation on the possibility of connections between schiavonaand Scottish basket hilt.
Joseph Anderson, consulting on the Drummond work (1881)did IMPLY there was a connection, but reservedly. A French author of "Les Armes" (1890) also strongly suggested same as did authors of "Scottish National Memorials".
These 'suggestions' were questioned by Lord Archibald Campbell in 1899, and again by Danish arms scholar Holgar Jacobsen in 1940, who suggested that the Scottish basket hilt was from North European 'dusagges'. These often basket hilted short sabers (often termed 'Sinclair' saber) bore striking similarity in hilt construction to those of the Scots.

The similarity to schiavona is superficial at best, and schiavona have a 'lattice' type structure while most Scottish basket hilts have panels connected by connecting bars. H. Seitz ("Blankwaffen", 1965) suggested that the use of the basket hilt form precluded the advent of the fully developed schiavona guard (which had indeed evolved from a more basic Hungarian form hilt but without basket).

These details I took from "The Early Basket Hilt in Britain" by the late and most esteemed authority Claude Blair (in "Scottish Weapons and Fortifications", ed. David Caldwell, 1981). Mr. Blair well noted that while the rebuttal of the possibility of viable evolution of the Scottish basket form from the schiavona..........the accurate dating of these hilt forms in most cases remains speculative. However, it seems to me that basket hilts of the so called 'sinclair ' type existed in England in the 16th c. and I dont think schiavona in fully devoloped form existed then.

Also, to the point of Scottish mercenaries, thier presence in European armies is of course well known, and that was the case of thier participation in North European conflicts was indeed the circumstances which brought these sabers there as brought home. They also did fight with East European armies against the Turks, which brought forth the anomaly of curved blades on basket hilts (termed then 'Turcael').

While I am not aware of any particular case of Scots being engaged by Venice as mercenaries, there was of course a degree of connection in the religious sense as the Stuarts were primarily Catholic. Prince Charlie was indeed born in Italy and never saw Scotland until Culloden.
However, it is known that swords with schiavona hilts were by no means confined to Venice or the forces associated with the Doge, They were known in some degree to have been used elsewhere in Europe, but not in my thinking to enough significance to be regarded in these other contexts notably.

I did not intend to make this such a lengthy response, but wanted to address your very astute and well placed suggestion as well as I could. I hope this might be useful to any wishing to pursue further the interesting basket hilt conundrum.

In summary, I have never heard of any case of a Scot with a schiavona....Scottish basket hilts were of course hilted in Scotland using mostly German blades. Even though connected with Italy in some perhaps religious/political sense, I have never seen evidence of a schiavona even in clan holdings, so use of them in Scotland of note is unlikely.

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Old 11th June 2020, 09:27 AM   #13
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Jim, many thanks for your comments. They make perfect sense. The reason I asked about the possible use of schiavonas in Scotland is that I have a schiavona purchased in the UK with the motto NE QVID NIMIS (Lat. =Not in excess) written on the blade. I found that some aristocratic families in the UK use that motto, so when I saw Drummondís illustration I saw the possibility that the schiavona might have been used in Britain. After all, schiavonas were allegedly used not only in Venice/along the coast of the Adriatic Sea. But I note the absence of any aristocratic crest on my schiavona and note the popularity of mottoes of all kinds on European blades 17-18thC, and conclude that my sciavona most likely is Venetian and was previously brought to the UK to be part of a collection. Apologies for pulling this thread in an unintended direction.

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Old 11th June 2020, 01:20 PM   #14
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Very interesting early baskethilt!
I have an excavated basket ca.1600-20 that also has the threaded capstan. I'll dig around and see if I can find a photo and post it here.

--ElJay
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Old 12th June 2020, 10:45 AM   #15
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Found the photos!
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Old 18th June 2020, 10:26 AM   #16
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Yes, very much the same 'onion' shaped pommel and threaded tang button! How do you attribute this excavated sword?

Also, belatedly, here are photos of the running wolves and seriously rubbed blade decoration.
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