View Single Post
Old 16th January 2021, 06:48 AM   #7
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
Jim McDougall's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,586

This is an outstanding topic and thread Teodor, and absolutely wonderful grouping of these swords! Congratulations on the beautiful new example you have added and I very much agree with your comments.
While I of course have nothing but the highest regard for Mr. Buttin, like all of the long venerated arms writers, they were far from infallible. The 14th-15th c. suggestion for #991 is remarkably unlikely and exceeds optimism.

As far as I have understood this distinctive guard system evolved most likely in Italy in the late 15th century as Tony North described in his " A Late 15th Century Italian Sword" (Connoisseur, Dec. 1975, fig.3). The assimilation into the Ceylonese sphere with the similar system in the 'kastane' appears to have arisen sometime about a century later, but from again similar hilt designs in South India, Deccan of 15th c. ("Arts of the Muslim Knight", B. Mohamed, 2008, p.206, #197). It does seem the quillon system was circulating through trade networks in 15th into 16th c. but its character in my opinion reflects Italian sword design innovations as the rapier styles were evolving.

In Mohamed (op. cit. #40; #41 and #60) all show these 'peaked' type hilts of these sa'if commonly termed 'nimcha' .
#40 has the D-ring and is attributed to N. Africa 16th-17th c. The blade has a 'cog'wheel' mark known of German smiths of 16th c. and the hilt designs are Ottoman form of 16th c.

#60 is of the Deccan in India with the peak and same hilt styling but with characteristic Indian quillon terminals and langet, said to be 17th c. \

#41 is of Algeria, Oran c. 1700. The same type sword was captured at the Battle of Oran n 1732. One of these had the toughra of Mustafa II (1695-1703) on the blade.

The same hilt and quillon system seems too have prevailed mostly in the Maghreb from 17th c. into 18th, but as always, tradition keeps forms around much longer than collectively recognized. It seems that the 'peak' had basically diminished by the18th c.

It seems that Stone regarded these as Algerian, while collectors have always deemed the 'nimcha' as Moroccan.

It does seem that the instances of English merchants wearing nimcha in the early to mid years of 17th c. come from diplomatic trade relations with Morocco.
In the past there have been numbers of attempts to classify nimcha regionally by hilt features and quillon character, but I am not sure this can be reliably done.

The 'D ring' guard for example has long been regarded as a Zanzibar form, but here Buttin refers to them only as Arab, collectively grouped with the other forms of variation.

With the example posted here in the opening of the thread, that blade looks distinctly Italian, and those markings reflect characteristics of Italian lettered marks in parallel, and quite possibly 17th c. The unusual raised section on the blade back nearest hilt seems like Italian blades I have seen.

Attached is a Hafsid sovereign of Tunis wearing a nimcha c. 1573. While we cannot rely on accuracy necessarily, the peak seems absent but by the notations on the example from N. Africa (Mohamed, op. cit. #40) from Oran Algeria of late16th c. the design did exist there.
Attached Images
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote