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Old 21st November 2021, 11:08 AM   #1
urbanspaceman
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Default four foot rapier blades ???

Hello Folks.
Attached, is a transcribed page from the 1703 contract that the German swordmakers in Shotley Bridge signed for the Company: it lists all the possible blades they must be prepared to supply and, in particular, 'at what cost'.
The names and details require much modern interpretation, and anyone so-inclined is encouraged to oblige... thank-you. 'Latsons' ? English Rapiers with 'Lottors' ?
However, down at the bottom of the list, and highlighted, are the specifications for what I must assume are rapier blades, as the name Cutts is also a mystery to me.
More to the point (oops!) are the dimensions: 40 to 48 inches!
I have read about excessive fashion peccadilloes producing in-feasibly long rapier blades and, in fact, royal pronouncements as to acceptable dimensions; can anyone expound on this issue?
All in all, I thought this list might appeal to some of you folks out there.
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Old 21st November 2021, 12:39 PM   #2
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Default In Portugal ...

Swords "off mark" (fora de marca) were those with more than 5 spans (palmos) with 43" full length, as per law published by King Dom Joćo III in 1539. It is known that swords with a longer length abounded; some where up to 7 spans (over 60"), a length that became famous in those days.

If you deduct the guard+pommel to this, you get your four foot.

(3 Rapiers courtesy Algredo Nobre; Dom Joćo III law collection Rainer Daehnhardt).


.
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Old 21st November 2021, 02:11 PM   #3
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Default four foot rapier blades ???

Thank-you Fernando. I am not surprised you rise to the occasion.
I am a little unclear when you talk about deducting the tang: was it customary for forgers to measure their blades including the tang ? It seems reasonable I suppose.
Did they really carry rapiers with 5 foot blades ?
Definitely puts you at an advantage reach-wise, but surely unwieldy to all but the biggest and strongest gentlemen.
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Old 21st November 2021, 04:55 PM   #4
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Default Not talking forgers ...

Precisely ... the reach is the issue. The laws legislate on how far you can reach (your foe) with a whole sword and not how long is the blade. Blades may be short and hilts may be long; it is the whole thing that counts for the legislator.
Let me show ou a 'growing' rapier, one in that when in its 'normal' version does not challenge the law but, when you stretch it, it extends up to a seven span sword.
FYI, even Kings (secretly) had them, as you may read in the (left side) caption


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Old 21st November 2021, 08:33 PM   #5
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Default size matters

Thank-you Fernandez: fascinating.
I was in the armoury down on the riverside in Lisbon a couple of years back (3 actually, now I think about it) and was not overwhelmed by the number of swords on display. Some interesting items definitely but I expected far, far more. Did I visit the wrong place?
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Old 21st November 2021, 09:07 PM   #6
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Quote:
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Thank-you Fernandez:...
It's Fernando; don't Spanishize me .
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Old 21st November 2021, 09:42 PM   #7
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Default oops

My sincere apologies, how careless.
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Old 22nd November 2021, 05:12 AM   #8
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Nice to see you on the page here Keith and I recall seeing this detail on your general page on Shotley Bridge Swords.
Dress at court was developing into a shortened jacket. Few people realise that the length of blade was more to do with fashion... As jackets became shorter so did blades. Your document also reveals the term hollows being used instead of the later term fullers.
We are so fortunate in having your input on Shotley Bridge since there is not one shred of remaining detail left standing on any artefact or building relating to the swordmakers except the existence of a local pub ...The Crown and Crossed Swords. In fact the same emblem of the crown and crossed swords was also used by the local maternity hospital The Richard Murray where I was born! I also spent a few years growing up in Shotley Bridge and at one time I lived actually in Wood Street but demolition had started by the time I was about 8 years old.

Regards, Peter Hudson.
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Old 22nd November 2021, 12:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
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My sincere apologies, how careless.
No problem ... at all .
I wouldn't think that, the reduction of swords length in connection with fashion issues, was already in place by the time of these early rapiers.
When we consider such extremely lengthy 'off mark' swords, for as tall as the owner was, would be a challenging task to carry them around in a 'conventinal' manner. I can imagine a servant carrying it for his master to go meet someone for a duel.
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Old 22nd November 2021, 06:15 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by urbanspaceman View Post
... English Rapiers with 'Lottors' ? ...
Cryptic terms indeed; besides some mispellings also being visible in the page.
May i take a shot at this one; "English Rapiers with Letters" (inscriptions) ? .
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Old 22nd November 2021, 06:28 PM   #11
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It would be interesting to know if the tang was included. I believe the British Pattern 1908 Cavalry Sword was 42 inches overall.
Best wishes
Richard
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Old 22nd November 2021, 07:33 PM   #12
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The grip (tang) and pommel were included in the 5 palms (spans) law; inequivocal. This is circa 43.3".
As are included in the 'off mark' 7 palms rapiers critical length.


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Old 22nd November 2021, 10:05 PM   #13
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Default Estocs

I understand that estocs (or 'tucks') were usually in excess of four feet.
As a matter of note, two points here:
first, there were estocs produced in this country in the 14th century that featured a three or four edged hollowed blade that was decidedly akin to the trefoil smallswords of the 17th and 18th century.
Secondly, they were made by hammering pre-formed stock into a die cut into the top of the anvil: same as was used much later for Brown Bess bayonets..
The tool that was used to shape the upper hollows was called a 'fuller' which, of course, gave rise to the term being used to describe the hollow.
I will take a guess here and suggest the hollow was originally described as 'fullered'.

Peter! Greetings my friend... and of course to you Jim... I hope all is well with you both.
You realise that you are a rare living legend Peter: having lived in Wood Street.
The BBC history department have me on their radar for a documentary, so I will certainly be pointing them in your direction for first-hand input.

Fernando: letters? I can see the link. Any advance on letters?
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Old 23rd November 2021, 08:42 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by urbanspaceman View Post
Thank-you Fernandez: fascinating.
I was in the armoury down on the riverside in Lisbon a couple of years back (3 actually, now I think about it) and was not overwhelmed by the number of swords on display. Some interesting items definitely but I expected far, far more. Did I visit the wrong place?
The Military Museum down past the cruise ships berths had a reasonable number of swords. Went there in October this year. A few examples attached.
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Old 23rd November 2021, 09:09 PM   #15
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Thank you for posting this!
Rapier lengths can vary from 110 cm to 150 cm.
I had a rapier of 145 cm that is complete length and you could handle it like a small sword, the blade section was diamond shape and the tip was a spatula tip.
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Old 23rd November 2021, 10:46 PM   #16
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Default all about length

So: I got some swords down from the wall to experience simulated combat usage (see pics below).

The first was a typical smallsword with an 80cm blade (I am measuring up to the start of the hilt; I am not including the hilt in the measurement) with a trefoil blade.
It handles exactly the way every description I have seen suggests i.e. very fast and delicate.

Then I tried a typical Portuguese slim bladed rapier of 100cms. It has been re-hilted with a court-sword hilt of very large proportions. If I was up against a practised smallsword opponent I would be struggling to match move for move but then I am not a swordsman in any shape or form so this is a layman's attempt to understand length and weight.

Finally, I have a City Guard northern Italian swept hilt rapier that has a relatively narrow blade, probably typical of the late 1500s and a good bit broader and heavier than the Portuguese blade, but of course it has a substantial guard to balance the blade. Even so, I am certain a smallsword could get past it very quickly and easily.

Anyway: I do not understand how you can manipulate such a long blade (145cm: even if that includes the hilt) so effectively, but maybe if I was a seasoned fencer with experience of such a blade it might be obvious.
ps
I may be a layman, but I have been a rock drummer all my life and have very strong wrists and etc. so I am not completely useless.
pps. pics are not to scale
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Last edited by urbanspaceman; 23rd November 2021 at 10:50 PM. Reason: add pps
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Old 24th November 2021, 01:13 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Triarii View Post
The Military Museum down past the cruise ships berths had a reasonable number of swords. Went there in October this year. A few examples attached.
Very fine pictures. I visited the museum three times in the past and they never allowed me to take pictures. Would have they changed the rules ?
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Old 24th November 2021, 01:37 PM   #18
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Comparing swords on how you can handle each of them is a tricky number. A slight difference in thickness along the whole blade makes a hell of a difference in weight. On the other hand, a sword being large is not necessarily heavy ... contrary to what many think. Still a sword with a rather long blade may be easy to handle when we mock fence with it but, in true combat, we would find ourselves not pondering on the correct distance bwteen us and our foe; even (fighting) space can be an issue.
I have a rapier (estoc like) with a 107 cms. blade, measuring 128 cms. in total. Extremely thin (13X8m/m), it weighs 810 grams. When i handle it, if feels like a feather weigth. But i would certainly not know what to do with such a long thing in a one versus one fight. This is why a determined type of swords require (school) training.
Note, i am no fencer nor swordsman. So don't pay much attention to what i say .
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Old 24th November 2021, 11:01 PM   #19
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Default Lisbon Armoury

Quote:
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Very fine pictures. I visited the museum three times in the past and they never allowed me to take pictures. Would have they changed the rules ?
When I was there, in December 2018, I was the only person in the building. I was on a cruise ship and it was raining heavily and as I had seen the museum two or three times in the past, and not visited, it seemed like a perfect opportunity.
I photographed everything in the glass case - that didn't amount to much - with no interference from staff who were nowhere to be seen.
There were some magnificent displays in there, and the building itself is glorious, but there were only a handful of blades... and three of them were plugs: fine plugs yes, but surely they have a lot more available in the archives... why not put it out.
Of course, not everyone shares our enthusiasm for weaponry.
When I reduce the file sizes I will post some of the pics I took - other than the ones above.
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Old 24th November 2021, 11:13 PM   #20
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Default Pictures as above

Here are four from the Lisbon Armoury:
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Old 25th November 2021, 11:04 AM   #21
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Excelent pictures; you sure have a steady wrist ... and a good camera .
All i took were from the (open air) cannon patio; one the largest bronze cannon collections out there. But cannons are not your music .
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Old 29th December 2021, 01:16 PM   #22
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Here is such a rapier, I oput it next to a halberd so you can put things in perspective
The total length is 135 cm the blade without the angel 120 cm or 4 feet. The blade section is hollow ground, the maker is Antony PIccininni. The cup pierced as it the pommel all very fine and delicate work to save weight. This rapier can be handled from the wrist and feels just like a small sword.
Long rapiers are rare and very hard to find, lengths can vary from 110 to 145 cm total length.
Most rapiers are around 120 cm total length, all rapiers longer than 130 cm can be considered exceptionally long.
kind regards
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Old 29th December 2021, 01:33 PM   #23
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Default Rapier

Hello Ulfberth.
You have the most magnificent specimen of rapier.
Contradict me if I am wrong Gentlemen, but I consider it a rare masterpiece, and I envy you Ulfberth.
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Old 29th December 2021, 01:37 PM   #24
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Default Hollow

It is hard to tell from the pictures, but you say the blade is hollow ground, do you mean it is of smallsword trefoil design?
Incidentally, the combination of swept hilt and cup seems quite unique to me; is it?
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Old 29th December 2021, 01:44 PM   #25
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The one one the left a dish hilt with diamond section blade and a spatula tip to cut with is 145 cm total length that's 4 foot 9,9 .
the one next to it is 130 cm still longer than most rapiers.
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Old 29th December 2021, 01:58 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by urbanspaceman View Post
It is hard to tell from the pictures, but you say the blade is hollow ground, do you mean it is of smallsword trefoil design?
Incidentally, the combination of swept hilt and cup seems quite unique to me; is it?
This type of guard is rare yes, there is a similar rapier in the Hermitage museum in ST Petersburg Russia.
Here is an example of what i mean by a hollow ground blade.
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Old 29th December 2021, 02:07 PM   #27
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the one on the left is a ring rapier also 135 cm 4foot5,14 total lenght , after the ricasso the blade is af hexagonal section and in the middle it changes to diamond section. It does not feel top heavy at all , some long rapiers can feel top heavy, these were mostly in use for cavalry.
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Old 29th December 2021, 02:34 PM   #28
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Default Rapiers

Truly fascinating.
As you will maybe know, I am very much a novice in the world of swords, having devoted exclusive attention to researching the story of Shotley Bridge.
So it is a rare treat to glimpse into such an amazing area of sword production and I am most grateful to you for this opportunity.
Thanks, and best wishes for '22.
Keith.
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Old 29th December 2021, 02:36 PM   #29
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BTW:

FULLER comes from the name of the tool used to hammer in the hollows and dates back to medieval times.
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Old 29th December 2021, 04:33 PM   #30
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Over here we call them goteiras (gutters, as for blood gutters). It is a fantasy ... but the name stayed.
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