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Old 8th October 2021, 04:28 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default European 'yataghans'

The best thing about our forums is the phenomenal material, examples and discussions over these many years, and that our archives have become a treasure trove for research.
I always enjoy seeing old threads revived with new material and examples.

In this case, on Ethnographic, a group of swords were posted in 2012 by 'Longfellow', with one described as a 'yataghan' with unusual inscriptions on the blade presumed to be Turkish.

In fact, this curious sword, though distinctly with recurved 'yataghan' type blade was actually a European example made in 'Oriental' style, probably in late 18th century. The inscriptions on the blade were also in Oriental fashion, but with content similar to European blades of 18th c. with curious 'magical' and occult symbolism. There was a style of this type decoration known as 'Caissagnard' (spelling?) from Nantes, France which characterized much of this.

In 2012's thread, it was properly noted that these 'exotic ' swords were actually European, and derive from the Balkan forces in service to Austria known as Pandours. These auxiliary forces were primarily used in various functions, mostly skirmishing and reconnaissance. They however became renegade with looting etc. and were disbanded.

They were known for wearing Oriental fashion and using weapons in these exotic forms, much in the manner East European cavalry adopted Turkish style weapons. These pandour forces were much feared and that notable effect was not lost to the European armies later, escpecially the French.

They established flamboyant cavalry units based on the Pandours and the exotic uniforms and regalia including weapons, including presumably these 'yataghan' style swords.

The sword at top in this group is the one discussed, the other two are center a kaskara, bottom, probably theatrical.
Other images of the types of inscriptions on the blade illustrate the styles of 'Oriental' theme noted.
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Old 8th October 2021, 04:40 PM   #2
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Default My example of European yataghan, believed French

This example as in the one in original post, was acquired many years ago, and though I do not have dimensions at the moment, it is a substantial blade in recurved yataghan style with more length than typical Ottoman types.
It is presumed thus to be for a cavalry officer, the hilt is staghorn, in the 'hirschfanger' style of European hunting swords of 18th century.

The blade has a ligature, cypher suggesting initials of the owner or perhaps a device for a specific principality. The unusual configuration of the hilt, with vestigial quillon and the cuff resembling rainguards on earlier swords is interesting .The grip is bifurcated in 'yataghan' style as well.

On one quillon, there is stamped lettering BOU, but rest is no longer discernible. I had always hoped it might be for the famed arms maker to the regency in France Nicolas Boutet, but this remains tenuous at best.

The reason for posting this here, and with the 2012 query from Ethnographic was to illustrate the close proximities between European and Ethnographic weapons and to discuss these anomalies of the yataghan style.
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Old 8th October 2021, 04:55 PM   #3
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A fine example of how incluences mix together and form prototypes which eventually evolve into adaptation somewhere else.
I would even describe that hilt as "karabelesque", but I am biased.
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Old 8th October 2021, 05:08 PM   #4
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Default Example of form in 2012 thread

This example just posted by Eftihis in Ethnographic on 2012 thread updates and perfectly illustrates that these unusual yataghan style swords were not simply 'one off', but were apparently produced in a number perhaps for one of the European units described.
On this note the langet type appendage in brass, where on the example from 2012 has only the empty space left.

The downturned cross guard is taken from Chinese jian forms presumably, and in the 18th century in Europe these Oriental styles were extremely popular.
On small swords in particular the decorative motifs and styles of shakudo and chinosserie were notably used.
There were even Chinese artisans in European locations in many of the centerts of weapon production.

The unusual hilt styling has the finger stalls seen on certain Eastern type swords such as the kastane, but that feature seems to derive from late 16th century Italian forms of storta. The pommel has been suggested to resemble karabela.

On this example, note the inscribed devices etc. on blade, which is as seen straight, and these correspond more to the Caissagnard style from France I had noted earlier.
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Old 8th October 2021, 06:18 PM   #5
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The blade has a ligature, cypher suggesting initials of the owner or perhaps a device for a specific principality.
The "CT"-monogram belongs to Carl Theodor since decembre 1742 as Charles IV. elector of the Palatina and Duke of Juelich-Berg. Since decembre 1777 he was as Charles II. elector of Bavaria.
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Old 8th October 2021, 07:04 PM   #6
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The "CT"-monogram belongs to Carl Theodor since decembre 1742 as Charles IV. elector of the Palatina and Duke of Juelich-Berg. Since decembre 1777 he was as Charles II. elector of Bavaria.
Fantastic Udo! Thank you so much!
I have had this sword for a long time, but never had the diligence to follow up on this cypher on the blade.
I had thought this to be French from one of these 'exotic' units resembling the Pandour character, but these units existed throughout Austria and Bavaria as well into the Napoleonic period. Perhaps this might explain the distinct 'hirschfanger' appearance of the hilt, coupled with the 'eared' effect of the yataghan hilts (in line with the blade of course).
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Old 9th October 2021, 01:06 PM   #7
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This example as in the one in original post, was acquired many years ago, and though I do not have dimensions at the moment, it is a substantial blade in recurved yataghan style with more length than typical Ottoman types.
It is presumed thus to be for a cavalry officer, the hilt is staghorn, in the 'hirschfanger' style of European hunting swords of 18th century.

The blade has a ligature, cypher suggesting initials of the owner or perhaps a device for a specific principality. The unusual configuration of the hilt, with vestigial quillon and the cuff resembling rainguards on earlier swords is interesting .The grip is bifurcated in 'yataghan' style as well.

On one quillon, there is stamped lettering BOU, but rest is no longer discernible. I had always hoped it might be for the famed arms maker to the regency in France Nicolas Boutet, but this remains tenuous at best.

The reason for posting this here, and with the 2012 query from Ethnographic was to illustrate the close proximities between European and Ethnographic weapons and to discuss these anomalies of the yataghan style.
Hi Jim,

This is a curious sword. The blade has a kind of concave shape like a sickle and I wonder how it would be handled. Perhaps almost like scythe?
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Old 9th October 2021, 01:14 PM   #8
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This example just posted by Eftihis in Ethnographic on 2012 thread updates… On this example, note the inscribed devices etc. on blade, which is as seen straight, and these correspond more to the Caissagnard style from France I had noted earlier.
An observer’s comment on an inscription on a schiavona once alerted me to the now extinct Bosnian Cyrillic language: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosnian_Cyrillic. ”After the Ottoman conquest, Bosnian Cyrillic was used, along with Arebica, by the Bosnian Muslim nobility, chiefly in correspondence, mainly from the 15th to 17th centuries (hence, the script has also been called begovica, "bey's script"). Isolated families and individuals could write in it even in the 20th century.” So what we thought were occult symbols may in fact be part of unfamiliar or now extinct script. Several of the letters inscribed on the sword seem to match letters in Bosnian Cyrillic.
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Old 10th October 2021, 09:05 AM   #9
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Hi Jim,

This is a curious sword. The blade has a kind of concave shape like a sickle and I wonder how it would be handled. Perhaps almost like scythe?


Hi Victrix,

It is indeed very curious as it leaves the typical European sword realm and transcends into 'oriental', which was the trademark and character of the 'Pandour' styled forces using these originally.

The yataghan's design is that it has a reverse curve, thus the cutting edge is on the inside, so as you observe it is probably used in cuts very much like a scythe.
The image of ivory hilted sword is an Ottoman yataghan, probably Balkan.

It appears this blade is likely European produced, and clearly not the normal style for their usual production, so chances are this was privately commissioned of course. While these specialty type units were known in these European armies, and officers had carte blanche in their typical flamboyant fashions, one wonders just how many weapons like this may have been produced.

Your suggestion on the intriguing alphabet of this Bosnian Cyrillic language of Bosnian Muslim nobility seems well placed. These colorful hussar and Pandour type units were well known across Europe, and many Hungarian blades have mysterious inscriptions such as those mentioned here.As this flamboyant military tradition extended across Europe, so did the blade inscriptions used on the swords.

It appears most of these inscriptions used devices and motif representing oriental themes including the turban wearing figure, along with inscriptions using elaborate lettering and indecipherable 'words'. These seem to have been from numerous 'magic' alphabets which used letters and symbols which were taken from various sources and languages.

Some of these were from the Vehmic and 'inquisition' alphabets which resemble runes, hermetic or alchemical symbols, Hebrew letters, and various others. In most cases these seem to be amalgamations, so it is possible that this kind of alphabet might have lent characters to some of these inscriptions.

The first illustrations are on shashka blades, where many of these came from Hungarian sources. The styles of inscriptions are seen in the smaller panel at bottom, of these kinds of inscriptions known collectively as the 'Transylvanian knot', referring to magic symbolism.
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Old 10th October 2021, 10:43 AM   #10
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Your suggestion on the intriguing alphabet of this Bosnian Cyrillic language of Bosnian Muslim nobility seems well placed. These colorful hussar and Pandour type units were well known across Europe, and many Hungarian blades have mysterious inscriptions such as those mentioned here.As this flamboyant military tradition extended across Europe, so did the blade inscriptions used on the swords.

It appears most of these inscriptions used devices and motif representing oriental themes including the turban wearing figure, along with inscriptions using elaborate lettering and indecipherable 'words'. These seem to have been from numerous 'magic' alphabets which used letters and symbols which were taken from various sources and languages.

Some of these were from the Vehmic and 'inquisition' alphabets which resemble runes, hermetic or alchemical symbols, Hebrew letters, and various others. In most cases these seem to be amalgamations, so it is possible that this kind of alphabet might have lent characters to some of these inscriptions.
Hi Jim, I first learned about this Bosnian alphabet in this forum, see post #51: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...t=14049&page=2. I understand it was used primarily in the territory of Bosnia and parts of Dalmatia (the coastal cities did a lot of trade with the Bosnian hinterland). There are other scripts which were used by the various ethnic groups on the Balkans and I’m sure there are more in the rest of Eastern Europe. Then there is of course also the Greek alphabet which was very influential in the region.
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Old 12th October 2021, 02:55 AM   #11
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Hi Jim, I first learned about this Bosnian alphabet in this forum, see post #51: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...t=14049&page=2. I understand it was used primarily in the territory of Bosnia and parts of Dalmatia (the coastal cities did a lot of trade with the Bosnian hinterland). There are other scripts which were used by the various ethnic groups on the Balkans and I’m sure there are more in the rest of Eastern Europe. Then there is of course also the Greek alphabet which was very influential in the region.
Great comparisons! It seems there was a lot of comingling in these developed alphabets for 'secret' or 'occult' use, and one can find remarkable similarities in the oddest or most remote circumstances.
It does seem that Greek characters, Hebrew and others as well as various symbols from astrology and alchemy ended up included in degree.

\The trade in the Dalmatian ports surely provided a viable conduit for these alphabets to enter the European sphere. It seems that the exotic character of many of these made them well suited for the secret alphabets intended for these mysterious inscriptions.
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Old 15th October 2021, 03:43 AM   #12
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the doward crossguard is not based on any chiense swords it is based on swords of the arab world the as is the grip. there is many exaples of middle eastern inspired swords in spain as well as machete swords popular in cuba.. the swedish even had a yatagan inspired hander for in the 1800s. there was a couple fo waves of eastern athetics in european weapns.. those eared daggers from italy are another example .. influenced by some now extinct dagger from the levant. in also sure in eastern countries there was a crazes for various european influenced arms

in freance in the 19th century there was a taste for chinese inspried drummers ect small swords and many styles were produced.
i guess the best example is the mamaluke generals sabre that is still used by many countires.
people forget how much epople do like wepaons.. and in the ottoman empire, balkans.. europe ect was alot fo fads and crazes.. arabs taking to daggers influenced by the caucasus, balkan epople using knive sinfluence dby the caucasus.. north africans buying european blades ect. epople liek new exotic things or stylish things. an arab influenc eon a sword in iran or a turkish fashion in france will always be interesting
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Old 15th October 2021, 08:35 PM   #13
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Very good points on influences, and European styles were indeed very much influenced by 'exotic' styling of the Middle East and Asia.
Actually I see what you mean on the particular guard I was referring to and with the central downward langet this is probably more aligned with Ottoman styling.

What I was referring to is that many European weapon styles were deeply influenced by Middle Eastern and Asian, Chinese forms in particular in the 18th century.

Much of this began with the East India companies and trade in the Far East during the 18th c. and both England and Holland had ports in China, India and the many island archipelagos of the 'East Indies'.

The styling and arts of 'chinoiserie' was popular in all forms of material culture including of course weaponry. Actually there were Chinese workers brought into Europe. Referring to the interest in these styles, in "The Smallsword in England" (Aylward, 1945,p.57) it is noted. "...it is most likely these weapons were first made for the Dutch factory in Pekin, and it is known that, afterwards, the Company brought over some Chinese workmen to Europe, who produced in Amsterdam hilts of similar character which were fitted with blades made in Holland and in
Solingen".

This is referring to mostly small sword type hilts decorated in what they called Tonquinese apparently referring to Tonquin China (Viet Nam) in accord with the use of shakudo (a decorative process from Japan) and the chinoserie manner of artistic theme.
It seems like there were swords with jian style hilts made as a kind of novelty in Poland or somewhere in the East Europe of Balkan blocs but as yet unable to find the reference.


I have seen court and small swords with more Chinese 'jian' style hilts typically in brass and of 18th c.

As you note this example has styling which is more like the 'revival' type hilts of Qajar Persia of c. 1794-through 19th c. The 'dragon' quillon terminals also reflect this, as well as downturned quillons and the center langet.

With China, the Qianlong emperor of the 1790s and the Qajar dynasty of 1794 there was more interest in styling bringing cross diffusion from Europe into these empires, as well as their styling into European spheres.
So entirely agree with your observations on these.

Turning to the subject here, that of European favor of these 'exotic' styles in edged weapons. Many of the Pandour hangers had Chinese styled guards as I had mentioned. I will try to find examples from Buttin (1933) and others but some have more Ottoman styling. The thing was that anything 'exotic' from the Middle or Far East was popular for these irregular forces.


The images are first two, Chinese jian swords.
Next the Qajar style hilts of Persian used in 'revival' style recalling the traditional swords of early times.
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Old 16th October 2021, 12:40 AM   #14
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As Ausjulius has pointed out, it appears that the example in the original post, which was a European yataghan type hanger from a 2012 thread (Longfellow) does appear to have its style derived from Ottoman/Persian influence. The top photo is the one from the thread in 2012.

In rechecking "Catalogue de la Collection d'Armes Anciennes de Charles Buttin",
,1933 (1996 repr.) examples (pl.VIII, 26,217,218) are clearly similar to virtually identical to this with finger stalls, karabela style pommel, yataghan blades, and the traditional downturned quillons w/dragon head terminals.

These three examples are all attributed to the Pandour forces of Baron Franz von Trenck (1711-1749) who were irregular troops for the Austrian army under Maria Theresa.

In 2008, one of these from the Buttin collection was sold (I mistakenly thought it was von Trenck's himself but it was one of his troops). It is noted, and the information was from the Buttin family I believe, that only four examples are known to exist of these yataghan hangers.

The VIII plate from Buttin shows the three examples of 'pandour' yataghan hangers with this same style hilt.
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