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Old 24th July 2018, 09:23 PM   #1
midelburgo
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Default XVIIIth century Philippine Colonial sword

A year ago I found the sword below, stacked in an umbrella stand among walking sticks at a local antiquarian show in Spain, the seller did not know anything about it, including how to pick it in his hand.
For a while, I thought it could be from a former Spanish virreynato, maybe Nueva Granada (mostly Colombia now). Later, a few clues indicated these swords were coming from the Philippines. Maybe from the end of the XVIIth century to middle XVIIIth. The Estruch catalog from his collection (1896) described the entry 1312 as found in Bulacan (Philippines). The catalog is online now and it has a small collection of non-Europeans weapons, resembling that of Buttin.
The blade of this one could be a century older than the hilt or rather more. The long fuller is reminiscent of XVth century blades as the one of Fernando El Catolico. One can only imagine the places this piece of metal has been since abandoning Europe. Maybe it even took part in the undoing of the Aztec empire before embarking at Acapulco in a returning Manila galleon.
The ricasso is built with a brass piece. There is something illegible scratched on the blade. In other pieces, there are what seem to be unit markings. The grip is made of horn and the rings and the spiral ribbon that cover it are silver.
This sort of swords is not described anywhere as a group. They usually get the generic “colonial Spanish” what is not far from the mark.
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Last edited by midelburgo; 24th July 2018 at 10:27 PM.
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Old 24th July 2018, 09:24 PM   #2
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Up to now, I have located another 10 swords of this type.

1-Estruch Collection (Probably at Musee de l’armee, Paris, now).

2-Victor Balaguer Museum (Vilanova y la Geltru, Spain). A small collection with a room dedicated to the Philippines.

3-Musee de l’ Armee. I am not sure about the relationship with it but it surfaced in a Google search. It is not the one from Estruch.

4-From Fernando, in this fórum. I think that blade is also quite older than XVIIIth century.
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=5952

5-Hunting Auctions 2015. It has the “No me saques sin razón” motto.

6-Inscribed "Viva el rey de Espanna". Brass pommel.

7-Constructed from a 1728 Bilbo, with brass decorations on the guard.. Also "Viva el rey de Espanna". This picture was hanged in a discussion at swordforum. It has a unit code starting with BsB, same as number 4.

8-My umbrella finding.

9-Ref 1-1700-F from Vicente Toledo recopilation. Pipe back blade.
10-Ref 1-1700-E Vicente Toledo recopilation.
11-Ref 1-1736-A Vicente Toledo recopilation.

Even when these swords share a group of distinctive characteristics. Lobated dish, brass decorations in the hilt, horn grips with silver covers… They do not seem to come from the same workshop. They rather seem to be current Spanish swords that have been “philippinized”. Possibly to become part of a local institution, militia or whatever. Some are clearly infantry, others cavalry. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9 have a characteristic troncoconical pommel. Numbers 4, 7 and 8, at least have what seem like unit identification or rack numbers.
Some blades look quite old, some need a brass ricasso what is weird for Spanish XVIth, XVIIth or XVIIIth centuries blades. Other are just state of the art for the middle XVIIIth century.
The older hilts could be from the end of XVIIth century, the newer from the middle of XVIIIth century. The one I numbered as 7 seems like a modified 1728 model cavalry sword. Number 11 seems like the last gasp of this type, only the spiral grip covered in silver is clearly there. It has a number 1736, that could be a date. The work seems to be native for the most part.
Somehow I think the end of the construction of these swords and possibly its dispersal came when Manila was taken by the British in 1762 and occupied for some 20 months. Something of an ill valued historical importance (Cook travels for example used the secret Portuguese and Spanish cartography found in Manila in the occasion).
I have searched for similar examples still extant in the Philippine museums, but I found nothing. Probably the Japanese occupation and the battle of Manila destroyed whatever could be left Intramuros.
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Last edited by midelburgo; 24th July 2018 at 11:13 PM.
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Old 24th July 2018, 10:18 PM   #3
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The last three swords come from the recopilation of Spanish swords made by Vicente Toledo.
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File Type: pdf ESPADA DE TAZA colonial 21.pdf (453.5 KB, 429 views)
File Type: pdf ESPADA DE TAZA colonial 22.pdf (445.5 KB, 412 views)
File Type: pdf ESPADA CAZOLETA DE PLACA1736 .pdf (422.9 KB, 423 views)
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Old 15th August 2018, 09:45 PM   #4
fernando
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Interesting. They may indeed come from different workshops, but the attitude follows identical standards; like the guard dish decoration in both (one of) Toledo's example and that of Fernando.

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Old 23rd January 2019, 05:33 PM   #5
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One of the swords from the posts above, which I numbered as 11 and it is described in Vicente Toledo article "Espada de cazoleta de placa" appeared in 2018 in an antiquities market web (not available anymore).

The interesting part is that there were included pictures with details not visible in Toledo's article. Unnoticed to the seller, I could see that the blade contains the logo of the Dutch East Indies company, VOC, section Amsterdam.

It is usual that the VOC blades from the XVIIIth century are dated, so 1736 must be when this one was made. It is not surprising that a VOC sword would be rehilted at Manila, in the style used there.

In my first post, I missed that in the Estruch catalog next to the sword 1312, there is another, 1311, not as peculiar, but which was also found in Bulacan, Phillipines. This sword (which I will number 12 for my purposes) seems very similar to the "1736".

VOC straight swords or sabers are not that common. I include some from 1749, 1742, 1771 and the second in the drawing (from Puype) is 1732.
Other threads about remounted VOC blades:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...ies+Company%29
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...ies+Company%29
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Old 11th November 2019, 06:49 PM   #6
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A new example (number 13th) of these swords surfaced six months ago in Spain.

This has the inscriptions:

“POR MI LEY Y POR MI REY”.

And the name of owner, province, village and rack number:
“Dn. Pantaleon Espineli – Cavite – Yndang – Nº 26”.

I believe number 11 and number 12 have lost their brass decorations.
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Old 11th November 2019, 08:31 PM   #7
fernando
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Very ...very nice .
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Old 3rd June 2021, 01:49 PM   #8
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Do you consider the hilts to be fabricated in Philippines?
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Old 5th June 2021, 11:34 PM   #9
ariel
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I might be missing something, but why do you think it has anything to do with Philippines?
Also, where is the VOC logo?
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Old 5th June 2021, 11:58 PM   #10
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The author and others are exploring the possibility that Dutch V.O.C. blades were hilted in the Philippines.
I find it fascinating.
A few years ago I identified a sword for a gentleman in India, in whose family it has been for several generations.
It had a VOC blade, on a French M1767 infantryman’s hanger’s brass hilt. I have to look at my records for the blade date, if there still was one legible.
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Old 6th June 2021, 07:12 AM   #11
Jim McDougall
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I think that the dynamics of trade networks are often highly underestimated, and the East Indies were no exception with the complex interactions at ports of call and entrepots.

The Dutch VOC blades were as I have understood produced in Holland by German makers for the various 'chambers' of the Company. The most common one was of course Amsterdam (the 'A' over VOC). These blades were then either hilted on swords for marketing to those in employ of the VOC, or often traded in the many ports they went to.

While Manila was of course Spanish, and the far end of the 'Spanish Main', there seems little doubt that trade interaction in surrounding ports in the 'Indies' would bring these valued blades into this center. Hilting of blades by armorers in Colonial Spanish main cities was well established.
The well known 'Spanish motto' blades (Draw me Without Reason etc) were produced in Solingen for the Spanish colonies in the 18th c., and the ports for export of the Solingen blades came through Holland, so it seems feasible that VOC blades might have comingled.

In my view, it does not seem that VOC blades were highly present in the Manila hilted examples of these Philippines version of the 'bilbo' (1728) type Spanish swords, nor as far as I know were the 'Spanish motto' ones.
It is reasonable that either would occur incidentally however, and it would be most interesting if some record or number of instances of these might reveal an established trade arrangement in Manila with VOC directly.
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Old 6th June 2021, 07:53 AM   #12
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A similar sword was recently up for auction in Italy. Interesting but outside my immediate area of interest.
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