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Old 28th November 2023, 05:32 PM   #1
Yvain
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Default My first smallsword

Hi all!


After some years collecting only extra-european weapons, I'm venturing back to my home continent. Indeed, I recently gained an interest for smallswords, and managed to win this one in a small auction.


From my initial research, I think it might be French, around 1770.


I find it interesting that it doesn't have the usual pas d'âne and shell guard, but instead a simple loop hilt ; it seems to have been a somewhat popular style at the end of the 18th century. While smallswords are usually associated with a lavish ornamentation, I really like this more simple cut steel style.


Here is a somewhat similar sword from the Royal Armouries collections : https://royalarmouries.org/collectio...t/object-49937
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Old 28th November 2023, 06:30 PM   #2
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Default good choice

Definitely a bit more interesting than the standard 1700s smallsword, so a good choice for starters.
I'm not deriding the classic smallsword and the multitude of variations on that theme, where you rarely see an exact match, but your curious shell and complete lack of 'branches' is a wide step away.
You don't show the design of the blade: does it feature a groove or a hollow on the underside?
More utilitarian examples often feature a groove, as it was easier, and faster, and consequently cheaper, to produce.
What makes you think it is French?
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Old 28th November 2023, 08:20 PM   #3
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I agree with Keith, an outstanding choice, and in very historic times.
The Royal Armouries link is interesting , thank you for attaching this, and the example they hold with provenance to Prince Octavius, son of George III.
Most intriguing is that the example shown, indeed like yours, attributed to the Prince, who was only 4 yrs old when he died.

Clearly this was a traditional gesture (he was the 8th son of 13 children), George was a busy guy, despite his health issues.

The design seems to have been among the patterns of Matthew Boulton, who was a most prominent British inventor, and sword cutler. ...in his c.1775 catalog, according to the very informative Royal Armouries description.

While the design seems to have been in this British context, I wonder if the prevalent contact between the courts of France and England in these times, despite the otherwise guarded attitude overall, possibly the French influences might have been at hand.

By this time in the 18th century, the era of the smallsword was waning, and hilt features such as the pas d'ane had become entirely vestigial. Maybe this design was to bypass them altogether.

As Keith notes, the basic smallsword style and character was pretty ubiquitous and hard to tell those of one country versus another, so something a bit different is most interesting.
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Old 28th November 2023, 10:39 PM   #4
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Thanks to both of you!


I won't have it in my hands before Christmas, so I don't have much more details to share here.


To me, it seems that the blade is triangular and hollow-ground on all faces, but I'll see that better when I get it.



Regarding the attribution, French or British, it will definitely need more research. Though the sword in the Royal Armouries collection is described as French, as well as this one : https://www.pop.culture.gouv.fr/noti...45ab7cb1bca%22 . Maybe I should try to find Norman's book on smallswords?
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Old 28th November 2023, 11:31 PM   #5
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Default Matthew Boulton

I looked in Norman and also in Aylward but didn't see anything.
Actually, Norman is predominantly rapiers and early transitions.
Looking closely at the hilt it is, as Jim Suggests very Matthew Boulton; considering it's age also suggests Boulton.
The example you link is definitely similar however.
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Old 30th November 2023, 04:24 PM   #6
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[QUOTE=urbanspaceman;286395]I Matthew Boulton; considering it's age also suggests Boulton.

Perhaps in passing we should mention bright cut steel.When new this faceted style of decoration was cut and polished to such a degree of fineness that it actually resists corrosion. Whether this was due to the quality of the steel or the the polishing is another technique lost to history
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Last edited by Raf; 30th November 2023 at 04:30 PM. Reason: typos and clarity
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Old 28th December 2023, 04:33 PM   #7
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Well, well, well, look what arrived ...


Sometimes when you receive a weapon, you feel like it was made for business, and not just as a hip ornament. This is exactly how I felt when I picked up this smallsword for the first time, it definitely feels like a no frills, efficient weapon.


The balance is of course very good, the blade - though unsigned - seem to be of good quality, but what surprised me the most is the excellent point control it has ; indeed, compared to a classic foil, I can control the point of my blade way more easily with this sword.


The grip is rather comfortable, and surprisingly protective given how simple it is.


I don't have much more to add right now, but I am very happy about it !
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Old 28th December 2023, 08:30 PM   #8
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Default Blade

Hello again.
You remember I asked about the blade and whether it featured a hollow or a grove on the lower face... now I see it is a groove.
This - like all colichemardes - was impressed using the infamous machine that was taken to Shotley Bridge from Solingen.
I have seen examples of it on Birmingham swords before and have begun to wonder if a Mohll or an Oley set a one up down there.
The probability this is a Matthew Boulton hilt makes me wonder even more.
I draw your attention to an almost identical blade made by - or for - Thomas Gill. See following photos:

Last edited by urbanspaceman; 28th December 2023 at 08:33 PM. Reason: photos
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Old 28th December 2023, 08:36 PM   #9
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Default Photos

see photos of the Gill sword:
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Old 3rd January 2024, 12:07 AM   #10
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Thanks for the information and the additional picture! This type of blades is also illustrated in the Encyclopédie. I wonder if there is some info online or in a book about this specific style of hilt
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Old 3rd January 2024, 01:28 PM   #11
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Default sword hilts

Matthew Boulton's company published an illustrated catalogue showing all the sword-hilts he offered.
It is an extremely extensive selection of very detailed drawings.
Unfortunately, I do not have/or can no longer locate, my copy of this catalogue.
My hard-drive is packed with research material and every time I attempt to tidy it up I seem to hide some things... sorry.
I will have found it on-line so I am sure you will be able too also.
In a nut-shell: Boulton was a Birmingham metal-works producer offering everything from buttons to candlesticks and was even minting money for the Crown at his Soho Mint. He was partnered with James Watt of steam engine fame.
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