The Paper Armoury: Scotland the Brave
An article by Chad Arnow, Sean A. Flynt, Gordon Frye, Thomas McDonald, and Nathan Robinson
Compiled and edited by Sean A. Flynt

Building a fine, thoughtfully-focused arms and armour library should be as important to the student of these artifacts as building a collection of modern replicas.

Why? Because books and articles:
  • Provide the most convenient and inexpensive means to compare original arms and armour to modern reproductions.
  • Explain the construction and use of arms and armour.
  • Provide the full historical context for the development of arms and armour.
  • Reveal a world of arms and armour dramatically broader in scope and more diverse than that available through reproductions or even through museums or private collections.
Our Paper Armoury series is intended to help readers identify the essential titles for a library on a given subject. This second installment of the series suggests a host of wonderful books relating to Scotland's rich military history.

These titles are among the best references on the subject, but our list certainly isn't exhaustive. We have selected the books reviewed here because they inspire and entertain us as well as they educate us. We return to them again and again for information and for the simple personal pleasures of good writing, evocative images and immersion in fascinating history.

Many of these books are decades-old classics, and have been reprinted by two or more publishers. In such cases, we have listed the most recent publisher and publication date to aid you in the search for your own copy.

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Scottish Weapons & Fortifications, 1100-1800
David H. Caldwell
John Donald Publishers, Ltd., 1981

This book brings together 17 separate essays concerning the history of Scottish weapons and fortifications. It is a collaborative effort of such noted authors as Claude Blair, David H. Caldwell, William Reid, and other scholars working in the museum community. A wide array of topics is covered, including the examination of specific examples of arms and armour, construction methods of medieval defenses, exploration of the word "claymore", and a study of armour depicted in 17th century portraits. Claude Blair's article outlining the evolution of the early basket-hilt sword in Britain is of particular interest, as it explores the type's development and relationship to other early weapons. This title comes highly recommended not only to those with an interest in Scotland, but also to any student of arms and armour or medieval studies. Nathan Robinson

Scottish Arms Makers
Charles E. Whitelaw Edited by (Sarah Barter, Ed.)
Arms & Armour Press, 1977

Any serious study of Scottish arms will most certainly lead one back to Charles E. Whitelaw. If it were not for his original research and effort, in the words of C.R. Rolland, "those interested in the Scottish sword would still be fed a mixture of fantasy and arrant nonsense." This book was compiled from Whitelaw's research, published papers and notes many years after his death in 1939. The bulk of this volume is a dictionary of the craftsmen who worked in Scotland from the 15th century to the later 19th. Derived from incorporation records, burgh records, and local directories, this provides valuable insight into who was doing what where and for whom, and the period that they worked in. The book also contains Whitelaw's famous "Notes on Swords with Signed Basket-hilts by Glasgow and Stirling Makers," originally published in the Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society in 1934. Sections on Scottish firearms and dirk development are also on hand. To some, this book might be a bit too dry, too black and white, or lacking in photos, but to me and many others it's the Genesis: the well from which all things basket-hilt flow. This is must-have for a library of Scottish arms, so do search your favorite out-of-print and hard-to-find bookstore. It truly is a fascinating read. Thomas McDonald

British Basket-Hilted Swords: A Typology of Basket-Type Sword Hilts
Cyril Mazansky
Boydell Press, 2005

This book by Cyril Mazansky is a must-have for the library of any "basket-case." Although the book is purposely lacking in full-length shots and devoid of color images (except on its dust jacket), it is still a visual treasure trove of some of the best hand protection a swordsman ever gripped. There are some truly wonderful pieces shown here—pieces that I've not seen represented elsewhere (even Blair Castle allowed some of its basket-hilt swords to be included). Most significantly, the book provides a standardized classification system (typology) for basket-hilt types, pommel styles (1 thru 19), and the many design and construction aspects of these hilts, and also provides a set terminology to keep us all on the same page. What the great Ewart Oakeshott's typology did for the medieval sword, Cyril Mazansky has done for the British basket-hilt! Jolly good, Dr. M.! Thomas McDonald

Culloden: The Swords and the Sorrows
The National Trust for Scotland Trading Company Ltd., 1996

This is the catalog of a Scottish exhibit called The Swords and the Sorrows, a commemoration of "battle-related objects" from the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. The preface and forward contain background information on the conflict. Following that are pictures and descriptions of the exhibition, including swords, dirks, knives, firearms, targes, and other accoutrements of the time. The color photographs are fantastic and show a wide variety of weapons. Chad Arnow

Swords and Swordmakers of England and Scotland
Richard H. Bezdek
Paladin Press, 2003

Author and fellow sword collector Richard Bezdek has compiled several very good reference books on the subject of swords and their makers. This latest volume follows in the vein of his earlier works, American Swords & Swordmakers (1994) and German Swords & Swordmakers (2000). It's a comprehensive and easy-to-navigate volume that gives the reader quick access to information covering the span of three centuries (1600s-1800s). It offers extensive coverage of English swords that have not been discussed since the 1970s, if at all. The chapters on the blade-making centers of Hounslow Heath and Shotley Bridge are fascinating reading, as are the organized and detailed lists of craftsmen who made these weapons of war. Containing 450+ black and white photographs, the book showcases some truly amazing pieces from many private collections, including the collections of James Forman, Pat Tougher and Geoffrey Jenkinson, in addition to the author's. Many of them have not been published before. Any library on this subject would be incomplete without this addition, so do find yourself a copy. Thomas McDonald

Scottish Swords and Dirks
John Wallace
Stackpole Books, 1970

This small booklet of only 80 pages is a volume of the publisher's Illustrated Monographs series. It is heavily illustrated with black and white photographs of Scottish arms, starting with cruciform-hilted weapons such as the claymore and "lowland" swords, and includes basket-hilts, dirks, knives, and even a small section on makers' marks. While the information contained in the book is neither abundant nor comprehensive, it does provide one of the best single sources of photos and general catalog information on an array of Scottish weapons and describes the development of the weapons in an authoritative manner. One is hard-pressed to find such an overview elsewhere. Nathan Robinson

The Scottish Dirk
James D. Forman
Museum Restoration Service, 1993

This 56-page booklet from the publisher's Historical Arms Series (also see Scottish Firearms and Weapons of the Highland Regiments 1740-178, below) covers the history of one of Scotland's most recognizable weapons. Forman traces the full development of the Scottish dirk, covering the ballock dagger, dudgeon dagger, and all the later forms of the dirk. With black and white illustrations on every page, it is a great resource for those interested in the Scottish dirk. The book also has information about the sgian dubh, and its bibliography includes many great titles. This and other books in this series can be purchased online for around $10 US, and are quick and easy reads full of helpful photographs. Chad Arnow

Scottish Firearms
Claude Blair and Robert Woosnam-Savage
Museum Restoration Service, 1994 (reprinted 1999)

This booklet features 65 illustrations on 52 pages and traces firearms in Scotland beginning with full-time production of cannon in the early 16th century. It includes many photographs of Scottish pistols and long guns, and provides detailed descriptions of both weapons. The authors give special attention to the various forms of the Scottish pistol, and a chapter by Woosnam-Savage details statistics of all known examples of Scottish long guns, of which only 28 survive. The book's three-page bibliography should be a good reference for those interested in these weapons. Chad Arnow

Weapons of the Highland Regiments 1740-1780
Anthony D. Darling
Museum Restoration Service, 1995

This booklet, another installment in the Historical Arms Series, details the weaponry used by the Highland Regiments of the British Army from before the battle at Culloden (1745) and covers several decades afterward. Covered in the text and 32 illustrations are pistols, dirks, basket-hilted swords, long guns, targes, and Highland dress. Like the other books in this series, this one is a quick and easy read that is full of photographs. Chad Arnow

Martial Culture

Scots Armies of the English Civil Wars (Men-at-Arms Series, 331)
Stuart Reid
Osprey Publishing Ltd., 1999

The doomed, romantic Jacobite rebellion seems to get most of the historical glory, so Stuart Reid's attention to the preceding century is especially welcome. This small volume includes eight color plates of Osprey's usual high quality (showing details of clothing and equipment of 24 soldiers of various ranks), as well as modern and contemporary drawings. It's a niche title, certainly, but should nevertheless be considered an essential addition to any library of Scottish military history. Sean Flynt

Highlander: Fearless Celtic Warriors (Military Illustrated)
Stuart Reid
Publishing News Ltd., 2000

In spite of its somewhat over-the-top title, this well-illustrated, large-format, hardbound book is a wonderful resource for Highland clothing and equipment from the mid-17th century through the Napoleonic Wars. Contemporary artwork (including some of the famous Penicuik drawings) as well as modern illustrations and photographs of re-enactors illustrate Reid's text. Not surprisingly, the book's content favors the 18th century, and should prove especially useful for those re-enacting The '45 or wars of empire in colonial North America. Sean Flynt

The Steel Bonnets
George MacDonald Fraser
Akadine Press, 2001

This is George McDonald Fraser's loving account of the Borderlands between England and Scotland, focusing primarily on the bloody 16th Century. Rife with feuds, family alliances across the border, raids, counter-raids, colorful personalities, love and betrayal, fast friends and bitter enemies, and a century of almost constant warfare and violence, the book reads like an accounting of grievances, but is written in a most enjoyable and readable form. And, of course, there are the so-called "riding names"—border family names familiar to us all and still found in the local phone book or the Congressional role. The heroes and scoundrels Fraser describes live among us still, next door, down the street, or in your newspaper's accounts of great or evil deeds. This is an amazing book, full of adventure and outrage, amusement and insight. Well worth the reading. Gordon Frye

The Border Reivers (Men-at-Arms Series, 279)
Keith Durham and Angus McBride
Osprey Publishing, 1995

This is a well-known and popular title for good reason. Concise text by Durham accompanies rich, dramatic illustrations of Reiver history from the early 16th to the early 17th century. Of special interest here are the many photographs of 16th century arms and armour used in the Borders (including helmets, a jack, rapiers, daggers and basket-hilt swords). These, combined with Angus McBride's illustrations should be especially valuable to re-enactors. Think of this book as an illustrated companion to The Steel Bonnets. It is no less essential. Sean Flynt

Witness To Rebellion: John MacLean's Journal of the '45 and the Penicuik Drawings
Iain Gorden Brown and Hugh Cheape (Eds.)
Tuckwell Press, 1996

This little volume was published in 1996 to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden (April 16, 1746,) which effectively ended the Stuart bid to reclaim the British throne. The first half of the book is comprised of a journal written by Captain John MacLean, an officer in the army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. MacLean's record of his day-to-day experiences throughout the Jacobite 'Rising' (or 'Rebellion' to some,) starting on August 14th of 1745 and ending with his death at the Battle of Culloden, is reprinted in full here. Several pages of the original journal are reproduced here as well. This is a fascinating glimpse of life on the march in the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie. The second half of the book is primarily visual, being comprised of 44 of the 60 so-called Penicuik Drawings, a random but keenly detailed collection of caricatures penned by an unknown artist of the time and recently discovered at Penicuik House, Midlothian. They give us a very rare glimpse of the participants on both sides of the Rising. Any study of the period should certainly include this book. Thomas McDonald

Martial Arts

Highland Broadsword: Five Manuals of Scottish Regimental Swordsmanship
Paul Wagner and Mark Rector
Chivalry Bookshelf, 2004

This may be the only book dealing explicitly with the fighting styles of the basket-hilt sword as used by the Scottish Highland regiments and British military of the 17th-19th centuries. Aside from an introduction to the swords and regiments themselves, the bulk of the book encompasses five complete fighting treaties and includes works not readily available elsewhere. The editor has done well to simplify and update the language, making it much more accessible to a modern audience. For those interested in the subject of the Highland fighting arts, this is likely to be the most comprehensive collection of such materials to be found. Nathan Robinson

Highland Swordsmanship: Secrets of the Scottish Sword Masters
Mark Rector
Chivalry Bookshelf, 2001

Mark Rector of Chicago Swordplay Guild edited this collection of fascinating primary documents and modern interpretations of the martial instruction they contain (the smallsword and military swords of the Jacobite era are the principal focus here). Paul Macdonald introduces and comments on Donald McBane's Expert Swordsman's Companion (1728). Milo Thurston presents Sir William Hope's New Method of Fencing (1707). Both documents make for a good read (especially McBane's account of the violent, debauched lives of professional soldiers). Rector provides modern martial interpretations of both texts, illustrated by photographs of mixed utility (some of the folks recruited for the illustrations present less-than-authentic impressions). Although the title may turn off those not interested in historic martial training, the book should be considered a valuable source if only for the primary documents it contains. Inclusion of many of the famous Penicuik Drawings of Jacobite-era Highland warriors is a welcome bonus. Sean Flynt

About the Author
Sean Flynt is a writer and editor living in Birmingham, Alabama. He is interested in Western arms and armour of all periods, but especially those of 16th through 18th century Britain and Colonial North America.

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