Arms & Armor Dürer Bastard Sword
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
The 15th century was a time period where many fencing treatises of the middle ages have been discovered. Whether this is because earlier documents did not survive, or because the tradition of writing down the much-coveted techniques of a particular school was not common before then, is uncertain. Regardless of why so few manuals exist from before this time period, it is evident that schools were common throughout Europe, and that masters of various forms of combat were teaching in abundance. The langenschwert, or longsword, was a popular weapon that was taught in German schools, and surviving fechtbuch (fight books), such as those by the masters Hans Talhoffer or Sigmund Ringeck, showed an enormous regalia of techniques with this particular sword, showing just how popular this noble weapon was for single combat as well as a side arm for war. Many German fencing societies flourished during this time period, one of the most famous being the Marxbrüder (The Brotherhood of St. Mark).
Perhaps the most well known member of the Marxbrüder was Albrecht Dürer. Not only was Dürer a practitioner of German fighting arts, but he illustrated his own fechtbuch containing instructions on the messer, dagger, unarmed combat, and of course, the longsword. It comes as no surprise, then, that the engravings of Dürer should show chivalric warriors armed with the knightly longsword. The style of sword that Arms & Armor of Minnesota has chosen to replicate here happens to appear in many of Dürer's art, which is the inspiration behind its name. One of the best known of Dürer's engravings depicting such a sword is "A Knight, Death and the Devil". This sword is one that would easily fit into the arsenal a 15th century man-at-arms. The original is in a private collection, and is dated from the late 15th century to the early 16th.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.
This sword is a joy to handle. It has just enough blade presence to make one's cut effortless, with plenty of tip control for thrusting. It flows easily from guard to guard, and can be wielded single handed if desired without much effort. Not only has Arms & Armor created a sword from German artwork, but they have also created a sword that works quite well for German martial arts as well, and techniques within the Liechtenauer school of fence can be performed without any trouble. The sword is easy on the recovery and quick to change directions with either edge, as often times in Kunst des Fechtens (The Art of Combat) the reverse edge is used.
Fit and Finish
This is another winner from Arms & Armor. The blade is polished to a nice satin finish, and the lines are clean and crisp. The grip is wrapped in black pigskin. The leather is not as polished looking as grips used by many other sword makers, though it is by no means rough, and this particular finish will last much longer than a more delicate wrap would. The pommel is slightly recessed in the center, and the finish of the recessed area is slightly more "rough" than the rest of the fittings, giving it a subtle but pleasing contrast. The quillons of this particular sword are the real aesthetic seller, however. The gentle s-curve is well defined and beautifully formed. This is not simply a piece of bar stock bent into shape, but a well thought out sculpted form, wide at the center and gently narrowing at the bends. There are no sharp edges, as the corners are gracefully rounded. Here is an excellent example of simple elegance.
The Dürer Bastard sword is a gorgeous specimen of form and function. As a working sword it performs admirably. Added to this is its subtle beauty, which puts this sword among one of the nicer longswords in the production market. Arms & Armor's list price for this sword is $580 US, and it is worth every penny.
About the Author
Bill Grandy is an instructor of Historical European Swordsmanship and sport fencing at the Virginia Academy of Fencing. He has held a strong passion (obsession?) for swords and swordsmanship for as long as he can remember. He admits that this passion comes from a youth spent playing Dungeons and Dragons, but he'll only admit that if there are no girls around.
Photographer: Nathan Robinson