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Marko Susimetsa




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 5:32 am    Post subject: Earliest bastard swords - info needed         Reply with quote

I've been trying to find information about the development of bastard swords (swords usable with either one or two hands), but have only been able to find some relatively vague statements of the development of the weapon type. I've read that the first appearances were basically single-handed cruciform swords with slightly longer handles and/or in some cases slightly longer blades etc. but I have not seen any images of these sword anywhere, or tentative dates of first appearance.

Most bastard sword replicas that I see on the market at the moment are based on very late period swords, with complex hilts etc. while I'm hoping to find something far simpler...

If anyone has any knowledge, images or sources that I might look into, I'd be very grateful! Happy
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 6:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Marko,
I think we'll need to know a more specific definition of what you mean by bastard sword to help you. The term means different things to different people. Some people use it to mean swords with an arming sword-length blade but with a longer handle (overall still shorter than a longsword). Some people use the term to mean anything useable by one hand or two which could include both some longswords and some great swords and things according to the definition in the previous sentence.

So, what do you mean? Happy

Happy

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Ken Nelson




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 8:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Have you looked through the spotlight series on the main page? If you browse through the oakeshott types, you may find the blades you are looking for, or could point to some of them to help clarify what you are asking for. I may recommend types XII, XIII, XV, XVII and XVIII to start
"Live and learn, or you don't live long" L. Long
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Marko Susimetsa




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 9:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the responses and the link to Oakeshott pages! Happy (I'd seen his typology presented elsewhere, but without such extensive descriptions)

I'm mainly looking for bastard sword examples before the time of plate armour - and indeed swords that are shorter than your regular longsword, with a handle that allows two handed grip (using the pommel as an extension, perhaps). Oakeshott types XII and XIII seem to be the closest to what I'm looking for. I'd be especially interested in any 12th or 13th century examples.

Thanks again for any possible pointers! Happy

EDIT: Type XII seems more like what I'm looking for, as it has a sharper point. Are there bastard sword types based on this archetype?
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 10:05 am    Post subject: Early two handed use         Reply with quote

Hello Marko

This is an interesting area of research as the transition form single to two handed use of the sword is not so much about the swords as about the way the combatant thought about using the sword. In a real way you can say the first bastard sword is when one individual decided to use his sword with two hands and found it worked well. This would of course be very early in comparison to when we look back and assign periods of use to a style of sword.

There are some very nice early examples of type XI and XII where the choice to have an increased grip length was made. The grave finds from Sweden and Finland that Oakeshott mentions would be good examples.

Best
Craig
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 10:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As Craig points out, the two handed use of swords is as much a question of context as the actual length of the handle.

In the early middle ages, the shield was the primary defence of the figthing man, and the spear his primary offence. Armour was relatively scarce, and helmets did not cover the face.
As a result, standing in a battle line without a shield would be extremely hasardous at best.
On the upper end of the battlefield food chain, knights had shield rigs that freed up their left hands. This was, however used for the reins when mounted.

12th century knights would frequently have very long swords; the Oakeshott XI or XII's could freqently be longer than 90 cm (3 ft), as long as later longswords. From written sources we know that knights would often bring two swords to battle; their "arming" sword, worn around the waist, and a second hung on the saddle. Presumably the extra-long XI's would be used for the later.
As the finds show, some of these swords sometimes had longer-than-normal hilts. This could be to facilitate two handed use, or simply a easy way of balancing the long blades. (Similar shortcuts are frequently taken by modern swordmakers.)
However, the long sword didn't really become a "thing" during the 13th c. We find them, but they are not depicted or described very commonly, most likely because they where still used in the same manner as the short handled saddle swords.

The "institustionalization" of the longsword coincided with the adoption of dismounted cavalry tactics in the middle 14th century. The dismounted knights fought with two handed spears or polearms, and had suficient armour to get away with it, including visored helmets.

In conclusion, if you have a complete knight's kit dating from ca 1200 to 1325, you can carry a long handled sword in additon to your arming sword. A infantryman or civilan would carry a sword and shield or sword and buckler, respectively.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Marko Susimetsa




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 12:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Indeed, it is because longswords and plate mail go hand-in-hand (you could give up the shield with better full body protection) that I'm looking for an earlier period bastard sword that could be carried with and without a shield (used one-handed with a shield and one/two-handed in case the shield is lost or not brought along for some reason). I love the versatility of the bastard sword in this respect and am just looking for the "correct" type to look for.

The responses you all have given me have taught me a lot (my previous focus of interest have been rapier type swords, so this is a relatively new area for me) and I'll likely be engaged in proper study of Oakeshott for the near future.

In the meanwhile, I'd be very interested in any photos or drawings of the bastard swords based on Type XII.

I took several photos myself at the Finnish National Museum recently, but the visitor guides at the museum rarely said much beyond the very basics - they are not written for true enthusiasts, obviously. Thus, I don't really what I took photos of especially since I don't know the Oakeshott typology yet.

As an aside, my photos can be found here:

http://s615.photobucket.com/albums/tt236/Susi...20Finland/

(You may recognise the Suontaka sword in some of the photos)
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Colt Reeves





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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 1:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is an interesting topic. Yesterday I was looking up bastard or hand-and-a-half swords and came across a site stating that the terms were modern and that they were just swords of different sizes. (As noted, some longswords can readily be wielded with one hand.) Indeed, if you look at various longswords and bastard swords you can find many with similar proportions. As with just about everything in history, there isn't a clearly defined line between the different types. Ancient cultures did not have the obession we modern people do with categorizing things. Big Grin
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 3:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Colt Reeves wrote:
This is an interesting topic. Yesterday I was looking up bastard or hand-and-a-half swords and came across a site stating that the terms were modern and that they were just swords of different sizes. (As noted, some longswords can readily be wielded with one hand.) Indeed, if you look at various longswords and bastard swords you can find many with similar proportions. As with just about everything in history, there isn't a clearly defined line between the different types. Ancient cultures did not have the obession we modern people do with categorizing things. Big Grin


A sword with a long handle weighing from 2.5 to 3.5 pounds ( More or less there isn't an official cut off point ) with a blade from 30" to 36 " ( Again just an opinion ) can usually be used with one hand and certainly used with both hands.

When the weight goes over 4 pounds one handed use starts becoming challenging and blade over 40 " do become dedicated twohanded swords.

Fighting two handers rarely go over 8 pounds and the real monsters at 15 pounds are bearing swords meant to impress rather than practical for use.

Specific names aside I think that the above defines sword by the way they can be used and calling them bastard swords or longswords or whatever can be abritrary with shifting definitions depending on the period of the sword or the period of the historians deciding what to call swords i.e. period usage versus Victorian usage versus current experts usage.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 3:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Marko,
You may also be interested in this thread on early great swords.

Happy

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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 5:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just for fun, you might be interested in reading various takes on the bastard question 10 years ago at Netsword -
http://netsword.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/000533.html

aka Rabel Dusk
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Marko Susimetsa




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Apr, 2010 6:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks again for all the responses! I'm now (after close to 10 hours of reading various sources) much more knowledgeable of what I should be looking for and understand that the terminology is as confused in relation to medieval swords as it is with rapiers.

What I've got out of this is that I should look less at the name (bastard/longsword/war sword/great sword) and rather look for a sword with Oakeshott XII/XIIa blade (merely my preference of having a sharp point that further versatilizes the sword) in suitable length for 1-handed use, but still allowing for 2-handed use as well.

Unfortunately, it seems that Albion's offerings seem to be clearly differentiated between 1 and 2 handed use with "The Late 13th Century Great Sword" and "The Baron" being perhaps closest possible to what I'm seeking with 95cm (37.25") blades.

On the other hand, if I were to go for XIIIa, there are "The Steward" and "the Count" that both have shorter 88.6cm (34.87") blades, making them closer to a length one would consider suitable for one-handed wielding.

A&A's 12th Century Sword - which seems to have a longer grip, although it is not specified - seems to profess a XIIIa blade as well and also in suitable length (34.6").

Why cannot there ever be simple choices? Are there XIIa blades in sub-35/36" length out there?
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Apr, 2010 7:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Marko-

First-Thanks for posting your photos from the National Museum!
Next- Check this out these swords:
http://www.christianfletcher.com/Christian_Fl..._Half.html
http://www.christianfletcher.com/Christian_Fl...sword.html
http://www.christianfletcher.com/Christian_Fl...IIa_1.html
http://www.christianfletcher.com/Christian_Fl...lered.html

The blades are Atrim, which are great blades and Christian Fletcher will make a custom hilt if you want something different than offered. At least it's an option for you....
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Paul Watson




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Apr, 2010 1:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Marko, it seems you want a XIIa with the proportions of Albions shorter XVa's such as their Mercenary. Although not the blade type you want these seem to fit in very well with our modern definition of a bastard sword. The next best offering as an example from Albion would probably be the Crecy.

I agree that a shorter XIIa or even a shorter XVIa would be a fantastic sword to have.

Look at the forum subject by Cornelis Tromp called "Does anybody know this type of pommel on a typeXVI" for what could be described as a handy bastard sword looking at it statistics. It is only slightly longer overall and in the blade than a single hander I have owned (The Machiavelli) and the wieght is the same as or less than many single handers.
It is also a very beautiful sword.

I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, but that which it protects. (Faramir, The Two Towers)
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Ken Nelson




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Apr, 2010 8:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also, in determining what can be wielded in one hand, don't get too hung up on blade length. Weight and balance are as important as length. I do understand keeping length in mind, as I only stand 5'2" so i prefer shorter blades as well, but a well balanced sword of 36" blade length could weigh the same but handle better than a 34" blade of the same general profile.
"Live and learn, or you don't live long" L. Long
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Marko Susimetsa




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Apr, 2010 6:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Excellent links, Tim! I hadn't dared to take a look at custom sword makers yet, so this was an eye-opener on the quality and customisation possibilities available! Happy

@Paul: Indeed, I had my eyes on the Albion Crecy as well, but, indeed, I'd prefer to have a sword with an earlier blade type. I think I'll have to make some noise about my wishes on the Albion Facebook page...

@Ken and all: the length of the sword in relation to its handling is something that I find impossible to gauge without first-hand experience and one cannot get that without first purchasing a sword (or finding thorough reviews about them). I'm pretty tall (6'2"), so I suspect that longer blades should give me less difficulties in that regard, but a lot depends on how the sword has been actually designed (if it has, indeed, been designed with 1/2-handed use in mind, or only 2-handed).

If only someone with "The Baron" or other options could give further insight into their 1-handed wielding performance...(?)
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Apr, 2010 8:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

my experience with one handed use of long handled swords is that they tend to tangle with the shield and your wrists.

When figthing full body target we tend to hold the sword and shield very tightly, comparable to the I.33 buckler style. This helps protect the hands, presents a solid defence, and lets you move efficienly behind your shield and sword when striking.
A long handle interferes with your wrist movements and the shield; It is by no means undoable, but a shorter hilt would be better.
That said, even very light long blades have a quite sluggish recovery compared to a medium length one.

Long blades seem to have been in vouge during the 13th century; My guess is that the heater shields and the lack of helmets that covered sides of the head and neck left the head open to horisontal swings. As helmets improve, the long striking XIIs are relpaced by nimble, stabby XIVs, and the focus moves to close combat and thrusts for weak points...

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Apr, 2010 9:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's weird because there's evidence for folks wielding swords with two hands well before the longer grips start appearing. In Ancient Germanic Warriors, Michael Speidel treats throwing the shield on one's back and holding the sword in both hands as an essential part of the berserk tradition. Did they simply do this with short-handled weapons?
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Colt Reeves





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PostPosted: Tue 13 Apr, 2010 1:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ancient Germanic Warriors?

If you are referring to the Norse sagas mentioning warriors using their swords two-handedly, that is a topic of some debate. The thing that really gets people is that the usual Norse sword has a relatively short hilt and big honking pommel, which makes one wonder how the heck anyone could use it two-handedly. No space to so much as halfway put your second hand on the hilt, and the pommel is hard to grab...

I tried some things with my Five-Lobed Viking sword back home, and found it wasn't too hard to use it with both hands by first placing the pommel in the palm of my hand to support it while in guard positions, then catch the pommel with the first two finger while using the thumb and other fingers to sort of twist it in midair when cutting. (Kind of hard to explain.) However, the Five-Lobed Viking has a hilt that would be thought of as long by the Norse, allowing me to get my fingers in there easy, and the pommel is curved away from the hilt and not at a right angle, giving me even more space. It would be harder to do what I did with a hilt so short my hand fills it completely, and/or with a pommel that is at right angles to the hilt.

Lastly, just because I can do that doesn't mean that's how the Norse would have done it. My sister likes that sword, and has played around with both hands too, but does it differently. Neither of us are experts or really that familiar with the sagas or actual sword play. What we do may actually get one killed in a real fight.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 13 Apr, 2010 4:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While there is no definitely identifiable "berserker tradition" that I'm aware of, the term "He threw his shield aside, and attacked with both hands" is in deed a "standard phrase" in thew saga literature.

This is usually either a sign of desperation, or blind overconfidence, and is done with all kinds of weapons, not just swords. For instance, Gunnar of Lidarende does so with his "Atgeir" in Njåls saga.

In one of the later descriptions, in King Håkon Håkonsons saga, the description is more detailed, stating that he "ripped the enemies shields from them". This indicated that fighting with two hands does not automatically mean using two hands on the sword.

There are a number of illustrations from the 12th and 13th c showing people with two hands on their swords. These seem to be using the a simple "golf club" grip, for the sole purpose of hitting harder. In deed, the classic depcition of early two handes sword use actually shows how Pride (striking with two hands) is inferior to Humility (using the of hand for defence and controll);



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"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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