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Tim Mathews




Location: St Paul MN
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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jun, 2011 8:31 am    Post subject: Custom Pattern Welded Sax         Reply with quote

Hello all,
I am going to take the plunge and have a friend of mine (Ryan Hoskins) make me a pattern welded sax ... A larger short sword sized piece ... I have several excellent reference books for blade shape,etc. but I am looking for ideas on the hilt ... I am the proud owner of the antler handled custom sax on the Arms and Armor website and I love the look and feel of that knife ...
I look forward to your suggestions and feedback.
Thanks very much !
Tim

Tim Mathews
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jun, 2011 12:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One thing: the grip must be really long. Think hand-and-a-half length at least...
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jun, 2011 5:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:
One thing: the grip must be really long. Think hand-and-a-half length at least...


Though I've seen two with a fairly long handle, one of which might actually be longsword handle length, there are literally hundreds of seax finds with short handles. So both would work, though the short handle would have been far more common.

Though seaxes were common all over europe from migration age to early medieval, they seem to be most common in germany, britain and scandinavia.
Studying Die saxe von Valsgärde, it concentrates on Swedish Uppsala finds most. But it also brings up German, French and Netherland finds, as well as some statues from constantinople with similar knives. For all these, typical handles for seaxes seem to be anything from a comfortable oval type grip, either straight, or more often narrowing to the back end, to oval like modern wood carving knives but with a second discreet but pommellike rounding at the end. Some even had vendel or viking sword type pommels and other furnishings. Some yet others even seem to be tries at recreating typical gladius furnishings. As Sweden has a find of at least one obvious Spatha from earlier ages, I guess they might have known about the gladii also.

Round rivetlike headed nails, studs if you will, set in patterns along the wide sides of the wood handles seem to have been common as decoration.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jun, 2011 10:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Johan Gemvik wrote:
Though I've seen two with a fairly long handle, one of which might actually be longsword handle length, there are literally hundreds of seax finds with short handles. So both would work, though the short handle would have been far more common.

The problem is that on the vast majority of saxes, the wooden hilt is not preserved.

However, where the hilt is preserved, or where an iron pommel is present, the majority seems to have a quite long grip.

Some saxes whose hilts are not preserved, seem to have fairly short (single hand length) tangs. But it is quite possible that these were partial tangs and that the handles were actually longer.

Johan Gemvik wrote:
Studying Die saxe von Valsgärde,

Sounds really interesting! I would love to see the pictures...

Also the statues from Constantinople I find very interesting. Do they depict Germanics in Byzantine service, or other nationals?
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jun, 2011 8:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:
Johan Gemvik wrote:
Though I've seen two with a fairly long handle, one of which might actually be longsword handle length, there are literally hundreds of seax finds with short handles. So both would work, though the short handle would have been far more common.

The problem is that on the vast majority of saxes, the wooden hilt is not preserved.

Yes. I was mostly thinking in terms of the tang length and you're right it doesn't really tell us the handle length.

Paul Hansen wrote:

However, where the hilt is preserved, or where an iron pommel is present, the majority seems to have a quite long grip.

Not so much the majority as much as those commonly on display. If we look at the numbers, the few we normally see in museums are about 20-30 finds shown in museums all over europe, moslty from central europe and some few from Britain and Scandinavia (I'm including Finland in that regard). But the actual finds in Sweden alone number in the hundreds. They're just not the finds hogging the prime spots being shown most in museums, where the gilded bejewelled swords are. There's simply too many of them to show all to the public.
I don't even know of a museum showing the seaxes from Bjärs, and those are some of the best preserved seaxes with scabbards and all, in the world today.

Paul Hansen wrote:

Some saxes whose hilts are not preserved, seem to have fairly short (single hand length) tangs. But it is quite possible that these were partial tangs and that the handles were actually longer..

Yes of course. On the other hand, there are finds of both short and long tanged ones that terminate in a pommel. Here the tang is obviously full length and defines the handle size. So are the short tang ones all long handled with only a partial tang? Possibly, but some of these are massive beasts meant for war, meant for heavy chopping. The size and rough shape of a later age Messer. These would demant a full tang handle to not just break apart, especially if the handle was longer than the tang. Doesn't mean some of the less massive ones couldn't have a partial tang of course.

There are of course all types of finds of seaxes and the handles when preserved vary a great deal indivdually, just as the blades. Those presented in the Die saxe von valsgärde book that have swordlike pommels still attached all have short or relatively short grips (sure, some would actually be a very short bastard lenght) except for one which has a really long tang and ends with a T-pommel.
Typical examples of short handle seaxes with sword fittings are the seax from Bel-air, Bretagne which is a medium sized "bowie-bladed" seax with typical but small scale viking sword crossguard and pommel, or the seax sword from Kreis Villand, skåne (in Sweden) which has two oval cylinder stoppers, in a way that to me seems to emulate a simplified Gladius. Those with all wood are usually only partially preserved so who knows how long they really were, but some have curvature, such as one of the seaxes from Bjärs, that suggest them to be fairly short.

This only highlinghts the problem with old defining works about seaxes being very long out of print and in German. Yes there are certainly newer finds and research than was available in 1945, but it's still a very good book with so much I had no idea about, and I'd studied most of the readily available more modern material before looking at this book. Like you say, these show just this one fully preserved handle, which is fairly long. Though some have stopper still on the tangs suggesting short length but little organic material left.
Specifically swedish finds get hidden away in storage and only a small part of it gets shown in museums due to lack of space and funding, and as you may know we sit on the far largest number of vendel and viking age finds in the world. Not many great longships as Norway and Denmark, but most of the silver coinage seems to have ended up here, and there are huge amounts of other finds, such as seaxes and other various weapons. This book and others show them, but they're far out of print and in the wrong language. It's awful really.


Johan Gemvik wrote:
Studying Die saxe von Valsgärde,

Sounds really interesting! I would love to see the pictures...[/quote]
I'm reluctant to post pictures out of books that may still be copyrighted. Believe me it's as frustrating to me as to you. Maybe some minor pictures wouldn't hurt though.

Paul Hansen wrote:

Also the statues from Constantinople I find very interesting. Do they depict Germanics in Byzantine service, or other nationals?

I have't really gotten to that bit, the book is in German and a very slow read for me.
The photograph looks like a man in a longer than knee length robe or tunic with an intricate hem and double belts, you can only see the knife details, not the entire figure so determining culture is difficult. It's part of a relief from the Xerxes palace, Persepolis. So byzantine, eastern europe or something like that? I'll see when I get to that section in the book. But there are numerous finds of the fittings for that type of seax sceath found in southern Russia.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jun, 2011 2:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, in the end the problem obviously is that there is a wide range of sax types. The second problem is, that there is no wide scale statistical research on saxes carried out that I'm aware of. Nor is there any extensive catalogue that I'm aware of that more or less covers the complete body of finds in a certain area, that may be the basis for such statistical research.

But even without such research, I think one can say that between all extant saxes, there is a big difference in blade lengths, blade shapes, tang lengths and surviving hilt fittings, if any.

I'd say that the majority does not have any surviving hilt furniture and therefore not really give much idea of the length of the grip. It seems logical to assume that the majority had purely organic hilts, probably consisting only of a grip.

A minority has metal hilt furniture, but those may be of a different type and may or may not say something about the configuration of organically hilted saxes.

It is my opinion, that quite a few of the saxes with surviving organic hilts show hilts that are surprisingly long, especially compared to the saxes that are common on the modern production sword market.

Btw, if you don't have it already, download Jeroen Zuiderwijk's Zip-file with information about saxes:
http://1501bc.com/files/information_about_saxes.zip
Some interesting stuff there.

Quote:
I have't really gotten to that bit, the book is in German and a very slow read for me.
The photograph looks like a man in a longer than knee length robe or tunic with an intricate hem and double belts, you can only see the knife details, not the entire figure so determining culture is difficult. It's part of a relief from the Xerxes palace, Persepolis. So byzantine, eastern europe or something like that? I'll see when I get to that section in the book. But there are numerous finds of the fittings for that type of seax sceath found in southern Russia.
If you send it to me, I could help with the German... Wink

Contrarily to what is commonly thought, the sax is not a purely Germanic weapon. They may actually be closely related to Hunnish war knives, so southern Russia is certainly possible.
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jun, 2011 4:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes Paul, that's all certainly true.
Looking at the ones in the book mentioned earlier again after that comment I see perhaps half that have pommels or tangs reamining in decent enough shape with a clear end pommel still there have comparatively long handles, certainly long compared to most modern reproductions which tend to be short handled or even very short. That probably comes from trying to full tang a knife like this with a short tang as seen in most finds, but that's most likely a tang meant for insert only part way. It could also be because we always hear about vikings using narrow handles for swords that barely fit a modern mans hand. Which is somehting not true for seaxes.

To muddle it up even further, I personally believe that some of the larger seax variants, such as those that strongly resemble modern early bowies, particularly found in France and parts of Germany, evolved directly into the early Messer, which can also often resemble the same, while another narrower and triangular blade evolved into the bullock dagger in the version of it with the same distinct triangular cross section, perhaps also the scottish dirk which often has the same multiple line-like fullers we see in some seax finds.
Certainly traditions from making large seaxes survived in one form or another all over europe, and large, even huge knives that could substitute for their role in daily life or combat were always around.
Messers had anything from very short to extra long 2-handed grips, while dirks were usually short handled.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge


Last edited by Johan Gemvik on Tue 28 Jun, 2011 1:53 am; edited 3 times in total
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Tue 28 Jun, 2011 12:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I found a site with a good handle photo: http://sydaby.eget.net/swe/skrama.htm

This is a photo of a large bladed short handle seax.



This find has a total weapon lenght of 63 cm, and the blade width is 4 cm. Looking at the remains of the handle one can calculate from the shown blade width that the gavel lenght would have been about 10 cm. Total handle length would be about 14 cm. Still this tells us nothing about what the organic material gavel would have looked like.
The fullers are two double lines, though it's not visible in this photo, usually the two lines would follow the shape of the blade, if it's a straight point the upper lines curve to the point and intersect with the lower, or if it's a brokenback it mayjsut continue to the cut angle, or angle off at same as the blade cut angle and meet the lower 2/3 up the point. I'll try to find a full photo of this seax so we can see the fuller and point terminations.

Compare the photo above with this other similar but shorter bladed find from Bjärs (grave #27), Gotland, which is dated to 550-800 AD (Vendel age):



Here we have part of the gavel remaining with decorative studding visible. Also note that the tang is broken in the middle but the ends seem to fit so it's reasonably likely this is also a short handle of about the same length as the one above. Also note the very similar bulging romboid desing on the fittings. As far as I've seen so far these two are the only seax finds that have them, most others have all organic handles with metal studding, plain smooth metal stopper fittings or small sized but typical two-edged sword fittings.
This one from Bjärs seems to have a bulging gavel, though it could also be some form of displacement of the wood remains. Some other seaxes have remains of oval cross section handles that slim down straight toward the back end and are studded in patterns with similar decorative nail heads, and one find is fairly intact and have oval straight gavels sporting pinetree-like rib carvings. I'll see if I can find photos of them all.


The entire seax. According to Die Saxe von Valsgärde, this seax is 43 cm long today but was likely 45 cm when new, the blade is 3 cm wide and the handle (I expect this refers to the gavel only) is 10.5 cm long. The blade in scabbard length has been calculated to about 50 cm.
Note the blade has no line or groove fuller and has a triangular cross section of the blade. Very much like some later age bullock dagger blades.

Original site:
http://www.kringla.nu/kringla/objekt?text=bj%...ect/272076

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge


Last edited by Johan Gemvik on Tue 28 Jun, 2011 12:50 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Tue 28 Jun, 2011 12:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since this book is out of print since 1945, I'll just go ahead and post a handful of scanned images from it. If this turns out to be against the will of the copyright owner, if it's still in ownership, I'll just remove them off my imageshack account. As it is, I'm sure these'll only whet the apetite for people to buy the book anyway.


Here's the archaeological sketches of the Bjärs 27 and other seaxes from the book Die Saxe von Valsgärde.


Note that the blade tip if shaped like this may not fit the scabbard reconstruction below. It could be a staight tipped seax rather than a "machete" shape. What's left of the tip is too deteriorated to know either way.


Note the teardrop cross section, this isn't visible in the photos. But a similar shape is seen in at least one other find, that one from Satakunda, Finland.


Scabbard was probably wood core covered with leather with a seam along the blade edge side, both sides plated, and at the back side where there are crosswise plates at the front there would have been loop irons roughly in the shape of a flattened tuning fork.
The scabbard tip would likely have had a knotwork decorated covering plate slanted toward the edge side, as seen in many other finds.
The "carvings" seen on the lower half of the scabbard may actually be part of a decorative plate, which is common in similar wooden seax scabbards, water formed leather remains, or carvings in the wood meant to be seen through the covering leather.
My personal interpretation is that is't the wood that's carved to be seen through the leather.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Tue 28 Jun, 2011 7:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Look what I just found Tim, this seax has a complete wood handle, as you requested! Though it doesn't have much else left to it.
Incindetally it also has a similar bulging romboid front stopper as the seaxes above, and just the same type of nail decoration seen on the few Valsgärde seaxes that still have some wood parts left on the handles. The handle cross section is also teardrop shaped, just like on the Bjärs 27 seax.

http://www.raa.se/cms/showdocument/documents/...009_57.pdf

Sorry, it's in swedish. Let me know if you want any part translated. Wink

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Kevin Winter




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PostPosted: Tue 28 Jun, 2011 9:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Johan Gemvik wrote:



.



I need more pics.

It's an amazing knife. Shows a love for craftsmanship.
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Thu 30 Jun, 2011 3:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kevin Winter wrote:

I need more pics.

This is the same Seax as in the photos with blue background that I posted 4 posts above. It's called the Bjärs 27 Seax. It's from a grave field in Bjärs, on Gotland, Sweden, mound #27.
I'll try to find more photos. As far as I can tell from web inventory catalogues, it's here in stockholm, though probably not on public display at the Historiska museet. I could ask the museum for more photos or ask to see the artifact and take some myself. Though these two with blue background do show a lot of detail, I don't know if I could get anything more out of it with a camera.

BTW, here's another paper on the subject of Seaxes.

http://berbove.free.fr/reconstitution/Persson.pdf

Also in Swedish moslty, and I can't seem to get Babelfish to work with swedish-to-english full pages or pdf:s as it would with some other languages. But the summary at the end is at least in English.
The papers main goal is to correct some previous inconsistencies in nomenclature and origin of varyous seax models. But as is often the case, the older works being discussed are only available in German and can't be found in print.
It does contain a number of sketches and photos of interest though, and something of particular interest to this thread. It mentions one particular type of seax having a long 2-handed grip. I haven't read it in detail though since I just came across it last night, just skimmed it.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Thu 30 Jun, 2011 7:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I found some more, but in German and Dutch. Tried a new approach, searching with google and "Breitsax" as "Seax" alone tends to show SEX-related pages rather than what I was looking for.

German papers

http://www.landesmuseum.at/pdf_frei_remote/JOM_146a_0235-0266.pdf

Dutch paper, with good images of blade cross section:

http://lib.ugent.be/fulltxt/RUG01/001/457/548...001_AC.pdf

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Thu 30 Jun, 2011 1:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting stuff Johan! It'll take some time to read through it all....

The Dutch (actually Belgian) paper by Arne De Graeve provides a good overview of the various typologies (Westphal & Bohner), not only of saxes, but als fransisca's and winged spearheads. Also it gives a good cross-section of finds in general, including the less interesting or presentable ones. Didn't have the time to go through the text yet...
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Thu 30 Jun, 2011 3:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul, ah, you're right, I thought that was some weird looking Dutch and it turns out it's because it's Belgian! Wink
I don't speak either, but I should still be able to see the difference.

Anyway, here's a link to another very interersting discussion about viking knives, mostly about smaller ones though.
http://www.britishblades.com/forums/showthrea...s!!!/page4


Tim, for your friend making the seax blade for you, on page 1 of that thread there's a very interesting diagram posted by Robin Wood, shows Novgorod knife finds and their iron & steel weld composition and cross section.

Well worth examining if one is to make iron seaxes with a welded steel edge. Though these are probably mostly from finds of smaller utility knives and also note that the diagram spans from 10th to 15th century. Perhpas there are similar made for weapon grade seaxes and swords. I wish! Well some of that is actually in that Dutch... err... I mean Belgian paper.

The same thread also mentions this DVD--photo-book of viking age knives found in graves on Gotland, aptly named "Viking Knives from the Island of Gotland, Sweden" by Dan Carlsson. So I ordered it right away from Oxbow. £10 only, though it's not a book but a CD with detailed find images.
http://www.oxbowbooks.com/bookinfo.cfm/ID/37911/OnlyResult/Yes
When I receive it I'll let you guys know how relevant it is for this topic, most of the finds presented will likely be smaller knives and modern reconstructions. Still very interesting for viking blade enthusiasts of course.

Kevin, I don't know if it's in there yet, but the Bjärs 27 Seax, since it's from a grave on Gotland, could be one of the knives photographed in detail on that CD...

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Kevin Winter




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PostPosted: Thu 30 Jun, 2011 4:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's a ton of information Johan. I am involved in the seax thread on British Blades. Edvin Sjoberg is "the" authority on Seax sheaths. He does some of the best ones I've seen.

The seax above, that I quoted a picture of, seems to portray the pommel as teardrop shaped. I'm having difficulty picturing how it is drop shaped and sculpted. That must be the blade profile?
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Tim Mathews




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PostPosted: Fri 01 Jul, 2011 9:07 am    Post subject: Thanks to all ...         Reply with quote

Hello
I wanted to take a moment and say thanks very much for all the information and feedback you have provided ... I met with Ryan the other night and we have decided to go with a sword type hilt , cross piece and pommel ... I will post pictures as the project gets underway and developes ...
Again I am deeply grateful for all the wealth and depth of technical information you have shared along with some wonderful pictures ...
Thanks very much to you all ... What an amazing resource !
Best
Tim

Tim Mathews
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Tim Mathews




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2011 5:31 am    Post subject: Pattern Welded Seax         Reply with quote

Greetings all
I have un update - Craig Johnson (from Arms and Armor)kindly forwarded me a disk with hundreds of examples of surviving Seax`s (?)
Ryan and I are going to do a large example about 40 inches overall - with a 10 inch hilt - I found an outfit that sells Elk horn - sheds found in Yellowstone and purchased one that offers several long fairly straight sections ... Ryan has started welding the billets ...I hope to have the completed piece around the first of the year ...
I am very excited ...

Tim Mathews
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Paul Mullins





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PostPosted: Thu 17 Nov, 2011 2:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Is there any evidence to support stag antler handles on seaxs? I am curious, because I am planning to make my own seax soon and I am still deciding on the handle material.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Nov, 2011 2:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also, is there a surviving example that long?
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