Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > How Medieval Swords Really Look Reply to topic
This is a Spotlight Topic Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next 
Author Message
Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 14 Jan, 2019 11:28 pm    Post subject: How Medieval Swords Really Look         Reply with quote

This thread is meant to celebrate the irregularities, oddities, and eccentricities of genuine antique medieval swords.

The purpose of this thread is to help generate greater awareness among sword enthusiasts as to the reality of the shapes, proportions and forms of genuine medieval swords as a means of changing our perceptions of how a medieval sword—antique or reproduction—should look.

To that end, this thread is also meant to encourage collectors—including myself—to relax their expectations that modern reproduction swords must rigidly meet strict aesthetic standards of visual harmony without blemishes or defects of any sort.

Hopefully, it can also encourage sword makers to be more experimental in crafting swords that achieve the authentic look and feel of genuine antique swords, as opposed to the nearly always hyper-proportioned and perfectly symmetrical artifacts of modernity.

******************************************************************************************************


Please post pictures of some of the antique medieval swords whose shapes and forms are eccentric, irregular or “aesthetically displeasing”.

For the sake of ease for readers, please post a brief explanation of what is irregular or unusual about a given sword, even if these features are fairly obvious.

Some of the types of things worth posting are swords with unusual hilt/blade proportions, excessively small pommels, canted pommels, fullers that are not straight, lopsided cross guards, and other asymmetric characteristics.

Please avoid posting antique swords where the marring that has occurred is probably a result of the sword being in excavated condition. Instead, try to find swords whose shape and form were already eccentric prior to being lost, buried, deposited in a lake, etc.


Last edited by Craig Peters on Sat 19 Jan, 2019 7:34 pm; edited 3 times in total
View user's profile Send private message
Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 14 Jan, 2019 11:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I’ll start this thread out with examples from Records of the Medieval Sword by Ewart Oakeshott, Beiträge zur morphologischen Entwicklung des Schwertes im Mittelalter by Dr. Alfred Geibig, and The Sword: Form and Thought by Peter Johnsson et al.

I want to emphasize: the comments below reflect likely modern perceptions of these swords. The purpose of this thread is to encourage people to recognize that these "flaws" were perfectly acceptable from a medieval perspective, and to encourage sword collectors and makers to explore faithfully recreating these eccentricities instead of trying to fix them or otherwise alter them.

1) Even before it suffered wear, I’m pretty sure this sword had a warped tang, as evidenced by this photo.



2) Notice from Geibig’s sketch that the pommel is asymmetrical, which can be seen from the shadow in the photo. The pommel is also canted to the left. I’m fairly sure the arms of the cross were never equally sized, even when the sword was first made.



3) This is a sword where the hilt portion appears somewhat out of proportion with the robustness of the blade.



4) Another asymmetrical pommel, and a second instance of a cross with arms of different thicknesses.



5) This cross would probably make most modern collectors want to scream—and I don’t think its size is just a matter of irregular wear and deterioration.



6) This sword, also found in Records, is a classic example of a sword whose pommel is tiny in proportion to the rest of the weapon.



7) The hilt of this sword seems entirely too small for the blade.



8) Yet another instance of mismatched hilt and blade proportions.



9) A pommel like this would almost certainly be viewed as entirely unacceptable by a modern customer, but it seems to be fine for the purpose of a fighting weapon actually used in the Middle Ages.



10) Another good example of a tiny pommel on a sword.



11) This sword is probably well known to fans of Records—it’s the sword with the exceedingly broad blade dated to the 12th century. What may not be so well known is its extraordinarily thin pommel, as seen here in The Sword: Form and Thought



12) This Type XII doesn’t have a fuller, already making it quite unusual for a sword of the High Middle Ages. The appearance of the cross is also not really aligned with most modern people’s expectation of how a sword should look. Yet this sword was found in a house after centuries, so it’s most likely genuine.



13) If you look closely, the pommel appears slightly canted to the left.



14) This Type XIII.a is one of my favourites, despite the rather peculiar cross and the asymmetric tang.



15) A number of antique Type XVI.a have small cross guards, including this well-known example from Borringholm, yet how many modern collectors would want a cross like this one?



Last edited by Craig Peters on Tue 15 Jan, 2019 9:15 pm; edited 1 time in total
View user's profile Send private message
Jacek Gramlowski





Joined: 17 Jun 2015

Posts: 19

PostPosted: Tue 15 Jan, 2019 1:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello. One of the oddities of early medival swords were "real zweihanders" they were accompanied with swords, which could be called today as half and handers. The longer ones possibly came from Chinese influenced area and the swords with elongated grips might have been modification for either hand protection or for double handed grip. There are more examples of pictorial and even material evidenceof theese pieces but i have reached my 1mb limit.
Btw. Chinese used such swords from bronze age onwards.



 Attachment: 39.17 KB
afrodisia.jpg
Afrodisiada sword from 8th century Along with others from central asia.

 Attachment: 12.03 KB
Sassanid disc pommel sword from 4th century. [ Download ]

 Attachment: 104.15 KB
Sogdian half and handers in mural painting from 7-8ct. [ Download ]

 Attachment: 60.86 KB
Bulgarian examples from 10-11. century with elongated grips [ Download ]

 Attachment: 25.07 KB
Sword from auction with elongated handle. 10-11 century. [ Download ]
View user's profile Send private message
Iain Norman





Joined: 14 Jul 2005

Posts: 75

PostPosted: Tue 15 Jan, 2019 1:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jacek Gramlowski wrote:
Hello. One of the oddities of early medival swords were "real zweihanders" they were accompanied with swords, which could be called today as half and handers. The longer ones possibly came from Chinese influenced area and the swords with elongated grips might have been modification for either hand protection or for double handed grip. There are more examples of pictorial and even material evidenceof theese pieces but i have reached my 1mb limit.
Btw. Chinese used such swords from bronze age onwards.


The Bulgarian examples in one of your attachments, do you know the museum for these? Or was it part of the Vatev collection?
View user's profile Send private message
Jacek Gramlowski





Joined: 17 Jun 2015

Posts: 19

PostPosted: Tue 15 Jan, 2019 1:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Iain Norman wrote:
Jacek Gramlowski wrote:
Hello. One of the oddities of early medival swords were "real zweihanders" they were accompanied with swords, which could be called today as half and handers. The longer ones possibly came from Chinese influenced area and the swords with elongated grips might have been modification for either hand protection or for double handed grip. There are more examples of pictorial and even material evidenceof theese pieces but i have reached my 1mb limit.
Btw. Chinese used such swords from bronze age onwards.


The Bulgarian examples in one of your attachments, do you know the museum for these? Or was it part of the Vatev collection?


It was part of short term private collection and i dont remember exactly where Edit: (Varna Museum). It might be the name you posted.
View user's profile Send private message
Iain Norman





Joined: 14 Jul 2005

Posts: 75

PostPosted: Tue 15 Jan, 2019 1:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jacek Gramlowski wrote:


It was part of short term private collection and i dont remember exactly where Edit: (Varna Museum). It might be the name you posted.


Thanks, its almost certainly that collection. I've been thinking to buy the catalog and this just gave me a good reason!
View user's profile Send private message
Jacek Gramlowski





Joined: 17 Jun 2015

Posts: 19

PostPosted: Tue 15 Jan, 2019 1:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Can you post the link to that catalogue please?
View user's profile Send private message
Iain Norman





Joined: 14 Jul 2005

Posts: 75

PostPosted: Tue 15 Jan, 2019 2:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jacek Gramlowski wrote:
Can you post the link to that catalogue please?


Not cheap I'm afraid! https://romfeya.com/index.php?_route_=books
View user's profile Send private message
Chris Dayton





Joined: 29 Oct 2017

Posts: 29

PostPosted: Tue 15 Jan, 2019 1:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great thread, very interesting. My earliest antique is from the late 1500s or 1600, so I can't contribute directly here. But in general I love the messiness and irregularity of these antiques. Looking forward to more examples!
View user's profile Send private message
Maciej K.
Industry Professional



Location: Poland
Joined: 06 Jul 2006

Posts: 224

PostPosted: Tue 15 Jan, 2019 2:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is very interesting indeed... but let me have some reflection.

To be very honest - and as a maker and researcher - I find nothing "irregular or aesthetically displeasing” in these swords here.
(Except maybe some with a bit debatable origin or looking non-original) and I couldn`t choose any other to share here Happy
However I want to put your attention to something else, by the way.
The point is WHY we consider them as weird or unusual? What is their "fault" that they do not satisfy our modern expectations?
I think this depends on modern makers choices for their design. The problem is that we have a completely different aesthetics and we do not use swords today as a regular weapon...
Maybe this choice of modern makers simply follow the number of most common swords in museums - but maybe this is only their personal choice according to modern expectations - or also the influence of mass culture today. I mean - customers expect and choose swords more like those well known from mass media. In time, we can`t find today recreations of these types / style swords posted by Craig. But they are not weird in my opinion.
"Too thin pommel? Too small hilt? Assymetry? strange proportions?" - who would judge like this in medieval time? If it was useless in battle - then I guess it was remaded to be usefull. And if it was usefull - then its ok.

Medieval Swords - www.artofswordmaking.com
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Scott Kowalski




Location: Oak Lawn, IL USA
Joined: 24 Nov 2006

Posts: 772

PostPosted: Tue 15 Jan, 2019 5:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great topic, thank you for starting it Craig. It is interesting how much the modern eye and mind fixates on symmetry and it's connection to high end items. While the people that used them to defend themselves did not care about the fact that they were not perfect as we see it.

On a side note/question Craig, do you have any more information on the third sword that you posted? I am drawn to the profile of the blade.

Chris Landwehr 10/10/49-1/1/09 My Mom
View user's profile Send private message
Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 15 Jan, 2019 5:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Too thin pommel? Too small hilt? Assymetry? strange proportions?" - who would judge like this in medieval time? If it was useless in battle - then I guess it was remaded to be usefull. And if it was usefull - then its ok.


Indeed. In case it was at all unclear, when I was evaluating the swords as "flawed" , it was very much from the modern viewpoint of obsessing about visual perfection. The point of the thread is to point out there is nothing wrong with these swords from a medieval perspective, to encourage modern sword enthusiasts to be aware that this is how real swords actually look, and to encourage sword makers and buyers to create replicas that are true to the reality of antique swords.
View user's profile Send private message
Chris Dayton





Joined: 29 Oct 2017

Posts: 29

PostPosted: Tue 15 Jan, 2019 5:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wonderful insights from Maciej as a high-level craftsman (whose work I aspire to purchase some day, but right now lower-condition antiques are more accessible).

Maciej, I think you're agreeing with Craig, who is opening our eyes to exactly the changing standards you mention. We tend to idolize idealized proportions and build quality, when functionality was probably far more important to the everyday customer.

Then again, would a "clumsy" looking repro sell? Maciej, would you, as a businessman, choose to spend many hours reproducing one of the "awkward" (by modern collector standards) examples above? Probably not, because it would limit appeal and demand in the market. I'm not criticizing, just thinking out loud. All your pieces are graceful and idealized in their proportions. Would a "weird" one sell? I guess if it was a custom commission, but I suspect otherwise no.
View user's profile Send private message
Kai Lawson




Location: Madison, WI
Joined: 26 Aug 2010
Likes: 7 pages

Posts: 504

PostPosted: Tue 15 Jan, 2019 7:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think Maciej makes some good points, as does Craig.

I see some of the above swords as awkward, and some as fine, though holding the actual object or the object as it was first made might change my mind. Some swords speak to us, others don’t, and sometimes we don’t really know why we like or dislike them, or end up changing our perspective with time or new information. Maciej has made and recreated some of ‘awkward’ swords, but those are my favorite ones: seeing a photo or drawing of the artifact and then the recreation of the like-new piece is fascinating to me, and I often find myself drawn back to the more extreme or ‘strange’ designs.

They inevitably speak more about the function of the piece and how it may have been used than the more ‘normal’ proportions (huge blades and wee hilts, or crazy long guards, or rapiers that go on forever!). I love our modern world, where we can immerse ourselves in the figures and images of the past, and marvel and appreciate (or dislike) them, and then have something that really tickles our fancy made just to our specifications, or find recreated hidden gems we never knew existed. And the ability to jump time periods only opens the doors for the ‘weird’ and ‘wonderful,’ which often go hand in hand!

"And they crossed swords."
--William Goldman, alias S. Morgenstern
View user's profile Send private message
Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 15 Jan, 2019 9:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here’s a few more that don’t necessarily fit with modern perceptions about how swords should be. The images come from L'épée : Usages, mythes et symboles by Dr. Fabrice Cognot et al, Beiträge zur morphologischen Entwicklung des Schwertes im Mittelalter by Dr. Alfred Geibig, and The Sword: Form and Thought by Peter Johnsson et al.

As before, I want to emphasize: the comments below reflect likely modern perceptions of these swords. The purpose of this thread is to encourage people to recognize that these "flaws" were perfectly acceptable from a medieval perspective, and to encourage sword collectors and makers to explore faithfully recreating these eccentricities instead of trying to fix them or otherwise alter them.

16) This one from Geibig has a pommel that seems slightly deformed, and I don’t think this is entirely from aging.



17) A sword whose cross guard would probably be “corrected” to lengthen it by modern enthusiasts, and yet which was entirely acceptable in the Middle Ages.



18) A good example of a short grip, and again one that would likely be corrected by modern people, without realizing it was made short for a purpose.



19) Here’s a great example of a sword that doesn’t fit modern aesthetics for a variety of reasons. The grip is short, the pommel is unusual, and the cross is short, too.



20) The St. Omer Type XI sword has a short grip. Again, this is something many modern enthusiasts would want to “correct”, despite the fact that it was clearly made to be used by cradling the pommel in one’s fingers when holding the sword.



Last edited by Craig Peters on Wed 16 Jan, 2019 9:29 pm; edited 2 times in total
View user's profile Send private message
Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 15 Jan, 2019 9:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott Kowalski wrote:

On a side note/question Craig, do you have any more information on the third sword that you posted? I am drawn to the profile of the blade.


Scott,

Here is the full page image from Geibig:



I can't really read German, but I understand that this sword falls under combination Type 15 Variant III. I believe that somewhere in the book, it indicates that swords of this type date to the later 11th century and into the late 12th century.
View user's profile Send private message
Maciej K.
Industry Professional



Location: Poland
Joined: 06 Jul 2006

Posts: 224

PostPosted: Wed 16 Jan, 2019 7:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

yes I agree with you Craig, and I meant this indeed Happy
In fact, that is also about medieval swords aesthetics and knowledge about them in general.
Many times I was writing about all these assymetries, proportions, imperfections of most of original swords - not caused by the time, but simply made like that.
It is related to our modern vision and expectations. I don`t mean poorly made swords, non-historical geometry, etc. but if the maker will follow all details of the base-sword, then he will meet many surprising things.
On some stages of producing every fully hand made object will have imperfections, small flaws, asymetries - which are simply results of style of maker`s work and because he is making a tool - NOT AN OBJECT TO ADMIRE ON MUSEUM`S WALL Happy
We sometimes see them like artwork. I believe we can think about swordmaking and the final effect of this work like that today.
But then - it was very different point of view Happy
Anyway - I think we can add here probably EVERY ORIGINAL SWORD, unexpectadly finding some details to be ... striking somehow Happy

Medieval Swords - www.artofswordmaking.com
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Scott Kowalski




Location: Oak Lawn, IL USA
Joined: 24 Nov 2006

Posts: 772

PostPosted: Wed 16 Jan, 2019 4:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Scott Kowalski wrote:

On a side note/question Craig, do you have any more information on the third sword that you posted? I am drawn to the profile of the blade.


Scott,

Here is the full page image from Geibig:



I can't really read German, but I understand that this sword falls under combination Type 15 Variant III. I believe that somewhere in the book, it indicates that swords of this type date to the later 11th century and into the late 12th century.


Thank you for the reply Craig. I do not have Geibig's book, yet. I will move it up on the list of purchases.

Chris Landwehr 10/10/49-1/1/09 My Mom
View user's profile Send private message
Kai Lawson




Location: Madison, WI
Joined: 26 Aug 2010
Likes: 7 pages

Posts: 504

PostPosted: Wed 16 Jan, 2019 6:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The St. Omer is always gorgeous, thank you for posting that. Do you have any more photos or information on #17? I rather like that cross and would like to see the full monty, as it were. The grip is a little thick for me, but then that’s the point of the thread, isn’t it?
"And they crossed swords."
--William Goldman, alias S. Morgenstern
View user's profile Send private message
Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 16 Jan, 2019 9:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Something that I have not focused upon, but is worth noticing, is the fullers on these and other swords. In many or most cases, the fullers seem to wander a little, have inconsistent widths, and inconsistencies in depth. Of course, evaluating these "flaws" is trickier, as the profiles of many blades have suffered degradation through aging which can give misleading ideas. Nevertheless, fuller variations are undeniably present.

The St. Omer sword is a great example of a nearly pristine weapon, yet it is quite obvious that the fuller does not maintain a perfectly consistent width as it extends down the sword. Nor would I be surprised if I learned that the depth varies noticeably also; it certainly appears that way from a visual inspection of the sword. Likewise, take sword 16 from Geibig, whose blade appears relatively intact. It could just be the way the photos were taken (my photos or Geibig's) but if you measure with a ruler on the screen, the fuller starts closer to the left side (viewer's perspective) of the sword blade than to the right. I'll double check this when I get home to make sure it's not just a consequence of my photography. At any rate, the fuller certainly seems biased to the left.
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > How Medieval Swords Really Look
Page 1 of 5 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2019 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum