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Dan Kary





Joined: 12 Dec 2017

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PostPosted: Fri 10 Dec, 2021 8:02 am    Post subject: Baselard evolution/timeline         Reply with quote

Hi everybody,

I've lately become a bit enamored with Baselards, especially of the Swiss-German variety. I'm wondering if anybody could provide me with some information about when they first came around, what stages they went through, and when they disappeared (that is, if they did at all...I am not sure if their use last century by the Nazis, for example, was a resurrection or a continuation although I am inclined to believe the latter, at the moment). Of particular interest of me is the Holbein version, which I believe is the latest. When did they turn up?

Thank you!
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Dec, 2021 10:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Claude Blair, “The Word ‘Baselard.’” Journal of the Arms and Armour Society XI.4 (1984), pp. 193-206, pl. XLVI, XLVII siglum: blair-baselard (write to the Arms and Armour Society to see if they have a copy of that back issue for sale in their shed or attic)

vignola-riflessioni-sulla-basilarda (I have not seen this)

I think that by the 17th century, you will have trouble finding anything other than sword-hilted daggers and big knives in Catholic and Protestant Europe.

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Tue 14 Dec, 2021 11:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I’m going to be slightly contrary to many and say that I think the baselard that most people think of is a subset of a larger family of a Swiss daggers that both predated the baselard proper and post dated it.

Swiss daggers like the one below were around in the 13th century, as attested to by many (dozens?) examples in the Swiss Landesmuseum.



The more capital-I shaped hilts of the more prototypical baselard come about more in the 14th century and a number are likely to be English or Italian, not just Swiss. These hang around into the 15th century for sure, maybe later.

Holbein daggers are another subset of Swiss daggers and might have started out as contemporaries of the baselard but hung around longer. These were revived in the 20th century by both the Swiss and Germans. They were first seen in the 15th/16th centuries I believe.

Happy

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Last edited by Chad Arnow on Wed 15 Dec, 2021 3:36 am; edited 1 time in total
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Mart Shearer




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PostPosted: Tue 14 Dec, 2021 5:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The "capital I" hilts show up on both daggers and falchions in late XIII century sources associated with Alfonso X.
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Dan Kary





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PostPosted: Thu 10 Feb, 2022 7:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies. I have been thinking about this and one thing about baselard evolution I just don't understand is the divergence between the swiss/german and italian/english.

If Chad is right, and I understand him, then this means that the swiss/german baselards predated the italian/english ones, as well as being contemporary to and postdating them (at least the Holbein versions). I'm wondering if swiss/german baselards came into Italy by proxy and sort of took on a life of their own and it is this common ancestry that makes them all baselards - otherwise, there doesn't really seem to be very much in common with them other than, perhaps blade shape - but the hilts look totally different and are certainly constructed very differently. That suggests a rapid and fundamental evolutionary change - so much so that if they weren't both called "baselard" I would have thought they had completely different origins.

Of course, I think it is largely a mystery why the Italian/English baselard is also found, mainly, in two far flung places like England and Italy, but that's a whole other issue (it makes perfect sense why the same baselard dagger form is found in Germany and Switzerland given the similar language, culture, location, etc.).

I'm eager to hear what people have to say!
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Thu 10 Feb, 2022 9:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan,
Mart is indeed correct that there is definitely some early art with the capital-I shape most will call a baselard. In terms of surviving examples/artifacts, we have a higher number of Swiss daggers dated pre-14th century than baselards. It's hard to say for certain which form existed first, but the bulk of earlier surviving examples seem to be more Swiss-dagger-shaped. The true baselard seems to have become more popular in the 14th century, though art and a few examples pre-date this.

I was looking at some of my German-language arms and armour books recently and at least some of them seem to be very careful and specific about how they use the terms "baselard" vs. "Schweizer dolch" ("Swiss dagger"). If I were to try to encapsulate the visual differences they generally distinguish between, I'd say:

Baselard: true capital I -shaped hilt. Tang forged into that shape and covered with scales (ie. capital I-shaped even without the wood grips) .

Swiss dagger: hilt more or less capital I-shaped. Whittle (through) tang with a wooden grip that gives the I shape. Often reinforced with metal on either end of the grip. Earlier examples, especially, may have arms that tend to droop toward the blade (like the one I posted).

So for me, a through (whittle/stick) tang with a capital I-shaped wooden grip (with or without reinforcing bands) is most likely a Swiss dagger. A dagger whose tang is forged into the full capital I-shape would be a baselard.

I don't have much to add on why a form most agree has Swiss origins developed somewhat distinct versions in other places. Happy

Happy

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Dan Kary





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PostPosted: Thu 10 Feb, 2022 10:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's a nice way to put the distinction, Chad! - Swiss dagger vs. baselard. I think that maybe I was making a faulty assumption that, because they are sometimes both given the same label that there must be a common ancestry which seems very farfetched to me when you consider the stark differences between them (in particular, their construction). Thanks for the response!

I guess that leads to a new question though: why, if proper baselards (as opposed to Swiss daggers) are really found mainly in Italy and England, are they called baselards - my understanding is that this nods to the Swiss city of Basel (which is a lovely city I highly recommend to everybody!). I can see two possibilities (and of course there could be others!): First is that they were developed in Basel but never took off there, but were picked up as fashionable in Italy and England. Second is that the term is just a sort of misnomer.

Swiss dagger, on the other hand, seems highly appropriate given that it seems roughly geographically centered around Switzerland!
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Thu 10 Feb, 2022 11:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pure speculation: They likely have a common Swiss origin and are superficially similar in silhouette in some cases; that may have been enough for them to get lumped together. In the era in which they began, there were still sax-like war knives (seen in illustrations) and there were early quillon daggers (in illustrations and a relatively small number of survivors from the 12th and 13th centuries). The Swiss-derived daggers were different from both in that they had hilt shapes that formed quillon-like hand protection but these "quillons" were integral to either the grip or tang not separate like on most (not all) quillon daggers. I think it's fairly safe to say that Swiss daggers were popular before ballock daggers (which also had grip-integral hand protection, sometimes with metal reinforcements) so perhaps the Swiss family of dagger's silhouette and integrated quillons were enough to lump them together as something distinct from quillon daggers and war knives of the time.

Obviously regional variations exist of most weapon forms. There are rondel daggers that are distinctly Burgundian, as well as a family of quillon daggers with large, hollow, globular pommels with heraldic inscriptions. Burgundians were apparently fancy. Happy Some weapon forms seem to have been very popular in some locations and much less so in others (Type XIV blades seem to have been more popular in England/France than elsewhere, as an example).

So I'm not surprised that there is a variety peculiar to England or Italy, though why in both I have no answer for. Happy They were probably popular in Italy before some of the relatively famous English condottieri ended up there, so that probably isn't the link.

I wish I knew. Happy

Happy

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PostPosted: Thu 10 Feb, 2022 11:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On a separate note, buried somewhere in a folder on some drive I have a number of images of earlier Swiss daggers that someone sent me years ago from a Swiss museum. I'll try to find them and see if there are any true baselards in there and when they start to appear.
Happy

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Mart Shearer




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PostPosted: Sun 13 Feb, 2022 7:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

All of Du Cagne's references under Basalaria date from the 1380s. What are the earliest literary references to baselards? Is it possible that we've matched the wrong style dagger/knife grip to the term?

https://books.google.com/books?id=y-xCAAAAcAAJ&lpg=RA1-PA609&ots=xamNiYnjSH&dq=cum%20cutello%20sive%20Basalaria&pg=RA1-PA609#v=onepage&q=Basalaria&f=false

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Dan Kary





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PostPosted: Sun 13 Feb, 2022 12:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is another mystery for me that might be untangled by simply educating me: It seems to me that the swiss dagger baselards post date the Italian-English ones. Don't they both burst on the scene in the 14th century while the swiss ones persist into the early 17th century while the Italian-English ones disappear at the end of the 15th century?

Is this simply because in Italy (and England?) they get replaced by a slew of other dagger forms like new forms of quillon daggers, ear daggers, cinquedeas, stilettos, and maybe the rise of bollock daggers (and their evolution into new forms) from being not just for peasants who like a dirty joke but to nobles...who also like a dirty joke?
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Feb, 2022 7:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Kary wrote:
Here is another mystery for me that might be untangled by simply educating me: It seems to me that the swiss dagger baselards post date the Italian-English ones. Don't they both burst on the scene in the 14th century while the swiss ones persist into the early 17th century while the Italian-English ones disappear at the end of the 15th century?

Is this simply because in Italy (and England?) they get replaced by a slew of other dagger forms like new forms of quillon daggers, ear daggers, cinquedeas, stilettos, and maybe the rise of bollock daggers (and their evolution into new forms) from being not just for peasants who like a dirty joke but to nobles...who also like a dirty joke?


Dan,
It's not quite as simple as getting replaced by other forms. It's almost never that linear. Happy All these forms existed side by side, though regionally some seem to have outshone other forms at certain times.

If we look at the evolution of these, here's one line of thought I keep mulling over. The earliest Swiss daggers seem to have that wooden grip with a thin metal band reinforcing each end. Before too long, we see examples where the metal band between grip and guard has swells at each end that take the place of the more fragile wood that forms the distal ends of the transverse beams of the I (the "guard" band goes from reinforcing the tips to replacing part of them). Holbein and other Swiss dagger forms seem to take that to the next level, with quasi quillons in place of the entire wood transverse beams on both ends. On those, the wood grip only forms the upright beam, with metal for the transverse beams. So Holbein-style daggers might be trying to solve the problem of fragile wood tips on some versions by replacing them with metal. True baselards solve the fragile wood tip on the transverse beam issue not by removing wood from the tip but by beefing up the structure underneath and having the wood become a decorative element riveted to a steel/iron I-shaped substructure.

Baselards need a whole lot more forging and use more material than a whittle tang Swiss/Holbein dagger. Maybe that's why they didn't last as long? I should note, once again, that this is just speculation.

Like the ballock dagger, Swiss daggers (including baselards) are seen in civilian portraiture. Perhaps the true baselard was more often (though not always) a beefed up combat version of a civilian form. Rondels daggers rise in popularity as true baselards seem to wane. Is there a link there? Who knows.... Happy Still speculating.... Happy

Happy

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Dan Kary





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PostPosted: Thu 17 Feb, 2022 7:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Chad. Most of that strikes me as pretty plausible.

I still wonder, however, if there was a migration away from these to other dagger forms, in the baselard (Italian/English) context, in part because of fashion - certainly you are right that there are a number of factors that played a role. But maybe this is still a possible piece to the puzzle?

My understanding is also that swiss daggers tended to be civilian (although there seems to be some really fancy Holbein daggers - but it seems generally true that low status associated daggers would turn up with fancy high status versions in things like bollock daggers, messers, etc.), while baselards (italian/english) tended to be more military. So I also wonder if yet another factor complicating all this is changing warfare driving a change in military daggers that might not have put the same pressures on non-military daggers. This could explain why the swiss dagger form lasts longer than the baselard (italian/english form)...if I am right about that timeline of course.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Feb, 2022 11:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Kary wrote:
Here is another mystery for me that might be untangled by simply educating me: It seems to me that the swiss dagger baselards post date the Italian-English ones. Don't they both burst on the scene in the 14th century while the swiss ones persist into the early 17th century while the Italian-English ones disappear at the end of the 15th century?

At least in England, baselards seem to have been 'walking around knives.' That is why they (and the fancy Burgundian rondel daggers) are often so big, whereas knives for armoured soldiers usually have about a 6" to 10" blade. If you read the sources which Claude Blair gathered, the word "baselard" is associated with a particular way of wearing the weapon, and its associated with the words "hanger" and "falchion" (in France it eventually seems to refer to short sabres).

By some time in the 16th century, it was accepted for men of a wide range of stations to wear swords and hangers in England, so knives with a 12" to 18" blade lost some of their niche. I find that weapons of that size are an awkward in-between, they don't have the defensive potential of a sword, but they are not as light and handy as a proper dagger. But when people are allowed to carry knives but not swords, they often start looking for the biggest flashiest knife they can buy. Several towns in Central Europe such as Strassburg had to pass laws limiting the maximum length of knives people could carry.

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PostPosted: Sat 19 Feb, 2022 11:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here’s some of what books on my shelf have to say about Swiss daggers and/or baselards:

George Cameron Stone: “A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor in All Countries and in All Times.” (first published 1934)

Quote:
Baselard, Basilard. A short sword, or dagger, carried by civilians in the 15th century (ffoulkes 103).
A short sword with a straight, tapering blade of diamond section, straight quillons and a cross pommel. Sometimes it has a straight hilt without a guard, 13th and 14th centuries (Laking Armour III, 10).


Neither Swiss Dagger or Holbein dagger are mentioned/defined. This book is very old and has largely been superseded by more recent sources IMO.

Ewart Oakeshott: “The Archeology of Weapons” (first published 1960)

Quote:
From the time of the adoption of the “international” style of armour in the third quarter of the fourteenth century the dagger became an indispensable and visible part of the man-at-arm’s equipment… Many civilians, too, are shown wearing daggers, generally of the “Basilard” type. In fourteenth-century Italy it seems to have been almost the only kind in use; hardly a picture painted between 1300 and 1420 is without one visible somewhere.


He doesn’t note the geographic origin. In describing it, he just says:

Quote:
The hilt, generally of wood or horn, is shaped simply like a handle…


Neither “Swiss Dagger” nor “Holbein Dagger” appear in the index.

Claude Blair: “European and American Arms” (1962)

Blair defines Baselard in a fairly lengthy way, but the most relevant points are:

Quote:
This has a hilt shaped something like a capital I and is often long enough to be classified as a short-sword. The form seems to have originated in South Germany or North Italy in the late thirteenth century but soon spread to all parts of Europe, remaining in wide use until the late fifteenth century…In the sixteenth century it developed into the… type of dagger known to English collectors as a Holbein dagger (see Swiss dagger).


Some of this will later be contradicted by what Peterson notes Blair discovered in Peterson’s book below.

Quote:
Swiss Dagger. The successor to the baselard (q.v.) used in Germany and, especially, Switzerland throughout the sixteenth century. It had a hilt like that of the baselard and a short leaf-shaped blade… It should be mentioned that in Germany and Switzerland the term Schweizerdolch or Schweizerdegen is often applied also to the medieval baselard


He captions a picture of what many would call a Holbein dagger as “Swiss Dagger (so-called ‘Holbein Dagger’). His point about non-English language sources using Germanic terms that translate as “Swiss dagger” for things others call baselards fits what I’ve seen. However, as noted in an earlier post, some German language books tend to specifically use “Swiss dagger” terms for what I call Swiss dagger and do use “baselard” the way I described.

Paul Martin: “Arms and Armour from the 9th to the 17th century” (first published 1967)

This whole book is a translation into English of the original text and is clunky to read. In the text that discusses daggers, the term baselard is mentioned not at all. He does say:

Quote:
The Swiss dagger, of characteristic type, became popular during the second half of the 15th century (Pl. 36) It can be recognized by the shape of the hilt, in which the pommel and concave quillons curve over the strong wooden grip. We shall come across it again in the 16th century, a work of art sometimes shown in the drawings of such masters as Urs Graf, Hans Holbein and other Renaissance artosts (Pl. 127, 128).


In the plates, he shows 4 examples. One is a short sword captioned “Swiss short sword…” A dagger I would call Swiss is labeled “Swiss dagger….” Another I might call a Holbein relative is also captioned “Swiss dagger…” Oddly enough, a dagger shown next that I would call a baselard is just called “14th century dagger made of a single piece of metal.” All in all, this isn’t the best book on my shelf. Happy Plates 127 and 128 are what pretty much everyone would call Holbein daggers.

Harold L. Peterson: “Daggers and Fighting Knives of the Western World from the Stone Age till 1900.” (1970)

Quote:
The second of the major families of dagger types to be considered here [baselards] was perhaps the most widely used of all… The word appears with great frequency in documents of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries where daggers are discussed. This is especially true of English texts, but the name appears in other languages as well.. A recent discovery in the Datini archives at Prato, in Italy by Claude Blair of the Victoria and Albert Museum seems at last to confirm the traditional thinking. This find, in a list of daggers purchased in 1375, indicates the term baselard derived from the city of Basel in Switzerland and that the type originated there.


Quote:
The baselard first appeared perhaps as early as the late thirteenth or early fourteenth centuries and, as noted above, probably originated in Switzerland. From there it quickly spread throughout central and western Europe. The great bulk of documentary and iconographic references stem from the middle fourteenth century and later, for the dagger seems to have achieved its greatest popularity about that time. It continued in wide use until the late fifteenth century, when it evolved almost imperceptibly into the so-called Swiss dagger of Holbein dagger.


Peterson describes things at great length, which I won’t quote here. His main description is of what I call the Baselard with a tang shape that follows the capital I mostly or completely. Peterson describes a subtype of baselard (what I would call a Swiss dagger) with the whittle tang. About it, he says:

Quote:
The form is generally very closely associated with Switzerland, where there are both iconographic representations and surviving specimens in quantity. It is, in all major aspects, the so-called Swiss dagger of the sixteenth century.


So, his usage is that Holbein dagger=Swiss dagger and those are 16th century items. This subtype, which he lists as a baselard (I call a Swiss dagger) is basically the same as the Swiss/Holbein dagger in construction. Oddly enough, when he shows an example (plate 21) of what I’d call a Swiss dagger, he captions it “Swiss baselard…” as opposed to more baselard-y examples captioned as “Baselard…”

David Edge and John Miles Paddock: “Arms and Armor of the Medieval Knight” (1988)

In the glossary, they define Baselard thusly:

Quote:
A civilian dagger or short sword with an H-shaped hilt. Particularly common in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in north and northwest Europe. Also called a hauswehr.


Strange. As you’ll see below, they’re not the only English authors to connect something to the hauswehr (with multiple spellings).

In the chapter “The Twelfth Century- the Era of the Crusades” they describe early daggers that seem like what Tod Cutler reproduces as the Antenna Quillon dagger and A&A calls the Aunlaz (quillons drooping toward the blade, mirrored by an upturned crescent pommel). They go on to say:

Quote:
This shape of hilt (basically an ‘H’ lying on its side) became increasingly popular all over Europe, evolving into the type of dagger or short sword later known as the ‘baselard.’


Interesting, this. “Evolving into” is perhaps an oversimplification as daggers of that Aunlaz-y description, according to dating, exist alongside both the Swiss dagger and baselard in the 13th/14th century. I wonder if period art supports an antenna dagger before anything we would call Swiss/baselard. There is some early art that is ambiguous on that (see below under Capwell). Under the scenario above, the separate metal quillon and crescent pommel of what Edge/Paddock describe “evolve” either by melding into a wooden grip with reinforcing bands like we see on late 13th century Swiss daggers or by merging with the tang structure of the baselard.

Later, they say:

Quote:
A final type of dagger deserves mention. The baselard was not specifically military but was occasionally found in this context. It had an H-shaped hilt and first appeared about 1370, but continued in use for only about a hundred years.


In the chapter on the Sixteenth Century, they say:

Quote:
The baselard was also popular, especially as a civilian weapon; its hilt had evolved into an elegant ‘I’ shape with rounded contours, usually set upon a broad double-edged blade of various proportions.


Sounds like what most would call a Holbein dagger to me. Happy They’re also using the H and I more specifically with H being used for baselards and I for these later (Holbein) versions. On a true baselard, the quillons and “pommel” do stick out more, more like an H on its side. By the Holbein era, the grip is curvier and the guard/pommel stick out less, more like an I in some fonts. Interesting distinction.

Logan Thompson: “Daggers and Bayonets” (1999)

Thompson chapter “Early Medieval Daggers 1150-1550” has a section called “The Baselard: late 13th-late 15th centuries.” In it he describes what most would call a baselard.

Quote:
Each had a cross piece guard (which was really only a Quillon) matched by one on the pommel. These two sections formed a distinctive and easily recognized capital I, or an H on its side, in which the Quillons and pommel were often exactly matched… The hilt grip was of wood fixed to the tang with a large number of rivets.


In the chapter “Later Medieval and 17th Century Daggers,” he has a section “Holbein Daggers 1540-1600.” He notes:

Quote:
The dagger is of Swiss origin with original form based upon the Hausewehre dagger…


He leaves out what I call Swiss daggers altogether and notes no link between baselard and Holbein dagger. I suppose if you leave out what I call Swiss daggers, you would have to link the Holbein to something (but the Hausewehre?). Happy

Tobias Capwell: “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Knives, Daggers & Bayonets” (2009)

He does include an image I’ve seen posted elsewhere online from an 11th century Italian manuscript that shows (among other things) two daggers that I see as proto antenna daggers. They have a fairly distinct shape that I could see Edge/Paddock relating to baselards.

Capwell describes baselards:

Quote:
This dagger was developed in the late 13th century for civilian as well as military use. Especially popular in Italy, but also found in English art of the 14th century, the baselard may have originated in Switzerland, in the city of Basel… The baselard is recognized by its distinctive hilt, which is again reminiscent of the Halstatt culture [because it is antenna-like?]. Baselard hilts are usually shaped like a capital “I” or an upended “H”, the bottom cross piece often being wider than the one that forms the guard. The tang is cut to the shape of the whole hilt and sandwiched between plates usually of wood, and the whole assembly is then riveted together.


Sounds like a baselard to me. Happy In the next chapter, he has a section on “’Swiss’ and ‘Holbein’ daggers” where he describes what pretty much everyone would call a Holbein dagger. He calls these an evolution of the baselard (unlike the hauswehr-linkers). He notes the difference in construction:

Quote:
Unlike the earlier baselard, on which the arms of the hilt were formed by the tang over which were laid plates of wood, the hilt of the 16th-century “Swiss” dagger was carved from a single piece of hardwood, the sides of the grip were faceted and the centre was drilled out for insertion of the narrow tang.


This leaves out the earlier daggers with I/H shaped grips, through/whittle tangs, and metal reinforcements (what I call Swiss daggers). Many publications seem to note that construction started in the 16th century with Holbein daggers, despite evidence of 13th/14th century versions.

This is likely the longest of my 9,000+ posts. Happy I’ll try to find some images in coming days that show these oft-overlooked Swiss daggers and are what I had A&A base mine on.

Happy

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PostPosted: Sat 19 Feb, 2022 11:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here are some images. First, here are two daggers that I believe the Swiss Landesmuseum calls "Swiss daggers." They'd know. Happy There are a number more that either show the remaining wood hilts or metal bands suggesting what shape the now-lost grip might have.

From this thread,



The one with the grip is dated 1st half of the 14th century as is the bare fullered blade. Several of the framed scabbard examples, like the one above, are dated 2nd half of the 13th century. Grip-less daggers with similar metal bands and blades are dated second half of the 13th century. In images I have, that museum has at least 6 examples from the 13th century that fit this family. There are over 20 examples from this family that they date to the 14th century.

So quite a few whittle tang daggers of this form are dated to the 13th-14th century. There are clearly not typical baselards, but fit the category I call Swiss daggers. Some of the authors above save that term for 16th century daggers, but I feel fairly comfortable applying it to earlier daggers to make a difference between I-tanged baselards and I-gripped Swiss daggers. Happy

Mart posted this image in the thread linked above:



He noted "Here's a manuscript depiction from Cambridge's Ee.3.59 fo.32v from circa 1250-1260." So we have clear capital I/H-shaped hilts from the 13th century and possibly earlier.

Below is the image from the Capwell book. It shows antenna-like daggers (as well as straight-up quillon daggers) in the 11th century.



 Attachment: 118.31 KB
img010.jpg


Happy

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PostPosted: Sat 19 Feb, 2022 5:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, I'm speechless. I don't know what to say really other than "thank you", Chad!

There is so much goodness in the information you have given, but one thing that really stands out to me, in regards to the pictures and your commentary, is that when you look at the bones of a Swiss dagger, it sure looks similar to the bones of a baselard (Italian/English). I wonder if that's the relation (why they both get called "baselard). This seems to show (or indicate) a common, "Baselean" (so to speak), ancestor of sorts! Very interesting indeed!
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PostPosted: Sun 20 Feb, 2022 8:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh I should have added that it is looking pretty obvious, to me anyways, that the Baselean ancestor does indeed look to be an antenna dagger...I think I've got a much better grasp on all this! Thanks so much!
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 20 Feb, 2022 8:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is even more info, because I just couldn't stop. Happy

Heinrich Muller/Hartmut Kolling: “Europaische Hieb- und Stichwaffen” [European cutting and stabbing/thrusting weapons] (1981)

This is one of my favorite books. In German, it shows highlights from the Museum of German History (or its successor) in Berlin. There is some introductory text, followed by lots of pictures. It’s akin to some Italian titles in that regard, though much cheaper. Happy I used a translation app on my phone to get the gist below. Native German speakers might disagree with the app… Happy

The attached image at the bottom of the post is their description of daggers in the introductory text. They have baselards and Swiss daggers as different entities. Oddly enough, an image toward the middle is what I’d call a Swiss dagger with missing grip. Their caption translates to “dagger with crescent/sickle shaped upper hilt border.” They date it 14th century. Perhaps the authors were unwilling to speculate in the absence of the grip.

Text near that image describes baselards and Swiss daggers as part of the same paragraph, noting the one piece tang and scale grips for baselards. It notes a “strong resemblance” to Swiss daggers whose “handles widen at the top and bottom.” That, to me, indicates that the grip is the main driver of the shape, not the tang shape. The paragraph concludes saying all these were in use in 13th/14th centuries and got slimmer in the 15th century.

The dagger they based the drawing on is shown in the pictures and is captioned simply “Dagger, 14th century.” The physical description in the back gives no geographic origin. They also picture three 14th century baselards of Italian origin and label them baselards. Later, they show what most would call a Holbein dagger and caption it “Swiss dagger.”

Bruno Thomas/Ortwin Gamber/Hans Schedelman: “Arms and Armour of the Western World” (English translation 1964, original German 1963)

This is mostly just an all-stars of attractive arms and armour and doesn’t contain much relevant info here except for how they describe a Holbein dagger pictured. The text has been (occasionally clunkily) translated into English from German for this edition.

Quote:
The form illustrated here-its hilt in the shape of the Roman figure I with a broad double-edged blade-was already known in the Near East in the third millennium B.C. It reached the European Middle Ages from the art of Asia’s steppes and at the turn of the 13th century it made its appearance as part of a knight’s equipment and as a weapon of the burghers, particularly in the German region.


Bruno Thomas/Ortwin Gamber/Hans Schedelman: “Armi e Armature Europee” (1965)

Has some similarities to their title above but pictures more items. In this book, the Holbein dagger above is captioned “Swiss dagger” (Pugnale svizzero). It also notes the link to third millennium BC forms.

Lionello Boccia/Eduardo Coelho: “Armi Bianche Italiane” (1975)


Love this book. In the introductory text, it discusses baselards using the term “double T” for the hilt instead of “I” or “H.” It notes many assume they originate in Basel “or more recently in Solingen.” I’m going to quote the entire Italian text, as it is very interesting. I’ll offer my own Google-Translate-washed translation. Italian speakers, feel free to correct.

Quote:
Trai i pugnali si disinguono quelli che hanno un manico a doppio <<T>>, e che alcuni studiosi stranieri chiamano <<basilarde>>, presumendone un tempo l'origine da Basilea a piu recentemente da Solingen. Sta di fatto che quelle armi hanno il braccio superiore della <<T>> arcuato per il cosidetto <<coltello svizzero>> -mentre gli anologhi (ma non simili) pugnali italiani hanno quasi senza eccezione i bracci diritti tanto al pomo all'elso. La struttura tecnica del manico a canaletta viene dall'oriente mediterraneo, dalla Sardegna e dalla pianura padana gallo-romano, ed e assai piu probabile che essa sia peninsulare per eredita piuttosto che transalpina. Le loro lame con doppia scanalatura al forte sono anch'esse di tipo italiano, a le esportazioni, specie dalla Toscana (dove questi pugnali sono documentatissimi), possono avere allargato l'area di interesse.


My attempt at cleaning up Google’s translation:

Quote:
Among the daggers those that have a double handle <<T>> stand out; some foreign scholars call them “baselards”, assuming an origin from Basel or more recently from Solingen. The fact is that those weapons [from Switzerland?] have the upper arm of the <<T>> arched like the so-called “Swiss dagger” - while the analogous (but not similar) Italian daggers have almost without exception the straight arms for quillon and pommel. The technical structure of the channeled handle [of baselards?] comes from the Mediterranean East, from Sardinia and from the Gallo-Roman Po Valley, and it is much more probable that it is peninsular by inheritance rather than transalpine. Blades with a double groove at the base are also of the Italian type, and exports, especially from Tuscany (where these daggers are well documented), may have enlarged the area of interest.


Lots to unpack here, including a different take on the origin than I’ve seen elsewhere. There’s a clear distinction drawn between daggers with curvier upper arms (which they call Swiss daggers) and straight-armed baselards. They note a constructional difference in the “channeled handle” which I’d consider the framed, shaped tang of what I call a baselard. Boccia/Coelho also seem to dislike the term “baselard’s” Swiss connotations and offer a Mediterranean origin, as opposed to a “transalpine” one based on the construction of the hilt. Fascinating.

This book is mostly pictures and contains at least 5 examples period art of daggers of the style in question and seven surviving examples. I’d call all of them baselards based on construction/shape, though at least one example has a slightly curved upper guard, though it is built for scale grips a la a baselard. In the description of the pictures in the back of the book, the caption these in period art simply as “dagger.” The descriptions will sometimes (not always) mention the double T, but never seem to mention the term “baselard.” As a book on Italian arms, a lack of Holbein/Swiss daggers is unsurprising.

Lionello Boccia/Francesco Rossi/Marco Morin: “Armi e Armature Lombarde” (1980)

There may be something in the introductory Italian text, but it’s hard to wade through when you don’t speak the language. In the images of arms later in the book, there is a detail from a painting dated to the middle of the 14th century of someone holding what I’d call a baselard. The description says in part:

Quote:
The type [of dagger] represented here is the “Double T,” very common in Italy and beyond the Alps and commonly called “baselard” for an alleged origin in Basel.


Clearly they don’t buy the origin story Blair and others go with. Happy They seem to prefer Double T as a term.

Luciano Salvatici: “Posate, Pugnali, Coltelli da Caccia del Museo Nazionale del Bargello” [Cutlery, daggers, and hunting knives from the Bargello in Florence] (1999)

This uses the terms baselard for items I’d call baselard. Three of them are items Boccia et al pictured and called either just “dagger” or mentioned Double T. There is a dagger I’d call a Holbein dagger that they call a Swiss dagger.



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ChadA

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 20 Feb, 2022 9:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some takeaways from all this. English language authors sometimes (often?) lump all these into the category "baselard." If English language sources make a distinction between baselards and Swiss daggers, they often don't factor in the 13th/14th century Swiss daggers and note that Swiss daggers (typically synonymous with Holbein daggers in their works) are of 15th/16th century origin. English language sources I've seen seem more likely to use the term "Holbein dagger" than other languages, even though descriptions of these items in other languages pretty much always mention the art of Hans Holbein.

The Mueller/Kolling book above draws a clear distinction in construction between baselards (shaped tang/riveted scales) and Swiss daggers (shaped handles). What I'd call a Holbein dagger is just labeled as "Swiss." Another German book I didn't cite from ("Ilustriertes Lexicon der Hieb- & Stichwaffen" by Jan Sach in 1999) shows a Holbein dagger and just calls it a Swiss dagger. Thomas/Ortwin/Gamber wrote in German and their works were translated into English and Italian. The English-translated book uses "Holbein dagger" (reinforcing my English theory above?); the same item pictured in an Italian-translated book is captioned "Swiss dagger." Happy I'd venture that German authors are more likely to make a distinction between baselard and Swiss dagger, but not between "Swiss dagger" and "Holbein dagger," but I have very few sources to base that on.

Boccia et al doesn't seem to like the term baselard and mostly uses it unflatteringly ("some foreign scholars..."). When describing things, they much prefer "Double T" or they just call it a "dagger." Their origin theory for the Italian version is compelling and may explain why Italian/English examples are different from Germanic examples. The Bargello book uses "baselard" where I'd expect and "Swiss dagger" where English language sources might use Holbein.

After all this, I'm still okay using the term baselard for I/H-shaped tangs with scales and Swiss dagger for things with whittle tangs and varying amounts of metal on either end of the grip. Happy

Dan, thanks for inspiring me to dig into my books. It's always fun. Happy

Happy

ChadA

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