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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 20 Jun, 2006 5:22 pm    Post subject: Medieval Grip Colours         Reply with quote

I was wondering if anyone here knew anything about sword grip colours from the 11th and 12th century. What colours were common? I checked the forum archives, and someone mentioned that we know nearly nothing about grip colour from historical swords. Still, I wanted to check, just in case anyone knew something on the subject.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Tue 20 Jun, 2006 5:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In addition to new things that will be discussed here, there has been some discussion in this topic.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 20 Jun, 2006 5:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, I had a look at that thread Nathan. It didn't appear that anyone was too sure one way or another, unless I missed something when skim reading.
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Greyson Brown




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Jun, 2006 7:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The single greatest source for this kind of thing that I have found is the Maciejowski Bible. You can find all of the pictures at http://www.medievaltymes.com/courtyard/maciejowski_bible.htm. It is later than the period you asked about, but it might help.

In looking through the Maciejowski Bible I found that the most common grip color was a whitish color that I believe represents an undyed leather. It could be wire wrapping, but there just doesn't seem to be the archaeological support for that. The next most common colors are black and orange. I didn't count all the grips, but they seem to be about even. After comparing the various colors used in the Maciejowski Bible, I am convinced that the orange grips are in fact intended to be orange, rather than some imperfect red. There are suprisingly few brown grips shown (I would guess there are about half a dozen), but a good number (maybe the majority) of the scabbards shown are brown. Red is also a bit rare with about as many instances as brown. There are two green grips shown in the Maciejowski Bible.

Chad has a book with all of the same pictures, so he might be able to provide some more insight. Since I have only looked at these pictures on a computer monitor, he and I might have a little different take on things.

-Grey

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PostPosted: Wed 21 Jun, 2006 10:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have often wondered the same thing. I would think an undyed leather would be more common than the black leather that most modern reproductions come with. Just my thoughts, not based on anything, just a guess.

-James

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Wed 21 Jun, 2006 11:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greyson Brown wrote:
Chad has a book with all of the same pictures, so he might be able to provide some more insight. Since I have only looked at these pictures on a computer monitor, he and I might have a little different take on things.

-Grey


I looked through the first 20 folios (40 pages) and did quick counts of scabbards and grip colors. I may have missed some. Some of these are pure judgement calls (is it a black corded grip with white bands denoting the cording or a white grip with black showing the cording? Depended on the size of the bands. etc.)

Total swords shown with hilts not hidden behind people: 57
Number with grips obscured by mailed hands or ink smears: 26
Very dark (black?) corded grips: 9
Light corded grips (mostly white with black lines denoting cording): 6
White: 4
Brown corded: 3
Blue corded: 2
Red corded: 2
Black: 2
Very dark (could be black or really dark brown): 2
Light Brown corded: 1

Scabbards:
Brown: 12
Black: 8
White: 2
Blue: 1
Red/Orange: 1

Throughout the rest of the folios, brown scabbards pre-dominate by a huge margin. Toward the end of the book, black gets more popular. Grips in the rest of the book seem to most often be black corded or reddish-brown corded.

The illustrations were done circa 1250 in France at the court of St. Louis. With the age of the manuscripts and its travels through the centuries, it's hard to tell the difference between some blacks and what may be browns, etc.

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PostPosted: Wed 21 Jun, 2006 1:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the numbers, Chad. I think both green grips were after the half-way point, so that might be why you didn't list those.

You pointed out that there are quite a few grips that appear to be cord. I keep overlooking that possibilty for some reason. I also missed the blue grips somehow. Did you happen to keep track of which folio those were in?

You also mentioned that there were more reddish brown grips toward the end of the book. I think you are refering to the ones I called orange. Do I need to adjust my monitor a bit?

-Grey

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Wed 21 Jun, 2006 1:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greyson Brown wrote:
Thanks for the numbers, Chad. I think both green grips were after the half-way point, so that might be why you didn't list those.

You pointed out that there are quite a few grips that appear to be cord. I keep overlooking that possibilty for some reason. I also missed the blue grips somehow. Did you happen to keep track of which folio those were in?

You also mentioned that there were more reddish brown grips toward the end of the book. I think you are refering to the ones I called orange. Do I need to adjust my monitor a bit?

-Grey


The green grips I saw were later in the book than what I scanned through. Some of the cord or spirally wrapped grips appear in Folio 10 Verso and Folio 10 Recto. The blue corded grips and a blue scabbard are in Folio 11 Recto.

Either your monitor or my eyes need to be adjusted; maybe both. Happy There are colors in there that seem more true orange than those grips, so I called the grips reddish-brown. Others might call them orange or brown.

Happy

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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 21 Jun, 2006 4:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greyson and Chad,

Though I already had checked the Maciejowski Bible online yesterday, the list and colour break-down was useful. I also checked the Bayeux Tapestry, but it is unclear to me how reliable it is. Many of the swords appeared to have either tan, light brown or white grips in the "tapestry", but then again I've been told that my gamma settings on my computer are weird, so they might not actually appear to be those colours to others.

I recall that Albion has a bit of info about the grip of the Sword of St. Maurice of Turin. While it's a later weapon than I ideally wanted, it is still of interest from the grip colour. Here's what Albion's webpage says: "The grip is made of wood covered with thin, brown leather, parchment or possibly even linen, some of which has dried and peeled away during the centuries". I'm assuming that the leather is naturally brown and undyed, but only someone like Peter Johnsson might be able to confirm it one way or another.

Does Oakeshott ever mention grip colours in any of his books? Are there other surviving manuscripts that may be of use for info on grip colours?
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Wed 21 Jun, 2006 4:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Though I already had checked the Maciejowski Bible online yesterday, the list and colour break-down was useful.

Does Oakeshott ever mention grip colours in any of his books? Are there other surviving manuscripts that may be of use for info on grip colours?


What I counted in the Mac Bible is not quite half the folios. I did my quick-n-dirty calculations off 20 of the 46 folios.

Here's what I posted in another thread:

Quote:
Oakeshott does mention some swords with colored grips. A red one that had faded to pink comes to mind. I know that there are scabbards covered in other other colors (and other materials) as well.

Some more examples from Oakeshott: The Sancho IV of Castile (d. 1295) sword's scabbard is covered in "rose-coloured leather," according to Oakeshott. The belt is green bordered by red. The Fernando de la Cerda (d. 1270) sword's grip is bound with yellow-dyed silk cord, with an overbinding of red silk cord. The "Santa Casilda" sword's grip is bound with red leather as well. A Type XV from the mid-15th century has a grip of red velvet. Can Grande della Scala's sword had a grip bound in silver wire, overwrapped with green silk. Oakeshott's Type XIV sword Moonbrand had a grip of black leather though.

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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 21 Jun, 2006 4:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Craig Peters wrote:
Does Oakeshott ever mention grip colours in any of his books? Are there other surviving manuscripts that may be of use for info on grip colours?


Here's what I posted in another thread:

Quote:
Oakeshott does mention some swords with colored grips. A red one that had faded to pink comes to mind. I know that there are scabbards covered in other other colors (and other materials) as well.

Some more examples from Oakeshott: The Sancho IV of Castile (d. 1295) sword's scabbard is covered in "rose-coloured leather," according to Oakeshott. The belt is green bordered by red. The Fernando de la Cerda (d. 1270) sword's grip is bound with yellow-dyed silk cord, with an overbinding of red silk cord. The "Santa Casilda" sword's grip is bound with red leather as well. A Type XV from the mid-15th century has a grip of red velvet. Can Grande della Scala's sword had a grip bound in silver wire, overwrapped with green silk. Oakeshott's Type XIV sword Moonbrand had a grip of black leather though.


Thanks, I must have missed that. I wonder how consistent these grip colours on swords from later on are with earlier weapons?
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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jun, 2006 11:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was just looking trough the Maciejowski Bible today and in looking at the grip colors I noticed that the overwhelming majority of sword belts are white or natural leather color. Why is there so much color variation on grips and scabards but so little on the belts?
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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jun, 2006 11:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Shae Bishop wrote:
I was just looking trough the Maciejowski Bible today and in looking at the grip colors I noticed that the overwhelming majority of sword belts are white or natural leather color. Why is there so much color variation on grips and scabards but so little on the belts?


I believe white belts were a symbol and right of the knightly class.

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PostPosted: Fri 23 Jun, 2006 11:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Shae Bishop wrote:
I was just looking trough the Maciejowski Bible today and in looking at the grip colors I noticed that the overwhelming majority of sword belts are white or natural leather color. Why is there so much color variation on grips and scabards but so little on the belts?


I have a theory. Perhaps it is because belts get broken or wear out a lot more than grips and scabbards. So as a convenience you would not bother to put a lot of decoration or expense into them and instead just have a 'serviceable' belt that is cheap to replace. Like I said, it's a theory, but from personal experience I believe it's a good theory.
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PostPosted: Sat 28 Oct, 2006 12:28 pm    Post subject: Period Grip Colours         Reply with quote

Hello all!

I saw on the thread about period grip covers that someone wondered about grip colours used historically on medieval swords. I know some of this may have been discussed before, but I thought I might list everything I found in my personal library. That way, the information would be in once convenient place for discussion. I used both surviving period grips and grips shown in period art as sources. I hope someone finds this of interest.
Enjoy!

First, here's what I found in various books by Ewart Oakeshott:

A type X of the 11th or 12th century has its grip either bound with silver wire (what Oakeshott wrote in the caption to plate 2B in Swords in the Age of Chivalry) or with silver plate made to look like wire (what he wrote in the entry for the same sword, Multiple Miscellaneous 26, in Records of the Medieval Sword). Either way, it was silver, which might appear white in period art.

The sword of Sancho IV el Bravo of Castile of before 1298 (XII. 7 in Records) has no grip cover. Its grip is made of a dark, red-brown wood, inset with circular panels of glass bearing the quartered arms of Castile and Leon, alternating with smaller panels of chequy or and sable. Perhaps some, but certainly not all, brown grips in period art might depict uncovered wooden grips.

The sword of Fernando de la Cerda of before 1270 (XII. 5 in Records) has a grip bound with yellow silk cord, elaborately knotted with an elaborate overbinding of thicker red silk cord. Many 13th and 14th century English brasses show similar elaborately bound sword grips, some so ornate that the grip cover may have been of embroidered fabric. (The one on the brass of Sir Robert de Bures, 1302, in an example which may depict embroidery.)

The sword of Can Grande della Scala of before 1329 (XII. 6 in Records) had a grip bound with fine silver wire with an overbinding of green silk cord, but the cord has now mostly perished. Swords could indeed be found with wire grip bindings prior to the 15th century.

The so-called "Sword of Santa Casilda" of circa 1200-50 (XII. 15 in Records) has a grip bound with what was red, but is now pink leather, with a criss-cross overbinding of thin leather thongs secured with gilt pins. There were some questions about the grip's age, but Oakeshott was sure it was original. A nice colour painting of it appears in the frontpiece of Oakeshott's Sword in Hand.

A type XII sword with a hilt possibly dating to 1275-1340 (XII. 17 in Records) has a grip bound with copper-gilt wire and two broad collars. Some scholars have questioned the hilt's authenticity, but Oakeshott thought it was genuine. This would undoubtedly have been a striking gold colour when new!

A small "riding sword" of before 1319, probably once belonging to Don Juan el de Tarifa (XIIIb. 1 in Records) has a grip bound in twisted silver wire, another example of wire used before the 15th century.

Oakeshott's "Moonbrand", a type XIV of circa 1270-1320 (XIV. 7 in Records) has a grip bound in black leather that was once red. It once also had a spirally-wound thong, wire, or cord.

Another sword once owned by Oakeshott, a type XV of circa 1470-1500 (XV. 4 in Records) has a grip bound with worn red velvet with a criss-cross overbinding of silver wire.

Another type XV of circa 1480-1510 (XV. 10 in Records) has a grip bound with red cord with a complicated overbinding of thicker cord.

The sword of Estore Visconti, a type XV of before 1413 (XV. 13 in Records) has a grip bound with a single strand of twisted coper wire, still showing traces of gilding.

Another sword once owned by Oakeshott, a type XVIII of circa 1460-70 (XVIII 4 in Records) had a black leather cover, once red, over another cover that had once been a bright green. Oakeshott cut down the coarse stitching and removed the top cover. When he did this, the spots of bright green on the cover underneath gradually darkened to near-black.

A type XVIII of circa 1440-60 in the Wallace collection (XVIII. 8 in Records) has a grip of black horn.

The "Writhen Hilt" sword in the Royal Armouries collection (XVIII. 9 in Records) has an uncovered grip of a reddish-coloured hardwood with gold or gilded fillets.

A type XIX sword of circa 1460-80 (XIX. 6 in Records) has a grip covered in brown leather.

A small "riding sword" that Oakeshott placed as "Unclassified 4" in Records of the Medieval Sword has a bare grip of black wood, possibly ebony.

The sword of Edward III of after 1348 has a grip covered in adder skin with five fillets of gold.

A type XVIIIa sword of the first quarter of the 15th century shown in plate 43.B in Swords in the Age of Chivalry has a "hock-bottle" grip bound with leather (doeskin?) dyed green and tooled with a line of circles.

Here are a few surviving examples from other sources:

Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight by David Edge and John Miles Paddock shows a colour photo of the "Sword of St. Maurice" circa 1200-50 (or earlier?). The grip is covered in brown leather (or vellum?). The point is, the grip is brown!

Edged Weapons by Frederick Wilkinson shows a couple colour photos of surviving grips. One shows a landesknecht "katzbalger" sword with an original leather grip, coloured black. Another shows a German hand-and-a-half sword of the first quarter of the 16th century with a grip covered in black (or very dark brown) leather.

And here are some examples from period art:

An illustration of Walther von der Vogelweide (from the Manessa Codex, I believe) has a sword with a grip of tan or gold and a "spiral" of red lines, possibly a cord or thong.

The grip on the "sword bridge" in a 14th century manuscript of Sir Lancelot's exploits is gold, the same colour as the cross and pommel.

In a late 15th century (?) illustration of the Knights Hospitaller perparing to defend Rhodes from the Turks, all the sword grips shown are brown, matching the scabbards.
(The preceding three were found in Knights by Andrea Hopkins.)

Later medieval art provides us with more detail, and grip colours often become more clearly shown. A detail of the Heilsspiegelaltar, circa 1440, of Sabothais bearing water for King David, shows sword grips probably wrapped in gold or gilded wire. (The grips are gold coloured, and show fine lines.)

"St. George and the Dragon" by Roger van der Weyden, circa 1432, shows a black sword grip.

"The Garter Portrait of Frederigo di Montrefeltro, Duke of Urbino" shows a reddish grip cover with tassels top and bottom.

"St. George and the Dragon" by Friedrich Herlin, circa 1460, shows a gold or gilt grip.

A 15th century tapestry of a mounted knight with a banner shows a "white" grip (possibly silver wire) with a spiral overbinding of a gold or gilt wire.
(The preceding five were all found in Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight.)

"St. George and the Dragon" by the Master of Sierentz, circa 1450, shows a sword grip and rain guard of a bright red.

"St. Maurice" by Mathis Withart, circa 1525, wears a sword in its scabbard, both covered with a dark red or russet material.
(The preceding two were found in Paul Martin's Arms and Armour.)

Many other swords have grips that appear to be covered in black, dark brown, or some other dark coloured leather. The sword in the Met (type XIV. 1 in Records) appears to have a black grip cover. However, care must be taken when concluding what the original colour may have been. Some grips obviously darken with age and under certain conditions. What is black today might not have been black when it came from the cutlers. Still, black, brown, red, silver, and gold seem to be the most popular.

Does anyone know of any period examples (surviving or in art) that have a blue grip cover? (Blue just happens to be my favorite colour!)

I would love to see pictures of more examples, or even read about some different examples.

I hope someone found this information useful.

Stay safe!

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Pamela Muir




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PostPosted: Sat 28 Oct, 2006 1:22 pm    Post subject: Re: Period Grip Colours         Reply with quote

Richard Fay wrote:

I saw on the thread about period grip covers that someone wondered about grip colours used historically on medieval swords. I know some of this may have been discussed before, but I thought I might list everything I found in my personal library. That way, the information would be in once convenient place for discussion. I used both surviving period grips and grips shown in period art as sources. I hope someone finds this of interest.


Wow! Thank your for all those examples. I certainly do find it interesting.
Quote:

Does anyone know of any period examples (surviving or in art) that have a blue grip cover? !

I would be interested in knowing as well. I'm seriously considering blue for an upcoming project.

Thanks again!

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 28 Oct, 2006 2:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Richard and everyone,
This topic has been discussed before. You can try here:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=2631

This one covers grip colors and includes my counts of various grip and scabbard colors from the Maciejowski Bible, including ones done in blue:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=7119

Kind of related:
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=5785

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PostPosted: Sat 28 Oct, 2006 2:34 pm    Post subject: I should have known better         Reply with quote

Thank you, Chad. Blush
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PostPosted: Sat 28 Oct, 2006 2:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Richard and everyone,
This topic has been discussed before.

This one covers grip colors and includes my counts of various grip and scabbard colors from the Maciejowski Bible, including ones done in blue:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=7119


Thanks, Chad. I've taken the opportunity to merge the topics.

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PostPosted: Sat 28 Oct, 2006 2:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

Woah! Don't confuse me like that! WTF?! I was just going to respond to Chad's post, when the thread disappeared on me! It took me a few seconds to realize you guys merged the topics. Big Grin

My list did contain many "later medieval" examples, so I wasn't sure if it would fit into a thread about "early grip colours", but it doesn't really matter. I thought it was a bit broader than this thread, but what I posted is definitely related.

Sorry if it was inappropriate to start the topic in its own thread.

As I was going to say; yeah, I know some of this has been discussed before, but I thought I could make a fairly extensive list. I don't think many of these examples (certainly the later artworks) were discussed much if at all. I could probably find more examples in period art in some more of my books, but I actually have other things to do (like certain writing projects). Maybe I can add more later, I'll have to see!

I remember seeing the Maciejowski Bible thread with Chad's list (I've been lurking quietly a lot longer than I've been posting), but I forgot there was a blue one. Funny, blue seemed unpopular. Was blue dye expensive or fairly unavailable in the medieval period? What would be used, woad, indigo, or something like that? Probably been discussed before, I'm just wondering "aloud", as it were.

Stay safe!

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