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Robert B. Marks




Location: Kingston, Ont.
Joined: 04 Feb 2004

Posts: 82

PostPosted: Thu 29 Aug, 2013 7:46 am    Post subject: VIctorian replica/forgeries...         Reply with quote

Splitting off into its own topic as requested...

Patrick Kelly wrote:
Robert B. Marks wrote:

Just as an interesting bit of trivia that might muddy the waters a bit, balance is often used to figure out if a sword is real or a forgery.

I used to know a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum (the man who put a 650-year old sword in my hands and started my love of the things), and one of the things he told me was that the Victorians loved swords. They had an active sword industry that pumped out no shortage of forgeries. Unfortunately, while the Victorians were enthusiastic Medievalists, they were also rather bad at it. So, they were putting out swords that handled like bricks on sticks (I know first-hand - he put one in my hands).

Therefore, the first test of authenticity is handling - if it handles like a sword, it might be authentic. If it handles like a brick on a stick, it is probably a 19th century forgery.

(Possibly not entirely relevant, but interesting trivia all the same...)


Robert,

I think that's an over simplification of a subject that is rather complex in its own right. I've seen many Victorian copies of both weapons and armor. They range from very bad to really quite good. Many of them are indeed a "brick on a stick", but some are good enough that you'd never know it from their handling alone, which can be quite good. I've seen armor that was so good you'd really have to be informed on the specifics of Victorian copies not to be fooled. Regarding weapons, the two biggest tell tale signs always seem to be decoration and heat treatment. The ornamentation is always more simplified and less detailed than the medieval originals they were trying to imitate, and heat treatment is often totally lacking in many examples. There's also the light acid wash the Victorians usually insisted in putting on everything that's lends another indicator. Usually they seem to have been more concerned with producing something that would look good on a wall when viewed from ten feet away, rather than a usable recreation. There are some very good copies out there though.


Okay, I've got to ask - how is the handling on the good Victorian copies?

One of the reasons I ask is because we owe a lot of the quality of our sword industry today to the fact that people like Angus Trim and Peter Johnsson were doing a lot of work with the Medieval originals, learning how the harmonics work, and generally leading by example to raise everybody's game. Even so, we had to have been in the mid-1990s before we had sword replicas that could match the Medieval originals.

So how close did the Victorians get in the end?

(Sort of an interesting thought...a Victorian Angus Trim in a waistcoat measuring swords and vibrations on them...)

Robert Marks
Darksword Armory, Inc.
www.darksword-armory.com
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Lin Robinson




Location: NC
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PostPosted: Thu 29 Aug, 2013 11:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This comment is not in the same vein of course as it deals with a firearm but it does point out that Victorian copies can be quite good. In this case the copy is of an early 17th c. Scottish snaphaunce pistol. This one closely resembles one pictured in the Blair/Woosnam-Savage book on Scottish firearms. I think it does point out how clever Victorian craftsmen could be when the applied themselves. As we all know, not that many of them actually did.


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Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
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PostPosted: Thu 29 Aug, 2013 2:59 pm    Post subject: Re: VIctorian replica/forgeries...         Reply with quote

Robert B. Marks wrote:


Okay, I've got to ask - how is the handling on the good Victorian copies?

One of the reasons I ask is because we owe a lot of the quality of our sword industry today to the fact that people like Angus Trim and Peter Johnsson were doing a lot of work with the Medieval originals, learning how the harmonics work, and generally leading by example to raise everybody's game. Even so, we had to have been in the mid-1990s before we had sword replicas that could match the Medieval originals.

So how close did the Victorians get in the end?


The handling of better Victorian replicas mimics the handling of the originals they imitate. The overall proportions of their design tend to be very good. As I previously stated, when a closer examination is made of their aesthetics the differences become clear. Most Victorian repro blades I've handled will easily take a set, evidencing a lack of heat treatment. A few I've seen exhibited good HT, but they are in the minority. In terms of points of balance, nodes of vibration, distal and profile tapers, etc. The good ones are pretty spot on with the originals. The "brick on a stick" is more often found than not however. The fact that Victorian antique dealers had no qualms about mixing and matching replica parts with antique parts to produce items for sale further muddies the waters. They didn't care how the different components would effect the designs mechanics, only that a customer wanted a medieval sword. So an original blade and pommel might be assembled with a repro guard and grip, and presto change a medieval sword for the client. Since the client only wanted something to hang in his foyer it really didn't matter if the dealer had just assembled a brick on a stick.

Whether the good Victorian copies were made by a smith who had a knowledge and commitment to quality, or whether the end result was achieved by happenstance is impossible to know. However, I do think it's something of a modern conceit to assume no one working in ages past had the knowledge we do today. People like Angus and Peter have made great strides in creating a renaissance in the field and their contributions can't be understated. On the other hand, they have been aided immeasurably by something that didn't exist in ages past: the internet.

Modern communication has helped increase our collective knowledge level to an incredible degree and at an unprecedented rate. Today, it's a relatively simple thing to form a network of like minds for the sharing of information. Something not so easy to do in 1990, let alone 1890. So assuming the knowledge didn't exist prior to the modern era is a false assumption, in my opinion. Certainly not as widely known, or perhaps even cared about in the late nineteenth century, but the better replicas of the era seem to indicate someone knew something.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Thu 05 Sep, 2013 4:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Recent studies upon the Victorian/Edwardian arms collecting and historical martial arts scene seems to indicate that some people back then had begun to develop a very good appreciation of medieval and Renaissance arms, armour, and martial arts; even the fencing masters who were involved in martial arts recreations became increasingly less dismissive of medieval and Renaissance fighting skills as they extended the depth and breadth of their studies. I don't know how well they'd compare to the present HEMA scene and historical arms industry, but in any case it's pretty sad to see that the encouraging developments were lost at some point early in the 20th century -- perhaps under the general disillusionment brought about by the two World Wars.
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