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Peter Lyon
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Sep, 2017 10:21 am    Post subject: Translation of 10th century inlay inscription         Reply with quote

I have been approached to make "as new" replicas of two original 10th century northern European swords, and part of that is to research them as much as I can. Photos will follow once I have them, but one of the swords has the remains of very interesting inlay on one side of its blade. No inlay remains as far I can see (I was looking at the photos on a phone, so until I get the high-res I can't study in detail) but the letters are mostly quite clear:

LEVTRU or (more likely I think) LEVTRII

Has anyone run across an inscription similar to this before or have an idea of what it may mean? My first though is that the first three letters could mean "Leviticus" and refer to a passage in the bible, but knowing how arcane some of these contractions are, I could be wide of the mark.

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Mark Lewis





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PostPosted: Wed 27 Sep, 2017 11:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Peter,
Can you share the location of the originals that you are thinking of? I'm guessing one is the River Witham sword in the British Museum... There are two others that have the same inscription as this one, LEUTLRIT, with some letters upside down in each case - from Almetyevo in Russia, and from Tori, Estonia. This inscription is usually interpreted as being the name of the smith, something like "Leutfrit". These inscriptions are roughly contemporary with the better known smith-names Ulfberht and Ingelrii, and a couple other rarer names.

There are two others that have probably related inscriptions; another from England has LEVTERFECIT, ie. "Leuter made me", which more or less confirms that we are looking at a name of some kind. Lastly one from Poland may read EUITRIT, which seems garbled or incomplete.
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JG Elmslie
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Sep, 2017 12:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm very much inclined to agree with Mark's assessment - all indications of these is that they're a maker's name or brand identity, of sorts, albeit one not quite as conveniently detailed as "Gicelin me fecit", in IDing it on some of them.
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Peter Lyon
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Sep, 2017 10:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

These are both in a private collection, so as far as I know are unpublished and won't be widely known. I have permission to put out photos and will do so in the next few days.

Good thinking that the maker could be Leuter or something like that, though that would make the final couple of characters harder to interpret?

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Mark Lewis





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PostPosted: Fri 29 Sep, 2017 11:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Lyon wrote:
These are both in a private collection, so as far as I know are unpublished and won't be widely known. I have permission to put out photos and will do so in the next few days.

Good thinking that the maker could be Leuter or something like that, though that would make the final couple of characters harder to interpret?

Looking forward to seeing the photos then! Will be interesting if more examples can be added to this "family" of inscriptions. Happy

I suspect a precise letter-by-letter interpretation may be too much to ask for; there was no standardized spelling of names in these times, and even the most recognizable names (Ulfberht, Ingelrii, Gicelin) often include variations and idiosyncrasies in spelling. As J.G. says, at least some of these inscriptions seem to be more like "brand-names" than the signature of any one craftsman, and there are indications that these brands were imitated, often poorly... for example, there is one sword that has Ulfberht on one side and Ingelrii on the other - both misspelled.
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