'Bastard backswords'
Hi all,

I'm have a few questions about a sword design/profile that has been called the 'bastard backsword' - a straight, European-style sword that has an single edge for most of its length, but a sharpened false edge, from about the COP to the tip.

Some years ago, Angus Trim made a few of these (variously catalogued as AT1564, 1665, and 1566 - see sample images below; other and larger images can still be seen on the ASA Sworkworks site from that time: http://www.atrimasa.com/AT1440.html).

I was curious about their historical precedence. A fairly thorough search here and at SFI (using Google Advanced Search) found a couple of people asking the same question back then, but now answers.

I recently came across one historical example, number 1977-167-550 in the Philadelphia Museum of Art ([url]http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/162497.html?mulR=793|1[/url], image below):

Quote:
Hand-and-a-Half Sword
Made in the German-speaking lands

c. 1525-50

Artist/maker unknown, German or Austrian

(Blade) steel; (hilt) blackened iron, wood, leather replaced
Overall: 10 3/8 x 45 11/16 inches (26.3 x 116.1 cm)

* Gallery 249, Arms and Armor, second floor (Kretzschmar von Kienbusch Galleries)

1977-167-550
Bequest of Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch, 1977


So, to the questions:

- Do we have other historical examples of this type? (Note that I'm not asking about Swiss sabres or langes messers with false edges).
- Do we have any documentation/discussion about this type at all? Oakeshott has a discussion about Swiss sabres in European weapons and armour: From the renaissance to the industrial revolution, but I don't recall him talking about 'bastard backswords'.
- Is there a better / more accurate / period name for them?
- Is anyone else currently making them?
- What do you see as the pros and cons of such a design in terms of handling, techniques, efficiency, etc?

Any reflections or feedback appreciated; speculation more appreciated if flagged as such! :D

Cheers,

Mark T


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1977-167-550deriv (Philadelphia Museum of Art) 'Bastard backsword' large.jpg
1977-167-550, Philadelphia Museum of Art

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AT1566 Bastard Backsword

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AT1564 Bastard Backsword
Excellent topic, I am very excited to see what comes up as these are one of my favorite types of sword. Here is an example that is more thrust oriented. http://www.vikverir.no/ressurser/usages_mythe...mp;page=17 I am sure that there are a few more here: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...light=xiii There is also a thread here about single-edged swords
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...ingleedged
I find that the great advantage of a single edged design is that one can better combine extreme stiffness with an edge acute enough to cut, thus the great popularity of isoceles triangular sections in daggers. I imagine that those examples with a back edge would perform in combat and use the same techniques as a double edged longsword. I just finished cutting out a blank from a truck leaf spring that will be a single edged longsword, I am going to begin forging today. I really don't like the term "bastard backsword." The term "backsword" originated about mid-16th century and most of the swords of the type under discussion were late 15th-early 16th. As far as I know, there was no period term for these swords, and if you showed one to a 16th-century warrior or sword maker and asked him what it was, he would probably just call it a "longsword." Perhaps we can come up with a better terminology that we can all agree on. Great topic Mark.
I love these, too. There are MANY beautiful examples. Here's a relatively plain Museum of London piece I find especially appealing because it's within reach as a project if I can just find a Windlass backsword blade. (another one, actually, because I used to own exactly the blade I need!)


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Sean, I really like that one too. It looks very cut-oriented. Any idea what the measurements might be? 80-90cm blade 4cm wide sound about right? I have recently been forging spherical pommels, if I can get making crosses with side rings down, that one might be doable for me. I ended up forging my single-edger into a double-edger, but I still have the other half of the spring to work with. I cut the spring in half lengthwise diagonally, so to get parallel back and edge I would have to forge the tip down really thin. Maybe 3.5-4cmx6mm at the base to 3-3.5cmx2mm 3-5cm back from the tip. Do those sound like reasonable measurements to you? I can't wait for these burns to heal ( I made a really rookie mistake a couple days ago) so I can get back to the forge!
Scott Woodruff wrote:
Sean, I really like that one too. It looks very cut-oriented. Any idea what the measurements might be? 80-90cm blade 4cm wide sound about right? I have recently been forging spherical pommels, if I can get making crosses with side rings down, that one might be doable for me. I ended up forging my single-edger into a double-edger, but I still have the other half of the spring to work with. I cut the spring in half lengthwise diagonally, so to get parallel back and edge I would have to forge the tip down really thin. Maybe 3.5-4cmx6mm at the base to 3-3.5cmx2mm 3-5cm back from the tip. Do those sound like reasonable measurements to you? I can't wait for these burns to heal ( I made a really rookie mistake a couple days ago) so I can get back to the forge!


I don't think I have any measures on that one, but I'll check. The gauntlet is helpful--the distance across the knuckles of a closed adult fist is ~10 cm. Allow for a glove, space and plate, and you'll probably get a useful scale.

By the way, you can get partly-drilled spherical pommels from Alchem for about $15.
Scott and Sean - thanks for those leads. If anyone has other examples they'd like to post, I'd be very thankful. And does anyone know of versions currently being produced? So far, I've only come across the old ATrims ...
Elmslie Typology classify this weapon as a Falchion type F5b0.

Yeah... it's a Falchion, can you believe it?? XD
It is only a falchion because Elmslie decided to call it a falchion. It is not a falchion; it is a type of bastard sword or long sword. A typology is useless if it makes no sense and nobody uses it.

Thanks for the bump, Hellen. Perhaps it will remind people about this thread and we will see more photos of these swords.
Dan Howard wrote:
It is only a falchion because Elmslie decided to call it a falchion. It is not a falchion; it is a type of bastard sword or long sword. A typology is useless if it makes no sense and nobody uses it.

Thanks for the bump, Hellen. Perhaps it will remind people about this thread and we will see more photos of these swords.


Having recently collected a fairly large volume of data on the Museum Of London single-edged sword... I call it a single-edged sword.

I havent described it as a falchion.
In fact, the more work I do, the less I use the word falchion at all - even for those like Cluny, Conyers, or Thorpe.

at some point, I hope that the fuller version of the typology will get through a peer review purgatory for academic publication, but the principal reason it is not in use is that it has not been published in anything but a greatly abridged version in the Solingen "Das Schwert" exhibition catalogue. Since I hope you've not got a backdoor to my hard drive, I doubt you're one of the dozen or so people who's read the actual academic paper on it. What is out there is a couple of youtube videos other people have made, when they asked, where I helped out with some advice, the aforementioned solingen catalogue, and possibly recording of one of a few academic talks I've given. Nothing more than that.


but as a very brief summary, since it appears to make no sense for you, let me explain:

I denoted the blades as F/Mn, where F denoted a falchion style single-edged blade, with a sword-like hilt assembly - that of a cross, hilt and pommel, with a tang longitudinally passing through each, and M denoted a messer-like hilt assembly - that of a cross, possibly incorporating a transverse side-guard which pierces the blade, for the nagel, scale grips, and the optional inclusion of an end-cap. F was simply chosen as it was originally a study of falchions. A final print version of the typology may yet shift from Fn to Sn, to denote sword-like. When I get more critique from my peers, its very likely that might change.

as the work has progressed, with the study of this one in the MoL, the wakefield hangar group, (IX.144, IX.2639 in the royal armouries, and the 5 others in other collections like the Fitzwilliam), the ex-howard curtiss single-edged sword, the Bankside Sword, NMS K2007.210 and the partial Devizes sword #1977.36 in Wiltshire heritage museum, just to list some of those of origin in the british isles, have helped blur the distinction to the point I personally no longer use the F/M distinction and simply consider them all "single-edged swords".

And that's before you even start with things like the group comprising of St Annen StAM X1979.1, and the Wallace Collection A476, which are described as a messer, and a longsword respectively despite being almost exactly the same weapon...

Hence the F/M memonic is almost only used as a cataloguing notation to identify hilt construction, not as a classification to group the single-edged arms as Falchions.
Thanks for the clarification James. It makes more sense now. You can't make a post like that without some pics. What photos do you have to show us?

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