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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Jan, 2019 11:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Type 5

Cross section becomes thicker diamond still, very thick ricasso. Blade has no edge. Pure thrusting rapier. Very stiff. Light and so not blade heavy at all.1620/30


And a spread of examples of 1-5 left to right to give an idea of comparative size.



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Kai Lawson




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Jan, 2019 8:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That last photo is perfect. What a nice spread. It’s helps put them all in perspective too. That first Type 1 looks nearly like a side sword!
"And they crossed swords."
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Fri 01 Feb, 2019 10:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Kai. Yes the first one on the left is a good example of the question of what is a rapier. It has a rapier hilt, and it is in some ways rapier dimensions and handling.

But it is also very like many other double edged cut and thrust swords. In some ways so are the other type 1 edged rapiers I have seen but the difference I think is in the additional length and the blade heavy balance. They seem more designed for a specialist purpose or fencing style. Whereas that first one is more of a general swept hilt sword. That's what I find interesting - the variance and the cross-overs.
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PostPosted: Sat 09 Feb, 2019 1:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

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Sam Gordon Campbell




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Feb, 2019 5:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I just have to ask, because what is up with the English and just wacky looking hilts? I mean they are quite cool, but they almost look like fantasy rapiers!
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Fri 15 Feb, 2019 3:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Sam

Some English rapiers of that period do look quite distinct from other rapier types. The black hilted English one with the mesh guard and the bars which connect top to bottom in almost a rectangle is unusual. It was sold at Christies many years before I acquired it and the specialist at the auction house noted it was an unusual feature, although the rest of the hilt is fairly typical of lightweight rapiers of the period.

The rapier with the steel bar blade and chequered pattern pommel and plates looks exotic but is a good example of a very English type adopted after swept hilts and before English dish hilts and mortuary-type hilts on cut and thrust swords came in. You can almost see the mortuary shape if you compress the bars together and flatten the guard in your mind (unless I am crazy !).


English rapiers in the early 17th century took a bit of an independent path from the rest of Europe I think. When types started to diverge from the swept hilt, in Europe you see the emergence of Pappenheimer and cup-hilt forms and other variants. I England you see the emergence of very light flat dish-hilts (like the petal guard one shown) with no knucklebow which have curled quillons and look a bit 'fantasy). I have had 4 of this type and none weighed more than 850g. You also have the English dish-hilts or 'Cavalier' type hilts with a knucklebow that you find on both lighter and longer bladed rapiers and shorter, more robust cut and thrust swords. But they are in my experience heavier than the simple dish-hilts with no knucklebow. The style of hilt of these then develops into the mortuary English hilt. The English dish-hilts also tend to be not that long: 371/2-40 inches from the guard (generally, I say, as as soon as you say that you find 10 examples that disprove the rule!).


England also developed the weird chiselled decorative style of the mortuary and early transitional rapier hilts of 1640s to 1660s, with the slightly haunting human faces and figures. I have a good transitional rapier in this style I got recently. Very distinct and slightly querky English style again.


But they do have a style of their own certainly. One of my friends had an English dish-hilt rapier which I nearly bought from him, and looking back probably should have. which had a pineapple theme throughout the hilt - pommel, guard, finials on the bars. It really was whacky, but a beautifully made sword.


Last edited by Daniel Parry on Sat 16 Feb, 2019 2:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 15 Feb, 2019 5:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One thing that makes rapiers from this time period so interesting is the fact that there are swords with broader, diamond blades (your Type 3) that clearly can be used as military weapons and have obvious antecedents with medieval blades like Oakeshott Type XV and XVIII.

Here's a fine example from the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nürnberg.



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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sat 16 Feb, 2019 9:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, I think that goes back to the question of what is a rapier. It's almost like don't judge a sword by its hilt. I think the breadth of style and function of these swords is wider than sometimes attributed. There are swords which appear civilian in use and possibly designed partly for duelling, swords in between that and military or at least more general use, and ones with rapier like hilts and appearance which are possibly military. Making clear distinctions is sometimes difficult. The military rapier or musketeer rapier I posted photos of has a very rapier-like blade with not much of an edge but is shorter and much more solid than most rapiers. Equally you find rapiers with an edge all along the blade, which are very different in potential function in terms of fencing style from the same period and they can be light-weight or heavier more robust swords closer to medieval swords in dimensions and handling. .


I think we have a love of categorising and compartmentalising things as I have been guilty of here but the reality is more fluid. I wonder often to what extent sword buyers at that time specified dimensions, type of blade and balance etc. Given they are so variable there seems to be potential for customer choice. But maybe not. Most of the English rapier blades I have had have Solingen marks just as the European ones do which are of different design. I wonder to what extent the blades were made for a specific market ?


I think what you are saying, Craig, is best illustrated in early 16th century swords. You see many examples of that period both in dimensions and balance and hilt design which are right in the middle of the medieval sword and the rapier. A friend picked up a beautiful early 16th century ring hilted one handed sword last year, it is light but a cut and thrust sword and it just sits in between whether it is a late medieval sword or an early rapier.
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sat 16 Feb, 2019 9:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I also realised how old my photo on this site is ! Add a beard and about 30lb. I was that young once. Big Grin
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Mar, 2019 5:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Continuing the theme of development of types, two examples of the last days of the rapier blade in the form of a transitional rapier and transitional smallsword. The difference between the two namings as far as I am concerned is they are transitional and one is closer to a rapier and one is closer to a smallsword overall.

First: English transitional rapier c.1660. This is one I recently acquired. It is a good example of its type. It has the characteristic grotesque figurehead work in that slightly rough style that is seen often in English mortuary swords. This is a distinct example in a transitional rapier. One of the advantages of this is that it dates it quite well at around 1660 or possibly a bit earlier putting it at the start of the transitional rapier period.


Blade is narrow type 2, the most long lived of the blade types I think and common in transitional rapiers which are the last form of rapiers.


Weight: 600gr
Blade length from guard: 331/2 inches
Slighly blade heavy as are almost all transitional rapiers I have handled of this period.



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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Mar, 2019 5:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Second a transitional smallsword, about 20-30 years after the transitional rapier above. Blade is very rapier in form (narrow type 2 typical of this type and the last era of rapier blades) but getting shorter (30 1/2 inches) and the grip and quillons and shells are taking on the early features of the smallsword. Decoration is baroque and very well chiselled.

Apologies for the computer cables.

Weight: 349gr
Still a bit blade heavy but due to overall lightness of the sword and shorter dimensions it is hardly noticeable compared to the previous transitional rapier



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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sat 28 Sep, 2019 2:18 pm    Post subject: Spanish shell hilt         Reply with quote

A recent acquisition. Spanish shell guard cuphilt late 17th century. A good example of the type 2 blade and how it became narrower as the 17th century went on. The blade of this rapier is also shorter than earlier ones at 38 inches from the guard. The rapier is very light at 840 grammes, This I think is an example of where the rest of Europe was tending to go with the transitional rapier, shorter and lighter than earlier rapiers, and then the smallsword, as new styles of fencing emerged, but the Spanish maintained their use of rapier style swords. However many (not all) became shorter and lighter than previously.

Good chiselling on the hilt, copper wire grip and decorative guarda polvo. I don't see that many with their guarda polvo intact..



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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Fri 21 Feb, 2020 11:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel, if you ever have time I think many of the rapier fencers would be interested in how the thickness varies from the point to the cross. You could add your collection to the articles by Fortner and Schrattenecker and by Vauthier

Oh, and when you measure blade length from the "guard" do you mean the cross or the forward-most shell or ring? The former is better for comparisons but it would get tricky with some of these shell-hilts Sad

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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Mon 24 Feb, 2020 3:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Sean

I am happy to provide any dimensions requested. I am adding some more to my collection this year and can include those. When I say from the guard I mean the most forward part of the guard so if its a cuphilt the top of the cup, if it's a swept hilt, the uppermost side ring that goes round the side of the blade at the top of the ricasso.

It's an interesting question you ask because one of the things most distinct to me when comparing original rapiers with modern reproductions, is that the blades of the originals in many cases get very much thicker in cross section in the last quarter of the blade towards the hilt. And the ricasso is in many cases a pretty big cuboid chunk of steel compared with reproductions which (in my limited experience) are slimmer and thinner. This may well be because of the different qualities of modern and period steel, and possibly the greater strength of modern steel means you don't need the thickness. But it does to me influence the balance and the feel of the sword. As I struggle to resolve myself, there are so many different dimensions and levels of flexibility vs rigidity, edge and point vs just point, that its difficult to categorise.

I would say as a generalisation there is huge distal tapering from guard to point in most 16th century rapiers from thick at the forte to fairly waifer thin in the last 6 inches. This is where the blade had both thrust and cut purpose (if anyone doubts the cut aspect of this period of rapier they are welcome to run their hand quickly up the edge of some of mine - even after 400 years or so I have a few you need to be slightly careful when you oil them)

For the 17th century it all gets messy. The thrusting rapiers have a substantial narrowing and distal thinning from guard to point, but still thicker at the point than the previous century (the blades being very thick and almost square section in many cases at the forte). The rigidity of the blade is kept generally by a thick forte with I-beam fuller and the cross section of the last third of the blade being thinner but also narrow and thick diamond section (so like a knitting needle). So the rigid vs flexible qualities of the blades are maintained by the cross section as much as the degree of thinning. There are various examples of 17th century flexible rapiers which cut as well as thus and those have profiles more akin to 16th century rapiers but lighter.

I keep records of most of the dimensions and weights and balance points of the swords I have but I would be happy to get a caliper out and add those dimensions too.

D
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Mon 24 Feb, 2020 3:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By the way Sean, I totally agree that measuring from the cross is the better way from the point of assessing the dynamics of the blade and sword, but as you rightly point out, with a shell or cup hilt and even more so with a 7-ring rapier hilt, it becomes a somewhat more tricky issue so I adopt the lazier, antique collector's approach of measuring from the last bit that's in the way !
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 24 Feb, 2020 8:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel,

As a way to illustrate blade thickness at the hilt, you might consider taking photos of each of your rapiers with a ruler in place that shows precisely how thick the blade is. That way, viewers can see both the measurement and the apparent width thickness in the photos.

Also, what classification from Norman would the various hilts of your rapiers fall under? Maybe giving a bit of explanation why you say so would be good, especially for those who don't have the book.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Tue 25 Feb, 2020 8:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There was a good thread some years ago where a few makers basically said "yes, to make a proper rapier blade you need to start with 9 mm or 10 mm stock or you need to forge it, but those are expensive solutions. We do the best we can given our customers' budgets and our customers' idea of what a rapier is." I wish I could find it.

I think that the rapier fans would be happy if you gave the following six measurements for each blade:
Overall length
Blade length
Mass
Blade thicknesss (edit: and possibly width?) (and cross section ie. "square, flattened diamond, hexagonal, hexagonal with fuller") at the guard
Blade thickness (edit: and possibly width?) a few cm from point
If possible: Blade thickness 20% of the blade's length from the guard to the point

That is enough to be compatible with Fortner and Schrattenecker (ie. answer "does Parry no. 1234 have the extreme distal taper of KHM A. 567"), but much less work.

Its too bad that "The Rapier and Small-Sword, 1460-1820" is out of print again (Ayer Company Publishers reprinted it in 2009 but they don't seem to exist any more). Not many libraries have it, and used copies are selling for 250 Euros and up.

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Michael P. Smith




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Feb, 2020 5:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel, you collection is amazing and thank you for sharing your knowledge.
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Feb, 2020 11:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

OK, you guys are hard task masters you know ! Only kidding. So I have a job of work to do, which makes sense as this site is about learning, and setting this info out will be as useful to me probably as to anyone else. I will set it out in a table on Excel so people can play with numbers.

So I will set out:

Probable date
Probable Norman category - some clear, some in betweeners
Length
Mass
Width at top of guard
Width at mid-point
Width at 2 inches from the point (I would say 2 inches as anything closer is subject to the acute narrowing of some blades and doesn't give a feel of the taper overall).
Thickness at top of guard
Thickness at mid-point
Thickness at 2 inches from the point
Width of ricasso
Length of ricasso (subject to calipers reaching round the bars etc)
Thickness of ricasso
Makers marks and signatures
Balance point
Comments on rigidity (I was discussing with a collector the other day how you can almost feel the thrust vs cut purpose in them with your eyes shut as you feel the balance and the vibration and movement of them).

Would that be useful ?

It's a shame if Norman isn't in print. I hadn't thought of that. It's a great book. I have a collector friend, who is in his 80s now, who is actually coming to stay at my house on Friday as I help him with his stall at the London A&A Fair which is on Saturday, who I was discussing with what AV Norman category a sword hilt he had was a few years back, and I said how was he so sure, and he replied because he showed it to Norman (about 50 years ago) and he told him. I pretty much backed away arms out-stretched and bowing as I went !

I try to buy any books I can - I trawl Amazon in the UK as some second hand book sellers sell these out of print books for not much more than the postage. I buy them simply because they may have a few photos or a few pages on something you haven't seen before. Likewise small museums - I went to Verona 2 years ago and they had a small A&A collection but one of the best preserved 14th century swords I had ever seen with its scabbard with coloured leather and mountings and coloured silk grip binding. Some local historian had done a pamphlet which was for sale in the reception on the arms and armour in the museum, which I bought because I am not going find that commentary or those photos of pieces anywhere else. OK it was a short pamphlet and the guy didn't have great photograph equipment, but total respect to him for doing it and adding to the corpus of knowledge. The lady at the desk smiled and said not so many people buy this book !

Musts from my point of view:

Wallace collection catalogue - second hand - a great book
Price Guide to Antique Edged Weapons - second hand - again great reference (one of mine is in there)
Old Lyle's guides but the photos aren't great. I used to read those as a boy and dream about the pieces my lawn-mowing money would stretch to.

I will do the table.

D
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 26 Feb, 2020 1:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:

Its too bad that "The Rapier and Small-Sword, 1460-1820" is out of print again (Ayer Company Publishers reprinted it in 2009 but they don't seem to exist any more). Not many libraries have it, and used copies are selling for 250 Euros and up.


Oddly enough, I bought a copy in January of this year; it cost me $175 USD.
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