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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Wed 11 Mar, 2020 10:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I said my maths was rusty - I didn't realise how much (that was embarrassing!)
Yes, of course, it's the square of the total distance not the change. So while the effect is still larger than it would be if it were linear, it's much smaller than I at first said.

Oops!
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Mar, 2020 1:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Andrew,

Nothing to be ashamed of, we've all got rusty bits Happy

The discussion has shone a light upon some shortcomings of my tools, and I'm grateful for that!

Regards,

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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sat 14 Mar, 2020 12:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks both for your input - this is really productive and fascinating as you two are better at the maths and science of this than me. It makes me realise I need to understand a lot more about the maths behind the dynamics calculations.

I would agree that I think the shifting of the hilt up or down the blade is a different effect on handling than the grip. How big the effect on shifting the grip is is questionable but certainly with my simple practical experiment it felt quite different. I also think, as Andrew said, that telling whether a blade had been shortened and if so when and why would be very difficult indeed. Perhaps with the right optical tools (my magnifying glass and loupe did not show anything conclusive) you could tell if it had been filed but this does not tell you why or when.

However the hooked finger grip is key, definitely. A smallsword grip is slightly different, I think, where pinching the finger and thumb around the top of the quillon block/ricasso and within the pas d'ane feels right with the very light and shorter nature of the swords. I have never handled an original rapier, however, where anything other than a hooked finger with the thumb joining/overlapping the finger on the other side feels right. The solidity of the grip, the balance, the control and the feeling of where the point is just comes alive. As I said above, it is noticeable when friends or guests want to have a play with my collection (which they often do !) and hold the rapier either in a fencing grip or just hammer grip the first reaction is 'Crikey it's heavy' or 'How do you use this'. As soon as I adjust their grip their face changes and they are like 'wow . now it makes sense'.

Vincent - I imagine when you change to two fingers over the ricasso, it relieves a tired hand but you lose the sense of point control somewhat.

The other factor which I was going to raise re dynamics and sword and blade type/mass, is the use of the left hand dagger. I am not sure how many historical fencing clubs adopt this style, but certainly for rapiers up to the early 17th century it was very common and lends itself to not only a different fencing style but also different requirements as to the agility and weight and dimensions of the rapier. I know there is discussion in late 16th century rapier texts and pictorial examples (particularly in Capo Ferro) of fencing without the dagger, a pre-cursor to the later in tempo fencing style, but I think the rapier and dagger combination was certainly very common if not the norm.

It would be interesting to hear HEMA fencers' view on this - whether they practice it commonly vs only rapier and what differences to the dimensions of the ideal blunt it creates versus only rapier. I think that distinction also contributes to the change in size, weight and style of many rapiers from c1610/1620 onwards. I saw the other day an old film footage of Aldo Nadi fencing rapier and dagger (with lighter weapons than the originals I think) and was struck by how different it is and the different requirements for the movement of the rapier - the reach is important but the amount of movement of line and angle and wrist work seems a lot less than fencing with only the rapier - people may disagree who have more historical fencing experience ?
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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Mon 16 Mar, 2020 6:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi everyone

Rapier-and-dagger fencing is not something I've done to any extent, but the general consensus among fencing-masters like Alfieri, Cappoferro and even George Silver is that fencing with a single sword teaches all the principles of line, cover and measure that you'll also need for doing sword-and-dagger, and that the latter is actually easier, because you have a second weapon with which to close off another line of attack. This is actually more or less a paraphrase of what Alfieri wrote (at least, assuming that google-translate didn't let me down - it's incredible that it can take mid-17th century italian, and render it into more or less comprehensible modern english!)

I must admit, from my very few experiments, that they seem to all assume a degree of ambidexterity that I lack! But then, I was certainly less than proficient in the rapier to begin with, which would make things much more difficult. So they probably knew what they were talking about. I was similarly baffled by medieval sword-and-buckler (probably the last holdover of my mild coordination problems during childhood). For what it is worth (big pinch of salt in order!), I found that thrusting attacks seemed more natural, otherwise I had to keep the dagger out of the way to avoid self-damage, and only use it when I saw an opening (if I didn't forget it was there!)

George Silver mentions that if you want to use it defensively, you need to have a hilt (I presume he means a complex guard) on your dagger, and indeed many of the left-handed parrying daggers that I've seen have this feature (which makes sense, as the blade is much shorter than the rapier, even for the looong 60-cm bladed daggers, and the off-hand and wrist will therefore be vulnerable.)

It might be worth having a look at Bolognese sword-and-buckler to see how the off-hand weapon is treated there (if I recall correctly, a dagger was sometimes used in lieu of a buckler in that system, though I know almost nothing else of that school of fencing.) But there must still be some people here who do rapier-and-dagger fencing - hopefully some of them will chime in.

Hmm.. a last thought:
Having a shorter dagger in your off-hand would probably counteract some of the disadvantages of having a more thrust-oriented sword in a general fracas.

Regards

Andrew
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Mar, 2020 2:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi all,

There is a fair amount of rapier and dagger in HEMA circles. I've done a little bit of it myself. I don't recall anyone commenting that rapier and dagger might ask for different properties compared to sword alone. In my experience, the dagger indeed lets you use sword positions that would be unsafe otherwise, for example retracting the sword as can be seen here. In that sense you could say that it might let you use a heavier sword to good effect, but in practice you still need agility just as much as in sword alone once you extend to attack and counter.

The Aldo Nadi video shows a reinvented sword and dagger style created by French fencers Dubois and Lacaze a bit before 1925, which should more properly be called foil and dagger (they would be very much lighter than original rapiers indeed) and is quite at odds with historical rapier and dagger use in some places. Although they were inspired by history, their stated goal was to extend the contemporary method of fencing with a degree of ambidexterity to bring better physical development. Not quite the concern 16th century fencers had Happy

Many of the early parrying daggers were with a simple hilt, with at most a side ring on the quillons. Despite Silver's dislike I've found these to be quite helpful already - not sure how objective Silver was in his assessment, as always. These daggers are also used in Bolognese fencing.

A huge effect daggers have on the dynamics of fight is that they make it very risky to close and grapple. In that sense yes they do compliment longer swords better, as they patch a gap in their defence: if you have a shorter sword it is tempting to try and rush past the rapier's point, but you don't want to that and land on a dagger.

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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Mar, 2020 2:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for that. Yes the Nadi film did look to be using lighter weapons.

Interesting thing about left hand daggers. I was at the house of a friend, who is a collector and dealer, who has a display of about 60 left hand daggers on his wall next to the fireplace. Some have the more elaborate guard hilts you see on some Spanish versions and some have longer quillons and a couple with 'blade catcher' spikes coming out from the guard. But most are like the ones we see most commonly - fairly simple with a side ring (maybe one on the other side too but not usually).

The thing that struck me was the size. Many are a good size - blades 8-12 inches - the sort of 'comfort' size I would want if using them to parry. But many are quite small - blades of no more than 6 inches. Then my thought was is it a case of, like rapier hilts, of there being a common pattern to dagger hilts of this period and some were left hand daggers and some were smaller general use knives of daggers not meant for left hand parrying work. Or is it that you don't need a long dagger blade for it to act as a left hand dagger. The ones I see at fairs and in museums also seem to vary a lot, with a fairly large proportion being quite modest in size.

D
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Mar, 2020 12:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Daniel,

I would say it is likely that ease of carry was also a consideration here. As far as I've seen left hand daggers were often carried on the small of one's back, and certainly a huge blade with a very covering guard will be quite inconvenient there in one's daily life. So on one hand, you may not want to always carry the fully-fledged parrying dagger, and on the other hand you may not want to be caught in some affray without any dagger. A smaller one with a less obstructive hilt is definitely going to be better than nothing!

It's somewhat analogue to how inner guards on swords remained less developed and smaller, in many examples. It's not that it's optimal for the job, it's also a compromise with the needs of daily carry.

These are important considerations for any sidearm, but probably even more so for weapons adapted to civilian life like rapiers and daggers.

Best regards,

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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Thu 19 Mar, 2020 3:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Daniel and Vincent

Daniel, it is interesting that some of the daggers are so small. I think that Vincent's suggestion that they are better than nothing is a good one; it also depends on how the dagger is intended to be used. Certainly, I'd not want to parry with such a short dagger if I could avoid it! But it can do little harm in a fight if a short dagger is held in the left hand, and at the very least, it deters one's opponent from rushing in, and might even catch a blade as a last resort. Definitely better than nothing, and the only disadvantage is not being able to use the left hand to grapple (which can easily still be done by dropping the dagger, if it is really advantageous to do so). A small dagger can also easily be thrown as a distraction (George Swetham recommends doing this if you drop your rapier and need a moment to recover it)

One thing that I've seen in several texts (mostly not rapier, admittedly) was the idea of using the sword to parry, then transferring control to the dagger once the swords are in contact - this has the advantage that you're not trying to intercept a fast-moving blade with a very short piece of steel.

I went back and re-read what Silver had to say about the off-hand dagger; he actually approves of it, and his comments about it requiring a hilt in order to parry are reserved to when facing a person with a long rapier and dagger. Interesting, as it again shows that despite his xenophobia and personal bias, he is aware of the danger of facing a long blade; particularly to the dagger hand and arm in this case. He also provides advice on countering cuts to the head with the rapier (so evidently this was not an uncommon technique - hardly surprising, given what we know from the Italian and german rapier manuals, but nice to get yet another confirmation.)

Just for comparison, I looked at Silver's contemporary George Swetnam, who was as strongly pro-rapier as Silver was against it, and much preferred the thrust over the cut. Interestingly, he gives much the same advice that Silver gives on dealing with a rapier and dagger if armed with a backsword and dagger; you need to keep the dagger out of the way until the sword has control of the rapier blade, then you can transfer control quickly to the dagger and attack with the sword. Again, even paired with the rapier, he favours a complex hilted dagger (but I suspect that the clumsiness of carrying such a weapon around in addition to a rapier, as well as the fact that they are less useful as a general-purpose knife, probably made them less popular). Apparently some things in fencing were more or less universally applicable, despite large differences in philosophy.

Its good to start getting back into the original sources. I need to go and re-read some of the other manuscripts and manuals for their comments on rapier and dagger...

Andrew

Edit:
I've not studied Swetnam as much as I should have before. It seems his root weapon(s) are rapier and dagger rather than rapier alone, so he's worth looking at in this context.

I need to look into why it is safer to keep the dagger-hand forward if you are both using longer weapons...
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Mar, 2020 2:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting. I am partly persuaded by the size is convenient argument but not 100% getting there. Not dismissing it at all, just thinking. Yes, they were carried behind in the small of the back. But would there be such a difference in inconvenience between a smaller 6 inch blade dagger and a 10 inch dagger, or smaller or larger quillons or guards ? I guess there could be. Fair enough. But if you were carrying a long rapier on your hip anyway, would it make that much difference ?

It could be that it was the 'better than nothing' solution when walking round town or going out drinking. I guess my thought about that is, as we discussed before re the diversification of rapiers in the 17th century, when you find ones more clearly purposed towards duelling or more general use, or perhaps different fencing styles in the lighter rapiers from 1620/30 onwards, there are several I have seen or handled which definitely seem to be more a rapier for walking round town or court (decorative perhaps and smaller/lighter). Which I suppose ultimately resulted in transitional rapiers and smallswords. But 16th century ones seem more of close group in size and style. I may well be proved wrong (and happy to be), but there doesn't to me seem much of a distinction in length or size of hilts in 16th century rapiers so I guess then we would be saying they used a smaller dagger about town for convenience, but didn't scale down the rapier. Perfectly possible. I guess I would be happier of both were of a more convenient size - about town set and other set ?

I think there is something definitely worth considering in Andrew's point about original source material, and exactly how the dagger was used and whether length was actually that important.

But actually (I am thinking as I write this which is why it's such a rambling post) I think also we could be getting to the same point through different thought processes. You may be saying that a big left hand dagger is inconvenient, so I carry a smaller left hand dagger about town which, in a pinch, is better than nothing, but it's still a left hand dagger. But if I fight a duel I bring my 'purpose built' left hand dagger probably. I may be saying I have a 'purpose built' left hand dagger, but I also have a general use smaller dagger with a side ring which I carry about town (and which I might not think of as a left hand dagger specifically) but, in a pinch, I could use it as a left hand dagger. It sort of comes to the same thing in the end doesn't it.

Vincent - when you say inner guards weren't as developed as they could be - could you expand on that a bit ? Do you mean guards generally could have been bigger/different and better suited to purpose but weren't for convenience, or do you mean there is a specific type of rapier where the guards were not developed as much as they could be ?

D
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Mar, 2020 5:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Parry wrote:
Vincent - when you say inner guards weren't as developed as they could be - could you expand on that a bit ? Do you mean guards generally could have been bigger/different and better suited to purpose but weren't for convenience, or do you mean there is a specific type of rapier where the guards were not developed as much as they could be ?

If you look at the datations in Norman, you see that we have evidence for fairly complex outside guards as early as the 1520s. By this I mean several branches covering the hand from several angles and depth, such as on type 36. On inner guards, the first really covering form is type 18 perhaps with its two crossed transverses, apparently rather appearing in the 1550s. So I'd say there was a delay in development between inner and outer guards, in which ease of carry might have been a factor. The first forms of inner guards (1, 2, 3, 4) are very tight to the blade and unobtrusive. I have never played with swords sporting such guards, but my feeling is that they would protect very little, much less than even the simplest outer guards such as type 39 (ring on the end of the arms). This makes it apparent in my opinion, that they were not just concerned with achieving the absolute best protection they could, and ease of carry might factor in these early forms of inner guards.

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PostPosted: Fri 20 Mar, 2020 9:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Vincent

OK, I see what you are saying now. Yes, certainly the early to mid 16th century hilts were relatively one sided with little or no inner guards. That could indeed be because of convenience or ease of wear.

I wonder though whether its also to do with development of fencing syle ? The earlier 16th century complex hilt swords tend to have wider cut and thrust blades and be not a great distance away from swords of the previous centuries in overall form and size. For centuries up to that point swordsmen had generally been happy with a simple cross guard (possibly with a side ring later on). So I wonder whether it was the development of technique which started to become a specific rapier style, distinct enough to be differentiated (and hated) by the likes of Silver, which required the increase in complexity of inner and outer guards over time. Again, it's a point for input from historical fencers perhaps. But I think what you are saying is that the development could have been earlier but was delayed until necessary because of inconvenience to the wearer ?

I also wonder what the suspension system was for the earlier 16th century pieces and whether it was different from the later rapier hangers. One of the things I have often thought about rapier hangers is not only do they assist with the length of the swords, but they also allow the hilt to protrude slightly away from and in front of the body which is useful where you have a large inner and outer guard hilt.

As an aside, a dealer at the London Arms & Armour fair this year had a wonderful late 16th century/early 17th century rapier hanger. It was the most interesting thing there for me. It was in its own glass box so couldn't handle it (and best not to I think as the more hands touching it, the more the material will degrade), but it was splendid. Rich coloured and gold brocade cloth and embroidery all over the straps and the main 'panel' from which the straps hang. Really flash. It still had its strap at the top of the hanger which went across your front to connect to your belt and stop the rapier flapping around. I said earlier one of the great things about the Wallace collection is the number of rapiers with original finish. The few I have owned with original finish in good condition make me imagine what they looked like when new and polished. A gilded or silver encrusted rapier in this colourful, rich fabric hanger must have been spectacular. And probably with clothes of equivalent flashiness. I don't think the noblemen of this period necessarily believed in being understated in their dress !

I saw before at a National Trust stately home we went to on holiday an Elizabethan doublet jacket owned by some previous Earl. It was so intricate with silver thread embroidery, deep black velvet, floral designs in blue thread, pearl stud buttons. Given the work it must have taken to make it and the decorated rapier he doubtless had, he must have been wearing the financial equivalent of a couple of Ferraris.

We had a jeweller friend stay at the house before who works for Tiffany and he was looking at my modest couple of silver inlay rapiers and my Spanish chiselled cup hilts (one of which really is very fine quality chiselling) and he was saying ' have you any idea how hard it is and how many hours it would take to do this work, with the tools they had then ? He was genuinely impressed by these craftsmen and was explaining to me how the inlay would need to be done and how the cold chiselling was done and the painstaking process involved. And he added, you cant really make mistakes either with the chisel work if its a delicate and symmetrical pattern. He reckoned for my best Spanish chiselled cup hilt, the guy would probably need to have been the best of a bunch of apprentices and probably then have studied and practiced his craft continually for at least 15 years to do that quality and precision of work with hand tools. Pics below, one is of another chiselled cup hilt I have, two pics of the one discussed.



I am constantly impressed by the skill of these people in hilt and blade making with no modern aids.



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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Mar, 2020 2:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello again Daniel,

Daniel Parry wrote:
So I wonder whether it was the development of technique which started to become a specific rapier style, distinct enough to be differentiated (and hated) by the likes of Silver, which required the increase in complexity of inner and outer guards over time. Again, it's a point for input from historical fencers perhaps. But I think what you are saying is that the development could have been earlier but was delayed until necessary because of inconvenience to the wearer ?

In my opinion the interplay between fencing style and hilt development was rather the reverse during the 16th century.

The treatises describing fully thrust-centric play with a predominance of positions with the hand extended forward only appear in the late 16th, early 17th century: Fabris, Capo Ferro, Narvaez, Giganti, etc. But very protective hilts were already around 50 years before at least; without these hilts it would have been very hard to develop such fencing styles. My belief is that the bars were added because they made pre-existing styles safer. The Bolognese treatises for example feature a lot of cuts to the hand, which can be parried or voided of course, but complex hilts make these a lot less dangerous. It's only afterwards that fencers started to take advantage of the complex hilts (and probably also of blade properties) to develop the newer, "true rapier" styles.

Then you have the addition of various shells following the establishment of thrust-centric play, because when everybody fences like this the hand is exposed to new dangers: intentional and accidental thrusts.

Rapier hangers is a topic I know barely anything about Happy Would you have any reference book you would recommend about that?

I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that they were stellar craftsmen!

Best regards,

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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sat 21 Mar, 2020 4:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Vincent

I guess I see it going more hand in hand, but it may be a chicken and egg debate, as guards may have developed to meet new techniques and existing improvements in guards may have allowed changes in technique; it may be both.

I agree more focused thrust fencing manuals and records appear towards the end of the 16th century, and I agree that complex hilts were there in one form or another in the 1530s-1540s. But I see a more gradual change from the earlier complex hilts, which were I think often less complex 'complex hilts' (though not in all cases as there are pretty complex hilts from 1540-1550 in existence) which had side rings and arms going up from the quillons towards the blade and less of an inner guard in the early days, then getting more complex through to 1570s and the very complex swept hilt forms that we associate with the swept hilt rapier tending to emerge towards the end of the century. Alongside that you see blades developing from the 1530s where they looked often like 'regular'' cut and thrust swords in profile and length, then still cut and thrust but getting longer, then narrower but still potential cutting blades and so on with the inner guards getting more substantial and the bars more complex,and it was a gradual development of both sword form and technique together, rather than the complex hilts already developed allowing a revolution in technique. However, I concede that there some relatively complex forms existing c1550, such as the examples on the photo pages in Norman between pages 128 and 129. So I think you make a good point.

Then as you say we see plates, the shells, then cups.

The other thing which I was thinking about which may conceal the gradual development of technique alongside form is printing. The texts on rapier fencing (in terms of using point fencing ) appear, as you say, mostly at the end of the 16th century. But there was a revolution in printing in the 16th century where the number of books that could be printed and at affordable cost by the end of the century was exponentially bigger, certainly in England, than in the first half of the century or early second half. And apparently one of the rapier texts (I was trying to remember which - read it somewhere - was a pretty popular book).

Shakespeare, in Romeo and Juliet has references to the debate/disagreement between Italian fencing techniques and English traditional sword technique, rapier fencing being 'the very butcher of a silk button' referring both, some think, to the precise point technique in hitting and piercing a button on the chest and also the sort of people (wealthy young men who could afford silk buttons) who paid the Italian masters for their instruction. People have commented that he could include this reference in the play because the audience would understand what he was referring to, and they understood it not just because of word of mouth, but because more of this material, be it fencing treatises or commentary by people like Silver was in print and the knowledge was more widely circulated.

So I guess what I am saying is that the fencing treatises at the end of the 16th century may have been a later stage of a more gradual development, and the fact we have less evidence for the gradual development isn't because it wasn't there, but because there was less printed material which now survives.

I think the evolution here (and probably evolution is more appropriate here than in the 17th century when, as you said, it is perhaps more a case of diversification) was a gradual development in complexity of guard (and size particularly of the inner guard), profile and length and function of the blade, and fencing style. With perhaps the change in construction allowing the technique development and sometimes the technique driving the construction.

There is also fashion of course. Through that century I think we see the development of the rapier as a fashion accessory as well as a weapon, which connects to the clearer distinctions between military or general use weapons and 'civilian' weapons through the 17th century and into the 18th century (with the feather weight smallsword). Not just diversification in purpose, but where it was carried. More complex hilts look good, were probably more expensive to make, and give more room for decoration and evidence of just how wealthy (and up to date in style) you were. A little bit of 'Hello darling.... look how many bars there are on my rapier.....'. I see this particularly in a couple of (later period than our discussion) English rapiers I have, both c1640. One ornate and decorative, the other I think a pure duelling rapier - no decoration, lightweight (to an extreme degree), guard and bars only what is necessary, sharp edge and firm thrusting blade, all black hilt, nothing on it which is any way not functional. Superb blade quality though. I think the fashion accessory aspect really picked up towards the latter part of the 16th century.

I do not have a book on rapier hangers specifically. If there is one, I would love to know but imagine it's a pretty niche subject ! You get references to hangers in books on arms and armour, see some in museums, some useful stuff on repro and historical fencing sites. But its bitty. Don't often see them for sale either. I would think because of deterioration of the organic material making them very rare. I would imagine more functional ones were plain leather and the ones like the one at the fair were for a 'big night out' at court.

Agreed on the respect for them as craftsmen.

D.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Sun 22 Mar, 2020 2:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Parry wrote:
Interesting. I am partly persuaded by the size is convenient argument but not 100% getting there. Not dismissing it at all, just thinking. Yes, they were carried behind in the small of the back. But would there be such a difference in inconvenience between a smaller 6 inch blade dagger and a 10 inch dagger, or smaller or larger quillons or guards ? I guess there could be. Fair enough. But if you were carrying a long rapier on your hip anyway, would it make that much difference ?

Yes! If you go talk to American handgun people they will show you a lovingly graded range of sizes and weights and talk about the pros and cons of wearing them (and this is not a firearms place [i believe there are rules against firearms discussions], and I am not a firearms person, so I will just say "go talk to them"). And rapier-wearers took the bulky thing off whenever they could.

Fighting axes and daggers tend to be smaller than we expect, because the best size as a weapon does not look impressive enough, and for us the materials are a negligible cost and the weight is not something we feel every day. In the late 14th century, most knightly daggers seem to have had about a 15-20 cm blade. If you want it as a parrying tool, you might prefer a longer blade, but the tool you have with you is better than the one you left at home, and daggers are still offensive weapons.

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PostPosted: Fri 27 Mar, 2020 1:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Sean

Maybe size was a factor. I would note though that I think a dagger, of differing length from 6 - 12 inch blade, is substantially less heavy and bulky than say an early revolver, and the difference in size and weight might be less of an issue ?

I think with left hand daggers it is the length, predominantly, and the cross section width of the guard which could potentially be a factor. Trying putting a 6 inch bladed one my friend had behind my waist, as was the hanging method I think, it disappears behind your back. Putting one with a 12 inch blade behind my back, it stuck out a couple of inches on either side but nothing majorly obtrusive, particularly if angled downwards a bit, and the weight difference wasn't anything you'd notice. If it had a bigger guard like some of the Spanish 17th century ones, that might make it a bit more awkward to sit in a chair ? But otherwise I don't think the difference is huge. And my point was if you have a long rapier in a hanger with a big (or biggish hilt) on your left hip anyway, would that be such a big deal ?

I agree in terms of American pistols, in that I was looking at a dealer at a fair a couple of years ago who specialised in 19th century Colt pistols, particularly the percussion cap, pre-cartridge pistols, and the difference between the small calibre 'pocket' models and the biggest (which looked like portable canons !) was huge. Picking them up, the weight alone would make a difference as to how you would have to carry them I guess, and the difference in bulk was noticeable.

So I think the dagger situation is a bit different, personally, but we don't know. Maybe it was a factor. And as I said above, if it was a factor, was it a case of I carry a smaller left hand dagger around town for convenience, or a case of I carry a general use dagger of the same style that could be used as a left hand dagger in a pinch, for convenience. And would they have perceived the distinction. All food for thought, which is exactly why we are discussing this !

Stay well ! We are confined to home so doing a lot of gardening !
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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Tue 31 Mar, 2020 2:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi everyone

I've been busy getting ready for the pandemic-lockdown in my country, so haven't been here for a while.

A throwaway thought about the smaller knives:
There's a picture in Dr Capwell's "Knives and daggers" book of a small double-edged sailor's utility knife from the 1700s - it's a tool for cutting ropes, etc rather than a weapon, though it would make an admirable, if small, one in an emergency. I've also seen various other descriptions of older double-edged knives intended as day-to-day tools rather than weapons - it was surprising for me, as before I had thought that a double-edged blade meant a weapon (single edge could be either, of course). So perhaps some the smaller daggers that we see were intended as true multi-purpose tools, with the potential for use as a weapon in a pinch, certainly, but not with that as their primary function. Something which you'd not leave home without, because it's generally useful. Of course, whether this is at all plausible would depend on the blade shape - do those which you've seen look fairly broad and workmanlike, Daniel, or are they usually slim thrusting weapons? I know that even if I were carrying a rapier and large left-hand dagger, I'd want to also carry a small knife to use as a cutting tool (as a matter of fact, I do carry a small pocket knife - not as a weapon, but for everyday cutting jobs). They may well still have been made to match the rapier (and even the big left-hand dagger) for aesthetic/fashion purposes.

I found a translation of a late 16th century Dutch or Belgian rapier manuscript which I'd forgotten about - I'm going to examine over the next few weeks, and report back if I find anything interesting.

All the best, and stay safe!

Andrew
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Tue 31 Mar, 2020 3:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Andrew

Yes, I know - we are the same. Shopping once every two weeks, no travel outside your home for non-essential reasons. I am glad we moved, 4 years ago, about 30 miles out of London so we have a big garden and about 2 acres of wood behind the garden - the evenings have been cold, so I have been out everyday with my bow saw and axe cutting limbs off a dead tree and sawing firewood for the fireplace. Never had the time before. How things change. I tell you though, sawing wood is murder unless you are used to it. Your arm goes to jelly after 15 minutes. But more time with the kids, I am reading loads of books. And I now have absolutely no excuse not to do the rapier calibration !!

The daggers I was looking at (and it was a pretty big sample on my friend's wall) were all double edged blades with a sharp edge originally. They could be used as a defensive dagger, a general utility knife, or a left hand dagger in a pinch.

I think we will not be able to conclude easily on whether these were purpose built left hand daggers but smaller, or more general purpose daggers carried about town as they were smaller (as I said above I am not sure if the size argument holds 100% or not) or even more broad use general knives.

Handling my friends collection, many struck me as convenient, could cut a rope or piece of leather, would work in a scuffle in an inn, could be used as a left hand dagger probably, could pick up a piece of meat. My inclination overall, is that the smaller ones were general use, were not specifically considered left hand daggers but might be used as such, and not sure a period gentleman would have quite seen eye to eye with our distinctions anyway. The majority of the ones I handled, plus 50 or so others at fairs and auctions were of this smaller size, blade 6 to 8 inches. Maybe the concept of the left hand dagger was simply use the dagger you have, and the longer, more elaborate and specialised ones were more rare and purpose built. In which case I guess the question arises for HEMA people of how long are the pieces you use for practicing this form ?

Stay well everyone. It is a weird world we live in at present.

D
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sun 23 Aug, 2020 2:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A good example of an English rapier c 1630. Longer and heavier than the light weight English duelling rapiers. Hilt is one of the variants of Norman type 85 to 88. Blade is longish, 42,5 inches from the guard, type 3 by my way of categorising and goes from hexagonal to lenticular about half way up the blade. Blade has clearly sharp edges from a third of the way from the guard and is quite flexible from the forte onwards.

Blade marked Sahagum with orb and dot pattern which matches the mark for Alonzo Sahagum, Toledo, 1560-1573. But this is not in my opinion an older remounted blade.You find Sahagum marks on English blades of this period and the profile of the blade is I think early 17th century. Whether these marks were used as a 'fake' quality mark or whether it was a branch of that family who had come to England I cannot say. The blade and hilt are of very good quality.



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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sun 23 Aug, 2020 2:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good example of a Northern European blackened Pappenheimer c1630. Good example also of the fact these plain Pappenheimer hilts could be fitted with shorter and wider blades, more general or field use, or longer and narrower rapier blades like this one more akin to civilian use.

Striking, black, puritanical hilt. Blade is type 4 probably by my categorisation, long at 431/2 inches from the guard and quite stiff. Narrows considerably to the point and but has keen edges for 75% of the blade length. Very similar in blade profile to the blackened northern European light weight duelilng rapier on this thread but much longer and more substantial.



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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Sep, 2020 1:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

English duelling rapier c1630-1640

Good example of type 4 by my approach. Blade is narrow and long compared to the width at about 42 1/2 inches from the guard. Blade is narrow diamond section and quite thick to maintain rigidity over the length but still has an edge. The blade ends in a slight strammazone flared tip with definite cutting edges and the blade is really quite thin at that point.

Fine quality hilt with well defined and crisp guard chiselling and fluting on the pommel. The ones I see/have owned of this type tend to be very functionally good with good quality blades and nice balance but not that refined in terms of hilt decoration or execution. This is a step above most I see. Nice scale work on guard and feather patterning on edge of guard.

Weight about 850 grammes, typical for this type.



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