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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Nov, 2020 7:27 pm    Post subject: Brass arbalests?         Reply with quote

I ran across something curious in Jan Dlugosz the other day, and I wanted to make sure my assumption was correct. Assumptions being typically dangerous when it comes to history (and many other things). Just wanted to see what others here thought of it.

Jan Dlugosz is usually a fairly reliable source for military stuff, in my opinion. He was a Clerk but he was frequently tapped to go on military / diplomatic missions all over NE Europe and saw quite a few battlefields, as well as being personally acquainted with at least three Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order, several Prussian Burgomeisters and mercenary captains, the King of Hungary, two Polish Kings, at least one Lithuanian Duke, and a couple of Mongol (Tatar) Khans. So he was not inexperienced. I've had his Annales for quite a while and though people debate figures like numbers of troops in various battles and so forth, I've found him to be pretty reliable when I can compare to Teutonic Knights, Bohemian, Prussian or various other sources.

His Annales are written in Latin though and the passage I'm going to transcribe below was translated from Latin, and Latin doesn't have all the terms of art. I don't know what the original words were they usually say something like Balista for crossbow. But he (or rather the translator) uses both that term and the word "arbalest" here.

Anyway I'll quote an extensive passage so we don't miss any context. This is from his entry for 1438, it's an episode in which the brother of the King of Poland (like the King named Casimir) and King Albert II of Germany (as King of Hungary) were fighting over the crown of Bohemia, and about to go to war. I'll start after the first near-engagement.

"Having thus avoided having to fight in an unfavorable position - for the site of a battlefield is of prime importance - the Polish command moves its entire force to Tabor [Bohemia], which is loyal to Casimir, and there pitches camp, which is surrounded with several deep ditches and a ring of waggons. Albert, informed of all this by his scouts, hurries there full of confidence until he sees the strength of the Poles. He then pitches camp on an eminence within a balista's range from the town and surrounds it with ditches and waggons. The two armies being so close to each other, there are daily skirmishes, a spectacle watched by either side, like a second Trojan war, yet in which numbers are killed and prisoners taken.

Not a day passes without cannon and mortars being fired, sword, lances and other weapons used. 30,000 men are under Austrian command and 14,000 under Polish orders. Both camps have numbers of brass arbalests, though the Austrians have the most. Both armies tired. All places within reach have run out of provisions and it is dangerous to go farther afield because of the hostility of those whose crops they have already consumed. The Poles withdraw into the town of Tabor and King Albert disbands his army and goes to Prague while the Margrave of Meissen, with his army, makes for home, but when nearly there, he is pursued by a force from the towns of Luna and Zator which support Casimir and seize the opportunity to try to defeat the Margrave."



So what is he talking about there? My assumption is he means firearms, proto-arquebus etc., but I just wanted to check. Was there ever such a thing as an arbalest with a brass prod?

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Jeff Cierniak




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Nov, 2020 8:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm really not sure, but thanks for tipping me off to the source. Is there a particular edition or format you like to read from?
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Nov, 2020 8:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have the abridged (but 600 page!) translation by Maurice Michael, from IM publications in the UK. It was out of print for a while but I found a used copy for $100 several years ago and it was the best investment I ever made for a research book into the medieval world. It's an incredible resource, easy to read (the above was a direct quote) and dense with fascinating details.It covers the history of Poland and a lot of the surrounding parts of Central Europe from the 10th Century through almost the end of the 15th (Dlugosz died in 1480, but he was working on the book right up to the end).

I would call it the late medieval equivalent of Herodotus. Dlugosz is one of those guys everybody quotes and many dispute but all too few have actually read.

Apparently it's back in print but it's $146 for a copy. I'd still say worth it if you have the dough. There really needs to be a digital version of this, especially a searchable one would be fantastic - one of the only issues I have with the book is that the index, at least on my copy, seems to be off and somewhat lacking, so it's hard to find stuff. Mine is full of colored post-it notes.

https://www.amazon.com/Annals-Jan-Dlugosz-Maurice-Michael/dp/1901019004

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Jeff Cierniak




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Nov, 2020 8:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Awesome, thank you so much! I'm mainly interested in that area to be honest, being of Polish and Ukrainian descent. It can sometimes be difficult to find good info, but I really didn't know about Dlugosz until now so this should change things.
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Duncan Hill




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Nov, 2020 12:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think you are probably right that it may be a reference to some early firearm. I've never heard of a brass prod (I'm not sure if it is possible to harden and temper brass such that it is flexible without plastic deformation), however maybe it refers to crossbows with brass nuts? I'm not sure why that would be important to specify though (unless related to the strength of the prod, as brass is tougher than antler and thus could feasibly hold the string on a heavier prod). This is a stretch!
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Jeff Cierniak




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Nov, 2020 1:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not a metallurgy guy, but after some digging it looks like brass can be tempered. There's also mention of phosphor bronze (which is used for a lot of springs) which looks the same as brass when polished, but wasn't invented until the 19th century. But perhaps it was another copper alloy mistaken for brass?

[url] https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/can-you-spring-temper-brass.159928/ [/url]
[url] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphor_bronze [/url]

And I did find a pdf of the (abridged) Annals of Jan Duglosz. Website doesn't look too shady, downloaded the pdf without problem: [url] https://b-ok.cc/book/1165959/82f730 [/url]
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Nov, 2020 6:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Tannenburg Castle hand cannon is made of brass or bronze:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9e/Tannenbergb%C3%BCchse.jpg

There's a schematic of it here: https://prezi.com/vrbp5d39bitw/the-baumbach-castle/

Happy

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Terry Thompson




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Nov, 2020 8:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My first thought was that brass may be a distinction of quality of arms, as better made arbalests may have shiny brass/latten fittings, that are are relatively unaffected by oxidation (triggers, side-plates, nuts, lined grooves and decorative escutcheons) making them stand out from their more basic fare of plain wooden stocks with iron/rusty fittings. Or perhaps brass was a vernacular, lost in time, for something decorated. But this later though it seems less than sequitur to the passage. As why would the writer comment on which side has the greater quantity of "fancy crossbows"?

But interestingly, if you look up the dictionary definition of the word brass, it evidently comes from the middle English 'braes', by way of the middle low German 'bras'; metal. So perhaps someone at some point read the word as written and transcribed it into the germanic or middle english word bras which later then became the word brass. So it could just have been describing the metal (prod) crossbows as to differentiate them from the lighter and less powerful wooden bows?

Also this may simply convolute the issue, but wikipedia has an entry referencing Chinese crossbows along with the word brass: "Crossbows were mass-produced in state armories with designs improving as time went on, such as the use of a mulberry wood stock and brass; a crossbow in 1068 could pierce a tree at 140 paces" And if you read the previous paragraph the word bronze is used repeatedly to describe the efficacy, durability, and utility that mass produced weapons that had stocks with firing mechanisms of bronze.

Though, I am now hoping someone points to a museum example that is of solid brass construction.
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Duncan Hill




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Nov, 2020 8:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Terry Thompson wrote:


But interestingly, if you look up the dictionary definition of the word brass, it evidently comes from the middle English 'braes', by way of the middle low German 'bras'; metal. So perhaps someone at some point read the word as written and transcribed it into the germanic or middle english word bras which later then became the word brass. So it could just have been describing the metal (prod) crossbows as to differentiate them from the lighter and less powerful wooden bows?

This is very interesting! I wonder if that's the answer; it makes sense to me, as I believe both composite prods and steel were in use during the early to mid 15th century, (although wooden prods would be fairly obsolete at that point I think, at least in battle) and it would be an important distinction to make, given the relative resistance to weather of steel prods versus composite. I believe steel prods were often more powerful than composite, too (although I'm not sure the significance of the difference between the two).
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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Fri 06 Nov, 2020 11:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Terry Thompson and Duncan Hill,

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word brass is much older, originating in Old English, and thus cannot have come into English from Middle Low German (although there potentially could be a parallel form; but see below):


brass, n.

Forms: OE–ME bræs, ME bres, ME breas, ME bras(e, ME–16 brasse, ME– brass.
. . .
Etymology: Old English bræs, of unknown origin: not found elsewhere. (It has been compared with Old Swedish brasa fire, brasa to flame, Danish brase to roast; but no connection has been traced. The alleged Old Norse bras ‘solder’ is a figment.)

1.

a. Historically: The general name for all alloys of copper with tin or zinc (and occasionally other base metals). To distinguish alloys of copper and tin, the name bronze n. has subsequently been adopted (Johnson 1755–73 explains the new word bronze as ‘brass’).
Hence

b. In strict modern use, as distinguished from ‘bronze’: A yellow-coloured alloy of copper and zinc, usually containing about a third of its weight of zinc.
    The Old English bræs was, usually at least, an alloy of copper and tin (= bronze n.); in much later times the alloy of copper and zinc came gradually into general use, and became the ordinary ‘brass’ of England; though in reference to ancient times, and esp. to the nations of antiquity, ‘brass’ still meant the older alloy. When works of Greek and Roman antiquity in ‘brass’ began to be critically examined, and their material discriminated, the Italian word for ‘brass’ (bronzo, bronze) came into use to distinguish this ‘ancient brass’ from the current alloy. . . .

As you can see, there's also no suggestion that "brass" ever meant simply "metal" in English; and the OED would certainly have mentioned the Middle Low German word if its editors and etymologists thought that there might be any connection. Actually, that lack of mention makes me suspect the source, as the OED is usually very thorough. Where did you find this derivation? There is a German word bras, but according to Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm (yes, the folktale Grimms), which is the German equivalent of the OED, it means "feast" or "meal" and the earliest citation is from Sebastian Brant's Das Narrenschiff, published in 1494. Brant, who was born in Strasbourg and educated at Basel in Switzerland, wrote in High German rather than Low German. So bras was not specifically a Low German word and in any case didn't mean "metal". (The single-letter difference between "meal" and "metal" is, however, suggestive.)

The Latin word translated as "brass" is probably orichalcum, but without a copy of the original we can't be sure.

I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sat 07 Nov, 2020 8:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeff Cierniak wrote:
I'm not a metallurgy guy, but after some digging it looks like brass can be tempered. There's also mention of phosphor bronze (which is used for a lot of springs) which looks the same as brass when polished, but wasn't invented until the 19th century. But perhaps it was another copper alloy mistaken for brass?

[url] https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/can-you-spring-temper-brass.159928/ [/url]
[url] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphor_bronze [/url]


Yes they did have spring-latten (brass or some other copper alloy) in Europe during the late medieval period, they were used in clocks and automata, but I never heard of any copper alloy being used to make a crossbow prod anywhere.

Quote:

And I did find a pdf of the (abridged) Annals of Jan Duglosz. Website doesn't look too shady, downloaded the pdf without problem: [url] https://b-ok.cc/book/1165959/82f730 [/url]


Wow good find!

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sat 07 Nov, 2020 8:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Terry Thompson wrote:
My first thought was that brass may be a distinction of quality of arms, as better made arbalests may have shiny brass/latten fittings, that are are relatively unaffected by oxidation (triggers, side-plates, nuts, lined grooves and decorative escutcheons) making them stand out from their more basic fare of plain wooden stocks with iron/rusty fittings. Or perhaps brass was a vernacular, lost in time, for something decorated. But this later though it seems less than sequitur to the passage. As why would the writer comment on which side has the greater quantity of "fancy crossbows"?

But interestingly, if you look up the dictionary definition of the word brass, it evidently comes from the middle English 'braes', by way of the middle low German 'bras'; metal. So perhaps someone at some point read the word as written and transcribed it into the germanic or middle english word bras which later then became the word brass. So it could just have been describing the metal (prod) crossbows as to differentiate them from the lighter and less powerful wooden bows?

Also this may simply convolute the issue, but wikipedia has an entry referencing Chinese crossbows along with the word brass: "Crossbows were mass-produced in state armories with designs improving as time went on, such as the use of a mulberry wood stock and brass; a crossbow in 1068 could pierce a tree at 140 paces" And if you read the previous paragraph the word bronze is used repeatedly to describe the efficacy, durability, and utility that mass produced weapons that had stocks with firing mechanisms of bronze.

Though, I am now hoping someone points to a museum example that is of solid brass construction.


Very interesting speculations there. I have also seen fleeting mention of brass crossbow in China, where the technology of the weapon was quite different but not necessarily inferior by any means, in fact they seem to have had some remarkable weapons.

By 1438 a lot of technology known in China would also be known in Europe and vice versa. That is how the firearm arrived in Europe (via the Mongols)

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PostPosted: Sat 07 Nov, 2020 8:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
The Tannenburg Castle hand cannon is made of brass or bronze:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9e/Tannenbergb%C3%BCchse.jpg

There's a schematic of it here: https://prezi.com/vrbp5d39bitw/the-baumbach-castle/


Yeah, I love that gun. Quite a few, maybe even the majority of firearm barrels and light cannon were being made of brass or bronze or some other copper alloy in the late medieval period. Certainly thousands if not tens of thousands of them. Bronze was preferred over iron, especially that early, because it was less likely to break under pressure and didn't cause accidental sparks. You see many bronze firearms and cannon in the archeological record, antique market and period artwork.

These images from the Bern Chronik (circa 1474)



 Attachment: 265.03 KB
z_Bronze2.jpg


 Attachment: 423.97 KB
[ Download ]

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sat 07 Nov, 2020 8:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Duncan Hill wrote:
Terry Thompson wrote:


But interestingly, if you look up the dictionary definition of the word brass, it evidently comes from the middle English 'braes', by way of the middle low German 'bras'; metal. So perhaps someone at some point read the word as written and transcribed it into the germanic or middle english word bras which later then became the word brass. So it could just have been describing the metal (prod) crossbows as to differentiate them from the lighter and less powerful wooden bows?

This is very interesting! I wonder if that's the answer; it makes sense to me, as I believe both composite prods and steel were in use during the early to mid 15th century, (although wooden prods would be fairly obsolete at that point I think, at least in battle) and it would be an important distinction to make, given the relative resistance to weather of steel prods versus composite. I believe steel prods were often more powerful than composite, too (although I'm not sure the significance of the difference between the two).


Steel prods were not necessarily better, in fact composite prods were apparently better in the extreme cold because less likely to snap. The Teutonic Order used wood, composite and steel prods though wood were only for tertiary militia use.

The main advantage of the steel prods is that though still pretty expensive, they were cheaper, less labor intensive and less time consuming than the composite / horn prods to make. Metal industrial centers like Augsburg and Nuremberg could crank them out in pretty high volume.

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sat 07 Nov, 2020 8:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Millman wrote:
Dear Terry Thompson and Duncan Hill,

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word brass is much older, originating in Old English, and thus cannot have come into English from Middle Low German (although there potentially could be a parallel form; but see below):


brass, n.

Forms: OE–ME bræs, ME bres, ME breas, ME bras(e, ME–16 brasse, ME– brass.
. . .
Etymology: Old English bræs, of unknown origin: not found elsewhere. (It has been compared with Old Swedish brasa fire, brasa to flame, Danish brase to roast; but no connection has been traced. The alleged Old Norse bras ‘solder’ is a figment.)

1.

a. Historically: The general name for all alloys of copper with tin or zinc (and occasionally other base metals). To distinguish alloys of copper and tin, the name bronze n. has subsequently been adopted (Johnson 1755–73 explains the new word bronze as ‘brass’).
Hence

b. In strict modern use, as distinguished from ‘bronze’: A yellow-coloured alloy of copper and zinc, usually containing about a third of its weight of zinc.
    The Old English bræs was, usually at least, an alloy of copper and tin (= bronze n.); in much later times the alloy of copper and zinc came gradually into general use, and became the ordinary ‘brass’ of England; though in reference to ancient times, and esp. to the nations of antiquity, ‘brass’ still meant the older alloy. When works of Greek and Roman antiquity in ‘brass’ began to be critically examined, and their material discriminated, the Italian word for ‘brass’ (bronzo, bronze) came into use to distinguish this ‘ancient brass’ from the current alloy. . . .

As you can see, there's also no suggestion that "brass" ever meant simply "metal" in English; and the OED would certainly have mentioned the Middle Low German word if its editors and etymologists thought that there might be any connection. Actually, that lack of mention makes me suspect the source, as the OED is usually very thorough. Where did you find this derivation? There is a German word bras, but according to Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm (yes, the folktale Grimms), which is the German equivalent of the OED, it means "feast" or "meal" and the earliest citation is from Sebastian Brant's Das Narrenschiff, published in 1494. Brant, who was born in Strasbourg and educated at Basel in Switzerland, wrote in High German rather than Low German. So bras was not specifically a Low German word and in any case didn't mean "metal". (The single-letter difference between "meal" and "metal" is, however, suggestive.)

The Latin word translated as "brass" is probably orichalcum, but without a copy of the original we can't be sure.

I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman


They seemed to often use words like 'latten' - in Latin bronze or brass were just 'aes' I believe. There were also other copper alloys using arsenic.

In German brass was 'messing' and a brass founder was called a Messingbrenner

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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Sat 07 Nov, 2020 10:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Jeanri,

Yup; "latten" (which, for those following, is the word that descends from the Romance branch of English's history through French) seems to be the less-specific way to describe what modern academic texts will often (again, being deliberately nonspecific) call "copper alloy". It certainly includes the arsenic alloys, although "brass" as historically used would as well. "Latten" might be preponderant where the author knows that the metal in question is an arsenic (or perhaps lead) alloy rather than a tin or zinc alloy, but it would be hard to prove that.

Both aes and orichalcum were indeed used, and either could be in the original text. My impressionistic sense is that in this context it's more likely to be orichalcum--thus my comment above--but obviously the Latin text says what it says and without reference to it we can't know.

Very interesting; calling the workers "brass-burners" is vividly descriptive.

In any case, I posted above to show that the reference that Terry Thompson found is, unfortunately, misleading and can't shed light on your question.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sat 07 Nov, 2020 10:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Millman wrote:
Dear Jeanri,

Yup; "latten" (which, for those following, is the word that descends from the Romance branch of English's history through French) seems to be the less-specific way to describe what modern academic texts will often (again, being deliberately nonspecific) call "copper alloy". It certainly includes the arsenic alloys, although "brass" as historically used would as well. "Latten" might be preponderant where the author knows that the metal in question is an arsenic (or perhaps lead) alloy rather than a tin or zinc alloy, but it would be hard to prove that.

Both aes and orichalcum were indeed used, and either could be in the original text. My impressionistic sense is that in this context it's more likely to be orichalcum--thus my comment above--but obviously the Latin text says what it says and without reference to it we can't know.

Very interesting; calling the workers "brass-burners" is vividly descriptive.


Oh yes I agree. Their other terms for brass workers are also quite evocative. You can see a few more here

Quote:

In any case, I posted above to show that the reference that Terry Thompson found is, unfortunately, misleading and can't shed light on your question.

Best,

Mark Millman


Thanks Mark, very interesting yet again.

Copper alloys or "Latten" are quite a tricky subject. One complicating factor is both modern alloys and ancient ones can sometimes include both zinc and tin in the mix, as well as other substances like lead, sulphur and arsenic and even sometimes small amounts of iron!. So there appear to be a myriad of possible alloys of bronze or bass which defy easy categorization, we either need more terms of art for them or perhaps it makes sense to just use 'latten' or 'orichalcum'.



For example the magnificent Chinese artifact, the so called "Sword of Goujian", dated to roughly 500 BC, is reported to have included copper, tin, lead, iron, sulfur and arsenic (see attachment or click the wiki link)

Flexible, springy, tempered, hardened, heat resistant, corrosion resistant, and various other properties of specialized copper alloys seem to have been discovered quite a long time ago, and remained in use at least in the most sophisticated production centers well into medieval times, in some cases continuously for already 3000 yeas or more by the time we reach the late medieval period.

By interesting coincidence, if I understand what I've read correctly, one region where this higher level bronze or copper-alloy production was taking place was in the Unetice culture, centered on Bohemia or Czechia, in the same part of Europe where Dlugosz' excerpt takes place. They were producing bronze there since 2000 BCE. I believe this was one of the earliest and most sophisticated regions for copper-alloy metallurgy in what is now Europe.

J



 Attachment: 145.91 KB
Goujin_elements.jpg


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PostPosted: Mon 09 Nov, 2020 5:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
Terry Thompson wrote:
My first thought was that brass may be a distinction of quality of arms, as better made arbalests may have shiny brass/latten fittings, that are are relatively unaffected by oxidation (triggers, side-plates, nuts, lined grooves and decorative escutcheons) making them stand out from their more basic fare of plain wooden stocks with iron/rusty fittings. Or perhaps brass was a vernacular, lost in time, for something decorated. But this later though it seems less than sequitur to the passage. As why would the writer comment on which side has the greater quantity of "fancy crossbows"?

But interestingly, if you look up the dictionary definition of the word brass, it evidently comes from the middle English 'braes', by way of the middle low German 'bras'; metal. So perhaps someone at some point read the word as written and transcribed it into the germanic or middle english word bras which later then became the word brass. So it could just have been describing the metal (prod) crossbows as to differentiate them from the lighter and less powerful wooden bows?

Also this may simply convolute the issue, but wikipedia has an entry referencing Chinese crossbows along with the word brass: "Crossbows were mass-produced in state armories with designs improving as time went on, such as the use of a mulberry wood stock and brass; a crossbow in 1068 could pierce a tree at 140 paces" And if you read the previous paragraph the word bronze is used repeatedly to describe the efficacy, durability, and utility that mass produced weapons that had stocks with firing mechanisms of bronze.

Though, I am now hoping someone points to a museum example that is of solid brass construction.


Very interesting speculations there. I have also seen fleeting mention of brass crossbow in China, where the technology of the weapon was quite different but not necessarily inferior by any means, in fact they seem to have had some remarkable weapons.

By 1438 a lot of technology known in China would also be known in Europe and vice versa. That is how the firearm arrived in Europe (via the Mongols)


Worth noting that the "brass" here refers specifically to the lock and trigger mechanism. We don't really have any evidence for brass or bronze crossbow prods in China. Most of their prods were actually quite similar to contemporary hand bows at first, but during the medieval period (not sure whether it was the Song or as early as the late Tang) we start seeing interesting designs such as prods made out of stacked wooden or bamboo leaf springs. These were still predominantly made of organic materials, however.

But back to the original post . . .

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
His Annales are written in Latin though and the passage I'm going to transcribe below was translated from Latin, and Latin doesn't have all the terms of art. I don't know what the original words were they usually say something like Balista for crossbow. But he (or rather the translator) uses both that term and the word "arbalest" here.


Would it be possible for you to locate and quote (or link) the corresponding Latin passage? There are probably enough people here who know enough Latin to see if there's anything weird going on. At this point I'm inclined to follow the interpretation that "balista" here is being used somewhat awkwardly to refer to gunpowder weapons.
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PostPosted: Mon 09 Nov, 2020 5:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for clarifying about the Chinese crossbows. It was nice to think of the possibility of a brass prod crossbow, but I suspected it was something like that.

Sadly no, I don't have access to the Latin. If I did I would have posted the Latin word(s) used.

Very likely it is a reference to firearms.

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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Wed 18 Nov, 2020 7:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Jeanri,

On Saturday 7 November 2020, you wrote:
Mark Millman wrote:

Very interesting; calling the workers "brass-burners" is vividly descriptive.

Oh yes I agree. Their other terms for brass workers are also quite evocative. You can see a few more here

Thank you very much for the reference, which is delightful.

Quote:
Copper alloys or "Latten" are quite a tricky subject. One complicating factor is both modern alloys and ancient ones can sometimes include both zinc and tin in the mix, as well as other substances like lead, sulphur and arsenic and even sometimes small amounts of iron!. So there appear to be a myriad of possible alloys of bronze or bass which defy easy categorization, we either need more terms of art for them or perhaps it makes sense to just use 'latten' or 'orichalcum'.

Given the general lack of specificity in surviving documents, your latter suggestion is probably the more workable option. We can certainly list precise content in tables (such as the one you provide for the Sword of Goujian, which I've snipped here for brevity) and in that way be explicit, particularly because even within the various classes of copper alloys I understand that very small variations in content can result in significantly different properties. However, with reference to more specific terms of art, some do exist, although the ones in current use are Japanese. I'm thinking here of the class of irogane, of which I'd been familiar with shibuichi and shakudō because of their use in sword furniture; there are others I hadn't known about. Also, Classical texts have mostly rather vague references to Corinthian bronze, which apparently shared some of the characteristics of shibuichi and shakudō. It was able to take especially admired patinas through a chemical-bath process, and was reputed to contain precious metals. Regrettably, the references to it seem mostly to be nontechnical and some authors, of whom Pliny is the most important, assert that its production was by their time a lost art, although others describe some of the steps involved. One variety was known as hepatizon because of its dark-purple, approaching black, color--i.e., the color of raw liver--when properly treated. Pliny actually ranks various Greek cities' local varieties of bronze in order of their value, but apparently doesn't give specifics of their various compositions.

Quote:
Flexible, springy, tempered, hardened, heat resistant, corrosion resistant, and various other properties of specialized copper alloys seem to have been discovered quite a long time ago, and remained in use at least in the most sophisticated production centers well into medieval times, in some cases continuously for already 3000 yeas or more by the time we reach the late medieval period.

By interesting coincidence, if I understand what I've read correctly, one region where this higher level bronze or copper-alloy production was taking place was in the Unetice culture, centered on Bohemia or Czechia, in the same part of Europe where Dlugosz' excerpt takes place. They were producing bronze there since 2000 BCE. I believe this was one of the earliest and most sophisticated regions for copper-alloy metallurgy in what is now Europe.

Speaking of that, did you see Craig Johnson's post of 9 November in the Seems like there have been some good discoveries of late! thread?

On Monday 9 November 2020, Craig Johnson wrote:
Bronze Age Sword Find

Very nice bronze age sword find. Pretty incredible patina on the hilt. These swords are interesting and I am not sure I agree that a few bubbles in the casting dictate it was ceremonial.

Craig

When I followed the link, I was struck by the black patina, which brought to mind some of the effects possible with gold alloys of copper. The find is Czech, from northern Moravia.

Quote:
J

Best,

Mark
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