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Don Stanko




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Sep, 2006 2:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

At least during the late 17th century and all of the 18th century brass was commonly used in the production of sword hilts. There is a Dutch variety of rapier/smallsword that goes back to around 1670. I've owned about five different rapiers that have hilts constructed entirely of brass and they seem to have held up well enough. Some examples even have some detailed piercing in the guard. I must say, compared to the steel variety, I've noticed a larger quantity of braised repairs to the hardware.

When I was reading a book that focused on the production of the smallsword in England, the author commented that in the late 17th century all hilts made of brass were destroyed because of their inferior quality to steel. But since I've only read it in that one book I can't say that it is accurate.
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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Sep, 2006 5:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Kel Rekuta wrote:
I'm pretty sure there was an ordinance against cutlers mounting brass/latten/bronze fixtures on sword blades in medieval London. Something about shoddy workmanship hidden under gilt or silver finishes. If there was an ordinance then someone was doing it. Its just as clear they shouldn't have.


I'd love to read more about that to see exactly why the ordinance was written. Was it the material itself or how it was worked?


At a guess, I read it in Oakeshott's "The Archeology of Weapons" where he discusses cutlers. It might have been in Knives & Scabbards though. It was one or two lines at most. The reason it stuck with me was that sooo many modern knives and swords had brass fixtures. Here was a citation prohibiting them in period. I doubt that you'd find that much detail in the citation without finding the original ordinance. I never bothered to. Sorry.

Kel Rekuta wrote:
Interesting how you answered your own questions there. Razz


Chad Arnow wrote:
My questions have never been about whether brass was better than steel. It's more about why our ancestors obviously used it when many modern folks seem to be so down on it as a functional material.


Just prodding you, Chad. Razz Its a valid question.

Chad Arnow wrote:
Perhaps I'm misreading you, but this last statement implies that the presence of brass means that it was likely a ceremonial weapon. I'm not sure that can be backed up with evidence. Also, there are plenty of bearing swords made out of plain iron/steel.


Yes, you misunderstood. There are many reasons brass/bronze whatever might be used. Ceremonial, presentation/gift, bearing, whatever are all opportunities to embellish swords. Especially if the item was intended to have gilt fixtures. Gilt brass was pretty common. Gold leaf wears off pretty easily though. That leaves brass fixtures passed down over time, right? Also brass casting might have been a cheaper alternative to forged iron. I don't know, not my field of study. Since it interests you, perhaps penning a feature article could be in your future? I'd read it.
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Sep, 2006 5:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kel Rekuta wrote:

At a guess, I read it in Oakeshott's "The Archeology of Weapons" where he discusses cutlers. It might have been in Knives & Scabbards though. It was one or two lines at most. The reason it stuck with me was that sooo many modern knives and swords had brass fixtures. Here was a citation prohibiting them in period. I doubt that you'd find that much detail in the citation without finding the original ordinance. I never bothered to. Sorry.



Guess I have to go do some looking through my books now. Happy Drat. Happy Many modern implements likely use brass because it is cheap and relatively easily cast into shape. It also doesn't rust, as has been pointed out.

Quote:

Yes, you misunderstood. There are many reasons brass/bronze whatever might be used. Ceremonial, presentation/gift, bearing, whatever are all opportunities to embellish swords. Especially if the item was intended to have gilt fixtures. Gilt brass was pretty common. Gold leaf wears off pretty easily though. That leaves brass fixtures passed down over time, right? Also brass casting might have been a cheaper alternative to forged iron. I don't know, not my field of study. Since it interests you, perhaps penning a feature article could be in your future? I'd read it.


Thanks for the clarification. I was talking with someone today about brass and gilding, actually. I believe copper-bearing metals adhere well to others. In fact, in the auto industry from what I hear, steel is often copper-plated, then chromed so the chrome plating will be hardier. I even had an MRL basket hilt with a nickel-plated hilt. There was a layer of copper plating between the nickel and steel (I know because some of the nickel flaked off; I confirmed by calling MRL's shop).

I guess it's possible at least some of these surviving pieces were gilt. There are surviving examples of later pieces with gilt brass, where some gilding survives. Perhaps the gilding either wore off or was cleaned off by a previous generation of collector. I've heard it said that many examples of weapons and armour have lost their original finishes due to collectors wanting shiny, bright metal.

The subject interests me, but I don't think I'll ever have the time or letters behind my name (Ph.D. for example) to do the topic justice. Happy

Happy

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John Cooksey




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Sep, 2006 9:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmmm, interesting topic.

One of the reasons that archaeologists use the generic phrase "cupric alloys" to describe copper-based alloy artifacts is that it often (usually) takes a certain amount of destructive testing to determine exactly the composition of the alloy. We can can't just shine a magic beam at it and get a reading like in Star Trek (unfortunately . . . . life would be so much easier with tricorders). :-)
Instead, a sample has to be taken from the artifact, powdered, and typically burned to get an exact reading on alloy composition. Modern archaeologists are loathe to do this, because it is pounded into our heads that we are never to damage any artifact. So, scratch tests for hardness, acid tests for basic composition and spectrograph tests for exact composition are almost always "out".

Copper based alloys, such as brass and bronze, have a number of advantages over iron/ferric alloys. They are generally more corrosion-resistant, they offer far greater ductility, and they are relatively easy to work harden at low (cold) temperatures. They are also, throughout most of history, considerably more expensive than iron or iron alloys. This higher cost, compared to iron, is due to the distribution of copper, and certain alloying elements, in the earth's crust. Iron is far, far more common than copper or any of it's major alloying elements. Iron ore or iron oxide sands are found almost everywhere. Copper, and especially tin, are much, much more scarce.
There were lots of ancient bronzes that contained little or no tin. Some may have even been a natural concurrence of copper with arsenic.

Because of the ductility, most copper-based alloys are highly shatter-resistant. They tend to bend and deform under a load or an impact, rather than breaking outright. Some alloys can also be work-hardened to hold a strong, hard edge (or surface).

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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Thu 28 Sep, 2006 10:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Don Stanko wrote:
When I was reading a book that focused on the production of the smallsword in England, the author commented that in the late 17th century all hilts made of brass were destroyed because of their inferior quality to steel. But since I've only read it in that one book I can't say that it is accurate.


Was this The Small Sword in England: Its History, its Forms, its Makers, and its Masters by Aylward? I'll have to re-read it, if that is the case. By the way, this is a great book on the production of swords in England, and a number of insights on the materials and processes involved in the production of small-swords can be applied to other swords of the day (e.g., hangers, hunting swords, etc.).
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Al Muckart




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Sep, 2006 4:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:

True. Scholars, authors, and auctioneers interchange "latten" and "brass" often enough, however, that most folks see them as similar, if not the same (though none of these folks are infallible). Some folks are more careful to differentiate between what they feel are two different metals. I would love to see metallurgical analysis done to prove whether they are or aren't the same. I'd also love to see how the alloys used for weapons in the Middle Ages and Renaissance compare to what was used for 18th and 19th swords, and how they compare to what ends up on low-end repros today. Does anyone know of such research?

In the absence of hard metallurgical info, we can't say for certain that brass is ahistorical, which is really the point here. The casual dismissals of the material as ahistoric in general are what I'm trying to steer people away from.


Have a look at Dress Accessories, by Geoff Egan and Francis Pritchard, published by the Boydell Press. There is a fairly extensive metallurgical analysis of the various copper alloys in use.

Knives and Scabbards and IIRC The Medieval Household, in the same series, also have some interesting metalurgical analysis information.

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Sep, 2006 4:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Al Muckart wrote:

Have a look at Dress Accessories, by Geoff Egan and Francis Pritchard, published by the Boydell Press. There is a fairly extensive metallurgical analysis of the various copper alloys in use.

Knives and Scabbards and IIRC The Medieval Household, in the same series, also have some interesting metalurgical analysis information.


Thanks for the info. I'll have to add those to my wishlist and pick them up down the road. Just what I need: more books to buy and read. Happy

This part from Amazon's page intrigued me:

Quote:
Important results published here for the first time show, for example, the popularity of shoddy, mass-produced items in base metals during the high middle ages and enable researchers to identify the varied products of rival traditions of manufacture mentioned in historical sources.


I'd be curious if the "shoddy" base metal items were shoddy because of the materials, craftsmanship or a combination.

Happy

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Al Muckart




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Sep, 2006 4:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:

Thanks for the info. I'll have to add those to my wishlist and pick them up down the road. Just what I need: more books to buy and read. Happy


I highly recommend that series to anyone interested in high-medieval europe. They serve as a window into everyday items in London in their period, rather than the somewhat narrow look at the really high-grade special items which have survived on museum display until modern times because they were something really out of the ordinary.

Quote:

This part from Amazon's page intrigued me:

Quote:
Important results published here for the first time show, for example, the popularity of shoddy, mass-produced items in base metals during the high middle ages and enable researchers to identify the varied products of rival traditions of manufacture mentioned in historical sources.


I'd be curious if the "shoddy" base metal items were shoddy because of the materials, craftsmanship or a combination.


It's a bit of both. They had cheapo mass produced crap back then too, and a *lot* of it ended up in Thames land-reclamation projects.

As we know, making things purely by hand is time-consuming - especially when a lot of effort is put into the final finish, so the solution when churning out stuff for the masses is, well, not to put so much time into the finish.

That said, there's a chap in Australia by the name of Alex the potter who makes very high quality reproduction medieval earthenwares, with medieval glazes etc and the sheer volume of his work out there in the reenactment and SCA community is incredible considering he's just one guy. His work doesn't look ill-finished at all. http://groups.msn.com/flaminggargoylepottery

Something which I don't think there's enough of in the reenactment community (over here at least) is specialisation. The people churning out cast knick-knacks, or doing the cutlerly for blades etc tended to do that, and only that, all day every day. You get pretty good at knocking basic stuff out quickly when it's all you work with.

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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Sep, 2006 6:14 pm    Post subject: swords with non-ferric hilt components         Reply with quote

Hello All! Laughing Out Loud
I've been lurking on these forums for about a year now, and I finally decided to jump in and add what I could to this discussion. I went through my library and came up with some interesting examples of medieval swords with non-ferric hilt components. I hope this information is of interest.
In Oakeshott's Records of the Medieval Sword: X.14 (the "Babewyn" sword) has a pommel and cross of copper, Xa. 17 has a hilt of 15th cent. latten, XII.17 has a hilt of gilded copper (but of doubtful authenticity), XIIIb. 4 has a latten pommel, XIV. 1 has a bronze pommel and cross (or a copper cross in other sources), XVIII. 8 has a gilded copper cross (replacement?), and XVIII. 13 is a parade sword with a pommel of ivory. Several others have bronze pommels, or complete hilts (pommel and cross) of bronze. In Claude Blair's European and American Arms in the medieval swords plates, plate 20 has a Spanish sword of c. 1250 with a cross of silver gilt, plate 21 describes the Conyers Falchion as having a hilt of copper gilt, and plate 25 shows another falchion with a laton (sp.) pommel. Oakeshott's Swords in the Age of Chivalry shows another falchion with a latten pommel on plate 26B. In Vesey Norman's Arms and Armour, their is a photo of the sword of the Elector Friedrich the Warlike of Saxony with a crystal pommel. Some of these are undoubtedly parade or processional swords, but possibly not all. So, yes, medieval brass (latten) was used occasionally on swords, but iron or steel were by far more popular for hilt components.
I looked this all up in part to make me feel better in owning MRL swords with brass pommels, like the "Schwert" and the "Dracula/Medieval Short Sword", or the "Patay" with a gold-plated brass hilt. (Yes, I'm a sucker for cheap closeout swords!) I think modern brass is as close as many of us will come to medieval latten.
By the way, I hope you all wish me luck on my current venture of becoming a published author. I just submitted the synopsis and first three chapters of my sword and sorcery novel (in which I incorporated much of my arms and armour research) to a potential publisher. Keep your fingers crossed!
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Richard Fay

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Sep, 2006 7:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Richard;

Welcome to the site " officially " Wink even if you have been lurking for a year: Aesthetic know how that feels as I also lurked for many months before making the leap and participating.

With brass there are two basic issues that have been touched on already: Aesthetics and practical considerations making for good weapon.

For the pommel a steel, brass or bronze pommel is only an aesthetic issue, at least for me. For a guard on a heavy using weapon I have doubts about the wisdom of using brass instead of steel, at least for a simple cross guard: A " D " shaped knuckle guard or an other complex guard on a smallsword or military hanger doesn't bother me though: Just a personal take on it and not a " rule " or objective fact.

I like bronze as it can be stronger and harder than brass and patinates to a richer colour. ( Again personal preferences. )

Oh, and good luck with the book. Cool Big Grin

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Geoff Wood




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Sep, 2006 4:56 am    Post subject: latten?         Reply with quote

This is wandering off topic a bit. I've been stimulated by the interesting posts above to read around this a bit. I'm getting the impression that there is a flexibility to the use of the term latten. As said previously, it is a term that has been used interchangeably with brass, but it appears that it can also apply to various other metals (e.g. gold, tin). Since latten was often used in thin sheets, is it more the shape than the chemical composition that is being described by the term, at least in some cases? Thus brass (or other copper alloy) is used to make latten, but latten does not necessarily have to be brass (or other copper alloy). In family names, Latten has been apparently interchangeable with Laten, Vlaten, Flaten and Flatten. The last of these is suggestive, to me at least, of a common root for the two terms, possibly a root shared with the term lath. Just meandering thoughts.
Geoff
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Sep, 2006 7:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!
I understand there is some debate on the meaning of the term "latten", so I thought I would relay some research I've done. While medieval terms are rarely specific, modern museum curators, archaeologists, and historians tend to use the term "latten" (or "laton") to describe the medieval equivalent of modern brass. Brass was indeed known to the ancients as well as medieval artisans (think the monumental brasses). Here are a few quotes from Henry Trivick's The Picture Book of Brasses in Gilt: "The ancients were acquainted with the alloy of zinc and copper (which we term brass)...Aristotle in the fourth century BC mentioned brass under the name of Mossinoclian copper...Pliny knew brass under the name of cadmia...The composition of brass varies. Modern brass contains about 60 percent copper, 30 percent zinc, 10 percent lead or tin. Sixteenth-century monumental brass has been listed as 64 percent copper, 29 percent zinc, 4 percent tin, 3 percent lead. Theophilus, a German monk of the eleventh century,...describes the making of coarse brass in detail. It was called latten, or latyn, or laton, and at times cullen plate."
I know this wandered off-topic a bit, and I know the information pertains to monumental brasses and not sword hilts, but I hope this helps to clarify some of the questions concerning latten. Of course, it might raise all new ones, which is a very healthy thing!
By the way, for those interested in other examples of non-ferric hilt components, I found a couple more! In Francesco Rossi's Mediaeval Arms and Armour, plate 48 shows a "Stocco Benedetto" (Blessed Rapier, actually more of an estoc) of 1463 with pommel and hilt (grip) of gilded wood! Plate 49 shows a "Stocco Benedetto" of 1454 with a hilt of gilded bronze. These are, however, Papal swords, so they were never intended to be used in battle. However, as I mentioned in my previous post, I believe some of the medieval swords with non-ferric hilt components were indeed battle swords. So, brass might not be the strongest option by today's standards, but it's medieval equivalent was used.
By the way, I am in the "steel is best" camp, don't misunderstand my point. I do prefer steel for the cross especially, although brass is okay (sometimes) for pommels. I bought the MRL "Patay", even though it has a brass pommel and cross, because it's gold plated! (And it was deeply discounted when I purchased it!) The original upon which this is based, Oakeshott's Type XVIII. 10 (in Records of the Medieval Sword), has a hilt of gilded bronze. There is nothing to indicate that this was not a battle sword.
I know I tend to be long-winded, but my previous life as a biology and health lab technician (now I'm an aspiring author and a home schooling dad) has given me a critical mind. I like to back my claims up with researched material. I do feel that, while steel was most popular, our ancestors who actually used these weapons in life-or-death situations would occasionally wield swords with brass (Oakeshott's Type Xa. 17), or even copper (Oakeshott's Type X. 14) hilts!
Now, I wonder, was most latten, bronze, and other copper alloys used on hilts once gilded? Many examples seem to show traces yet today.
Stay safe!

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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Sep, 2006 12:52 pm    Post subject: What is "latten"?         Reply with quote

Hello Again!
I just thought I would add a bit more information to what I said previously, although some of you might be saying enough already! I've found a few references that describe and define "latten". I know most of these refer to medieval body armour, but they are relevant to the definition of the term "latten". In Medieval Military Technology, Kelley DeVries states in the section on thirteenth-century body armour that "a variety of materials were used, including whalebone, horn, and cuir-boulli (leather hardened by wax), as well as iron, steel, and latten (a rigid form of brass)." This is basically from the source European Armour by Claude Blair. Blair states in the section on the coat of plates and gauntlets that "armourers were experimenting with a variety of materials, and baleyn (whalebone), horn, and above all, cuir-boulli are all mentioned in addition to iron, steel, and latten (a form of brass)." In Medieval Warfare Source Book, David Nicolle states in his miscellanea section on the medieval arms industry, that "many other materials were used for armour, particularly in the period of experimentation such as the thirteenth century. These include whalebone, horn, leather, cuir-boulli or hardened leather, and latten, an alloy of copper, zinc, lead, and tin".
Furthermore, in the chapter "Manufacture and Decoration" in Stephen N. Fliegel's Arms and Armor: the Cleveland Museum, he states "when engraving did appear on armor, it tended to be confined on the borders made of latten, a brass-like alloy". The definition of latten in Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight by David Edge and John Miles Paddock states that "latten, also called latoun" is a "copper alloy closely resembling brass, widely used in the Middle Ages".
I hope I didn't bore you all with all this, but I think it's safe to conclude that "latten" is a metal alloy closely resembling brass, or medieval brass. Don't you think this might open up another interesting topic thread about materials other than steel used in medieval armour, even though some of it has been discussed before? (The gauntlets that hung with the funeral achievements of the Black Prince in Canterbury Cathedral are made of gilded latten.)
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Geoff Wood




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Sep, 2006 2:37 pm    Post subject: Re: What is "latten"?         Reply with quote

Richard Fay wrote:
I hope I didn't bore you all with all this, but I think it's safe to conclude that "latten" is a metal alloy closely resembling brass, or medieval brass.



Hi Mr Fay
Agreed, this does seem to be the majority opinion, so is probably correct. It would be an even safer conclusion if the primary sources for these works could be referenced. I'm assuming the authors indicate their primary sources.
regards
Geoff
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Oct, 2006 10:49 am    Post subject: about my sources...         Reply with quote

Hello all!
Geoff,
I hope you don't mind me calling you Geoff. Please call me Richard! Addressing me as "Mr. Fay" makes me feel old! I don't believe mid-life is nearly the crisis that some make it out to be, and I don't feel old enough to be addressed as "Mr." on a friendly forum!
I understand your point if you are referring to the use of terminology in the medieval sources such as chronicles, inventories, and the like. George Cameron Stone, in his massive glossary of arms and armour, lists aketon, acton, auqueton, gambeson, hacketon, haqueton, wambais, wambesuim, and wams for terms referring to a quilted armour of the 12th and 13th centuries. Most modern scholars tend to differentiate between "aketon" and "gambeson", but the difference wasn't always clear in the Middle Ages. (I use the terms "gambeson" or "jack" in my novel, which will hopefully be published soon, because they sound more "English" or "Germanic" than the other terms.) Coats-of-plates have been referred to as "coat-of-plates", "pair-of-plates", "plates", "cuirass", "pair-of-cuirasses", etc.
What I refer to as latten is what recent scholars of arms and armour call the medieval copper alloy similar to brass found on the extant examples of medieval monumental brasses and arms and armour. I'm just following standard convention; I'm an armchair scholar, and follow what those that have published volumes in the field and have handling various examples state (Claude Blair apparently examined every major Western European collection of arms and armour.)
Now, a word about my sources. Claude Blair is a recognized heavyweight within the community of arms and armour scholars. He was Keeper of the Department of Metalwork at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and before that an assistant at the Tower of London Armouries. He was honourary editor of The Journal of the Arms and Armour Society as well as a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and a member of several foreign arms and armour societies. He does list a select bibliography and references in the back of European Armour, mostly articles from scholarly journals and other works on arms and armour, but nothing specific about his definition of latten as a form of brass. However, I believe many other authors have used his work as a standard source.
David Nicolle, Ph.D., has written many books on medeival and Islamic warfare and arms and armour. He is the author of several Osprey titles. Again, his work Medieval Warfare Source Book has a bibliographical section that lists mainly journal articles. However, I see nothing that relates specifically to his definition of latten as "an alloy of copper, zinc, lead, and tin".
Henry Trivick's book on the monumental brasses is mostly concerened with the brasses as an art form, so he doesn't list source material. However, I have no reason to doubt the analysis of modern versus sixteenth century brass, or the analysis of a Greek coin of Trajan struck in Caria in 110 AD as having 77.590% copper, 0.386% zinc, 0.386% tin, and 0.273% iron. I also have no reason to doubt that a coarse form of medieval brass was called latten, latyn, laton, or cullen plate (for Cologne, its place of manufacture). It is not clear whether this is from Theophilus's 11th century work Diversarum Artium Schedula, or from various works.
I know I was long-winded again, but I hope this clarifies some of the issues regarding my sources. When I'm discussing latten used in sword hilts, I'm referring to what recent medieval arms and armour scholars call a copper alloy similar to brass. This material is occasionally found on extant medeival examples of swords, such as some of those I referred to in an earlier post, and medeival armour, such as the Black Prince's gauntlets.
Hope this information gleaned from my massive arms and armour library helps! I would highly recommend any of the books I cited for any arms and armour library, even though some are out-of-print and hard to find.
Stay safe!

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Geoff Wood




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Oct, 2006 11:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Richard
Thanks for the additional details. I hope you didn't mind my question. When you said, 'it is safe to conclude' it had that note of cetainty about it that makes me (also an ex-biologist) a little uneasy. I've seen analogous situations where everyone is in agreement mainly because they are all using one another as sources, rather than going to original materials or documents.
Regards
Geoff
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Oct, 2006 7:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!
Geoff,
I don't mind your question at all. As you well know, being a former member of the science profession, you should always back up your argument with data. That's something I've carried over into various aspects of my life, even though with this particular argument I've had to rely on the opinion of "experts". Still, these experts have examined several of the extant examples.
Okay, in case anyone else is interested, here I go again! I dug further into my library and found a few more examples of swords with brass or latten hilt components. Some are a bit beyond the medieval period, but not as late as regulation military swords.
In Claude Blair's European and American Arms, plate 48 shows the hunting sword of Maximilian I. This has a gilt laton (sp.) pommel. Plate 62 shows a Swiss short sword (Schweizer Degen, or a short-sized baselard) of the late 15th century with quillons and pommel of steel mounted in laton (sp.). Plate 82 shows a German executioner's sword of circa 1700 that possesses a brass hilt. Plate 125 shows a "Pappenheimer' rapier of circa 1620 with a gilt brass hilt.
However, a word of caution about relying exclusively on this source alone. Blair states that the "Writhen Hilt" sword in the Royal Armouries, shown in plate 49, has a hilt of gilt copper. The hilt is stated as being made of gilt bronze in Treasures from the Tower of London (a catalog of an exhibition) by A.V.B. Norman and G.M. Wilson. In Records of the Medieval Sword, Ewart Oakeshott describes the same sword from the Royal Armouries as having a hilt of gilded iron! Apparently, there may be some question regarding the actual metal used on some, but probably not all, of the extant examples.
Speaking of the book Treasures from the Tower of London, it also has a photo and description of a 15th century Northern European dagger with a "residual guard consisting of two rhombus-shaped sheets of copper, originally silvered, which are rivetted to either side of the blade.
There are also several parade swords, swords of state, and swords of honour that have hilts made of precious metals. The Scottish Sword of State, Italian 1507, has a hilt of silver gilt. A Hungarian sword of circa 1550 also has a hilt of silver gilt. And, a French sword of honour of circa 1800 has a hilt of silver gilt. The sword of John III of Sweden, circa 1570-80, has a hilt of enamelled gold. An English rapier of circa 1640 has a silver hilt. A Dutch rapier of circa 1670 has an enamelled gold hilt. And finally, a "transitional" small sword of circa 1660 has a silver hilt. (All of the above were from Blair's European and American Arms.)
There is a Flemish or German ballock dagger in a photo in Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight that has a hilt of maple wood mounted with silver. This is a bit outside of the discussion about swords with brass hilts, but I thought I would add it anyway.
I hope somebody finds all this to be of interest, even if purely ceremonial swords with hilts of precious metals are a bit off-topic. There are also a few swords with rock crystal or jasper pommels! I hope all this wasn't overkill!
Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 02 Oct, 2006 8:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Richard,
I've enjoyed your posts. It shows me that there was a variety of metals in use. I've also seen Scottish baskethilts with silver baskets on blades that look to have seen hard use.

By the way, you've got a nice library going there. You've knocked me about of second place for reading list size. Happy

Happy

ChadA

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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Tue 03 Oct, 2006 9:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Has anyone read Fighting Iron: A Metals Handbook for Arms Collectors by Art Grogan? I have not, although it is on my large wishlist. I wonder if he speaks to the use of brass and its various manifestations. If no one has read it, I would be happy to make the sacrifice (and buy it) and see if this book can add anything to the conversation.
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PostPosted: Tue 03 Oct, 2006 9:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Quote:
By the way, you've got a nice library going there. You've knocked me about of second place for reading list size.


Hello all!

Chad,
There were actually a few out-of-print books that I have that I couldn't find using the search function to add them to my reading list. This might sound like blasphemy, but I've spent a lot more money collecting books than I have collecting swords! I like to have a lot of resources regarding medieval warfare, history, arms and armour, culture, personalities, and folklore as a reference when I'm writing. I think it adds a bit more depth to my work.

Okay, enough about my library, now on to yet more references to brass and other non-ferric metals used in sword hilts! In the back of Arms and Armor: the Cleveland Museum of Art by Stephen N. Fliegel, there is a "Checklist of the Severance Collection". These are brief entries, lacking an in-depth description, but a few list brass as one of the materials. This certainly refers to brass wire or ferrules around the grip in some, but not all. Number 158 is a German smallsword of circa 1770 with a gilt-brass hilt and porcelain grip. Number 169 is an Italian hanger, dated 1553, with a gold, brass, and silver damascened hilt. Number 164 is a German executioner's sword of 1634 with a modern gilt-brass hilt, but some historical examples of executioner's swords also seem to have brass hilts. Number 165 is another description of an executioner's sword that mentions brass, but doesn't specify where it was used.
Claude Blair shows a couple of hangers with brass hilt components in European and American Arms. Plate 163 shows an English hanger of the late 17th century with a hilt of enamelled brass. Plate 169 shows an English hanger of 1640-50 with a pommel of brass.
When I was talking about swords with hilts made of precious metals, how could I forget the so-called "Sword of Charlemagne"? That has a solid gold hilt; Oakeshott argued in Archaeology of Weapons that the decoration of the hilt pointed to a ninth-century date. I've also found a few more swords that have hilts components made of precious metals. Number 136 in the Severance Collection is a schiavona of the early 18th century with a silver pommel. Number 174 in the same collection is an English hunting sword of 1797 with a hilt of silver. In Blair's European and American Arms, plates 164 and plates 165 both show English hangers with silver hilts. Plate 170 shows a sword of 1705-6 with a silver hilt. And, plate 46 shows the Sword of Duke Christopher of Bavaria, a processional sword with a very elaborately decorated hilt of silver.
Finally, I found a few more swords with bronze hilt components. Figure 114 in Ewart Oakeshott's Sword in Hand shows a late 15th century sword with a gilt brass hilt. This sword is also shown in Records of the Medieval Sword (XVIII. 12), but nothing is mentioned in that work about the hilt material. In plate 18 of The Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons, edited by Leonid Tarassuk and Claude Blair, there is a color painting of a Papal Sword of 1454 with furniture of gilded bronze.
Many of the swords I've mentioned in my various posts in this thread are parade or processional swords, but not all. There are a few historical battle swords that use metals other than steel for the hilt components.
I think my information well regarding this topic has finally run dry! (I know, some of you are probably saying "thank goodness"!) I hope some of this was of interest.
Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
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