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Thread: Cult of the Small-Sword

  1. #101
    picked up this today for just over £50. Couldn't resist it at that price.
    Boatshelled military dress/Court sword 1780-1820 ish. English or possibly Prussian I'd guess.

    David
    Last edited by David Critchley; 03-12-2007 at 09:54 AM.

  2. #102
    .
    Last edited by David Critchley; 03-12-2007 at 09:54 AM.

  3. #103
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    Very nice, David! A great price, too!

    It reminds me of the American pattern for general officers c. 1830, which I think was patterned on the British dress model for heavy cav. officers (what you just described more or less, I mean.) I always thought it was one of the most attractive American swords. The regulations of the period specifically mention a "small-sword" for certain officers with either gilt or silver hilts (plating, that is)...and it seems to be that the interpretation was any of the lighter cut and thrust swords. Certainly, the hilt configuration of the model referenced as well as your item could be classified as a small-sword, I think.

    Great find for that price!
    Tom Donoho

  4. #104
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    Well done David!

    WISH I could find a nice smallsword here in OZ for only 50 quid... (Yeah, right...

    There are some lovely smallswords on Long's site at the moment - but all around the 1200 pounds mark (a bit rich for my blood I'm afraid:-( )

    Anyway - well done David - a great little acquisition there...

    John.

  5. #105
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    Dear David,

    also congratulations from my side, a really nice piece and a great price!

    Any engravings or stamps on the blade? That could help identify where it comes from...

    All the best,

    Frank
    Non soli cedit!

  6. #106
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    I just *realised* what it reminds me of! The 1796 heavy cavalry officer's dress sword! A style of sword I've always liked too - most elegant - I can fully understand why the heavy cavalry officers of the time preferred wearing something like this to wearing their heavy cavalry undress (i.e. fighting) swords

    John.

  7. #107
    It does look similar to the 1796 Heavy Cavalry dress sword but it is much too diminutive in size. The 96's tend to have bigger hilts and servicable spadroon or reasonably slender broadsword blades, - which might be a reference to the origin of the "Dragoon" (1650s) being mounted infantry (i.e quick response infantry riding to a location and dismounting to fight).

    I think it is simply a military dress sword to be worn at Court. If it was civilian I'd expect more decoration and a more elegant finials to the quillons.

    There are no markings at all Frank.
    Last edited by David Critchley; 02-15-2006 at 06:56 AM.

  8. #108
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    Dear David,

    thanks. I completely agree that this is probably rather for a dress/court use of an official or officer rather than a civil smallsword.

    There have been 2 sword with similar hilt that I have seen before, each time the hilt was chiselised (decorated) more but in the same shape. But never the provenance was clear, oh well...

    Enjoy the piece, it is beautiful anyway!

    Frank
    Non soli cedit!

  9. #109
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    Victorian Court Sword for Sale...Wrongly Advertised

    Hmmm.

    I thought this link might be beneficial as it speaks to the all-too-common placement by generalist dealers of these court swords as Napoleonic period small-swords.

    Here is the link:

    http://www.trocadero.com/101antiques...tore.html#item

    I have one like this (complete with period court suit)...they were used through the later part of the Queen's reign through that of George V. They are true swords, not just jewelry. But they should be advertised appropriately.
    Tom Donoho

  10. #110
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    STERLING SILVER HALLMARKING ANSWER

    Early in the thread someone asked about silver hilts without hallmarks.

    Source of the bullion is irrelevant. British hallmarking law, like that of every other country I've ever heard, required hallmarking only of goods which were (1)offered for sale to the public AND (2) claimed to be of the legal purity standard. The hallmark was a protection for the inexpert buyer. He need trust neither his judgement nor the merchant- the hallmark stood in for both.

    Hallmarking cost money to have done, raising price. One sometimes sees silver services with only one piece hallmarked, or with the maker's mark only.

    And hallmarks are ugly. So there are two reasons to avoid them.

    Thus a commissioned piece would often not be hallmarked. Nor would those from a merchant who felt as though he didn't need the hallmarks to replace his own reputation. Teed or Brunn, and their patrons, would be insulted at the idea of some greasy hallmarker telling them about quality.
    hc3

  11. #111
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    Makes sense to me, hc.

    Silver hilted small-swords turn up now and then with absolutely no hallmarks or makers' marks whatsoever...but they are clearly silver. Who can say what transpired between a gentleman and small-sword cutler...where words exchanged were often the bond that mattered.

    Question: Wasn't the requirement behind hallmarks also connected in some way with the government realizing some kind of fee or tax...a way for the government to make some more money?
    Tom Donoho

  12. #112
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    Hi all!

    Correct me if I'm wrong here chaps, but I am fairly certain Aylward refers to silver NOT having to be hallmarked if the bullion was provided by the customer...?

    I have one such silver hilted smallsword myself - absolutely devoid of markings - and the colour/look of the silver tells me it would probably NOT pass the sterling silver purity test (i.e. being 92.5% pure silver) - its obviously an alloy of silver but I'd guess the content may well be as low as 70% or so...

    I can't help thinking that the customer must have looked at one of those pattern books to choose the design of his hilt and then handed over his own bullion or silver item to be melted down...

    Then again, this would have all happened in the 1780s so I guess I'll never know:-(

    BTW - Tom: interesting court sword you've linked to - I have one that is remarkably similar (DEFINITELY a late Victorian court sword - NOT a 'smallsword circa 1800' or whatever this one was described as )

    They are VERY attractive pieces these cut steel hilters - which reminds me, I really *must* get back to finishing off the job of tightening up the hilt on my one that commenced weeks ago and never quite got finished

    John.

  13. #113
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    Dear all,

    the hallmark issue is defintely there and I have also seen quite a few pieces without any marks.

    But also note that a hallmark might be on every part of the hilt but we just don't see it. There exist quite a few silver hilts with the marks at places that will be hidden once the hilt has been assembled. There was a couple of months ago a hilt only on ebay that had exactly this feature.

    All the best,

    Frank
    Non soli cedit!

  14. #114

    Angelo

    I’m reading Aylward’s “House of Angelo” again at the moment on the history of Domenico and later Harry Angelo’s salle. Very interesting with regard to the smallsword in a social context between about the 1750s and 1800.

    Its full of interesting little snippets such as whereas in France it was thought that 3 years training with a maitre d’armes was the minimum requirement, in England 3 months was thought quite sufficient.

    – Which I would guess means we may all better foilists than most of our ancestors who wore a smallsword – a sobering thought.

    Here is an extract that made me smile on the train this morning – which admittedly is more about Aylward’s style of writing:

    In 1813 a personage, who at a guess, might have been His Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence, confided to My Lords of the Admiralty his doubts upon the quality of naval swordsmanship. Their Lordships, inundated by despatches reporting the taking of enemy ships by boarding, were a little surprised, but as the feats described took place at some distance from Whitehall, it was always possible that what they now heard might be correct.

    This actually resulted in Harry Angelo’s cutlass exercise based on his work done for the Light Horse Volunteers “ Hungarian and Highland Broadsword” which, since he admittedly knew little about, he based on a version of singlestick.


    David

  15. #115
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    Very interesting, David.

    I do suspect (based on some reading I have done here and there) that there were some gentlemen who never learned to use the sword that hung at their side. The small-sword certainly was an effective weapon...but it was also a fashion accessory to be sure and for a period was worn on a daily basis. Of course, there were some who became quite expert in its use.
    Tom Donoho

  16. #116
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    Observation on blades...

    I was doing some dusting and inspection of my collection. Handling the small-sword, one realizes that the blades (I'm talking about swords for use not just dress) of these swords were, despite what might be imagined, quite strong, fully capable of defending their owners against other blades, including sabers. The strength and hardness of double-edged, oval or hexagon-to-oval blades is very apparent when handling them...capable of the business for which they were intended. And, of course, there is no beter sword for the thrust than the hollow ground variety.

    On a side note, the blades of some cuttoes were rather business like, too, probably very sharp when carried, having come down to us through the years dulled.

    Just because a sword was refined to meet the needs of a civilian side arm (although, of course, we know for a fact that small-swords were adopted by military officers...they were not restricted to civilian wear alone) does not mean it was a mere bauble. Certainly, some small-swords were designed with one purpose in mind, to fill the role of a fancy dress sword. But, in general, the swords carried by gentlemen when they were worn were quite servicable, something that can only be appreciated by handling them.

    I'm curious: What has been your experience with small-sword blade types?
    Tom Donoho

  17. #117
    I'd pretty much agree with good old Angelo here: Hollow ground is best for single combat, which I'd interpret as any rencontre a gentleman might have in his everyday life, be it a formal duel or a highwayman's assault, and flat or diamond is best for the army, be it on horse or foot.
    It is evident that smallswords designed for such specific tasks were build taking the advantages and disadvantages at stake: and whereas one may, with a light blade, artfully gain the feeble of the adversary, cross and uncross with greater ease, and baffle his attacks and parades with great advantage, a heavier blade is needed to oppose a sabre or broadsword, to resist its blows, and counter its mass of inertia.
    Girard, in his most interesting Nouveau Traité, treats smallsword vs. Espadon (broadsword/sabre) as well as other curious weapons, pikes, pitchforks, flails... This is, of course, meant for the man who is "en campagne", ergo, at war, and is forced to face, occasionally, such weapons. He says one must be equipped with "a good blade", and often has recourse to the use of the cloak, and a wet napkin under the hat. Girard, in spite of the evident disadvantages one may face, manages to give viable solutions to face and defeat such weapons, an essential skill for the officer who might see himself caught in a mêlée.

    One may but notice, in modern fencing, that a vulgar épée or foil blade are amazingly resilient, and I'd confidently oppose the heel of a foil blade to a sabre cut.
    A finely crafted smallsword? without a doubt.
    Hoch der kaiser!

  18. #118
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    Yep.

    The hollow ground blade is emminently suited for personal use...the forte on some of the older examples being quite capable of defending against more substantial blades, with the advantage the the point can thereafter be brought into play to the advantage. Take one of the oval-to-hexagon configuration in hand and it becomes apparent that it could well hold its own against spadroons or lighter sabers, no problem at all...again, with the advantage of the point coming into play. As to the point, is it evident that many of these blades would have no problwm whatsoever in piercing through the body doing some serious harm or even piercing the arm to the same effect.

    Apart from these practical applications, the small-sword is also a sword that can be considered an art object in its own right, requiring a high level of skill to produce the higher end examples.

    Any wonder why the small-sword has attracted devotees?
    Tom Donoho

  19. #119
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    You're on the money Tom

    I *hope* to have some pictures to post soon of my newest acquisitions - that should have arrived here in Oz in the next week or so...

    A couple of these smallswords have colichemarde blades of the sort you are talking about - swords more than capable of parrying/dealing with heavier sabres/broadswords - and equally capable of much faster ripostes and so on.

    Watch this space

    John.

  20. #120
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    I know the swords you mentioned, John...saw a few of the photos of those, I think...not sure, though.

    From what I have seen, they are very nice, indeed!

    POST SOME PICS WHEN YOU HAVE THEM!
    Tom Donoho

  21. #121
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    Hi Tom/all,

    I think I'd better post the pics I have now (these were taken for me) because if I wait till I get around to taking some high quality/hi resolution pictures myself it will probably take forever knowing me

    I have to admit it, I am *extremely* pleased with my two colichemarde blades - they are simply *magnificent* - one in particular is a 'keep till I die' type of sword (the earlier colichemarde blade) - the English silver hilter (hallmarked) is a lovely sword too - and possibly the most intriguing of the swords is the gilded hilt - which has both a highly curved grip/hilt and very noticeable angle of cast-off between the blade and the hilt - whilst this hilt has been 'tightened up' at some stage in the past there is no doubt the blade is original to the hilt so it is obvious that the original owner had his own unique style of smallswordsmanship and requirements as how the point of the blade would position itself in the en garde position...

    At any rate - too much typing and not enough pictures I think - time for me to post the pictures for everyone to enjoy - I have to admit that I am *extremely* pleased to now be in the happy situation of having NO Japanese/other non-European weapons left - I am back where I belong - collecting European swords

    John.

  22. #122
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    Re: My 1740s (?) Cut steel hilter with Colichemarde Blade

    Here is my FAVOURITE smallsword - this is also one of the HEAVIEST smallswords I have handled - this is a smallsword that could *easily* hold its own against a sabre or broadsword - a strong colichemarde forte, highly responsive and fast point/foible and overall just a magnificent sword - I cannot fault it in any respect - wonderful...
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  23. #123
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    The Early Colichemarde again:-)

    Here's a shot of the hilt...
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  24. #124
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    The Early Colichemarde again:-)

    and again
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  25. #125
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    The Early Colichemarde again:-)

    ...a couple more
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