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A Fine Scottish Basket Hilted Sword of “Glasgow Style” Dating to Circa 1720 to 1735

This robust and handsome Scottish Basket-Hilted sword dates to the period which separates the failed Jacobite Rebellions of 1715 and 1745. The sword is in splendid original condition. The attractively contoured hilt is of fine quality and an example of the highest standard of sword manufacture in Glasgow at the time.

Although the hilt is not marked with the initials of a maker it could well have been made in the workshops of either of the two best known Glasgow armourers of this period, Thomas Gemmill and John Simpson (II). Both of these makers stamped initials on many of the hilts they made.

     

The basket hilt is formed from thick hammer forged iron with structural guard bars of flattened rectangular section decorated on the outside in typical “Glasgow” style with a central longitudinal flute extending along the middle of each bar. The main and secondary guard panels are filed with delicate frets and merlons to the edges, incised with lines and pierced with patterns of circles and triangles.

The sword has been made for a right hand user indicated by the asymmetrical shape of the basket hilt when viewed from the front which is offset with wider accommodation for the fingers of the right hand when the sword is held in hand.

The dome-shaped pommel has a pronounced rounded button on top filed with a groove around its circumference. The pommel is decorated with three  grooves, of similar width to those filed into the guard bars, which radiate equidistantly from the pommel button and are flanked with narrower incised lines. In the three spaces between crescents have been applied in similar manner with the convex sides facing upwards towards the button.

   

The tops of the three main guard arms of the basket fit into a groove  which extends for the full circumference of the pommel just below its middle.

The spirally grooved wooden grip is covered with shagreen and bound with silver ribbon now age-blackened. The shagreen is worn with losses in the areas where most wear would occur. The patinated wooden core of the grip is exposed in these areas of loss. The hilt retains the remains of a red woollen fringe at the top of the grip and its leather liner at the base.

   

The high quality double-edged tapering blade has a pronounced ricasso which extends for 2 inches (5 cm) from the hilt, the shoulders of which sit in a proportionately cut groove underneath cross bar. Each side a pronounced fuller is cut into the ricasso just inside each blunt edge. From between these fullers at the end of the ricasso two deep fullers commence and run close together along the middle of the blade either side and terminate a short distance from the tip. Each fuller is marked with two sets of letters repeated in the adjacent fuller on both sides a short distance from the hilt. Between these on both sides is the bladesmith’s mark “ANDREA” in the upper fuller and “FARARRA” in the fuller below.

   

The blade length is just under 33.75 inches (just under 86 cm) and the overall length of the sword is 40.25 inches (just over 102 cm). The sword retains its scabbard of stitched thick black leather with chape and mouthpiece cut with triangle and circle designs.

This hilt matches a known group of contemporary and similarly imposing hilts incised with the initials of the Glasgow maker John Simpson the Younger (II) and Thomas Gemmill. This is a particularly fine hilt of impressive proportions and imposing appearance of the type seen in various contemporary portraits adorning the martial dress of clan chiefs. See for example the portraits of Alasdair Ruadh Macdonnell, The 5th Earl of Wemyss and Sir Stuart Threipland of Fingask, plates 22, 25 and 29 resoectively, in J Telfer Dunbar, “History of Highland Dress”, Oliver & Boyd Ltd, 1962.

Similar swords signed by Simpson (II) are illustrated in Cyril Mazansky’s “British Basket-Hilted Swords”, Boydell Press, 2005. For example see fig F15, 116, fig F16a). See also in the same fig F16b and F16d for swords by Thomas Gemmill.

  

For a further example see Bonhams Arms & Armour sale, London, 1st December 2009, Lot 415, “The Property of a Gentleman, A Rare Scottish Basket-Hilted Broadsword, the Hilt by John Simpson the Younger of Glasgow”. Another similar example sold at Thomas Del Mar Ltd, London, Wednesday 7th December 2011, lot 157.

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