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A fine Scottish Basket Hilted Sword of “Glasgow” Style circa 1715

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Price: £8,500

Ref: 077.17

Item Description

This sword is mounted with an elegant and finely contoured basket hilt constructed with flattened structural guard bars of rectangular section decorated in typical “Glasgow” style with shallow flutes flanked by incised lines. 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 conical pommel has a pronounced button on top filed with a double groove around its circumference and is decorated with three sets of grooves formed in a similar manner to those on the guard bars which radiate from the button. Between these crescents have been applied in similar manner with the convex sides facing towards the button. The arms of the basket fit into a groove which extends for the full circumference around the pommel just below its middle. The spirally grooved wooden grip is covered with shagreen and bound with finely twisted copper wire with “Turks Heads” applied top and bottom.

The single edged tapering blade has a pronounced ricasso extending for just over an inch from the hilt. A groove is incised near the front blunt edge on each side. Underneath the back edge a pronounced fuller extends from the hilt to terminate 8 inches (20 cm) from the tip after which the blade is double-edged. A second fuller commences 8 inches (20 cm) from the hilt and runs under the first to terminate nearer to the blade tip. Between the ricasso and the commencement of the second fuller a panel of scrolling foliage has been applied each side with the name “Andrea Farara” applied underneath. The blade length is just under 34.5 inches (87.5 cm) and the overall length of the sword is 39.5 inches (just over 100 cm).

The Glasgow style of hilt decoration is distinctive and fully represents the highest quality output of the Glasgow armourers in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Whilst the style of hilt was produced by a number of armourers, those that signed their work exhibited some elements of style unique to themselves. This sword hilt, although not marked with a maker’s initials, is almost identical in form to one produced by Thomas Gemmill, housed in the National Museums of Scotland and illustrated in “Scottish Swords and Dirks” by John Wallace, Arms and Armour Press, 1970, fig 30 and in “British Basket Hilted Swords” by Cyril Mazansky, Boydell Press, 2005, page 119, figs F16d(TG).

The similarity lies in the pronounced slope to the cross bar which rises upwards from the front to the wristguard. Both hilts are asymmetrical from the front allowing more space for the fingers of the right hand to grip the hilt. The width of bars is similar as is the attractive overall hilt profile. Each sword is mounted with a single-edged blade of similar width and length. Each sword is also a horsemans’ sword with an oval ring inset into the hilt. These marked similarities indicate that the hilt was probably made by Thomas Gemmill. Thomas Gemmill started work just after 1700 and was appointed King’s Armourer in Glasgow on 18th January 1718. Another similar hilt signed by Gemmill is illustrated on page 117 of Mazansky.

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