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An exceptional pistol by John Campbell (II) of Doune. This craftsman was one of the foremost makers of traditional Scottish pistols in his day. The pistol dates to the period 1755 to 1765. It is of the most elegant proportions, superbly crafted and sumptuously engraved and inlaid with silver in the best traditions of Doune, a town famous for the quality of its pistols. Pistols of this type and date were popular with officers in Scottish Highland regiments on service in North America.
The pistol is in excellent original condition and in tight crisp working order. The lock is of typical “Highland form” with a horizontal sear extending through the lock plate which holds the cock in the half cock position, and a vertical sear is present extending from the top of the trigger plate through a small oblong aperture in the middle of the top part of the butt. The lock plate is clearly signed John Campbell.
The cock, and the area behind the cock on the lock plate, is engraved with scrolling foliage. The spines of the butts are finely engraved and inlaid with delicate silver Celtic ropework patterns The fore ends are engraved with panels, scrolls and acanthus leaves on four planes. The trigger and pricker are mounted in silver.
Underneath the stock, the space is profusely engraved with rows of panels engraved with scrolls, chevrons and foliage. These are crossed with three silver bands decorated with chevrons. The butt is engraved on each side with scrolls and a vacant silver oval escutcheon is mounted on each side.
The belt hook is finely shaped and engraved with further designs. It is mounted to the stock with an engraved and pierced side plate consisting of a double roundel. The ornate piercings are reminiscent of those present on the guard panels of the best quality contemporary basket hilted swords, particularly those of John Allan (Sr), who spent part of his early career in Doune working alongside the gun makers and applied their inlaying and engraving skills to the production of traditional Scottish hilts at his workshop in nearby Stirling.
The four stage 28 bore barrel has a fluted section near the butt and a flared muzzle with octagonal sides boldly engraved. The middle sections of the barrel are rounded and boldly engraved with foliage.
John Campbell (II), the maker of this pistol, is the second maker of traditional Scottish pistols of that name to have worked in Doune. The first was his grandfather who died in 1720. The borough records show little about the early life of John Campbell (II). In 1798 he is recorded as having “given over” his business and his death is recorded in 1807 at the of 71 years. Born into the gun making trade in Doune John became one of the leading gun makers in Scotland and is recorded as having “made pistols to the first nobility in Europe. The town of Doune, situated near to the Highland line supplied pistols to the Highland Clans and the gentry.
Born in 1736 John would have witnessed the great social changes that occurred after the failure of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 and seen the impact that the proscription of weapons in the Highlands had on Doune. Simultaneously other gun-making centres in England were winning the race to secure government contracts which the local makers in Scotland were not equipped to secure. Competition from cheaper producers both in the UK and abroad also had an effect. After a high period in the third quarter of the 18th century the town went into a slow decline. At the end of the century, when John Campbell (II) ceased business, only one traditional gun maker was left in the town, John Murdoch.
John Campbell (II) was one of the most productive and highly rated of traditional Scottish gun makers of his time. His finest work is representative of the Doune trade at its hiatus in terms of quality and this pistol is a fine example of his art.
The overall length of the pistol extremity to extremity is 12 inches (30.5 cm) and the barrel is just under 7.5 inches (19 cm).