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An English basket hilted backsword of the early 17th century. The sword is a rare transitional form in which the earliest basket hilt designs of the later 16th century are recognisable. From circa 1600 onwards English sources refer to this hilt type as “Irische” (Irish). From the English perspective the term “Irische” means “Scottish” and English armourers copied the style from Scottish forms which evolved further, with differences, across both regions from the late 16th century into the Civil War period, until the fully formed basket hilted sword appeared.
The basket is an attractive, aged, dark russet colour and in original solid condition. It is formed from flattened bars of “ribbon” type. The design consists of a knuckle bow which extends from the the cross guard front and is secured to the front of the pommel with a large pierced headed screw. The side guards rise from the cross guard to touch the pommel sides. Below, the frontal loop guard bars are a downward continuation of the side guard bars which loop forward to join the base of the knuckle bow at the front quillon terminal.
To the front, in the spaces between the knuckle bow and side guard bars, two saltire bars have been attached with small rounded guard plates in the middle, each incised with a floral motif. To the rear, two secondary guard bars curve upwards from the rear quillon to attach to the side guard bars near the pommel. Between these at the base, merlons have been attached to strengthen the structure. The main guard bars swell towards the middles and all are decorated with a continuous series of fine notches at the edges. Similar notches also serve to emphasise the circular shape to the guard roundels.
The large globular pommel has an integral raised cylindrical horizontally grooved button and the remains of a ring of punched crescents extend around the base, now worn. The grip is original, with some of its leather binding still in place, revealing original file marks in the spaces to the patinated hardwood beneath. The leather grip is a rare survivor which predates the wider availability of shagreen at this time.
The long “cavalry” blade is just under 35.5 inches long (90 cm). It has a broad shallow fuller extending from the hilt under the spine to circa 6 inches (15 cm) from the tip after which it is double edged. The blade has a short ricasso and a short distance from the hilt each side in the fuller the blade smith’s mark of a finely incised running wolf (probably a Solingen mark) is present. The letters “HERMAN, are present on the left side and “KEISSER” on the right, both repeated below. The inscription is flanked by small floral panels.
The tip is of rounded form giving the sword an effective backstroke slashing capability to complement the frontal cutting edge of the blade. The overall length is 41.5 inches (105.5 cm).
For further examples of the “Irische” hilt sword type see “British Military swords 1600 to 1660”, Stuart C Mowbray, Mowbray Publishers, 2013, pages 110 to 126. A sword housed in York Castle Museum (Ref: T817) with an almost identical hilt is illustrated on page 122.