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English Civil War Period Mortuary Back Sword Circa 1640 to 1660

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Price: £3,150

Ref: 017.16

Item Description

A good English “Mortuary” hilted back sword dating to the middle part of the 17th century. The hilt is of typical form consisting of a broad saucer-shaped guard plate from which three main guard bars extend upwards with the flattened terminals screwed into the pommel. The spaces between these bars are infilled with subsidiary bars and scrolls.

The guard plate is covered with chiselled decoration to the outside consisting of panels of foliage and ferns plus two busts either side of the blade.  The guard bars and pommel are decorated with chiselled lines in a fern-like manner. A curled wrist guard is fashioned from the rear of the plate. The pommel is globular in shape and has an integral button and a pronounced flared neck.

The wooden grip is wrapped with copper wire. It sits on an iron flanged plug mounted onto the inside of the guard plate from which two langets extend through the tang aperture to flank the blade either side for a short distance from the hilt.

The back sword blade has a short ricasso with three pronounced fullers. One terminates in a pronounced step where the sharp cutting edge begins and the ricasso ends. Another extends down the blade underneath the spine to  terminate some 7 inches (18 cm) from the tip after which the blade is double edged. The third  runs down the near middle of the blade almost to the tip. An armourers mark is stamped either side in the middle fuller at the ricasso. Thereafter each of the four fullers is stamped “WIELM” followed by a clear running wolf mark, probably indicating Solingen as the place of blade manufacture, followed by “TESSCHE”, each feature separated by a design formed from a quatrefoil of dots.

The sword is in good condition with some minor blackened age related stains .  The blade is just under 31.5 inches long (79.5 cm) and overall the sword measures 37.5 inches (95 cm) long. For a further discussion on Mortuary swords see Cyril Mazansky, British Basket Hilted Swords, Boydell Press 2005, Chapter 11, page 233 to 280. Our sword hilt corresponds to Type ii and the engraving is similar to sword reference IICii, in the National Army Museum,  illustrated on page 257. The sword hilt is also particularly like that illustrated on page 217 of “British Military Swords”, Stuart C Mowbray, Mowbray Publishing, 2013, in the York Castle Museum Collection. The similarities between the engraved patterns to the hilts of these swords may indicate a sub-group within the overall “Mortuary” category, or the signature design of a particular maker or workshop, now unknown. The blade features and the style of the armourers marks in the fullers is also very similar.

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