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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.
This sword was once a very handsome weapon. The hilt is chiselled with designs on all of the outside surfaces and damascened with silver of which now some 40% remains.
The basket is formed from flattened bars of “ribbon” type. The design consists of a knuckle bow which extends from 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. To the rear, two secondary guard bars curve upwards from the rear quillon to attach to the side guard bars near the pommel creating a triangular space imbetween at the base of which, merlons have been attached to strengthen the structure. The main guard bars swell towards the middles. The large globular pommel has an integral raised globular button. The size and style of the pommel, plus the silver applications to the hilt place the sword in the early 17th century.
The robust single-edged blade is 32 inches long (81 cm) and sharpened on the back edge for the last 6 inches (15 cm) of its length. The blade has a triple fuller and a short ricasso. The blade is marked on both sides, now worn, with CLEMENS MEIGEN in the middle fuller and SOLIGEN (for Solingen) in the fuller beneath. The tip is of rounded form giving the sword an effective back and forward stroke slashing capability. The grip is of spirally grooved wood now lacking any covering or wire binding.
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, and coincidentally in very similar condition, is illustrated on page 123. See also “British Basket-Hilted Swords”, Cyril Mazansky, Boydell Press, 2005, pages 65 and 66 for examples with silver damascened hilts in the Royal Armouries and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The hilt is pitted with a blackened patination all over. Similarly the blade is age-blackened with patches of corrosion. The grip is probably a replacement and if so has been applied without the necessity of taking the sword apart.