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Fine Scottish Basket Hilted Sword of Early “Glasgow Style” Dating to the Late 17th Century

A fine Scottish basket hilted sword dating to the late 17th century. The main structural bars of the guard are of flattened rectangular section and decorated on the outside with incised longitudinal grooves along the middle. This style of decoration developed towards the end of the 17th century and is associated with sword makers working in Glasgow. The sword is in fine original condition and is mounted with a high quality, broad, double edged blade. The sword also retains its scabbard.

The Glasgow style of hilt decoration is distinctive and represents the highest quality output of the Glasgow sword makers at the time. This sword, as indicated by the dotted line pattern on the dome pommel, and the narrow line decoration on the hilt, plus the relatively small size of the pierced decoration of triangles and circles applied to the main and secondary guard panels, indicate that the sword is of relatively early basket hilted form. In this respect the sword is similar to two swords in Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in Glasgow, Scotland, attributed to the maker John Simpson (see Cyril Mazansky, British Basket Hilted Swords, Boydell Press, 2005, page 109) although our sword is of considerably better quality than these two swords.

The hilts of the Kelvingrove swords were not fashioned with wrist guards. Our sword is mounted with a small scroll wrist guard which probably represents its very early appearance towards the end of the 17th century. The basket hilt of our sword has been intentionally forged to appear slightly asymmetrical when viewed from the front with the basket appearing slightly swollen to the right compared to the left. This is another mark of quality indicating that the hilt was made for a right hand user.

The bun-shaped pommel has a flat button on top. Four sets of triple lines radiate from the button, the middle one being wider than the two on its flanks. The spaces between are decorated with similar sets of lines formed as crescents with the middle lines further decorated with punched dots.

The guard arm terminals tuck securely into a groove cut around the lower part of the pommel. The spirally grooved wooden grip is covered with shagreen and bound with finely twisted copper wire. Copper “Turks Heads” are also applied to the grip top and bottom. The grip retains its leather liner stitched with red cloth on the outside. The sword retains its original stitched leather scabbard tooled with geometric patterns on the outside and original iron mounts.

The tapering double edged blade is 34 inches (86.5 cm) long and of exceptional quality. It was most likely made in a workshop in Solingen in Germany. It has a pronounced ricasso 1.75 inches (4.5 cm) long with the worn remains of bladesmith’s marks on one side. A double fuller extends down the blade from the hilt on each side which terminates a short distance from the tip. Inside the fullers near the hilt is a section of “X” marks and crescents. Overall the sword is 39.5 inches (just over 100 cm) long.

Provenance: The collection of the late Baron of Earlshall, Earlshall Castle, Fife, Scotland

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